Friday, November 21, 2014

Hey is for Horses: Dating with Faith (or, Is Jesus the Reason for the Teardrops on My Guitar ? )

I've been on the ministry track in one way or another since age fourteen.  I've also been openly gay since 16.  These two things combined have colored my dating life, and that's been just as true online as it is in person.

Dating in the queer community as a Christian is obviously tricky.  The combined set of "Christian" and "queer" is small.  I had a really fantastic evening where a waitress hit on me and then went with me and friends to a local lesbian bar/dance night... and once she found out what I did, she was no longer interested.  I can understand and appreciate that, but of course it was a disappointment (how great of a story is it to say you got a date with your cute waitress?!).

And, unfortunately, the Lutheran and queer community is small, so when a relationship doesn't work out, there can be a heartbreaking loss of community.  There are churches and other spaces that are no longer available to me because my ex is there.  But I've made my peace with that, and I hope that others can too.

As far as cross-faith relationships:  Dianna's post on this is really excellent.  Cross-faith relationships absolutely can work, and I've witnessed some beautiful and life-changing ones.  It's all about (as Dianna will tell you) knowing yourself and your faith, and being able to ask open and honest questions of the person you're dating.

Dating as a seminarian / pastor adds another layer of complication (and one quite a few of my Tumblr readers have wanted to hear about).  Some of my dear pastoral colleagues are also on OKC, and we've discussed our own timelines for revealing our profession:

* Waiting until you meet:  The advantage is that you get to introduce yourself to someone, and show your passions and personality, without any prejudices or stereotypes they might have about pastors.  I've had friends who've done this to great success (one is married now!).  On the downside, your date might feel blindsided by the news, especially if you haven't talked about issues of faith at all, and extra-especially if you're dating in the queer community.  There are plenty of biases about pastors, from ultra-conservative to uber-corrupt to sexually backward, and my personal preference is to give my date a chance to think through those without me watching her face anxiously.

One of my (straight, female, pastor) friends on OKC has noted that her insistence on not sharing her profession until the first in-person meeting has caused her dates to wonder if she's a stripper.  So, there's that.

* Coming out in a message:  This is a nice middle-ground that allows your potential date to process without you watching, and to ask questions that might be hard to ask in person.

* Being "out" in your profile:  I've tried all of the above, and for me, this is the one that fits.  Especially dating in the queer community, I like being upfront.  It creates some really awesome opportunities for conversation (...and some interesting ones as well).  And the very first message I received on OKC was from a girl in Chicago who said, "I think it's awesome that you're going to be a pastor, and I think you're attractive, and if we lived in the same city I'd ask you out."  We ended up talking almost every day for two months and then dating long-distance for three more.  Although it didn't "work out" as a relationship long-term, it was a really great experience in being seen and valued for who I am.

Being a pastor colors my whole life, and to have my girlfriend or partner see how much it means to me (and want to participate in that) is deeply meaningful for me -- maybe even necessary.

Because when a pretty girl texts you from a bar to say she's found a fellow Wesleyan and they're talking about his superiority to Luther, and you're way too delighted that she's this theologically sound to point out that actually Wesley had his heart "strangely warmed" by Luther's commentary on Romans so really Luther takes primacy...

...at least for me, in that moment, dating with faith is so worth it.

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