Tag Archives: christianity and homosexuality

Irks and Perks of 2013

Hello, friends! I’m b-a-a-a-c-k… and I’m so ready to catch up with all of you. I’ve spent the better part of 2013 on a sabbatical from blogging—partially because I had a couple other projects to work on, and partially because it was a tough year for me, personally. I’ve taken some time off to reflect, heal, and re-center. And now, I feel the fire of advocacy burning once again. I’d like to thank each of you who reached out to me during the past several months—to pray for me, spend time with me, or simply check in with me. You know who you are, and words cannot express how deeply I appreciate it.

I have a handful of projects lined up that I’d like to try for the new year… one of which is a podcast. It will not be replacing this blog, but simply supplementing it. (After all, I’ve got a swell new mic that I’m dying to try out.) If all goes well, a podcast would have great potential to help build relationships between those of us in the religious LGBTQI community. Time will tell, but I’m excited about the prospect! Podcasts will be announced on the Facebook page, Twitter feed, and on this blog.

It’s been awhile since I’ve set foot in the blogosphere, I’ve got a (not-so) straight and to-the-point post for you today. I apologize if I come across as being a bit cantankerous, but I’ve got eight months’ worth of opinions to give. I’ve devised all of them into two lists: “irks” and “perks”. Shall we begin with the top three “irks”?

3) The Duck Dynasty Fiasco: That’s right. I shudder as I type it, but it has to be addressed. Why? Because a particular bearded ninny is apparently what every social network on the planet deemed most important this holiday season. My take? Of course Phil Robertson is homophobic and (more surprisingly, in my opinion) racist; Is this really news? Are we shocked that a conservative, fundamentalist Christian from the bayou has nothing but derogatory idiocies to spout regarding sexual and racial minorities? Yes, Phil Robertson irks me. But what irks me even more is the way that people discuss these issues on social networks. Don’t get me wrong; These unfortunate incidents provide ways for us—as queer folks and as Christians—to address the misfortune of ignorance and discrimination in our society. However, whenever these things inevitably arise, the worst seems to come out in everyone. Otherwise rational and intelligent people (on both sides of the debate) suddenly sprout horns and start foaming at the mouth.

2) Fundamentalist Christians With Double Standards: I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen this. Church leaders and congregants—who are vocally opposed to LGBT equality—don’t seem to mind if gay or lesbian brothers and sisters lead worship, preach, or give of their time and talents in ministries. That is—of course—as long as they simply shut up and stay quiet about who they really are. The gay musician can provide hours and hours of hard work and service—and the congregation raises hands and worships with them all the same. That is, until that same gay musician comes out; All bets are off, then. That God-given gift they have? It’s rubbish now. What about the lesbian who has quietly led the homeless ministry for a decade? Her brothers and sisters pat her on the back, give her thankful accolades… until she brings her partner to church. When the churchgoers find out they’re more than “just friends”, they are both dismissed from the congregation. Apparently her contributions no longer count for the Kingdom.

3) Gay Christians With Double Standards: I’m talking about those who are “homophobic homosexuals”. We’ve addressed this species of queer-dom a few times previously on this blog. Let me set the record straight. (No pun intended.) If someone is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, it is their choice—and their choice alone—when, and if, they ever come out publicly. We’ve all been there at one time or another, and some of us are still there. However, if you are “different”, “struggle” with SSA (same-sex attraction), could never consider being in love or marrying someone of the opposite sex—however you choose to see it through your own eyes—please do not slander your LGBTQI brothers and sisters who have chosen to be out in their community. Being in the closet is one thing; Slandering your own is quite another. Why not simply be silent… Or at least don’t pretend that you’ve never dealt with these issues. When Facebook or Twitter is “a flitter” with LGBT controversy, why do you feel the need to add homophobic rants to the comment section? *It was this side of a decade ago that you had your tongue down my throat. You may have convinced a few people, but you will never convince me. (*This is, of course, a hypothetical statement. I mean, I don’t know anyone who would actually do that… [cough, cough, wink, wink].)

Alright, that sums it up for the “irks”. But let’s end on a positive note, shall we? How about the “perks”?

3) 2013 was an incredible year for marriage equality. As of today, eighteen states in America have now legalized same-sex marriage. While fundamentalists may see that as a “sign of end times”, most of us can understand Americans are finally realizing that, no matter what you believe or who you love, all of us deserve the same rights. A decade ago, I never would have imagined that we would see full marriage equality in my lifetime. Now, we are well on our way. And that is great news!

2) LGBT issues are being talked about more openly in religious institutions. Finally! As we all know, education is the cure for ignorance. When a topic is ignored, it is seen as taboo. More and more churches across the nation are taking the first step: communication and discussion. When conservative Christians begin to realize that LGBT issues hit closer to home than they thought—when they discover they have a lesbian niece, a gay uncle, or a transgender neighbor—there’s a heart-change. People are finally starting to realize that we don’t all have to agree on this topic to love one another. We simply have to respect one another, and understand that there are multiple valid ways to interpret scripture.

