"The Cross in the Closet" by Timothy Kurek is a cross between Dan Millman's "Way of the Peaceful Warrior" and "The Matrix." Spurred by his self-disgust to his reaction to one of his friends coming out to him, Kurek, a straight, bigoted, conservative Christian, assumed the life of a gay man for one year to rid himself of his homophobia.
In 2012, the voices of Christian faith for LGBT equality have advocated for change across the country. Keep reading to see Believe Out Loud's top ten moments of the year!
10: The First Lesbian was approved for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA), following a historic policy shift last summer allowing for the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy. Rev. Katie Ricks wrote: "At each new step forward in the ordination process, I realized that the "goal" that I had achieved was not the most amazing thing that had happened. Rather, I learned to put my life into the hands of God. I learned to trust in a community of companions to guide and walk alongside me on this journey of faith."
9: Matthew Vines became a national sensation for his compelling research and presentation on what the Bible says about homosexuality. The twenty-two year old Kansan went to Harvard University, but after two years, he decided to take a leave of absence to study the Bible and homosexuality. Matthew's presentation continues to support the Christian community as it expands its viral reach on YouTube.
8: The U.S. Episcopal Church overwhelmingly voted in support of the ordination of transgender people and made it illegal to discriminate against them in the 1.9 million member church. "TransEpiscopal," a group of transgender Episcopalians including the Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge, spearheaded efforts that lead to this historic policy shift.
7: While the United Methodist Church closed its General Conference in Tampa, Florida, without voting to include gay and lesbian people in the life of the church, delegates continued to work for LGBT equality. Bishop Melvin Talbert invited his fellow Methodist to participate in an act of biblical obedience: "I call on the more than 1,100 clergy [who have signed marriage initiatives] to stand firm in their resolve to perform marriages for same-sex couples and to do so in the course of their normal pastoral duties, thus defying the laws that prohibit them from doing so."
6: Catholic Vice President Joe Biden paved the way for President Obama's historic support of marriage equality. Discussing his support in an interview on ABC News, President Obama cited his Christian faith and the Golden Rule as motivators for his new support. The news inspired hundreds of Christians to write letters of support and thanks.
5: Rev. Otis Moss III challenged African-American ministers, who threatened to vote Republican or not at all, in response to President Obama's support of same-sex marriage. "There is a difference between rights and rites," said Moss, the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois. "We should never misconstrue rights designed to protect diverse individuals in a pluralistic society versus religious rites designed by faith communities to communicate a theological or doctrinal perspective." His denomination also celebrated forty years of LGBT advocacy this year and welcomed its 1000th "Open & Affirming" congregation.
4: Reading direct quotes from white preachers supporting racial segregation in the 1950s and 1960s, the Rev. Dr. Phil Snider aired a supportive speech for LGBT equality. His presentation before the Springfield, Missouri, city council replaced "racial integration" with "gay rights" to illustrate that biblical gay bashing is on par with biblical white supremacy. The video has been viewed over 3 million times.
3: Baptist pastors came to the front lines to combat anti-gay campaigns in the black community: "We as black Baptists are not single-issue persons, and we see more important things than getting stuck on this matter of whether or not there should be same-sex marriage," said Pastor Amos Brown, of the Third Baptist Church in San Francisco, California.
2: Over 300 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints marched in Salt Lake City Gay Pride. It was an emotional day along the entire parade route filled with cheers and tears as Mormon faces became more visible in the fight for equal rights. Students at Brigham Young University also recorded a message of love and hope to LGBT Mormon youth in a powerful "It Gets Better video. So did their parents.
1: And our top pick for 2012: Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington. For the first time in U.S. history, marriage equality has been approved by popular vote, and it couldn't have been done without the support and tireless efforts of faith communities. Christian voices took center stage as pastors and congregations released statements and videos to support LGBT equality. Those who were conflicted offered their stories and journeyed with the public to change hearts and minds. Believe Out Loud will continue to mobilize Christian voices as we work toward LGBT equality in 2013.
This holiday season Americans of all religious stripes may have had to admit to their children that they'd been perpetrating an untruth. At a time when we're told not to forget the "reason for the season," many had to close the door on a part of their son's or daughter's childhood and tell him or her that certain stories about mostly eaten cookies, hand-scrawled notes and soot smeared on the floor were really not true. But life for those children will go on. They'll just be a little older and a little wiser. Not so for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children.
