23 August, 2015 Loving a Gay Christian.
This may be old news to some of you, but I was raised in church. Not just attending church on Sundays but I mean RAISED in church. Generations of pastors in my family etc. I remember sitting on the front pew in a frilly purple dress at the age of 3 alone and watching my parents sing on stage in the choir. I sang along. I sang my first solo in church in front of hundreds of people when I was 5. I held bible studies during lunch at my high school (which keep in mind it was the first time ever being in a public school and I was the most introverted kid on the planet). Any day the church doors were open I was there…and it was never because I HAD to be. I loved it growing up. Most of all the music. It was my heart, my soul and every fiber of my being. For years I was the drummer for a choir of about 80 people, the middle school praise and worship leader, heavily involved in youth group as a mentor, I sang in choir and sang solos on a christian album that was released. I competed in national competitions with a small ensemble and my first job was working at a well known christian book store. Yeah yeah, the list goes on and on.
Here I am…32 years old and I can’t remember the last time I went to church. It was 2007 when I FINALLY told my parents I was gay and had been ever since I could remember. I used to sit at the dinner table and just stare at my food. I couldn’t hold a genuine conversation to save my life. I struggled with making eye contact with others. No, not because I was convicted for being gay (trust me I know what conviction feels like) but because I was living a complete lie because I felt I HAD to. If I didn’t I was told I would burn in a lake of fire. Ouch. That image alone is enough to terrify a small child. I lived this lie alone for a majority of my life. I went through things as a teenager in the church with people I trusted that I never should’ve had to go through…especially alone. When I came out I remember a weight lifted for once in my life…it was indescribable. I also knew that I would probably lose my family, I would crush them, I’d have to back away from every position I held in the church and would more than likely lose anyone I had ever grown up with but once you hit that low point in your life… the truth is the only thing you can cling to. It’s your only option. For once, I wasn’t trying to put on a facade to try to please everyone around me. I needed to take care of myself. Point of this story is, the last time I was involved in church I think was when I was about 24. Around that time I left my church, took a step back and decided to go to a much larger church and just sit on the back pew. I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to be involved in music if I came out. I did this for years before moving out of state completely to try to start over. When I got to Texas sometimes I would go to church alone and do my best to just blend in…I’d sneak out to get coffee when people would shake hands and talk. I’d cry during most of the worship.
Watermark Community Church (in the video below) has an amazing worship service…but they also believe that I am right up there with shoplifters and say that we are assaulting God’s word and the church. Even to go as far as to compare us to ISIS and say we’re a threat. Silly. I also realize they are saying this because most of them don’t understand and they have this image in their heads about what gay people look like and how we behave. Some don’t even know a gay person and have never had an actual conversation with one of us. We aren’t out to get you:) This is the same pastor that when #MarriageEquality passed quoted “May we never confuse love with agreeing with sin.” Here’s the thing…typically I would just not have anything to do with that church ever again, but what if we all did that? What if we all ran away and they never got to put a face to those “threats”…what if they never got to hear OUR stories. I know SO many gay christians that it’s hard to keep count. I think a lot of us tend to grow silent upon being excluded or attacked but that is the biggest mistake we can make. Living true to ourselves and showing love is what’s important…realizing that we do deserve to be in church if we want to. I gave up a whole lot of what I love because I felt I HAD to. We all deserve to be heard and we all deserve love. If you’re gay and grew up in church can you please reach out to me and tell me your story. I am going to keep adding to this blog post with similar stories so that we can make more of an impact in this world. Please check out the Promote Love Movement. It’s a good reminder for us to share love on a regular basis any way we can with anyone we can. No walls. No judgement. Just sharing and loving…because we should all strive to be decent human beings. #PromoteLove
** PLEASE CONTINUE READING BELOW THE VIDEOS. SO MANY MORE STORIES. KEEP IN MIND THAT NOT EVERYONE BELOW IDENTIFIES AS “CHRISTIAN”…EVERY DAY IS A PROCESS OF RESEARCHING AND LEARNING. THIS IS SIMPLY A POST COLLECTING STORIES OF OTHERS IN THE LGBT COMMUNITY WHO WERE RAISED IN THE CHURCH. IF YOU WANT WANT TO TAKE A STAND AND SHARE YOUR STORY WITH US PLEASE EMAIL ME AT [email protected] AND LET ME KNOW YOUR AGE & IF YOU WANT TO USE YOUR FIRST NAME OR “ANONYMOUS” **
“Your post was timely for me. As you probably know, I was raised Mormon – the youngest of 9 kids. My whole life, my dad was either my bishop, my stake president or in some pastoral leadership role. He was the person I was supposed to seek counsel from and tell my worst sins to. I left Utah when I was 20 because I was gay, and I needed to get out of the cognitive dissonance that I was surrounded by and that was being barked at me every Sunday at church. If you go