1) Sometimes people surprise you (in a good way). We’ve all experienced it: You come out to someone who you think will be completely accepting, and to your surprise, they aren’t. However, I’ve also been fortunate enough to experience the exact opposite over the past year. As we know, coming out is a process. I’ve encountered conversations with loved ones that turned out even better than I could have ever hoped. For example, my dad told me that he loves me more now than he ever has—that he can’t imagine me any other way. One of my favorite school teachers—just about the most amazing (and conservative) woman I’ve ever met—told me that she believes people are born gay. She may have different opinions about what my life should look like as a lesbian, but she loves me just the same. More importantly, she listens to me, and truly hears me. Thank goodness for people like that—who love us because of who we are, regardless of differences.

May the new year bring about hope, love, and healing for us all.

What are some of your “irks and perks” of 2013?

Can We Have Our Cake and Eat It, Too?: How One Oregon Baker’s Decision Affects the Community

Many of you have heard about the Oregon bakery that recently refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. One of our guest bloggers, Josha, lives in the same town as that bakery. She, like the owner of the bakery, is a Christian… but Josha is also gay. How does a situation like this affect a community? How does it affect LGBT people who live within that community? Here’s Josha’s take on it. -Mandy

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I’d like to share about a moment in which I was disheartened.

lesbian wedding cakeThe background is that there is a local bakery, about a mile from my house and about a mile from the church I attend. Recently, the bakery denied a lesbian couple a wedding cake in support of their stance on what they believe is right vs. wrong.

The church I attend has a wonderful tradition in taking the time at the end of each Sunday morning service to collect prayer requests. The elder of the month reads them and immediately leads the congregation in a prayer for the requests. Today, someone presented a request for this local bakery and called for more support from Christians to help this bakery make a stand against “gay marriage.” The elder stated, “We need to support those who support the Lord’s way.” This is the moment in which my heart sank, while many in the congregation said “Amen.” My heart sank, not because I am “homosexual,” but because I’m a Christian who seeks the Lord. And as a Christian, I do not believe that denying a couple a wedding cake is the “Lord’s way.” Whether you agree with gay marriage or don’t agree with gay marriage, the “Lord’s way” is not to deny a service due to that person’s ethnicity, race, color, gender, or sexual preference. Discriminating, that is “the human’s way.”

As a health care provider, I serve the physical needs of people. I have recognized within 6 years of serving, there are ALL KINDS of people. And some of the people I have served have been “gay.” I did NOT say to them, “As a Christian, I am going to take a stand on what I believe to be the ‘Lord’s way’ and not give you physical therapy.” I serve everyone who comes into my path where I work. In the health care system it is called “unconditional positive regard.” In the Kingdom of God, it is called “God’s unconditional love.”

(And as an acknowledgement to my humanity I have struggled in serving people who are arrogant and self entitled, raging alcoholics, “male dominate” mindset, and racist, to name a few. At these moments I don’t only remind myself of “unconditional positive regard,” but I remind myself of who I am in relationship to God and am called to love with “unconditional love.”)

I realize it is important to stand up for what one believes to be right. My concern in the case of the bakery is that the stance is out of ignorance. I wonder if any of these people who are protesting for support of the bakery’s stance thought about the souls of the couple who wish to celebrate their love? Do they know people who are gay? Do they talk with and learn about the pain that people who are gay endure?

Furthermore, I’d like to know if there is some kind of survey each couple has to fill out at the bakery, prior to ordering a cake. Would this bakery deny a divorced individual who is getting remarried? Would they deny a couple that had sex before marriage? Would they deny someone who is not a “Christian?” If that person were a “Christian” would they deny that person a cake if they were not from a certain religious sect of Christians? What truly is their standard on whether they will provide for a couple or not?

Assuming there is no questionnaire or issue with other religious right/wrong with marriage, my question is, why do they stop their service when the couple is same-sex?

As one who is “homosexual” and as one who is Christian, I would like to say to the baker of this bakery, “I will not hate you. I will not speak in ways that curse your name. I will not threaten your life. In fact, if you were harmed, I would want to help you. But I also want you to know that people who are homosexual have the same desire for pure and genuine love as people who are heterosexual. And it sure does hurt when people put up barriers to celebrate that love.” I’m guessing he does not know this because so many people who are “gay” seem to be retaliating in hateful ways toward him.

While there are going to be “bakers” out there who don’t invite certain people to their bakery, the Lord’s Table is different. At the Lord’s Table, all are welcomed and are served with no conditions. I pray that I can continue to learn how to serve all people, as does the Lord.

And finally, if I were so blessed to have someone in my life that produced a love worth celebrating I would choose “The Lord’s Bakery,” to order my “cake.” Knowing that the Lord, being The Baker, would willingly provide me a “cake” to celebrate such a special love and commitment. And as a Lover, I would appreciate the Lord’s service. And because of the Lord’s service, my Love and I would celebrate our love with a Community of People who would share in the “cake” and in The Love and all would be well within a world filled with greed and hate.

Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” Bill to Officially Be Passed as Law

ImageWe’ve heard about the horrors going on in Uganda for a long time now. The “Kill the Gays” bill will officially be passed as law by the end of the year. The Ugandan government is calling this law a “Christmas gift” to the country. This law will include the punishment of life in prison for even those who are in a committed, monogamous same-sex relationship.

Please click here for more information.

This is obviously a terrifying and horrific time for LGBT citizens of Uganda. The “Kill the Gays” mentality has unfortunately been perpetuated by certain American and European Christian missionaries, who have spent much of their time and energy in Uganda. This is not the love of Christ. This is an abhorrence. Please pray for those affected by this bill. If anyone has any information on how we can help the LGBT community in Uganda, please post links in the comment section.

UPDATE: A Lesbian Wife and Her Heterosexual Marriage

You may remember this post from earlier this year. S.S. from Arkansas shared her coming out story with us in a very heartfelt and candid way. It continues to be one of the most-read posts on this website. Here is an update from her and what has happened in her life over the past eight months.

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I was Coming Out Story #13 (A Lesbian Wife and Her Heterosexual Marriage) in March, and so much has changed since then.  I spent the Spring and most of Summer “dating” my husband and trying to build a new relationship within the context of my newly-embraced sexuality, and for a couple of months it seemed to be working.  When I moved out into an apartment in February, I signed a six month lease with the intention of moving back to the house, but as the deadline to let the landlord know I would be moving drew closer, my anxiety grew and grew and it became clear that it was not the choice I wanted to make.

In July, I informed my husband that I would not be moving back to the house.  I had fully accepted and embraced my true self and I was terrified to lose that.  The prospect of jumping back into the closet out of which I had finally stepped a single foot was unbearable to me.  Because I had initially moved out on a temporary basis, I had not told anyone, so now loomed the task of coming out as a divorcing woman to my family and (mostly Christian) friends.

I knew my older brother would be angry at my husband, possibly to the point of doing something stupid, so I made the decision to come out to him so that he would understand that he did not have to defend my honor.  I asked him to dinner one weekend, which is pretty unusual.  We’re close, but we don’t hang out or anything like that.  I had no idea what I would say.  Finally, after we’d talked quite a bit, he asked how my husband was.  I simply stated that we were splitting up. The look on his face was just what I had anticipated, so I quickly told him that it wasn’t my husband’s fault, because I’m gay.  It was the first time I had stated it as a fact out loud, and it felt strange but liberating at the same time.  My brother’s reaction was the better than I could have hoped.  We talked for a while longer, and as we left the restaurant, his last request was that I find a girl who has a sister for him to date.

I’ve only come out to two other people (who previously knew me to be straight), but I have a growing number of friends who only know me as a lesbian.  I’ve never been this happy in my entire life.  People speak of wanting to be a care-free kid again, and I have to shake my head.  I was never a care-free child (well, I’m sure I was as a very young child).  I always felt anxious and confused, carefully compartmentalizing my thoughts and feelings, not allowing myself to get too close to anyone, afraid that someone would figure out how weird I was.  Now I can be fully myself with people, and having people know the whole me is taking some getting used to!

I have been attending a new, inclusive church that I just adore.  At least 80% of the congregation on any given Sunday is made up of gay and lesbian couples.  I have not officially come out to anyone there, but I feel so at home when I walk through the doors each week.  Because I also work at a non-inclusive church, I do worry about losing my job should the wrong people find out that I am gay.  I love my job and I have been told in no uncertain terms that they don’t want me going anywhere, but that is an issue that I will have to address eventually.

I filed for divorce earlier this month, and my husband is not contesting it.  If all goes well, I will be a single gay woman in about a month.  Not so long ago I was afraid of being single.  In fact, that was the reason I got married in the first place.  I didn’t want to be single, and I certainly didn’t want to be a single lesbian.  Seven years later, I’m happy to be both.

Two-Spirits: Gender Roles in the Early Americas and What We Can Learn From Them

Long before European settlers landed at Plymouth Rock—and even long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue—the indigenous people of America were performing same-sex unions. In fact, it was a common practice that took place in over 130 different tribes, and in every region. In addition to male and female, there was a third gender class called a Two-Spirit. These were people who embodied both male and female roles, characteristics, and psyches. Education about Two-Spirit individuals seems to be gaining in popularity. A few years ago, a documentary entitled Twospirits was made. Here’s the trailer. It’s currently for rent on iTunes; I highly recommend watching it.

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia about the Two-Spirit people:

In North America, among the Native American societies, same-sex unions have taken the form of Two-Spirit-type relationships, in which some male members of the tribe, from an early age, heed a calling to take on female gender with all its responsibilities. “In many tribes, individuals who entered into same-sex relationships were considered holy and treated with utmost respect and acceptance,” according to anthropologist Brian Gilley.

