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Last evening, I attended a Town Hall Meeting, sponsored by the Raleigh LGBT Center. The purpose of the meeting was to assess interest and solicit input in plans to open an LGBT center in Durham. That is what I am calling it, for now, although it is possible that the name of the new center will be different.
The meeting was very well attended. I saw one estimate of 100 people present. The diversity of the attendees was striking. There were people of multiple racial and ethnic identities, there were college-age folks, and senior citizens. Virtually any standard demographic you can think of was represented there. I, personally, was thrilled to see several members and friends of Imani there as well.
Among of the most challenging types of scenarios that I encounter are those with people who seem to sincerely mean well, but just don’t realize the impact of their words. I was a panelist, this morning, at a conference for health care providers. The purpose of the conference was to sensitize and educate them around issues of diversity. I was asked to speak, along with other LGBT’s, to this audience that consisted mostly of nurses. Imani’s Church Administrator, Jim Manchester, was a panelist as well.
After the panel, a gentleman approached us - with the best of intentions, I’m sure - to express appreciation for our presence and participation. I was distracted by others coming up to speak to me; then I turned my attention back to this gentleman just in time to hear him (speaking to Jim) say something like: “God did not put me here to judge anyone. Besides, there is no hierarchy of sins in the Bible. If something is a sin, it’s a sin. One sin isn’t worse than the others.”
It was one of those don’t-speak-‘til-you-take-two-deep-breaths moments. I used that time to remind myself that the gentleman’s intent was to convey something akin to support for us as LGBT’s. The assumption underlying his comment - that homosexuality is a sin - is probably such a “given,” in his belief system, that he also believed that it would be gratifying to us to know that he did not rank our “sin” any worse than adultery. Yes, indeed, he actually said that! I may have to paraphrase (memory issues), but the rest of the conversation was essentially very close to this: