Preacher’s Kid. Football Player. And..Gay? | Brett Trapp | TEDxPeachtree

Translator: Leonardo Silva
Reviewer: Mile Živković My mother was a teacher
and my father was a preacher. Our family lived in Florence, Alabama, a sleepy little river town
of Baptists and artists. Mostly Baptists. Florence is quintessentially southern, and growing up there
is Sunday lunches after church, Little League baseball
and high school homecoming parades. I made good grades, followed all the rules
and even played football. This made me a good southern son. From a young age,
we’re taught to tell the truth, but no one teaches us to tell our truth, maybe an eating disorder
or some childhood trauma, or something simple like a love for art
in a world full of jocks. Nope. Nobody teaches us
to tell those truths. I began to uncover my truth
at an early age. It’s a truth discovered alone,
grappled with alone, denied alone and, when you are young,
it feels like a ball of lead in the soul, both heavy and toxic. This football-playing
preacher’s kid was gay! What do you think it would feel like
being a gay preacher’s kid in the American south? Well, this was my two-ton truth,
but telling it was not an option. The good-old-boy ghost
of southern culture was clear: “Zip it up, lock it down. We don’t talk
about that down here, preacher boy.” I love my southern roots and I love
the people I went to church with, some of the best people on the planet, but, in 1988, a resolution was passed at a meeting
of our national church leaders, declaring homosexuality was
“a manifestation of a depraved nature, a pervasion of divine standards
and an abomination.” This very fierce language was mimicked
by lots of other religious organizations in the 80s and 90s, and those strong words did not go
unnoticed by little ears in the pews. To be gay is to be a unique minority, living with a physiology you did not
choose, in a tribe not your own, amongst families that struggle
to understand you. And to be a gay person of faith
in the American south is its own unique challenge. Flannery O’Connor famously wrote, “While the south is hardly Christ-centered
it is most certainly Christ-haunted.” To be gay in a community
steeped in religion is to know that you are welcome
only if you remain single and celibate. It’s to feel forced to choose
between spiritual faith and earthly love. It’s to beg God to change you, hoping for a golden ticket
into straightness. And so, I made my way through high school
and college with no dating, just denial. I was serious about my faith, hoping to one day discover
a tonic of spiritual disciplines that would cure me. And, in the meantime,
I perfected the art of numbing the pain: work, work, work,
nights out, big vacations and the continual incantation, “I don’t need love, I don’t need love,
I don’t need love.” Forget coping mechanisms.
I had built a coping machine. And it worked! Until it didn’t. Some time around 30, I woke up and realized all of my friends
had moved on with their lives, matriculating into the world of wedding
dresses and children’s birthday parties. My loneliness grew and,
as the sleepless nights began to add up, I eventually gave up:
I decided to stop hiding. And, through one painful
conversation after the other, I began to come out to friends and family,
most of whom were very religious. The conversations were tough at first. Red wine was my courage,
Pepto-Bismol was my peace. (Laughter) For years, I had imagined
the worst reactions, with people freaking out
and casting judgment, but, each time, every time,
I was met with love, and a tear, and one of those lingering hugs you give
someone who’s been fighting a hard battle. And so, in my 30s, I finally, clumsily, stumbled my way
into the light of telling my truth, something I wish I’d done so much sooner. Many people seem to think that the religious folk of the south
are fueled by hate, but I know that’s not true
because I know these people. They are wildly generous
and kind beyond belief. For centuries, they have been the ones
helping the poor in our neighborhoods and providing relief after disasters. We need our faith communities
and outsiders typecasting them as bigots are peddling the fallacy of composition. Vocal zealots do not represent
the benevolent majority. I don’t think our faith communities
have a problem with hate. I think we have a problem with love. We just haven’t loved
our LGBT children well! (Applause) We’ve not loved our LGBT children well. We haven’t listened. We’ve offered theology before empathy. We’ve protected a tabu that quietly
boils kids in their own shame. We haven’t given them the space
and the grace that we give everyone else, and we’ve defended
disembodied spiritual doctrines while missing the actual
bodies in our pews. Kids in our religious communities
dare not speak their truth, out of fear! Many of them are struggling alone
and we need to ask ourselves the question: why is the word H-E-L-P so hard for them? Now, the good news is
that I see faith leaders rising up, changing the conversation. I see our churches pivoting, as they have so many times
across the centuries, towards love. I see the rhetoric being replaced
with a lexicon of grace. I see people of faith learning a sacred
song that keeps rhythm with orthodoxy, while shouting a chorus of love. And I see believers united,
reminding every child, “You are loved and you are lovely,
and your future is incredibly bright .” Thank you. (Cheers) (Applause) Thanks. Thank you. (Applause) (Cheers)

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