We-Wa, a Zuni Two-Spirit, weaving

Wait… what?! Treated with respect and acceptance? That’s pretty awesome. Whatever happened to that notion? Well, we happened. When the European Christians arrived and brought their influence, most of the Two-Spirit people were forced into the Europeans’ idea of gender roles, and some were actually killed in the name of religion. (Just another feather in our cap of abhorrent history.)

Take a look at some of the tribal roles fulfilled by those who were known as “Two-Spirits”:

▪ healers or medicine persons

▪ conveyors of oral traditions and songs

▪ prophecy, or foretellers of the future

▪ conferrers of lucky names on children or adults

▪ nurses during war expeditions

▪ potters

▪ matchmakers

▪ makers of feather regalia for dances

▪ special role players in the Sun Dance

It seems there were very important spiritual roles that were taken on by these people. In fact, as this article by Walter Williams mentions, spirituality was always emphasized over sexuality in Native American culture. They accepted people as they were, and moved forward, focusing on their spiritual gifts above all else.

Isn’t that a remarkable—yet foreign—concept to most of us? Of course, we love to talk about spirituality. But in much of the Christian world, our personal spirituality loses precedence to our sexual orientation. Sexuality somehow becomes a dark cloud that eclipses our very soul… putting to death our little Christian light to the world. You’ve heard it before:

“Oh, he’s such a wonderfully talented worship leader… it’s just too bad he’s gay.”

“She could really do something for the Lord if she would just turn from her wicked lifestyle. Why does she have to talk about her sexuality, anyway?!”

“Did you hear about so-and-so? It just would have been better for everyone if he had never come out of the closet.”

Or, consider what happened to me: A lady at my dad’s church kept pressing me to befriend her daughter. Showering me with niceties and flattering me with compliments, she told me her daughter just really needed a good Christian friend. After I started to hang out with this girl, I realize the truth: this girl was gay, and her mother wanted me to try to turn her straight! (Her gay-dar was obviously on the fritz!) In a turn of unfortunate events, this lady finally discovered that I am, in fact, also a lesbian. Oh, the irony! After that, I was no longer considered a good Christian girl. The story isn’t unfamiliar. This is precisely why so many LGBT Christians remain deep in their closets. Can you really blame them?

But what if we were free? Free to move past stereotypes and judgment. Free to explore our spirituality and help others without fear of belittlement and rejection. Are we getting there? I think so. It’s a long, treacherous road… but times truly are changing.

If any of you are Native American, I would be interested to hear your thoughts regarding the legacy of Two-Spirit individuals. Do you think that the original views of these people are still held by modern tribes today? How has contemporary American culture affected LGBT Native Americans?

Timothy Kurek on “The View”

Last week, I posted about Timothy Kurek—a Christian who posed as a gay man for an entire year. I have yet to read his book (although I plan on starting it this week), but I’ve been trying to stay up to date with his countless interviews. Many of you may have seen him on The View. But just in case you haven’t, here is the video clip.

I’m interested to know your thoughts on Timothy’s story. His views on the treatment of gays and lesbians within the Church has clearly changed. Do you think his view of acceptance has changed as well? Do you think his theological creed and interpretation of the Bible has transformed throughout his experience? He is building bridges—something that desperately needs to happen between the Church and the LGBT community.

As a child of God and lover of Jesus who happens to be a lesbian, I wholeheartedly appreciate his efforts of selflessness.

Straight Conservative Christian Goes “Undercover Gay” for One Year

It’s 3:something AM, and I was awoken by a thunderstorm. Generally speaking, I can sleep through anything, but on the rare occasions I don’t, I browse online news sites and read articles to lull myself back to sleep. This morning, I happened upon a story that I couldn’t wait to share with you guys. What if we could literally put ourselves in someone else’s shoes for awhile… in a very real way? Timothy Kurek is a straight Christian who went undercover as a gay man for an entire year! I have so many things to say about this awesome guy. But first, read the story. (I’m sure you don’t want to hear the ramblings of my sleep-deprived mind at the moment.) 

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Timothy Kurek Writes ‘Cross in the Closet’ About Coming Out by Susan Donaldson James (source: ABC News)

In his Nashville Christian church, Timothy Kurek was taught the lesson of God’s wrath in the Biblical story of “Sodom and Gomorrah,” and he believed that homosexuality was a sin.

“You learned to be very afraid of God,” said Kurek. According to the preachings of his church, “The loving thing to do is to tell my friend who is gay, ‘Hey, listen, you are an abomination and you need to repent to go to heaven.’ I absolutely believed in that lock, stock and barrel.”

So devout was Kurek as a teen that friends’ parents would often call him to set their kids straight if they misbehaved or broke what they believed to be God’s law.

“I would be the one on the phone until four in the morning, asking them to repent for their sins,” he said.

