I’m a queer Christian. I didn’t always use to identify this way. In fact, I used to believe that to be gay meant that I was choosing to rebel against God’s design for me, for marriage, for the church, and the world.
I got a mixed bag of signals on this as a teen and young adult.
“LGBTQ folks are sinners, but we love them!”
“Gay people are just people to be loved.”
“I know people who have come out of that lifestyle.”
“God hates fags.”
That last one was the one that really stuck with me, and the most prominent message I got growing up.
I’ve known since I was 14 years old, freshmen year of high school in Ms. Triantophilous’s art foundations class. I remember the moment vividly because I’ve never felt more ashamed or isolated in my life. I was a Christian, baptized in the church I was born into on July 4, 1999, and Christians simply did not struggle with homosexuality. That was for sinners, and I was not a fag. I couldn’t be. Gay people were going to hell.
So if I’m saved by grace, redeemed by the Love of Jesus, walking in the Spirit, why me? God, why did I have to be stricken with what felt like a curse?
I was told that you couldn’t be a gay Christian because being gay was choosing to sin. But believe me when I say that I never decided to be attracted to men.
And so I tried to fix myself. In therapists’ office, at conferences, I was told that it was possible to change my sexual orientation. I was told that if I prayed hard enough, that if I fasted enough, went through a ton of inner-healing, that God would honor that. That God would make me straight.
I latched on to that rhetoric like a life-preserver in a sea of doubt. God would save me from my perversion. But all that did was poison my own heart against me.
For 12 years, in and out of different Exodus International groups, small groups for folks who struggled with their sexuality, several men’s groups, and a couple of retreats, I prayed and fasted, worshiped, cried out to God in anguish to take this thorn from my side, but nothing happened. I even had multiple exorcisms performed on me to rid me of the demons causing me to want to act out! But nothing changed. No matter what I did to fill myself up with the holy, I couldn’t get rid of my attractions to men.
I thought it was my fault. I must have not wanted it bad enough. I must be the problem. I was the sinner. I couldn’t stop sinning, and I was sure that God saw me as an abomination, disgusting, and not lovable as I was.
And this mindset, these tapes I played over and over again in my head resulted in two attempts to take my life.
And luckily, I’m still here.
After my second failed attempt to end my life, a question came to me: What if God loves me for who I am, not in spite of who I am?
What if I’m wrong? What if there is a different way to be a faithful follower of Christ?
There had to be. Because I could not keep living like I wanted to die.
So I asked the Holy Spirit to reveal to me the truth... and I also started googling “gay and Christian.” With one click, I was exposed to a different way of interpreting Scripture, different ways of seeing relationship and life, and what I read sounded like salvation. It seemed like love and joy and peace.
It sounded like everything I was waiting for.
I was determined to find an answer to this question, and I got my hands on every bit of literature I could on homosexuality and the Bible. I needed to know, for myself, what the heart of God was. I read every blog, article, and book there was on this. I had a handle on progressive/inclusive and affirming theology and also knew the in’s and out’s of conservative/traditional theology.
Even armed with all the knowledge in the world, and having beautifully wise people around me who offered their opinions and prayer, I still found myself planted firmly in the middle.
I understood why traditional scripture interpretations existed. In fact, it was the only thing I had ever known. I was told many times that it was the Truth with a capital T, and I had to line up with it (with a proverbial “or else” added in the subtext of numerous conversations), but when I looked at my own life and the life of Jesus, and then looked at the life I was told I had to lead, something just didn’t settle.
I couldn’t believe that God would damn me to a life of loneliness and continual ostracization over something I never chose. I would forever be the third wheel, forever be on the prayer list, forever be the poor soul who struggled with his sexual identity, never able to step fully into ministry. Never able to fully love the people of God. Never able to fully step into full authority and status as a Co-heir with Christ. Forever broken. Forever seeking for God to change this one aspect of my life.
And even in all of that, even with that feeling, I couldn’t trust it because I was always told that my body was the seat of my sin, that all my desires were sinful. I wanted to remain a part of the tribe. So, in an act of faith, I started dating a godly woman, feeling like that was my calling, in a last-ditch effort to make something come alive in me that didn’t exist in my ability.
After that relationship ended, I sat in my shame. I knew that these feelings were never going away. And I knew God wasn’t going to change them.
I needed a path forward, and it was either going to be to commit myself to a life of celibacy, remaining in the churches I’d always known and loved, or... or maybe it was possible to be LGBTQ and a faithful Christian.
And oddly enough, the answer came one week after my relationship with my last girlfriend did.
In a move that I can only attribute to God, a series of events occurred where I finally was able to gather with a bunch of LGBTQ Christians at a conference in Atlanta.
That weekend was the single, most important, most life-changing weekend of my life, and I don’t say that hyperbolically.
Walking in the space and worshiping alongside 300-ish other openly LGBTQ Christians and allies was incredible. I’ve read articles and blogs by straight people who say that it was transformative for them because they never expected the Holy Spirit to show up. This weekend was no exception. I never expected it. But Holy Spirit was there, and present and moving, and I felt loved in a way I had never felt loved before.
My entire Christian journey, I felt like I was a second class son. And that changed that weekend.
I felt welcomed, but only so much. I could participate, but only to a degree. But at that moment, I finally felt welcomed into the family of God. I was affirmed in my personhood in its entirety. I never felt more free of shame, more set free from the expectation and approval of others. Jesus met me in the most realistic way possible, and I knew beyond all doubt that who I was, who I was created to be, was not only good, but very good.
I was queer. I was Christian. I was beloved.
It wasn’t a person, a teaching, or my emotions which convinced me it was possible to be gay and Christian. It was Holy Spirit, present, living, breathing, speaking.
And today, three years later, I am doing more ministry and helping more people find their story in the story of God than I ever did when I was trying to be a straight, perfect worship leader.
I’m walking in the fullness of God. I am unashamed, unrestrained, unchanged, and entirely in love with the path of Jesus, more in love with God than I’ve ever been.
I am finally whole because I let God have God’s way with my sexuality and gender. And you know what God wanted to do with my sexuality and gender?
God wanted to leave it unchanged. I finally was able to get my focus off my attractions and fear of God, and finally put my focus on things that actually matter like doing justice, loving mercy, walking humbly.
If you are reading this, and you feel like God won’t love you or won’t approve of you because you happen to fall in love with a certain kind of person, I want to tell you that God loves that part of you. God made you this way. God’s love is expressed in the way you love other people.
Love does not bind. Love doesn’t place undue burdens. Love doesn’t ask you to be different or to change. Love asks you to be more fully yourself. And yes, it may cost you to be yourself. Yes, you could stand to lose a lot of friends, family, opportunities by choosing to become fully alive.
But I’m telling you, from one fearful child of God to another: It is so worth it. It is worth everything to be fully yourself in God’s presence. And it’s available to you right now.
You are beloved, for who you are.
Be gay. Be bisexual. Be transgender. Be queer.
Be who you are.
You are beloved because of your queerness, not in spite of it.
Don’t waste any more of your time trying to be anyone other than who God made you to be.