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Dalmacio Dennis Flores, PhD, ACRN

“It was 2012 and my second time to be invited to the United Methodist Church’s annual Lighten The Burden conference. It was the Q&A portion and I thought my presentation was well received.

I was talking to a room of about 200 collared clergy from all over the world about my previous work as a bedside AIDS nurse in Atlanta and how this plague still disproportionately impacted gay men everywhere.

As a spokesperson for a national HIV Prevention campaign, I made a case for more inclusive religious congregations. One pastor came up to the mic and asked what I thought fueled HIV stigma and homophobia. Paraphrasing a Facebook meme I had read the previous night, I said “Homophobia is the fear straight guys have of what gay men may do to them, like the way they treat their women.” The room erupted in a guttural groan of collective distaste that I thought only occurred in movies. I actually felt physically pushed back by the reaction.

The organizer who invited me hurriedly came up to the stage to signal that my session was up and that it was time for a coffee break. Two young lay leaders around my age came up and ushered me out of the conference room. Once we were outside, they thanked me for coming and sharing my candid thoughts. They explained the internal discord occurring in their church that has pitted conservative members against the liberal wing of the UMC. I was never invited again.

In their 2019 General Conference, there was a bitter fight over marriage equality and LGBT clergy;  traditionalists won the vote. I check my junk mail sometimes with the hope of a new invitation to speak to them again about my current work on the power of parental acceptance.”

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