As a person of faith from an early age, it may have seemed natural for Dylan Dell-Haro to find a calling to serve as a religious leader. Growing up in a loving environment, Dylan continually explored and sought out information on religion. However, his experience differs from many, certainly those in traditional faith communities: He grew up in a household with two mothers.
Speaking about the inferred social construct that people of faith are generally biased or cruel toward LGBTQ people, Dylan says he can understand the reputation.
“I don’t think the broad strokes are a stereotype that are necessarily unearned,” he said. “Especially when a lot of opposition uses religion as a tool to legitimize or somehow rationalize their fear of what they don’t understand.”
Even as he grew up with two moms, Dylan didn’t immediately accept his surroundings and family life.
“Someone’s religious beliefs shouldn’t diminish another’s civil liberties.”
“It wasn’t a seamless transition for me. Fear and misunderstanding are prevalent –our culture has been steeped in homophobia and heteronormativity. But from talking to other clergy and doing thinking more introspectively, I found that there wasn’t any difference between my family and others.”
Dylan said his mind was further opened as he began his religious studies in college, eventually attending seminary.
“I began to recognize there was a lot of theological diversity, not just within Christianity as a whole, but even within each denomination,” he explained. “My denomination, The Church of the Brethren, is smaller. But even there we encountered some groups that were very open and accepting, and others that were openly hostile toward a family structure like mine.”
Although his faith continues to evolve, Dylan learns from a tradition that values diversity and self-determination.
“The reality is there are civil liberties and there are religious liberties,” he said. “Someone’s religious beliefs shouldn’t diminish another’s civil liberties.” He continued, “I interpret the Christian tradition as one of love and radical inclusivity.”
For Dylan, it is important to be intentionally inclusive of the LGBTQ community, particularly those who feel abandoned or ostracized by the faith community. He also says there is work to be done inside the institution itself, and that the impetus is not on LGBTQ people alone to change traditions.
“I live in Beatrice but work in Lincoln,” he says. “There are at least a half dozen churches there who have inclusivity written into their mission statements. We also have to do the work from the inside,” he said. “LGBTQ people shouldn’t feel the weight of having to tolerate bigotry or make the reformation themselves. If you are in a location that doesn’t have inclusive churches, which is often the case in rural Nebraska, start by having conversations with people who believe as you do and build community from there.”
In his life outside the church, Dylan has also found the time to do the important work of talking to people about the need for non-discrimination protections.
“I did some canvassing with the ACLU in Lincoln, having conversations about non-discrimination. There’s nothing on the ballot coming up, it was just sort of a test on messaging. The response was mixed but it was encouraging, because there were some folks who started out on the fence but came around by the time we finished talking.”
Dylan is hopeful that through having conversations and reaching out to the LGBTQ community, preconceptions and myths will be dismantled and non-discrimination can become a reality not just in Nebraska, but across the country.
“I think what’s happening has been pretty fast over the last couple decades, so that gives me hope. There are loving and supporting people everywhere.”
Follow the news and history regarding non-discrimination in Nebraska here.