For some families, like those of Jane and Joe Clementi, whose son Tyler killed himself in fall 2010 after being bullied and humiliated for being gay, this holiday season was a far more difficult one. These families and others have suffered a tragic loss because their children were made to believe that ending their lives would be better than growing up gay in America. The day-to-day gifts of joy that they gave their parents, siblings and friends stopped with their deaths, and nothing will make what could have been their futures, their lives and their gifts to those around them a reality.
There is a common culprit here: the misuse of religious teachings to justify stigma and hostility against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals, especially youth. Let's hope that this new year, people across this nation will pause for a moment to recognize that this is just as wrong today as it has been in the past.
I used to be on the side of that stigma. I used to believe that LGBT identity was incompatible with scripture, that LGBT youth had no choice but to either attempt to become straight or lead celibate lives, denying their sexuality altogether. But I came to recognize that I was wrong, and that we are all equal in the sight of God. To that end I helped co-found Faith in America, which works to end the harm to LGBT Americans from religion-based bigotry. And we have just launched a new website, Faith and Equality, which features the voices of men and women like Jane Clementi, to promote a message that all of us -- especially LGBT youth and their families -- need to hear: that religious conviction and LGBT equality are not opposing values but one and the same.
If there is not clarity in the minds of some people of faith as to why the anti-gay religious industry's war must end now, it really should be obvious. Do we as communities of faith want to support a social climate that would make a young person feel that death is preferable to life? What a terrible lot for a faith community if that is the case -- and unfortunately it is, thanks to many in our society who seek to plunder the souls of LGBT youth.
Dr. James Dobson, a leader within that anti-gay religious industry for years as head of Focus on the Family, just recently linked marriage equality to the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Conn. As astonishing as that sounds, some pastors have been even more direct in saying that God is punishing America because of the mere existence of gay people.
For most adults, such diatribes seem absurd. However, to an LGBT 12-year-old, 15-year-old or 19-year-old, these painful messages are often taken in rather than cast off. As it enters the psyches of those young persons, it tears them to pieces. Our youth hear that they are sinners, unclean, undeserving of the same rights that other Americans enjoy and unworthy of God's love -- much less ours. We believe that anti-LGBT rhetoric becomes an action.
LGBT individuals are not the only Americans who have been relegated to second-class citizenship at the hand of misguided religious teachings. African Americans were once labeled as a cursed lot. Women also have been denied equality in this country, as many believed that they stood more in favor with their God by standing against full equality for women.
The majority of religious Americans look back on those periods in history and recognize these teachings as misused and misconstrued to deny African Americans and women full equality. Yet too many Americans today fail to view the history of religion-based bigotry against LGBT citizens with the same clarity and fairness.
If one segment of society should shout out its opposition to violence against youth, it should be our faith communities and persons of faith. Whether we're addressing the outward violence of a sick individual or the violence that is inflicted through more subtle emotional, psychological and spiritual wounds, this new year must mark a new beginning.
Let's resolve that 2013 will be the point in history where we no longer offer the imprimatur of respectability to the notion that a person's sexual orientation is something to be shamed and condemned, nor to anyone who promotes that notion.
Faith in America asks this of people of faith of all stripes, beginning today and continuing throughout every year to come: When you are sitting at the table of fellowship and someone implies that the affirmation of LGBT people is somehow a moral stain on our society, speak up for what you know is right. Let the person know that his or her attitudes and words in fact demean the very ideals of joy and peace. In your own way, tell those sitting around you that it is time to put religion-based stigma and hostility against LGBT people in its rightful place as a great social injustice of the past.
Let the youth sitting at that table hear this truth.
Amid a year full of anti-LGBT rhetoric from people, organizations and businesses (One Million Moms, Chick-fil-A, and Kirk Cameron, among others, spring immediately to our minds), there were many remarkable, brave -- and touching -- moments from our straight allies who have spoken up and reached out to show that our fight for equality is one that is hugely important to them, too.
So, to thank and recognize our straight allies, take a look at our slideshow of the best statements and moments from them in 2012 and be sure to let us know what other incredible, heartfelt ally moments stood out to you in our comments section below.
