|Man at the Gate 2023|
Geoffrey Sutton & Bing AI
Stranger at the Gate
To Be Gay and Christian in America
By Mel White
Geoffrey W. Sutton
It’s been three decades since Mel White completed his testimony, Stranger at the Gate, which his ex-wife and friend, Lyla White, lovingly introduced. Mel White begins his story as an adolescent who became aware of his attraction to men at a time when the general culture was silent about same-sex attraction and the religious culture was beginning to ramp up their rhetoric of condemnation of homosexuality.
Mel White lived with his feelings in a painful closet. In his words...
“I was miserable for only one reason: I was gay. I don't know when or why it happened... I didn't even know what to call it then. But from the beginning, I had only same- desires and fantasies. I didn't plan it. I didn't choose it. I didn't desire it. no one forced it on me. I wasn't recruited, raped, or abused. No one is to blame.” (p.29)
Mel dated Lyla in High School. They married, had children, and worked together. His filming and writing career took off. He earned the respect of the popular Christian leaders of yesteryear who worked with him on various projects—Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jim, Bakker, Billy Graham. I was surprised by the number of books Mel wrote for these men.
Not surprisingly, he sought help from a psychologist to cure his homosexuality. He even tried electric shock to repair his sexual orientation. Nothing worked. Prayers and counseling, tears and guilt—you can almost feel the pain.
I’m skipping a lot of material…
In 1984, Mel and Layla worked on an amicable divorce ensuring a close working relationship with their children. By the 1990s, the anti-gay rhetoric of conservative Christian clergy rose to high levels. The men he worked with were on the attack. The clergy he wrote for warned their supporters of the threats to America. One letter ejected White out of his partly opened closet. That’s when he wrote a missive to Jerry Falwell December 24, 1991.
Since the 1990s, things have changed for gays and lesbians in America and many other nations around the world. Legal same-sex marriage is available to many gay and lesbian couples. Some jurisdictions protect them from discrimination. Some Christian churches welcome them along with other sexual minorities represented in the LGBTQ+ initialism. Of course, we in America have become keenly aware of the bans on certain books dealing with LGBTQ+ topics and the recent focus on limiting what kind of care and support young transpersons may receive.
Despite these changes, Mel White’s story remains relevant to appreciating the struggles young people experience when they do not fit the rigid male and female sex and gender roles demanded by members of various religious subcultures. If they dare to come out, LGBTQ+ people become strangers outside sanctuary gates.
White, M. (1995). Stranger at the gate: To be gay and Christian in America. New York: Plume.
Geoffrey W. Sutton, PhD is Emeritus Professor of Psychology. He retired from a clinical practice and was credentialed in clinical neuropsychology and psychopharmacology. His website is www.suttong.com
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