But about four years ago, when a lesbian he knew from karaoke night confided to him that her parents had disowned her when she came out, Kurek felt that he failed her.

“I feel God really kicked me in the gut,” he said. “She was crying in my arms and instead of being there for her, I was thinking about all the arguments to convert her.”

Kurek’s reaction ate away at him, and he wondered what it felt like to be gay and so alone. So even though Kurek identifies as straight, he embarked on what one religious writer called “spiritual espionage.” He would live like a gay man for a year.

“It finally clicked,” he said. “I needed to empathize and understand.”

Now 26 and no longer homophobic, Kurek writes about his journey — one that included hanging out in gay bars and facing the disappointment of his family and rejection of his friends — in his memoir, “The Cross in the Closet.”

He chose today, National Coming Out Day and LGBT National History Month, to launch book sales and has pledged to give some of the proceeds to a charity that helps LGBT youth who are homeless.

He says he hopes to change minds, not just in the Christian community but in the LGBT one as well, and to bridge the divide in the debate over gay rights.

Some experts say his attitude reflects those of other young Christians.

Dr. Jack Drescher, a New York City psychiatrist who has an expertise in LGBT issues, says the younger generation is less anti-gay than some of their elders.

“The question of ‘love the sinner and hate the sin,’ is an idea they are being forced to question,” he said. “Some of the sound bites [on homosexuality] are not working so well for the younger generation. Condemnation has a human cost.”

Kurek had been homeschooled by parents who never taught him to shun or hate gay people and who admitted they had wrestled with the church’s teaching on homosexuality.

He said he had always wanted to write a book, but never finished his studies at the Christian Liberty College in Lynchburg, Va. But Kurek had kept a daily journal for months, and it was “beginning to read like a book.” By 2009, the idea to go undercover, as a way of documenting and learning about homophobia, was born. For six months he plotted and planned. “I had to make sure the timing was right,” he said.

But one day, sitting in a café in a part of Nashville where the gay bars and Christian hang-outs intersect, Kurek had his first confrontation. While reading a gay-themed book, he became aware of the “snickers and sneers.”

“A guy came up to me when he saw the cover and said, ‘You know that is fundamentally false — you can’t be gay and Christian,’” said Kurek, who responded, “I am gay and I love God.”

The project to become gay had begun for real.

Only three people knew the truth, and he needed them to carry out his audacious project: his closest friend, an aunt and Shawn, a gay friend whom Kurek also met at karaoke night.

“My aunt is my mom’s best friend and is more liberal in her faith,” Kurek said. “She was also able to listen to what my family was saying behind my back … If my mom went off the deep end, I needed to know.”

After a week, he realized he also needed help warding off the advances of gay men.

Kind-hearted Shawn, whom Kurek described as “a big black burly teddy bear,” became his “pretend boyfriend.”

“I needed protection to keep me balanced and teach me the nuances of gay culture and how they flirt, and to give me an excuse when guys hit on me,” said Kurek.

For credibility, Kurek learned to hold hands and embrace.

But most of all, Shawn was the “first gay person that I let into my heart,” said Kurek. “He was totally there for me through emotional turmoil … I trusted him.

“He knew I was straight and he didn’t take it too far — and he taught me not to be afraid.”

Eventually the initial “revulsion” disappeared, according to Kurek. “Early on if a guy pinched my ass, I would have punched someone in the face.”

The hardest part was facing his parents, who were divorced.

“There was always an elephant in the room,” he said. “I snooped in my mother’s journal one day after I had come out and she’d written, ‘I’d rather have found out from a doctor that I had terminal cancer than have a gay son.’”

With his friends, “the thing that struck me most was the isolation,” he said. “Before I came out as gay, I had a very busy social life. After I came out, I didn’t hear from 95 percent of my friends.”

In his book, Kurek stays away from theology. “I want this seen as a people issue,” he said. “When we are shunning people, we are shunning Fred and John and Liz and Mary. These are human people.”

“In the end it was a book about prejudice, not a book about being gay.”

The response to his experience has been positive, according to Kurek. His mother is now supportive of LGBT rights.

Rev. Connie Waters, a protestant minister and LGBT ally from Memphis who met Kurek online when he was questioning his church’s view of homosexuality, said she was “proud” of him.

She never encourages her parishioners to lie, but in the case of Kurek’s undercover project, it served a “greater purpose.”

“For him to appreciate what others went through was essential for him to experience a small part of what those who are LGBT have had to live through to be safe for many years,” said Waters.

“The transformation in him was life-changing,” she said. “It’s what you hope for — the goal of the Christian walk of faith. It’s enough for me that he transformed, but if others learn from him, what an extra blessing that is.”

Drunk Love?

