Ben Mann

Ben2.jpg

Before coming out, I only knew God as a limited being. Now, I know God in God’s full grace. May you know this same true love.

When I think about life in the closet, it makes me laugh. Like many Christians, I languished in the closet into my adulthood, making the assumption that God’s love only worked one way for straight people.

I was an obedient child, born a people-pleaser. Some of my earliest memories are of making my parents and community proud, so I stressed and strained to be the best everything that I could be–son, church-goer, student–I was out front in full force. My pleasantness, my acceptableness were of paramount importance to me, because they concealed my inner turmoil, as I heard the message loud and clear that queer people were destined for Hell.

This message of God’s hate never made much sense to me, but I never questioned it. In fact, I took an active role in trying to assure others that the “Culture War” would inevitably result in a conservative victory.

As my sexuality began to blossom, I grew increasingly afraid, as I was unable to express truthfully the person whom God had created me to be. I recall nights of shameful experimentation attempting to gather accurate data about my situation without anyone knowing. And I recall many attempts to pass for straight, although constant bullying proved that I was a bad actor.

This pattern of self-hate followed me through college, where, despite being presented many safe spaces to come out, I chose to maintain the weak façade. Somehow, I managed to convince a girlfriend to marry me, and graduated confident that I had successfully worked out my “gay feelings”.

The marriage failed for a myriad of reasons, not least of which was my secret unhappiness and anger for having to play the role of a straight man. Staying loyal to the end, my ex-wife’s cruelty and bravery in seeking divorce was perhaps the best gift.

The ultimate shame of divorce in my community meant that I could not sink any lower in the food chain of Christian privilege and power. I was bolstered by the fact that my only choice was to start over. So, like the proverbial phoenix, I rose from the ashes of my downfall, but this time I would be who I was designed to be.

Coming out was not easy, and it continues. I take solace in knowing that each time I come out to someone, I understand the Kingdom of God a little more. Each day that I discover aspects of myself and my sexuality, I also fall deeper in love with my community and God’s work within it. It is weird, wonderful, and righteous.

Coming out as queer opened up doors for me that I never dreamed. It forced me to talk with God in a clear and loving language. It even eventually led me to join the clergy and to take serious vocation in the work of loving God’s creation. God’s love was unchanged for me, even when I didn’t love myself. May you know this same grace. Amen.