I'm A Gay Christian
by Alyse Knorr
I never expected that coming out would bring me closer to my faith, but that’s exactly what happened.
Despite (or maybe because of) my very religious upbringing in the Deep South, I could never quite “click” with Christianity. I went to a massive megachurch on Sundays, then a tiny rural youth group on Wednesday nights (because a girl I had a crush on attended), and I felt like a fraud in both environments. I didn’t weep during The Passion of the Christ like the other kids, and my heart was never warmed by the full baptisms on the Jumbotron screen above the rock concert worship stage.
I felt disillusioned by all of the historical injustices Christianity had helped perpetrate, while at the same time, I was terrified of going to hell. Over and over I “recommitted” to Jesus, hoping to feel something. But all I felt were confusing “impure thoughts” that haunted me during morning worship, surrounded on all sides by thousands of reverent born-again Christians who I just knew would soon discover the fact that I wasn’t really one of them.
Even though I couldn’t connect with Christianity, I still felt fascinated by the essential mysteries of creation, human consciousness, and the afterlife. I would have checked the “spiritual, not religious” box throughout most of college and graduate school. I equated “religion” with dogma and hate, and “spirituality” with freedom and open-mindedness. Still, I longed for the ritual, symbolism, and community of church. I wanted the daily practice of religion. I understand the world through words, and I wanted a text to refer to again and again for its beauty and metaphor.
After I came out, things started falling into place. I talked to a friend’s mother, who was a pastor, about alternate names for God. Instead of using the patriarchal term “Father,” I could use Holy Parent, Protector, Guardian, or Timeless One. I started reading the Bible and actually enjoying it. It helped to read the text with its historical context in mind, and through a heavily metaphorical lens. Truth is not necessarily fact, and vice versa.
I talked to my partner about her experiences growing up Presbyterian— the quietness of her religion, its emphasis on service and community. She asked if I wanted to go to church with her, and I was skeptical, to say the least. So we went to a Metropolitan Community Church (a Protestant denomination with an LGBTQ outreach emphasis) and my whole world changed. Families of all types sat in the pews. Inclusive language filled the hymnbooks. Loving gay couples lined up to take communion together and then pray with one of the ministers, arms locked around each other in a tight circle. For the first time, I took communion. The whole experience moved me to tears.
Soon after, I started attending a Bible study at MCC and learned more about what it meant to be a gay Christian. These men and women viewed Jesus as a protector, a champion of the weak, the Other, the outcast. They admired the Bible’s female heroes, and emphasized that there is more love and kindness in the Bible than hatred or dogma.
Sometimes people are surprised when I tell them I go to church, like being Christian and being gay are not compatible. I understand the misconception. But coming out is the reason I began re-exploring Christianity. Coming out helped me finally accept and love my real self. There were no more secrets or shame, no more lying or fear. I finally felt like I knew myself, and that meant I could open up to even more love and connectedness, this time through the framework of religion.
I’m still learning what Christianity means to me, and trying to determine how to live at peace with its troubled history. For me, it is deeply satisfying to reclaim the religion used to oppress and terrify me as a younger person. And the good news is that things are changing very, very quickly, with more and more churches of all kinds welcoming gay members, marrying gay couples, and ordaining gay clergy.
This story was excerpted from This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids (Chronicle, 2014). Learn more about our writers, and help support their work, here on Patreon!
“So, I went to a super conservative Christian college, and I had a male friend there that I lost touch with and recently found again on fb. I found out that he had actually been supergay in college and then gone through this whole program that helped him to get over it (seriously, it's a little crazy how he explains it, he says things like SSA for "same sex attraction" because I guess it's too much to say when you say it so much in therapy and shiz). So, now he's allegedly not gay anymore and is married and I don't believe him and I think he's going to run off with some guy someday and break her heart, but I don't know if I'm right. What do you think about this? Do you think gays can "convert" if they really want to? I realize this doesn't fit the mold of the questions you answer, and I'm straight (promise), but I don't really have a gay brain trust to ask so I thought I'd ask you lovely ladies.”
-Question submitted by Anonymous
Before I answer the question you actually asked, I want to just say the following:
If someone says they are straight, you have no right to tell them otherwise. The same way no one has the right to tell me I could like boys if I wore dresses. I don’t care how many people think it’s ok to bag on Ellen Page about wearing plaid, she is the only one who has a right to tell the world who she wants to bone, and if she doesn’t want to tell the world who she bones, so be it. There is a very very fine line between what is ok to talk about and what is not ok to talk about. IMHO (inmyhumbleopinion) this is NOT ok. If you MUST talk behind someone’s back about their sexual preference, don’t spread it to everyone you know, they have a life and a family and their reasons for saying or not saying whatever the eff they want.
NOW, I know you’re not going to go out him, I just wanted to throw that in the air so someone could catch it.
I, personally, don’t think it’s possible to talk yourself out of liking who you like. It is possible, however, to ignore something you like for what you feel is ‘the greater good.’ It’s like when you decide to go vegan. At first, it’s really hard, and you don’t know how to get a handle on it b/c FOOD IS SO GOOD YOU GUYS, but then you get used to it, and a few years down the road, you don’t even remember needing other foods. Once in a while you’ll see a pastry and be like ‘WHY DOES THAT HAVE TO HAVE BUTTER ON IT,’ but you’ve trained yourself to ignore it and move on.