A couple of years ago, although still almost completely closeted, I had reached the point where I was fully comfortable with my identity as a Christian lesbian. I had done my homework, and I knew where I stood. But I also knew that others may not be so quick to appreciate or understand my newfound liberation of self. There became a very gradual turning point in which I began to come out very slowly, on a person-by-person basis. I had a set of ground rules that were unintentional at first, but soon became my handy reference guide on coming out as a Christian lesbian in the buckle of the Bible belt. First off, I never directly brought up the subject of my sexuality. I decided that my orientation was part of who I was, but it was not—and still is not—my identity. So I decided to forge friendships as naturally as I possibly could, until the subject would inevitably come up in a sort of indirect way. Many times, this would be in the form of a question: Don’t you have a crush on anyone? What’s your idea of a perfect man? What’s the longest relationship you’ve ever had? Or the ones that never failed to make me wince: Don’t you ever have issues? What’s your past like? You don’t seem to carry any significant baggage.

Oh, if only you knew. 

So, when these opportunities would arise, I would move on to the next item on my mental checklist: If I come out to this person, will it strengthen my relationship with them, or will it destroy it? Sometimes, people make it easy to determine the benefits of being transparent and honest with them. For instance, if you know they already have friends who are gay and love them, you know you’ll be accepted. But oftentimes, there’s not a clear-cut answer to this question. In fact, people can (and will) possibly react in the exact opposite way you expected them to. And of course, there’s more at stake if you’ve been friends with someone for a very long time. You can get burned. Trust me, I know. And sometimes… well, sometimes you get a response like this:

I was out with some new friends one night when the inevitable conversations about our prospective love lives began. These were very open-minded, easy-going people. After deciding that I was in a safe zone, I came out to them. It went well. We talked a bit more… and eventually, two of these three girls confessed to me that they had “made out” with a woman before. Confused, I said, “But you guys are straight!”

One of them replied, “Well, I’d had a little too much to drink that night. I was just having fun. It was nice to try something different.” The other girl nodded in agreement. Apparently it was the same story with her, as well. As I was processing this new information, I said, “Well, I’m just so thankful that you guys are accepting of me.”

“Oh you know we love you! It’s just something you struggle with. I mean, I don’t think it’s right for people to actually be in a gay or lesbian relationship. But I think it’s super cool that you’re so honest about your issues.”

Ok… hit pause. What exactly was she saying? That it was ok for her to get drunk and make out with someone that she normally wouldn’t make out with? But it wasn’t ok for me—who is fundamentally attracted to women—to share a life with someone that I love? In her eyes, it would be better if I could just force myself into a relationship with a man, perhaps even getting wasted to do so. Because let me tell you… that’s what I would have to do in order to wear a heterosexual mask. It is simply not who I am.

Many people like to use the letters of Paul to condemn the LGBT community. I’m quite certain that every gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, gender-queer, questioning person, and straight ally has heard Romans 1:26. This is where Paul speaks of those still engaging in pagan worship practices, and tells us that they’ve been given over to their sinful desires, to practice that which is unnatural as opposed to natural. Now, many of you know that I personally don’t believe this verse is speaking about monogamous, sexual relationships as we know them today. But for the sake of conversation, let’s say it is. Many Christians today are beginning to realize that sexuality is a product of genetics—that people truly are born with their respective orientation somewhere in their DNA. What is your natural orientation? How can you honor God with the sexual identity He has given you? Have you ever tried to change your natural sexual orientation? If so, what’s your story? How did it end up?

While there will be many different answers to these questions, one statement remains constant: You cannot be true to God without first being honest with yourself. Open up, be authentic, and let God take you where He will. I can promise you He doesn’t disappoint.

Scripture, Tradition, Reason, & Experience

A side note: This is Coming Out Christian’s 100th post! When I launched the blog in December 2010, I never dreamed it would come this far. It began as a way of unpacking my own thoughts and feelings about what I’d been going through during the previous several years… but I didn’t know if anyone would actually read it. I’m so thankful for the small community we’ve made here. I continue to be so encouraged by your comments and emails. Love and peace to each and every one of you… and may we all continue to grow in our faith! -Mandy

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Last week, I wrote about my journey away from Biblical literalism. I don’t write about religious studies in excess, primarily because I’m not a Biblical scholar. I have not attended divinity school, and I have no doctorate in religious studies. But all of us are theologians, aren’t we? When we read scripture, when we dissect it, when we discuss it with others… we become students of theology. The big question is: what do we do with the information we learn? How do we make sense of it? How does it affect us? Last week, we looked briefly at the historical-critical approach. This method can tell us a lot about the historical backdrop of the Bible, who did (or didn’t) write our most beloved books and letters, and the undeniable vast differences in our many manuscripts. But today, let’s look at what biblical historical criticism can’t do for us.