NEW YORK -- At age 83, Edith Windsor gets plenty of compliments for her courage to take on the federal government in a landmark case that has put attitudes about gay America squarely before the Supreme Court.
But the Philadelphia-born former IBM executive scoffs at how much gumption was necessary to go to court at a time when societal views of gay relationships are shifting.
"The world has progressed," Windsor says. "At the beginning of World War II, they really did think we had horns."
Windsor's lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan is one of two that the Supreme Court agreed to take up Dec. 7 when it announced it would hear arguments over California's ban on same-sex unions and Windsor's dispute about federal benefits for legally married gay couples.
"It's very joyous," Windsor said in a recent interview at her apartment on Fifth Avenue in lower Manhattan. "I feel like everybody's treating me like a hero. Everybody thinks it takes enormous courage."
It was a moment she could not fathom when her heart nearly gave out after the 2009 death of her spouse, Thea Clara Spyer, less than two years after their marriage in Canada.
Windsor suffered an attack of stress cardiomyopathy, also known as broken heart syndrome, that was so bad that her heart stopped.
"I was ready to go. I didn't care," she recalls. "I had a wonderful life."
Now, she's found new reason to live.
"I keep saying, `Keep me alive until after the Supreme Court'" arguments in March, she said. "It's a very important case. It's bigger than marriage, and I think marriage is major. I think if we win, the effect will be the beginning of the end of stigma."
The court case was a simple set of facts. Windsor maintained that the federal government's insistence in the Defense of Marriage Act that a marriage can be only defined as a relationship between a man and a woman meant she was not entitled to a marital deduction on Spyer's estate.
That meant, she said, that she owed $363,053 in taxes that she would not have to pay if the law did not unconstitutionally discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
The threat of discrimination was not new. Early in her life, she kept her sexuality from her family and friends, mindful of the dangers. Eventually, revelation of the truth brought sharp criticism from a sister.
For a time, she was married to a man she considered her hero after he left the Army just as she was about to enter college. But she told him she was gay, and they eventually divorced.
In the early 1950s, she moved to New York City from Philadelphia and obtained a master's degree in mathematics from New York University in 1957. She then joined IBM and worked for 16 years in senior technical and management positions.
In 1963, she met Spyer at a Greenwich Village restaurant known for its friendly attitude toward lesbians. Though they arrived with others, Spyer and Windsor were almost inseparable on the dance floor that night and by evening's end, Windsor had danced a hole in her stockings.
The dancing marathons continued sporadically over the next two years, usually when Spyer and Windsor met by chance at parties and usually to the frustration of their dates.
It was not until the spring of 1965 that they got together. Windsor suggested they date for a year and consider engagement for another year if that went well.
And, as she said in an affidavit in her court case, Windsor told Spyer: "`And if it still feels this goofy joyous, I'd like us to spend the rest of our lives together.' And we did."
The engagement stretched for 40 years.
Spyer, worried an engagement ring would unintentionally reveal Windsor's sexual orientation to her IBM colleagues, gave her a circular diamond brooch she wears to this day.
"Our choice not to wear traditional engagement rings was just one of many ways in which Thea and I had to mold our lives to make our relationship invisible," Windsor said in her affidavit.
"We both faced pressures not only in the workplace and in society at large, but also from family and friends," she added. "Like countless other same-sex couples, we engaged in a constant struggle to balance our love for one another and our desire to live openly and with dignity, on the one hand, with our fear of disapproval and discrimination from others on the other."
In 1968, Spyer, a psychologist, and Windsor brought a small house together on New York's Long Island and traveled frequently.
They hosted parties where Spyer displayed her culinary skills and grew ever closer, a tight bond tested repeatedly after Spyer was diagnosed in 1977 at age 45 with multiple sclerosis.
Spyer went from using a cane to crutches to a manual wheelchair and eventually to a motorized wheelchair she operated with one functioning hand. When Spyer could no longer swim, Windsor held up her body in the water so she could at least feel the water and splash.
Windsor, who had heart trouble, said they went to Toronto to marry when they realized they might not live long enough to wait for New York to approve same-sex marriages.
Windsor's apartment is filled with photographs of the couple, including a life-size picture of a youthful Spyer, and Windsor's favorite, a picture of them dancing together ago when Spyer was in a wheelchair, swiveling with Windsor in her lap.
