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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!


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"I Do Not Need Gender"

An essay by Tyler Ford

As a child, there were two things I wished for every night before falling asleep: braces (I was strangely obsessed with orthodontia) and different genitals. I didn’t have much of an understanding of gender, but I knew the word “girl” fit as uncomfortably as the skirts I refused to wear. From the age of three, I was insisting that my body was not my own and not what I wanted. What was “down there” felt wrong to me in ways that I could not articulate, but I knew that there were people out there with different genitals from the ones I had, and I thought I might want those. Everyone called me a tomboy; I settled only because “boy” made up half of the word.

Yet as I grew older, I longed to experience girlhood. I wanted to fit in, I wanted to have a normal teenage life like I saw in movies, and I wanted to be seen and to be validated by my peers. Most of all, I wanted to grow up to be a woman because I loved the women in my life, and I wanted to identify with them. My desire to exist as a boy and my inability to feel like a girl pulled me in one direction, and my desire to ground myself in what others called “reality” – seemingly the only path to normalcy, pulled me in the opposite direction. At times, I felt like saltwater taffy – a really shitty flavor of the sort – being stretched until I could no longer recognize myself.

Most of my life has been spent swinging back and forth on a pendulum, trying to figure out which side – boy or girl – I would inevitably make my home. I spent years desperate to feel any sense of stability, to feel any sort of permanent allegiance to one of those two genders, to feel like I belonged anywhere at all. I’d spend one year in bras and miniskirts and the next injecting myself with 200mg of testosterone weekly. I could alter my body, wear different clothes, change my mannerisms and my speech, and none of it could change my confused heart, which would vibrate out of control every time I tried to hold my gender still and teach it to behave. Throughout my life (and constantly now), people have read me as in-between male and female. I am not in-between anything but the confines of the Western gender binary.

For the most part, I like to completely ignore the fact that my body exists at all. I am a walking brain; I am a galaxy of stars; I am unable to be contained in and defined by something so limiting. My pronouns (they/them) are both a rallying cry against being gendered without my consent, and a way in which I embrace both everything I am and everything I am not. I do not need to fit into or belong to an identity to exist, to survive, to make other people comfortable. I need space and I need freedom; I need compassion and I need kindness; I need openness and I need understanding; I need my own love. I do not need gender.

Crowned one of the best social media stars of 2015 by MTV, Tyler Ford is a 25-year-old NYC-based agender writer, speaker, consultant, and personality. They are a contributor for Rookie and MTV, where they often write about their experiences as a queer transgender person. Their work can also be found in the GuardianPoetry Magazine, and V Magazine


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Kristin's Coming Out Story

Mashed potatoes, overcooked stuffing, and an antibiotic-infused Butterball turkey: these are the markers of the American holiday known as Thanksgiving. Unless, of course, you were at my house on Novem- ber 26, 1998. If that were the case, you would have also found a slightly tipsy, wine-drinking mom; a smiling, story-telling dad; a sullen, pre- pubescent little sister; and me at the age of seventeen, clad in Salvation Army–sourced clothing, about to tell my parents that I was gay.

First, some background. Until my senior year in high school, I identified as a straight girl with very close girlfriends and a deep adoration for Liv Tyler. My very observant mother, however, had asked me countless times if I was a lesbian. My answer was always the same: “No, Mom, calm down and stop asking me!” Then, in the fall of 1997, I met a girl. We became friends. We hung out. We kissed. We liked kissing. We did some other stuff. This happened a few times, and then that thing happened. That oh-dear-God-my-stomach-is-squeezed-and-my-heart- is-in-my-throat thing. I liked this girl.

In addition to my oh-my-God-I’m-gay panic, I was horrified that my mother had been right all along. As we all know, telling your parents that they are right about anything is almost impossible between the ages of eleven and twenty-four. I didn’t breathe a word of my gayness to any- one but my close friends for almost a year, which brings us back to the Thanksgiving Day surprise.

Once my sister had left the table, I began to complain about an awful translation of the Bible that had been given to me by a relative. I said something like, “They make it sound like God hates gay people, but that is a load of BS.” My mom looked up from her stuffing, her eyes troubled by my angry tone, and asked, for the hundredth time, “Kristin, is there something you want to tell us?” Then . . . it just happened. I dug my fin- gers into my palm, mustered up as much teenage courage as I could, and answered, “Yes. I want to tell you both that I’m gay.”


The first thing my parents said to me, and the thing I will always remember, was that I was their daughter and they would always love me. For that, I was (and still am) very thankful. After this initial reaction, however, my mother began what would be a very long journey in rec- onciling her love for her child with her deeply instilled religious beliefs. The first few years were very hard. My mother and I fought a lot. She cried a lot, and I yelled even more. Through all of it, though, we never stopped loving each other.