As with all spiritual matters, Christianity is faith-based; and the textbook definition of faith is “belief that is not based on proof”. We simply cannot know certain things. Writings of Josephus and other ancient secular historians prove that Jesus existed, that he was arrested, and that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate. Yet, if you’re looking for historical (non-canonical) proof of many details of Jesus’ life, including his virgin birth, his resurrection, and his ascension… you won’t find it. But does that mean these things did not happen? Everyone’s answer will be different. But I choose to believe that they did. But just hypothetically, let’s say that none of these things actually happened. Let’s say that the Adoptionist theory that was rejected by the Council of Nicea is actually correct: that Jesus was born fully human and was adopted by God at his baptism. Would that change things? It doesn’t have to. What I know is this: Jesus is my refuge, my peace, my salvation. He is, in the most real sense, my Savior. I don’t know how. I don’t know the logistics. I cannot explain it. But he is how I make sense of this world. He is my connection with my Creator. And so I choose faith.

The story of the adulterous woman was not included in the earliest manuscripts. Maybe it happened exactly as John described it. Maybe the story—passed down by oral tradition—changed slightly over the years. Or maybe it didn’t happen at all. Does this matter? To be honest, when I first discovered this, I was angered. I felt as though I’d been lied to. After all, it was possible that one of my all-time favorite stories from the Gospels never happened. But this is where our personal experience becomes vital. If Jesus is indeed alive and living today, and if we commune with him on a daily basis… wouldn’t we be familiar with the nature of his character? “You who is without sin throw the first stone”… this is absolutely congruent with the Jesus that I know. After I realized that, the question of whether or not it actually happened became less important.

I do not believe that the New Testament writers had impure intentions. I believe they were just like us… trying to make sense of the world in which they were living. I believe they did their best to convey the messages they deemed important. They were—as we are now—doing their best to live a life of righteousness and faith. They have left for us a precious gift… a glimpse into the ancient world when Jesus himself strolled the shores of Galilee. I cannot tell you how you should interpret the Bible. But I can share one approach that has helped me immensely. It is neither historical-grammatical (as used by Biblical literalists) nor historical-critical (as used by Biblical liberals), but in my opinion, gently falls somewhere in the happy middle. This method is called the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. (Although I attend a Methodist church, I am not a self-proclaimed Methodist. However, I have become a proponent of this method.) The Wesleyan Quadrilateral suggests that there are four aspects of theological reflection: scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. All four of these things work together to help us make sense of our sacred texts.

We are all on a journey. Some of us believe very different things. But all of us are searching for truth. The best thing we can do is to love each other along the way. The rest will fall into place.

Christianity Helped Me Come Out: Coming Out Story #15

This post is part of the “Our Stories” project, where readers submit their testimony or coming out story. It’s important to engage in meaningful and life-giving discussions about a topic that is too often silenced. When you tell your truth, you help someone else accept theirs.

This post comes from Jess. She shares her story as it was originally told on her blog, Design of Gender. You should definitely check it out!

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Growing up, my family did not go to church, though we celebrated all the consumerist Christian holidays (still do). I learned how to consume religion through family dinners, purchasing gifts, and giving cards. But what were we celebrating?

My first experience of organized religion was when a friend invited me to church when I was in elementary school. I went with her to Sunday School and we memorized a Bible verse. I didn’t really understand why we would do that. My second experience was in high school when I started going to a church youth group. I learned the basics of the Christian faith, got my first Bible, and learned some worship songs.

So by the time I reached college, I continued to attended a church group. I went to two different church groups during the course of my four years. One group, I went to my first and part of my second year of school; while the other, I went to my second through my fourth year and continued to be a member after I graduated.

I liked going to the college church group for the community I found there, though I didn’t always go regularly. I enjoyed going with my friends and deepening those bonds with them. We became very close from those experiences together and car rides home.

As those friends became busier and almost stopped going, I slowly began to make friends with others in the group. But always felt distant like I was never “Christian” enough to be there – like I didn’t really know much because most of the others had grown up going to church, even my friends had. They could not imagine what life was like without ‘Faith.’ I knew all too well that it was pretty much the same. Sure you may worship something else or hold on to the faith you find in other people but you learn to deal with it all just the same.

During the year after I graduated from college, I became super involved. I went to all the church group events during the week. I even shared my story or testimony in front of the whole group (50+ people). It was amazing. I had other college students coming to me in tears at the end of worship because my story had moved them. I brought people back to Christ through my story of faith, back to a religion that they had professed but didn’t really feel connected to. They could relate to my story of faith and grace. We were one and the same.

My story started a chain reaction. Soon many others wanted to share their stories. My courage and bravery in sharing my testimony allowed others to realize they could be brave too. I received hugs and congratulations. I loved sharing my story because finally, I felt like I, too, knew enough to be there. I had transformed, but I also had been keeping a secret. A secret I had known about for several years. A secret that I had come to terms with more than a year before that time.

So despite all the hoopla of sharing my story, I also felt the dread from keeping this secret. Even when I was surrounded by people, I was alone. I never felt comfortable enough to tell those same friends or church community that I was dating a really fabulous female. I never felt comfortable telling anyone that I had come out to myself a little over a year before and that I was unbelievably relieved to finally do so. I never felt comfortable mentioning that I had asked God about it and received an overwhelming feeling of acceptance. I had always brought “all that I was” before God and s/he had “embraced me just as I am.” Why did these people need to know any different than the assumed heterosexuality they projected onto me?

