I’m a Christ-follower who had to get real with Jesus about my sexuality; I want to help others do the same. There is a chasm between the Church and the LGBT community, which primarily stems from ill-education and a lack of understanding about exactly what it means to be gay. I’m a very small part of a giant movement that is trying to bridge that gap. I’m not here to change people’s minds. I’m just here to advocate loving and life-giving conversation on a topic that is too often silenced. As someone on both sides of the issue, I can accurately say, love is the answer. And we can learn how to love each other without having to agree on everything. -Mandy
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a very loving, Christian home. Both of my parents were an intricate part of my life. I was extremely involved in my church, and felt a very deep and intimate connection to God. I had a virtually perfect childhood. Surrounded by friends, family, teachers, peers, I became very confident in who I was as a person. People always ask how old I was when I “discovered” I was gay. Although I guess I always knew there was something different, I didn’t really know what to call it. The word “gay” never crossed my mind… because in the rural south, that wasn’t an option. “Those kinds of people” were simply not talked about, and so I never considered that I could be one of “those people”. Although I couldn’t really explain why, anytime I overheard derogatory language toward gays and lesbians, I got a knot in my stomach. Somewhere deep down inside, it affected me. In high school, I had developed the closest friendships of my life up to that point. I considered myself to be a very passionate, loyal friend. I experienced feelings of deep jealousy with certain friends if they chose to spend their time with someone else. Not that I didn’t want them to have friends… I just wanted them to have that special spot reserved for me. It was like… well, it was kinda like this:
Don’t feel bad, Fortune… it took me just as long to “get it”. And it would be much, much longer before I came out.
This same, confusing pattern continued on. I was around 19 years old when I couldn’t ignore it anymore… I was in my sophomore year of college (at an ultra-conservative university, mind you). That’s when I had my first physical relationship with another girl. Once I did this, the shame began. The things I’d always heard in church were clear, and echoing in my head. I just knew that there must be some horrible, psychological problem… and that I was headed straight to hell. I prayed, I fasted, I bargained with God, and I even explored ex-gay ministries… I was still gay. Time went on, crushes came and went, and I graduated. Perhaps this was just a phase. More time passed, and the pattern continued. I kept praying… but in my mind, I just knew that a perfect God wouldn’t want to hear from a filthy, disgusting person like me. So, although I still firmly believed in the reality and holiness of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, I stopped praying. But still, I put on the charade. I wanted communion with God so desperately… but I thought that I had to clean myself up before I could go to God. It wasn’t until a few years later, that I realized it worked the other way around. You come just as you are, and let God do what He will. So I began my studying. One thing stood out to me above everything, and that is the life of Jesus. I noticed the kinds of people he chose to be around. He surrounded himself with the social outcasts of his day. The entire foundation of his ministry can be summed up in one word: love. After digging deep, I finally found what Jesus said about gay people:
With renewed worth, and a deep sense of love and belonging, I began to pray again. It was at that point that I discovered myself as I was meant to be. I was liberated.
Most conservative Christians or members of the religious right would say that I have backslidden into a life of sin. They would claim that all of my studying and soul searching has only led me to the easy road of justifying my sexuality. One thing I know for sure… the road I took was not the easy one. It took many years, much struggle, and a lot of tears to re-learn the Scriptures, and un-learn the religious rhetoric that I had been taught as truth. Now, for the first time in my life since childhood, I can say that I have peace. I have found the courage to be honest with those who mean the most to me. Don’t get me wrong… coming out is a process. There are still people who don’t know about me. But I no longer lose sleep worrying that people will find out. Personally, I feel as though this is a journey I must take in order to help others like me who suffer under religious oppression because of their sexuality. Simply put, I believe education is the answer. We need to spread the word that it’s entirely possible to be Christian and gay. The “Great Gay Debate” in our churches keeps people from the greater work of God’s kingdom. It’s my dream that one day, we will all reach of point of understanding and compassion with one another. When we carry out the Greatest Commandment by truly loving each other, then we can move forward in the common goal of serving others in the name of Jesus Christ.
If you happen to be someone who personally knows me (past or present), and if all of this is a shock to you, I’d like to ask you to take a few minutes to read this post. It’s especially for you. I love you.