through life being told that you are a sinner and you spend your days shaming yourself as such, it beats the humanity right out of you. I literally ran away from home, moving to Arkansas where one of my best friends lived, and I tried to start over surrounded by people who included and loved me based exclusively on my heart, mind, and personality. I was revived. I felt more whole than I ever had before. I distanced myself from spirituality and faith and the teachings I grew up with because their version of god rejected people like me. I distanced myself physically from my family and separated from them emotionally as much as possible. Then I met the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with. When you find that person, it’s funny – all you want is for the people you love more than anyone else in the world to love her, too. I’ve been exchanging dialogue over the last week or so with my parents (now 78-years old) in an attempt to get them to meet her. They refuse. My dad’s emailed response to me was riddled with scriptures and other nuggets, such as:
- “It is not wrong to have strong feelings about those of the same sex – the problems that arise occur when an individual acts on those feelings and goes contrary to the commandments of God. Think about it – if all people paired off with those of the same gender, what would happen? He created the first man and woman and married them and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The way of life you are suggesting does not “multiply” nor bear “fruit,” and is opposite to His definition of marriage and family – it is not “who you are,” but the way you have chosen to behave – you can choose to be otherwise.”
I’ve reached out to my siblings to see if they would be willing to meet her. We’ll see how that goes. Recently, both my girlfriend and a few new friends I have made have been trying to get me to go back to church. I have so much animosity towards Christians. But I’ve realized my friends are right – God isn’t just for straight people. Over the coming years, as our country begins to heal past wrongs it has allowed to be committed against gay people for simply falling in love with the “wrong” person by society’s standards, it is my hope that gay people will start to take church back. “They” stole my relationship with God and my faith and my spirituality when they painted me into a second-class citizen box. The worst part of all of it is that I allowed that to happen. Maybe I was too young or naïve or foolish at the time to realize that was what was happening – in their blind belief that I needed to be excluded because of this perceived “sin,” I was being robbed of the thing that was the most cherished part of my life. Instead of fighting for it, I let it go willingly because any god that taught folks to treat me the way I was being treated is no god of mine. I have a long, uphill battle ahead, but I’ve decided to take the first steps. I’m taking god back from the people that stripped me of it in his name. As my story unfolds, I am realizing that I have to let go of the negative feelings towards those in the church I felt wronged by. In doing so, I am finally beginning to understand what it means to forgive and to love unconditionally. God sure does work in mysterious ways.” – Agnes, 33
“This hit home. My mom is an associate nun and I am blessed to have her. No one can make us feel inferior without our consent. No one!!” – J, 27
“I had to accept and believe in my heart that I was going to hell in order to come out. I did. It was one of the scariest times of my life; going to bed at night and for the first time not having the security and love of God that I grew up with. I identified so much with my faith growing up and it defined so much about myself and my character. It felt awful to not be allowed to call myself a Christian anymore just because I was accepting my truth. I was told I was accepting an unnatural lie about myself. I had to completely rebuild my idea of God from the ground up. It’s been 5 years of an inner struggle to find peace again. I will never again feel comfortable identifying as a Christian, so I guess the church did it’s job in ousting me. The idea of church makes me sick to my stomach now. Even tho I know there are good ones out their who do good on the world, I don’t think I’ll ever trust it enough to go back.” – Bailey
I just read your “rant” on being raised in the church and it really hit home. I too was raised in the church and left at a very young are (as a teenager) I left the day my pastor looked me dead in the eyes saying being gay would send me straight to hell, I was doing a dis-service to God. My parents weren’t that religious but I felt I needed the church in my life at a young age, my parents had divorced and I was living with my dad and stepmom both being of the “redneck homophobe” variety, I needed a place to belong, I thought it was the church. I had never told my parents I thought I might be gay, of course I though you could just “pray away the gay”
The day that happened at my church I left confused and sad and I remember going home and deciding to leave my high school basketball team knowing they wouldn’t be ok with me being gay if I announced it (it was a very small town with small beliefs) I sat in my house in dead silence after fighting with my dad for the hundredth time and when he said “you either get in the kitchen and make your sisters dinner or get out” I calmly walked into my bedroom, packed up my life and left. I left home at 16, I have been on my own since then, working a full-time job in high school BARELY graduating, I finally one day in light conversation with my mom said “I’m gay” she just looked at me and laughed and said I know, she has been my best friend in life.
My dad found out years later that I was gay, it took him several years to accept it, he never shunned away from me but we didn’t bring it up, and we didn’t talk about it near his wife, he has since divorced his wife and I have to say at 31 yr old my dad and I have a fantastic relationship for starting out so rough. I have faith, I believe there is a higher energy out there that we can feel/see, I don’t know if it is a god or not I respect everyones right to religion and talk to others about accepting any and every belief there is, we may not agree with others but I think on a human level we need to respect each others beliefs, I believe if you are happy and healthy and living the live you feel so far down in your soul that it is the life for you …. do it. Enjoy it.
My partner and I just celebrated NINE YEARS together this past week, She’s helped me see life in new light and new direction, it is about seeing the world and experiencing as much as possible, to be kind to each other and to others. To stop and hear the stories of others and share ours on the road. It took 16 years to be ok with myself and I finally do. The more people share the more they know they aren’t alone.” – Devon, 31
“Just read your post. My dad is a southern baptist music pastor. Very similar story. Went to Dallas baptist to be a worship pastor, worked at churches as a student pastor and even went to Dallas theological seminary. I was terrified of coming out because I was afraid of losing my family and ultimately didn’t know my identity. After a really bad break up with my secret gf of 2 years I really tried to “do the right thing”. I went to the village and went through their “recovery” program where I sat with a bunch of sad and depressed people talking about how much we sucked. I finally came out and haven’t looked back.” – Stephanie, 27
“I enjoyed your post! Thank you for sharing. I too grew up in church.. Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, church choir, church softball, and even a traveling black light puppet ministry. Yes puppeteering is a long lost skill hidden in my closet lol. My church growing up was an extension of my family. Sadly once going off to college and coming out I have not been welcomed in a church. I don’t like having to leave in the middle of sermons fighting back tears until I get to my car. I’ve tried to make 2 churches my home as an adult and have been compared to terrorists and rapists and criminals at both. Watermark being the last church I tried to go to. Luckily I don’t actually need a church to know what I believe in, but it is a shame that we cannot walk into a church and be loved unconditionally. My family even stopped going to our church back home. If I wasn’t going to be accepted somewhere, they did not want to be there either. Thank you for all you do in promoting love!! I appreciate you!” – Tanya, 33
“I remember the members of the church I was raised in trying to pray it out of me once I came out. They also tried to use anointing oil. That was 15 years ago. I miss singing. I miss the worship, I do not miss the judgement and feeling completely condemned. Thank you, for letting me know I’m not alone. It’s time to raise awareness.” – Sabrina, 40
“My story is a lot like yours! I grew up Church of Christ so they are very conservative. I loved my church family and we were very involved in the church. I even wanted to become a youth minister. I’m pretty sure I new something was different about me in the 3rd grade and definitely had depression issues in high school that now looking back, I know they had to be about me being gay and not fitting in the way I wanted. I went to a Christian college. Worked in several different churches as a youth leader and even went to Seminary. I decided to finally come out to my family and most of my friends about a year ago, even though I had started talking to a few people about it 3 years ago. One reason why I stopped working in a church was because I felt I was living a lie and if I did come out people might not see their kids as “being safe” with me. Now I am a teacher and know that my students are safer with me than with a lot of other people. I haven’t been to a church in a long time bc I just don’t want to be tolerated I want to be loved. I still believe Jesus is my savior I just try to find him in other places. Most people, even Church people, I have come out to have been great, but I know there are still some that I haven’t come out to bc they wouldn’t take it well. It is also still extremely hard for my parents but we are able to talk about it more so I do have hope for the future. It is really hard for me to hear preachers and Christians say these things about me because it’s not like I chose this! I prayed to God for many years to take this attraction and want away. It would be so much easier to have the normal life every strait person has, but that’s just not me. One thing that I think helped my mom understand me a little be more is, that it is hard for me bc I do know what the bible says and what I grew up being told, but then being the real me is also the best I have ever felt and now being with my lovely girlfriend makes me believe that I do have a place in this world and that I do belong.” – Anonymous, 29