Generally, Christians, especially Evangelical, Baptist, and other right leaning conservative Christians,  seem to have a problem with individuals who date members of the same sex, especially individuals who profess some belief in their religion and also see nothing wrong with two women or men dating, forming relationships, and families. There are some denominations that openly accept LGBTQ people but they are not a majority (yet).

My college church group was part of a Community Church, not part of a specific denomination, that holds belief in the inerrancy of the Bible. They believe that the Bible is the “inspired word of God and that it is the final authority in faith and life.” As such they don’t believe in multiple readings of the Bible or that the Bible (being written by men) contains errors (be it from translation, etc.). They have a firm “hate the sin – love the sinner” approach to all things not following their prescribed set of principles/beliefs. I knew that if I told them my secret that would be the response, “Hate the sin. Love the sinner.”

Further, I imagined them wanting to help me overcome this “sin” I was acting upon or “struggling” with. But that’s the thing, I was the happiest I had been in years; when I was able to fully express who I am, I wasn’t “struggling” with anything. I was finally able to be me! It was during this time that I investigated and posted on my blog what some churches say on LGBTQ issues. My post received several comments that further proved the “hate the sin – love the sinner” approach. I was disappointed that the community I had come to appreciate and love would never fully accept me for who I am. They would “hate” a vital aspect of my identity while also professing to “love” me. (How do you love unconditionally if you refuse to accept part of a person’s identity? If they contradict with your beliefs? If you are praying that they change? Is acceptance not part of love? Is ‘tolerance’ love?  Or is the ‘unconditional love’ focused toward who you think you can change the person into?) It kills me that it would be done through the Bible “as the word of God” because I don’t believe that is how God intended it to be.

But I didn’t let this new found disappointment stop me from continuing to pursue religion or continuing to date the woman I was seeing. If anything I wanted to learn more. It was through the teachings, songs, worships, and Bible studies that I was able to fully accept myself, my very queer lesbian self. It was the love I found in the Bible that helped me to love myself. (In order to love your neighbor as yourself, you must first love yourself.) It was the love I found from non-religious friends I trusted enough to come out to. (They were the ones who showed unconditional love. It didn’t matter to them the gender of who I dated. They were happy for me.) It was the love I received from new colleagues and older friends. I’ve posted many times on my blog on love and belonging. I’ve posted clips from Glee and Senators in the state of NY discussing marriage equality. I’ve posted on Pride Parades and video clips that discuss LGBTQ things. I’ve posted on labels, language, change, and voice. But it has been the convergence of all these topics on my blog that has allowed me to see how every part, even the religion I ran away from, was an important stepping stone to where I am now.

Being a feminist and closeted lesbian within the church group was fun at times and I loved those tiny moments where I could be a “feminist evangelist.” But I hated that I wasn’t allowed to share my whole life with them. I couldn’t say that I hung out with my girlfriend over the weekend because she came to visit. Unlike other members of the group, I had to check a vital part of myself at the door on the way in and often as soon as I stepped out of the car. I stopped going to this group at the same time that I decided to be open about my life which coincided with the same time that I started graduate school. Slowly, I began to share my secret with others by casually mentioning my girlfriend/partner.

Today, although single, I’m out to many people. I teach classes on a university campus and routinely come out to my students. Everyone that I work with, I’m out to. But I’m still not out to some family. When I told my parents almost a year ago, my mom told me that “other people didn’t need to know.” She said there were basically two ways to deal with this “new lesbian status of mine”: I could just continue to be me and keep it to myself or I could be what I would call “loud and proud.” She said she hoped that I would choose the right (quiet) way. I remember saying that “I wasn’t going to lie about it.” And I haven’t, although I don’t always mention it.

Just today, I was talking to a good friend of mine that I have known now for almost 7 years and he said without any prompting from me, “You know what … you’re still the same person. You haven’t changed because you came out.”  It was so refreshing to hear this from him. I’m so glad he called. Even if he has teased me about being a lesbian, he is someone I can count on to listen, and understand as best he can. His teasing comes from a place of love not from hate.

I still pause about whether any of my “Hate the sin. Love the sinner.” ‘friends’ really need to know. Because how crazy is it that as a closeted lesbian, I was able to bring (presumably) homophobic people to a deeper faith? Or that God used me, a closeted lesbian, to bring others to a deeper faith? What does it say about our God and the religion s/he designed?  What does it say about the Bible?

For some reason I think if I told members of that faith community, they would surely experience a homosexual panic. They might say that I have let sin into my life or profess something about the works of Satan. Surely their God would not condone or even openly accept my behavior. But I would tell them that not only does their God accept me but s/he also helped me to love myself, my very queer lesbian self.

Their Christianity helped me come out and life outside the closet is much, much brighter.