I’m a queer person. There, I said it. Nothing too wild or unique about that.
Did I mention that I also used to be a pastor?
Now there’s something interesting.
I’ve always known I was gay, even from a young age. But I spent most of my life in conservative Christian circles where that didn’t seem to be a very positive thing to exist as. The amount of bullying and trauma I endured in high school as someone dating both men and women was enough to send me back into the closet for another ten years. The residual damage included anxiety, depression, and a general hatred for the person that I was.
Life in the church wasn’t necessarily bad, but it was difficult. I spent most Sundays sitting in the pews, or teaching others while being weighed down with guilt and self-disdain. I felt like I had a secret and this part of myself that God hated, and if other people found out they’d hate me too. So, I hated myself.
Surprisingly enough my gayness never went away; no matter how much I prayed, hoped, or went to therapy.
Last August, I decided to make the leap. I was tired of living a secret, tired of hating myself, tired of wondering what lay on the other side of the fence. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but staying in the familiarity of the closet would’ve killed me.
My experience in church is similar to a lot of people’s—in which community is emphasized highly. Obviously, I agree with this, and I did love my church communities. But it always seemed like I was taught that community only existed inside the church and that if I ever ventured out, I’d end up lost and alone. That people outside of the church weren’t capable of cultivating the same quality of relationships or communities that people inside were.
Leaving the church felt a lot like free-falling.
What would I do for work?
Would anyone or anything be there to catch me?
Or would I fall flat on my face?
All these were questions swirling around in my mind, but I needed to see for myself. I knew that if I stayed in the church and opened up about my sexuality, I would no longer be allowed to serve as a pastor or in a leadership position. I also knew from hearing stories of other people’s experiences that unless I completely renounced my sexuality and accepted a lifetime of singleness, I would be viewed in a (very) negative light. It was a burden that I couldn’t and no longer wanted to carry.
My coming out has been filled with a lot of ups and downs. Some losses and some gains. Looking for a job when most of your experience is religion-based can be an incredibly trying journey. Some employers don’t realize that you are capable of doing things that aren’t church-related. I’ve had friends who supported me in their words but their actions said otherwise. In a refreshing way, I learned quickly whose love was unconditional. People seemed to weed themselves out of my life on their own. Want to see who’s real? Reveal your authentic self and see what happens.
Ever since coming out, I feel more confident than I ever have. I don’t carry myself like there is something to hide or something to hate. I realized there wasn’t (and isn’t) anything wrong with me. I could show up and exist just as I am, and that would be enough.
As I was building my new life from scratch, something strange happened.
I joined a queer softball league.
Oddly enough, I found myself in another consistent gathering of humans on Sundays. Soon, softball became my church. This was a new type of community.
I felt as though I belonged. I was no longer hiding. I was surrounded by people who understood me in a way I had rarely been understood in the past. The women I was playing with every Sunday knew what it meant to struggle just to survive, to even exist, in a world that was determined to hate them or call them “wrong.” I no longer existed in a space where love was conditionally based on the person that I simply was—something I couldn’t change no matter how much I had tried.
I had successfully made the leap from one community to the next.
And I realized something…
I no longer hated myself anymore. By giving myself the grace to be who I really was, I started showing people the real me. For the very first time. I stopped overthinking every single thing I said and did in order to please others or to be the version of me that I thought they wanted or expected. I stopped trying to earn love to overcompensate for the fact that there was this part of me that was “wrong” or “bad.” I watched peace flow into my life as I began to care less and less about what others thought of me.
Sundays are one of my favorite days now. A bright spot in my week. Getting to play alongside my friends makes my heart happy and I feel joyful at building a life where there is no longer a separation of who I am. So many people had told me I would not make it outside the church and yet here I am in all my queerness, and it is beautiful.
Strange and different than I had imagined, but beautiful all the same.
I wish I could say my coming out journey has been easy but in reality, it’s been very very hard. Thanks to a lot of counseling, meds, and the support of friends, I feel happier and healthier than I have in my entire life.
I found hope and healing in the places I least expected and maybe you will too.
Even if that place is a softball field.
You are welcome here. All of you. Remember that—always. We encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at [email protected].