By now, for those who pay attention to LGBT+ stories from within the Seventh-day Adventist community, it is a familiar narrative: young person grows up in traditional, rural Adventist home; young person is raised knowing that homosexuality is wrong; young person realizes (s)he identifies as homosexual; young person tries to be straight, agonizes over same-gender attractions, fears that people will find out, prays for feelings to be taken away; prayer does not change things; and young person (now a bit older) comes to terms with and accepts his/her sexual identity. Tension remains between young person and the family members who have difficulty coming to terms with non-hetero identities.
And of course, as is the case for Michael, the subject of the 7th installment of the "Outspoken" documentary series, there is always more to the story. There are feelings of isolation, of not being heard or understood, and feelings of being disconnected from family and the faith community that cannot or will not embrace LGBT+ people.
In addition to all that for Michael, there was—there is—partnership: a committed relationship with Peter that began with the dating app OKCupid. Michael lights up as he discusses finding someone with whom he fits so well.
Peter (left) and Michael in a still image from the latest installment of "Outspoken."
“That feels very surreal but very good,” Michael says. But there is also a bitter to that moment’s sweet.
“I don’t know if my parents can fully appreciate how happy I am now because I don’t know if they fully understand how sad I was . . . and sometimes I still am,” Michael says.
“I know that if they knew how to bridge this gap with me, I know that they would do it in an instant. . . . Adventism is such a core thing for them and who they are.”
We’re left wondering whether Michael’s family—and whether the families of so many others like him—will ever be able to accept and embrace this part of their child.
In just sixteen minutes, filmmakers Daneen Akers and Stephen Eyer manage to fill up our eyes with stars and with tears in turn.
That is the power of story . . . of Michael’s story.
Watch Michael: Outspoken
Jared Wright is a News Correspondent for Spectrummagazine.org.
If you respond to this article, please:
Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.