Retired Oregon Lutheran pastor Gilbert Rossing wrote a book, published in 2009, titled “Dignity, Dogmatism, and Same-Sex Relationships: What Science and Scripture Teach Us.” It was after his eldest son came out to him and his wife that he was forced to address homosexuality, in order to try to understand it on a level removed from his traditional beliefs.
About ten years after his first son came out, his second son also came out as a gay man. His path towards understanding his children and the LGBT community is what led him to write his book.
Writing the book was a long process for Rossing, who wrote in the acknowledgments of the text, “It is, after all, a book that would never have been written if [his two sons]were not the dignified, gay men that they are.”
He went on the say he was grateful for his eldest daughter and her husband, who unequivocally condemn homosexuality, because the experience “enabled [him]to identify with many gay and lesbian persons who suffer similar pain when family members do not accept them.”
According to Rossing’s guest column, posted last week in “The Oregonian,” “On a March night in 1987, our oldest son—now a Portland business owner—told his mother and me that he was gay.” However, in a Book Chat conversation, hosted by Alan Rose, he said, “it was 1983 that our oldest son asked to talk to both of us…he finally intimated that he was gay.”
Despite the date discrepancies appearing here, the year was the only questionable aspect of his two accounts. In both stories, Rossing took the approach of attempting to counsel his son’s feelings away from the direction he was going. His son told him and his wife, “I don’t want to lose you!” and it was their son’s moving words that prompted Rossing and his wife, Beth, to explore what human sexuality really means.
In the Book Chat clip, Beth says, “We were quite sheltered,” to which Rossing adds, “I believed that sexuality was pretty much binary; this or that; masculinity or femininity; boys or girls,” but he soon “began to see a fascinating diversity, variety in sexuality—a great amount of plasticity.”
His ideas from the 2011 Book Chat clip are echoed in the “Oregonian” article, where he writes, “When I first wrestled with Scripture passages, I was struck by the disconnectedness between the idolatrous and sexually abusive behaviors the Bible condemned in contrast to the high character and integrity of my son. I began to see that my quickness to judge contradicted the Biblical mandate not to judge, and violated the basic command to love our neighbor—my son—as we love ourselves.”
Rossing took a step that many LGBT members hope to see from relatives, specifically of the older generation holding firm traditional beliefs that remain closed off to the LGBT community.
It is sometimes the case that parents tolerating their child’s sexuality, but continuing to believe that the homosexual community is immoral, shows that the parent has not taken that extra leap to truly understand what homosexuality is.
Instead of accepting the sexuality of their child, it can be seen as accepting their child in spite of their sexuality. Rossing challenges this idea and is not afraid to publicize his acceptance, saying, “We saw a dimension of the gay and lesbian community larger than our own son. And we began to realize that there was a much bigger issue involved here than just that we understand our son alone.”
Rossing’s work, the length he has gone to to both strengthen his relationships with his sons and establish himself as an LGBT ally is an example to be led by. A religious man, he was able to detach himself from narrow-minded religious individuals and instead choose “to become friends with dozens of devout, godly people who are gay, lesbian and transgender.”