Looking back at my childhood, there were pretty obvious signs my feelings were different than my peers, however, growing up in the church I was very good at blocking out sexual feelings as a teenager. After high school, I attended bible college in Orange County, California, and being away from home, I began to notice and understand that I felt different than those around me. At 18 years old, I prayed for God to take the feelings away from me, and I heard him say no.
In our church tradition, there wasn't such a thing as an LGBT Christian. “Gay” was something that exclusively existed outside the church, and it was rarely talked about. Because being gay was so diametrically opposed to being Christian, we never even had to talk about it, it just wasn't a thing. I would even deny my own feelings because my identity was a Christian, and that couldn't coexist with being LGBT.
My beliefs changed as I came to understand my own feelings. Finally accepting myself as a gay man didn't change who I was, including the being Christian part. Almost overnight, I became a vocal advocate in my church for creating a welcoming space for LGBT people. Having read books like "Torn," I knew my experience wasn't unique and that there were people who were yearning to grow in a faith community that also happened to be LGBT. This was not well received in my church, but I was undeterred.
Almost immediately after I accepted my own sexuality, I sought out resources for LGBT Christians, and the first thing I came across was the Gay Christian Network (now Q Christian Fellowship). Reading through the personal stories of other Christians and learning from others' experiences really helped me reconcile my faith and my sexuality. I also sought coming out stories on YouTube and books like "Torn" by Justin Lee and Matthew Vines' lecture.
More than 10 years after coming out, I'm in a very different place than I expected. My greatest fear was that I wouldn't have the chance to have a family and a productive life, but that has changed. I've been married for almost six years now, and we have a home and two beautiful fur babies. We are part of a loving and supporting church community, and we are happy. It hasn't been without turmoil and pain–getting kicked out of the church I grew up in was hard, and pushed me emotionally in ways I still deal with, but to have loving and supporting friends that understand our journey and come along side us has made all the difference. It does get better.