Windsor marvels at how their lives, once hidden from nearly everyone they knew, are increasingly accepted. She never really expected such changes in her lifetime.
"Did I ever think we would be discussing equality in marriage? Never. It was just so far away," she said.
Still, she said, she hopes the Supreme Court rules in a way that can lift the gay community, especially those who are plagued by the effects of prejudice.
"I grew up knowing that society thought I was inferior," she said.
Now, Windsor hopes to enjoy a legal victory with a street party in front of a gay center, aware that it would be too large to be held beneath a roof.
"There are hundreds and thousands of people who would want to celebrate," she said.
Citing his religious upbringing, Detroit Tigers slugger Torii Hunter told the Los Angeles Times that having an openly homosexual teammate would be tough to deal with. And it would be a divisive issue for any Major League Baseball team.
Quoted by reporter Kevin Baxter of the Times in his Sunday story - "In pro sports, gay athletes still feel unwelcome" - Hunter indicated he would not - or could not - be supportive of a teammate with a different sexual orientation than his own:
... Hunter, among baseball's most thoughtful and intelligent players, isn't kidding when he says an "out" teammate could divide a team. "For me, as a Christian ... I will be uncomfortable because in all my teachings and all my learning, biblically, it's not right," he says. "It will be difficult and uncomfortable." Kudos to Hunter for his honesty. But he needs to realize a few things.
One, after playing nearly 2,000 major league games, Hunter probably has had at least one gay teammate already. Two, when has the sexual orientation of any teammate (assuming they've all been straight) mattered in how many games a team has won? Did the Tigers get to the World Series in 2012 because Justin Verlander is in a relationship with Kate Upton? How would it matter if Verlander dated someone named Bob Upton?
"Betty White's Off Their Rockers" is back and bigger than ever, according to its stars.
"We've been having a ball," White says in the exclusive video below. The new season promises to push the envelope even more with bigger pranks and hotter guest stars. The one-hour premiere of "Off Their Rockers" on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 8 p.m. EST features Psy and Kim Kardashian.
"Something I love about this show: I get to meet all these people that I wouldn't get the chance to meet otherwise," White says.
Other guest stars include Howie Mandel, Nicole Richie, Steve O, Nick Lachey, NeNe Leakes, Ed Asner, Nick Cannon and Bob Harper and "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" stars Adrienne Maloof, Camille Grammer and Kyle Richards.
"We're having a lot of fun and we don't take ourselves too seriously," White says.
Watch White and co-stars do "Gangnam Style," White tell Kardashian she's going to make moves on Kanye West and see some pranks from Season 2 in the exclusive preview video below.
Denied his invitation to speak at Sacred Heart Academy’s 2012 commencement invitation, Dominic Sheahan-Stahl is now getting a different public platform.
New York resident Sheahan-Stahl was named as one of the 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pro-faith voices of the year by GLAAD.
“First I was shocked, I was like, ‘oh my gosh, really?’” Sheahan-Stahl said. “And then I was like, ‘well, you know, what I’ve set out to do so far is still going strong.’”
A number of professional male athletes have come forward on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in recent months, but it seems not everyone is comfortable with the idea of playing alongside a gay teammate.
Detroit Tigers right fielder Torri Hunter is making headlines for telling the Los Angeles Times he believes an out teammate would make him "uncomfortable."
"For me, as a Christian…I will be uncomfortable because in all my teachings and all my learning, biblically, it's not right," the former Angels outfielder told the publication. "It will be difficult and uncomfortable."
It isn't the first time the 37-year-old's remarks have sparked controversy. In 2010, he reportedly referred to dark-skinned Latino baseball players as "impostors" in a USA Today interview while discussing the changing demographics in baseball.
"People see dark faces out there, and the perception is that they're African-American. They're not us. They're impostors," he told Bob Nightengale. He went on to note, "As African-American players, we have a theory that baseball can go get an imitator and pass them off as us...It's like, 'Why should I get this kid from the South Side of Chicago and have Scott Boras represent him and pay him $5 million when you can get a Dominican guy for a bag of chips?'"
On the flip side, have a look at our slideshow of straight professional athletes who’ve lent support to the LGBT community: