In the past several months, I’ve often been received by individuals either representing themselves or an organization (read that as: church) with the sentiment that they would “accept” me but not “approve” of me identifying as a trans-woman. They say the same would be true for anyone else in the GSRM community.
This has never set well with me, but for the sake of continuing the conversation, I let it sit. The closer that sentiment got to home however, the less amiable I have been to passively dealing with it. I did a little digging (read that as: looked up words on merriam-webster.com) and discovered that the whole concept of accepting and not approving is a semantic contradiction. Let me spell that out for you:
Accept (verb): to give admittance or approval to <accept her as one of the group>
Approve (verb): to have or express a favorable opinion of <couldn’t approve such conduct>; a : to accept as satisfactory <hopes she will approve the date of the meeting> b : to give formal or official sanction to : ratify <Congress approved the proposed budget>
Accept: take, have
Approve: accredit, approbate, authorize, clear, confirm, finalize, formalize, homologate, OK (or okay), ratify, sanction, warrant
Accept: decline, deny, disallow, disapprove, negative, refuse, reject, spurn, turn down, veto
Approve: decline, deny, disallow, disapprove, negative, reject, turn down, veto
Need I say more? (Maybe not, but I’m going to anyway.) To say that I accept someone into my presence but don’t approve of who they are is essentially saying, “I’d like to have you, to count you among my people, but we are going to limit you, marginalize you and constantly tell you how wrong you are. I may soften the blow by giving you an ambiguous platitude alluding to the fact that I’m sometimes wrong as well – but not nearly as wrong as you because I can still teach, lead, be around kids and talk on behalf of God.”
To offer me acceptance without approval is inviting me into an environment where I am constantly aware of what others see as shortcomings, failures and flaws. As a result I will experience increased stress, anxiety and all the physical and emotional symptoms that accompany those phenomena. I’m going to have to choose between authenticity and deception. I’m going to have to choose to whom I am real and to whom I pretend – just in an effort to keep the peace in your “accepting” community.
And while you as a leader may “accept” me, all your followers will hear and understand is your disapproval. You may have the social and spiritual maturity to sit at a table with me and have a civil conversation; you may be able to understand the paradox that exists in your acceptance without approval, but it is highly doubtful the vast majority of those who look to you for guidance in these areas will share those qualities (or invest the energy in exercising them).
Your lack of approval will lead to their lack of acceptance; which leads to a cancerous attitude in your community.
So that brings me to motive. What is the purpose of accepting without approving? Simple: you are trying to balance the spiritual mandate to love with the legalism of your religion. You need to find a way to be “politically correct” – only a fool would say we can’t accept you because we don’t approve of you – and to save face in what you have declared to be “truth”. You are in a classic conundrum an instead of either biting the bullet and telling me what you really think or having the humility to admit that you may have overstated the truth, you walk the line; and ultimately you walk that line at my expense.
This is not that big of a deal when it comes to a church or a school or a civic organization. I can choose not to go (though why should I have to?). I can transfer. I can serve elsewhere. But when it comes into the home, it gets irreparably toxic. It becomes the conditions under which children are required to live the majority of their young lives, where stress and anxiety fill a space that should otherwise be safe and free and open. Bearing that in mind, it is easy to understand why so many GSRM people run away, turn to drugs and alcohol, internalize anger and find solace in the first person that offers acceptance – even if that person a pathway to self loathing and destruction. It’s easy to understand why a disproportionate number of them die prematurely.
What’s the alternative? Love me. Love my kids. Love your kids.
Make more of an effort to understand me than to condemn me. Take both me and our God out of the box that has been constructed out of paper-thin religious principals. Experience my passion for life and share yours with me. Let my love for God and for people be contagious in your life and let your soul shine brightly with the light of the Goodness you claim lives inside you.
Reject and disapprove
Accept and approve and love.
And know that if you wander into my church or into my home, you are accepted. You are approved. You are loved.