Besides, the love between a husband and wife is totally different from a sexi love thing, it’s more a family and trust. So, the love they have may not be passionate, but it can still be real and strong and they probably have an amazing relationship. Imagine being married to your best friend. I would totally marry my bff, but like, I could never do it with b/c like…ew…and who knows, maybe he like girls sometimes, so now he’s just focused on that. You can pretty much trick your mind into anything. Hypnosis, you guys.
Alright. First I want to note the fact that we have a readership that includes straight men from conservative Christian colleges. Swoosh.
Next I want to do something that I normally do, which is agree with Dannielle, and then do something I never do, which is completely disagree with Dannielle.
Part I normally do: Dannielle is right, you have no place to be telling someone else who they do and do not want to climb on top of while wearing no clothing, unless they have specifically told you that they want to climb on top of you with no clothing. If that is the case, they still might also want to climb on top of their wife with no clothing. So, in that department, take a step away from the situation.
Part I never do: The idea of pushing gay people through a machine that spits out straight people makes me ill. I do believe, of course, that anyone can force themselves to choose a life that fits the mold of “straight society.” I do not believe that it is possible to force feelings of happiness within that choice. Being sexually and emotionally attracted to someone comes with feelings far more complex and intense then wanting a cheeseburger with your french fries. Even if you could trick your brain, your heart would be like “Fuck you, brain, I am all powerful,” and then kick it squarely and swiftly in its brain balls.
In my humble opinion, gay conversion therapy is one of the most violent and excessive markers of our fear-fueled, heterosexist society. IT MAKES ME SO ANGRY.
EDIT: Dannielle Says Some More:
You guys. Someone else forcing you to think or believe anything is WRONG. If someone decides to live their life a painful and untruetothemselves way, they can do whatever they want. BUT JUST FOR THE RECORD, no one has ANY right to tell someone else how to live. AND I think he’s brainwashed and that’s bullshit, and I hate the institution in which he trusted his future.
(kristin, i always agree with you, let’s spoon now)
"I'm recently coming to terms with my sexuality as a lesbian. Problem is I'm deeply religious and so is my family and the college I'm at is a Christian one (and I love it). If I come out, I could be disowned by my family and kicked out of school. So I'm kind of in an awkward position. I don't want to hide who I am, but it seems to be my only option right now. Also, I'm worried that if I tell my best friend that she'll feel awkward around me or change how treats me even though I know she wouldn't mean to. Can you make any sense out of any of this for me? And did your close girl friends treat you differently after you came out?"
- Question submitted by Anonymous
“Jesus will always love you, he just doesn’t necessarily love the decisions you make” —- this is an actual quote from one of my friends in college when I told her I was gay…
I am willing to bet your friends and family will surprise you. I was terrified to tell anyone I might like girls, I didn’t even understand my feelings, much less did I know how to communicate them and make them sound “right.” The fact of the matter is, anyone who loves you…LOVES YOU. Love is an unconditional thing. There are (and always will be) instances, in which, someone loves you conditionally, only when you’re being perfect or making them laugh or doing what they want you to do, but you don’t want these homies around anyway.
You can not physically/emotionally/mentally be completely happy if you’re constantly hiding a piece of you. Think about the future, 10 yrs from now do you want to be hiding the love of your life?
This is a perfect example of why we shouldn’t be so quick to judge people’s decisions to keep their sexuality private…you are in one of the most difficult positions that exists in relation to “coming out.” As someone who has had some firsthand experience with the ways in which religion interacts with sexuality, I can sympathize and confirm that it is, indeed, a slippery slope.
I think that the first thing you should do is tell your best friend. I was terrified to tell my close girl friends, and thought that they would be afraid to change in front of me, or think that I was totally crushing on them, or just be generally different in our daily interactions. This was not the case for any of them. If anything, it strengthened our friendships. So long as you trust your best friend as someone who knows and understands you fundamentally, you should tell her as soon as you feel comfortable. Having someone who is close to you that you can be honest with will alleviate some of the pain of hiding your sexuality from your family, and will give you someone in “real-life” to help you navigate those fears.
Insofar as your family is concerned, that is a very personal decision. If you know that there is a near-to-definite chance that you will be forced to lose contact with them in being honest about who you choose to partner with, then you have to weight what is most important to you. Perhaps you can feel out the situation by initiating conversations that revolve around sexuality and religion. Before coming out to my family, I had many conversations (and arguments) about the Catholic religion, and specifically the bible verses commonly used against homosexuality. I presented my arguments initially without naming my personal stake in the matter, and eventually I felt confident enough to “come out” to them directly.
Know this, too: If you do decide that being honest about yourself is most important, and the initial reaction that your family has is negative and hurtful, don’t give up. Have patience with them as they try to navigate the conflict of loving someone so deeply, and yet not understanding how to reconcile that with their religious beliefs. Just as it was (and is) a process for you to understand yourself as a lesbian, it is going to be a process for them. It is likely that the process will be painful at first, but over time you will hopefully be strong enough as a family unit to come to a shared understanding.