Over time, the yelling calmed into a dialogue. She allowed herself to meet my girlfriend. Our conversations progressed, and she began to ask me questions. Slowly, girlfriends were invited over for dinner, and my mother and I found common ground amid differing beliefs.

The thing about coming out is that it isn’t one moment at a Thanksgiving dinner table. It is a process that takes patience, understanding, and com- passion. It is different for everyone. All we can do is share as much of ourselves as we feel comfortable with and work diligently at accepting who we are, with or without the understanding of those around us.


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"How did you come out to yourself as transgender?"

by Liam Lowery

I first heard about The L Word at an indoor track meet my freshman year of high school.

A group of cool lesbian teens, sitting on piles of blankets and passing around a box of Cheez-Its, sat across the way from my lowly duffle bag and pile of books. I knew they were lesbians because they all had cool haircuts and two of them were totally making out.

They were led by Ashe, she was soft-butch teen royalty–lanky and tan, with boys underwear hanging out of her skinny jeans. Who wears jeans at a track meet? I thought, but it totally didn’t matter. She was so cool, cool in the way that only a teen lesbian with a Justin Bieber haircut can be cool. I sat near her encampment the entire meet–alone, as I usually was at school events–and after 20 times hearing them say “The L Word,” I figured out it was a television program, not a secret code. I was so enthralled in their conversation that  I missed running the 55 meter dash.

My parents didn’t get Showtime, and I wasn’t going to ask them to get it so I could watch a show that was so clearly for lesbians that it was called “The L Word.” So I opted for plan b. While pictures popped up on social media of Ashe and her friends having watch parties (complete with, from what I saw, wine that was given to them by Ashe’s mom, they were so cool), I searched various Eastern European torrent sites on the shared family desktop between the hours of 3am and 6am, in the foggy area between Sunday night and Monday morning.

It usually took around an hour of searching, following dead links until eventually hitting live ones before the familiar message about the torrent violating Showtime’s copyright would start popping up. At some point, I’d find the show and watch with the volume turned really low, listening hard for footsteps coming down the stairs, erasing the browser history when the episode finished. I’d creep up to bed as the sun began to ascend, pondering what I’d just witnessed.

This show, I determined, was a canon every kind of lesbian there is. I wanted very badly to be Shane–lady lothario who dared to leave Carmen, the sexy dj, at the altar. I would have also accepted Dana–tragic, beautiful, closeted, zany Dana–the Subaru sponsored tennis-star. Or even Alice–who was the perfect blend of “out,” and “out-there.” God, they were so good.

This was The L Word: Were the plotline perfect, or even well-developed? Not a chance. Were the characters all on a pretty narrow race and socioeconomic spectrum? Absolutely. Did the show leave much to be desired? For sure.

But–despite these flaws–the characters knew who they were, and that was much more than I could say for myself. For cool girls like Ashe or Shane, it seemed like the biggest part of being gay was being a lady who crushed on ladies. Which I did, sure, but I was most concerned with sneaking off to Goodwill to try on men’s clothes or joining chat rooms with names like “If I were a boy” (and no, they weren’t on Beyonce fan sites).

There’s lots of different ways to be a lesbian, I thought, crossing my fingers that The L Word would show me mine.

And soon, it did. Not one season later, we met Moira.

Moira was like me–awkward, uncomfortable all the time. Moira’s clothes were baggy. She didn’t have any friends of her own, and she never quite fit in with the L Word crew. Even Shane, the otherwise butchest character on the show, made fun of the way Moira dressed and didn’t want to be compared to her.

Then, one episode, Moira started going by the name Max. Max explained that he’d always felt like a guy, inside. Then Max started wrapping ace bandages around his chest, while my heart sped up inside my own. Finally, I thought, someone who totally understood what I was going through.

Then it hit me. Oh no. Max was the first trans person I ever met, and he was terrible. He was a reedy-voiced crybaby, prone to fits of rage, obsessed with passing as a cisgender man, perpetually unhappy, and disliked by all.

I’m cursed, I thought, If I am like Max, there is no hope for me. I immediately searched online for an L Word character quiz and sped through the questions. My result? “You are: Moira/Max. You’re not comfortable with your body right now, but you’ll become the person you’re meant to be.”

I tried again. Same result. “You are definitely trans,” the screen shouted, “deal with it.” I refreshed the page, feeling sweat break out across my forehead. “You are still trans,” the screen announced, “Which kind of explains everything, right?”

I closed the browser and sat back in the chair, exhaling through gritted teeth. I looked out the kitchen window, and the first hints of sunrise were stirring on the horizon. There’s at least eight different ways to be a lesbian, way more if you count everyone who hooked up with Shane, I thought, there’s got to be more than one way to be trans. The sky was turning purple now, the stars fading from diamonds to pinpricks of light. No one can decide but me. A streak of pinkish red began to push its way up into the lavender sky.

So, I’m trans. I nodded to myself, heat swelling in my chest and sudden moisture in my eyes. This is going to be good.