Just saw your post & thought I’d reach out. I grew up in a church, best friend’s parents were both the church choir director and youth director (two different sets of parents) and my mom played the piano for the children’s choir. I did all the youth stuff, confirmation, preached at youth Sunday, led youth conferences and went to a Christian-based college. There, I was the little sister in a Christian fraternity, was a religion major, spent my summers directing a church camp and led conferences throughout the 4 years. My deep involvement did delay my coming out until after college; however… Once I did- my church and church friends have been nothing but supportive. My best friend (formally mentioned above) is now a Presbyterian minister and did B and my commitment ceremony back when we couldn’t get married- her parents (the choir directors) were also in attendance. In 2 months, we are getting married officially IN my church and she is officiating along with the head pastor now there. It is not a “gay” church- those aren’t for me- but it is progressive enough to love, welcome, accept, and support our relationship.” – H
Thank you so much for sharing your story, sometimes I feel so alone it’s nice to know I’m not the only one.
I’m only 19 but I’ve lived through a lot more than what my friends my age has faced. I fell in love with my best friend when I was 17 and we started dating. Soon after, my very conservative parents found out. It was one of the worst things I’ve gone through. The morning after, my aunt and my grandma attempted to “pray the gay away” and watched as I broke up with the girl I am so in love with. A month later, they found out that we had been talking again. They took me to their pastor and after asking me if two women who love each other can be considered a family, to which I said “yes,” he made choose between my “sinful homosexual lifestyle” and my family. I never stepped in that church again and was convinced God hated me. My relationship with my parents was completely broken, and I was extremely depressed.
A week before my high school graduation my parents sent me to a Christian “camp.” I spent a month there, and I had never felt God’s love as greatly as when I was there. The first thing they told me after I had told my story was, “you’re definitely not going to hell because you’re gay.” When I came back, our relationship had improved but a day before I was supposed to go to college they decided that I was “not ready for the real world.” They claimed it had nothing to do with me being gay, or still in a relationship with the same girl from before. Fast forward to today, I’m moving into my college tomorrow and am still with the girl I’m madly in love with. My relationship with my parents is a lot better, and I am still learning to love them unconditionally as Jesus loves me even if they don’t love me the same way. I don’t ever expect them to accept me, so we never talk about my personal life. I’m so happy that I have Jesus, and I know that going to church is definitely not a requirement to be a Christian. Christian values are love, grace and forgiveness.” — Isabella. 19
“Loved reading your story! I grew up in the church too and quit going when I came out. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that we started going back. My wife and I go to a small baptist church where the average age is about 70. I have never felt more at home in a church than I do now. They have made us feel welcomed and loved. We go to Sunday school and are usually asked to volunteer (most of the time providing food) for various church events. I also work in the church nursery every Sunday. I feel like we belong to a church family that sees Christianity the way we do. All you have to do is love each other. I think Jesus would be proud of the message you are sharing with your promote love movement. Keep it up.” – Rachel
“Hey Steph. Sam and I were driving back from the beach yesterday evening when she stumbled across your Instagram post. We both follow you. I am kelleilani and she is scoceano. She read it to me while I was driving. I was shocked by how similar our stories are. I’ve met plenty of gay Christians before, but none quite as similar to me as you. You asked for people to reach out with similar stories and Sam is also highly encouraging me to do so, so here it goes…
I was born into a Christian family. Not just any ‘Christian’ family. But a CHRISTIAN family. The type of family where you had to literally be dying of the bubonic plague to miss a church service on Sunday. I grew up in a church where my family had roots for generations. My family was THE family in church, the backbone. Everyone knew us and we knew everyone. When I was young, I attended the preschool and kindergarten classes there, vacation bible school, my parents lead the youth group, I read Scripture verses, was the acolyte… get the picture? I even attended the associated private Christian middle and high school, just as my father and uncles had. Now that I’m sure you get the picture, I’ll skip to the good stuff.
