This post first appeared on The Good Men Project.
Growing up gay in the Christian faith leaves some teens feeling isolated and fearful. Advice from someone who’s been there.
I still remember the cold chills that ran down my spine when it finally dawned on me that I was gay. I never asked for it. I never wanted to be “that way,” whatever that meant. I wondered if those feelings would go away over time, or if I would always be attracted to the same sex. The only thing I knew for sure was that I had to pray that God would take those feelings away and I could never tell anyone.
That was 36 years ago.
I’d like to tell you that those feelings went away after I submitted my life to God, that I got married and raised a family like I wanted to, and that everything is fine. Well, I did get married to a woman and we had a family. Everything is fine now, but the road here was long, difficult, and excruciatingly painful. It’s not one I would wish on my worst enemy. If you’ll listen, let me save you some time in your own journey.
Be Honest With Yourself
I wasted decades trying to fit in and be someone I was never meant to be. I lied a lot. But it’s not that I was lying on purpose; I was trying to convince myself that I wasn’t gay. I was trying to convince others that I was “normal,” like them and that I fit in. No matter what I said, though, I felt ashamed. I felt like I never fit in anywhere.
I spent an enormous amount of energy hiding my own feelings from others, but mostly hiding my feelings from myself. I learned to say what I was supposed to say and I said it so often I believed it.
Don’t be deceitful
Shame can drive us to do a lot of things we wouldn’t normally do and put us in dangerous situations. Meeting strangers on the web or in a park without anyone knowing may seem like a good idea, but it’s not. While you may feel like you’re not in a position to completely come out, don’t do anything stupid. Your parents may have a difficult time dealing with the fact that you’re gay, but it would be much worse to hear that you had been hurt, or worse, killed.
But deceitfulness is not always life threatening. More often, it starts small and leads to bigger lies. I got married believing that I was “healed,” after going through conversion therapy. Conversion therapy didn’t cure me, it just taught me to lie even better. My girlfriend believed God had healed me because that’s what the ministry told her. That’s what I told her. I really wanted it to be true and so did she. When we divorced six and a half years later, now with two babies, my deceitfulness impacted more lives than just mine. The lies I told, that I thought I needed to tell, turned a bad situation worse.
Make Peace With Your Faith
Growing up in the Pentecostal, evangelical world, I believed homosexuality was wrong. I preached it. When I finally came to terms with the fact that I was gay, I also decided that since I couldn’t be gay and Christian, I would just be gay.
There are over 41,000 denominations in Christianity alone, meaning there are thousands of interpretations of the Bible and no one person can say that he or she has “the truth” more than anyone else. If God were that concerned over interpretations and “the truth,” wouldn’t He have made the message a little more clear?
I realized that my faith caused me to live my life in fear. I measured everything I said, did, thought and believed in fear of making God mad, or fear of going to hell. I spent so much energy worrying about what God thought of me, I didn’t have enough energy to give to others.
Here’s the bottom line: No one can say with any authority what the actual interpretation of the Bible is, or if there is one. In fact, no one can say with any authority whether or not God even exists. Those who can prove God’s existence and their relationship with Him can only point back to their interpretation of the Bible and their feelings. Those are merely beliefs, not facts, and certainly not absolute truths.
Life is Bigger Than Your Sexuality
Though it may not feel this way now, especially as a teenager, your life is much bigger than your sexuality. You have much to give, much to receive and a lot of living yet to do. Yes, life does get better, even when it doesn’t turn out the way you expected it to. Perhaps life gets better because it turns out in ways we never saw coming.
In the grand scheme of things, who you love isn’t as important as simply loving. Life was never meant to be spent in fear, self-loathing, or worrying about what others think of us. It was meant to be spent building and cultivating relationships with fellow human beings.
My advice is to take a deep breath, try to gain perspective on where you are now and know that you are not alone. In the end, you will find peace with God, your family and yourself.
The Gay Christian Network
Photo – Flickr?FaceMePLS
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