From the time I can remember, homosexuality was taught as a capital crime. The sinfulness of homosexuality was drilled into my head over and over and over. In church, in youth group, in Sunday School, in real school… constantly. Gay people were freaks and devil worshippers as far as my church was concerned.
My family was no exception to this rule. If the Ellen Show would come on the TV and my father would hear and realize what was going on, he would yell, “Get that dyke off the TV!” No, I’m not joking. If we were out as a family and we saw a gay person, I always had the pleasure of hearing my father’s disgusting comments about them. I also had the “joy” of experiencing what my family’s thoughts were about other gay members of my extended family. But that’s a story for another time.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve known I’m gay. I used to fight it with every ounce of my being. I knew for a fact that if I ever came out, I’d be a disgrace to my family and would lose virtually everyone important in my life. I played the straight, Christian girl very well. I pretended to oooh and ahhh over Brad Pitt and while secretly drooling over Jennifer Garner. Oh yes, I didn’t faithfully watch ALIAS for the action sequences.
When it was time to go to college, I chose somewhere far away. 465 miles away, to be exact. It took that 465 mile distance for me to finally feel I could be myself. Without boring you with too many more details, I wound up coming out my senior year of college. I played the game right so that if my parents were going to disown me, at least they’d pay for college first. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve painted a pretty foul picture of my family thus far. My parents are two of the most wonderful human beings on this planet. My father is a very successful financial business man who would give the shirt off his back to a stranger and would rather drive a Geo than the typical Maserati of our tax bracket. My mom is an adorable, beautiful blonde who everyone is secretly jealous of simply because she is the most tender-hearted and loving person anyone has ever met.
When I came out, it was a nightmare. My father is a tough ex-Marine that I had never seen previously cry, not even at his own father’s funeral. He cried like a baby. It was awful. They were sad and angry on same level of two parents who had just experienced the death of a child. They BEGGED me to go to a counseling service in the Midwest to “fix me”. No, I’m not joking about that either. Oh, and hell no I didn’t go. Now 5 years later, my Mom has come around and is fantastic. She loves my fiancée. Do I think she still wishes deep down that I was straight? Of course. But she’s so supportive and loving regardless. My dad… Let’s just say my dad is really trying.
Back to the church. The church I grew up in. The church that felt like a second home to me. The church where the people inside were more of a family to me than some of my actual family members.
My parents went to my Pastor for counseling when I came out. It was through them that I found out I would no longer be served Communion. My Pastor told them he would not serve it to me. I was still welcome to go, but would not be allowed to approach the altar to receive the Sacrament.
Can you even imagine what that feels like? I felt a loss like I can’t even begin to articulate into verbal or visual words. I still feel it to this day. I never went back. I still have not seen anyone from that church since then.
Like you, Steph, I can’t remember the last time I went to church. Maybe last Christmas? Or maybe I went on Easter? I honestly can’t remember if I did. How awful is that? I’m not convicted. Like you, too, I know what conviction feels like. I know who I am and I am damn proud of who I am. But I will always have a piece missing. That piece being the church.” -Kelly, 26
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