I realized that I was attracted to boys when I was a freshman in high school. It was a hipster guy in my art class. I noticed him, for some reason. That’s when it clicked: I noticed a boy the way that all my guy friends were noticing girls. The alarm bells in my mind started immediately screaming at me, telling me to put that out of my mind.
Christians don’t deal with sexual issues. That’s what I thought. That’s what I believed. Obviously, I couldn’t tell a soul about these feelings. But I also couldn’t stop them. I kept thinking, “What the hell is wrong with me? I’m a Christian, so obviously I can’t be gay, too. That’s sinful.”
When I opened up to my parents – both conservative, God-fearing Christians – they told me that we were going to “beat this,” like being gay was a form of cancer or a tumor to be cut out. I was told that if I really committed myself to God, and if I really wanted healing from my “sexual perversion,” I would get it.
I didn’t understand how something I never chose, something that felt as natural as breathing, something that seemed to grow naturally out of who I have always been, could be so distasteful to God. But I wanted to be in line with Church doctrine. I wanted to be acceptable. So I continued on in this same pattern of trying to “fix” myself all the way through college. I went to therapy groups and talked to counselors and fasted but nothing changed.
I was crying a lot in church those days. I would sit before the altar during communion and ask God, “Why me? Why did you make me like this? And why won’t you help me? Don’t you see how much I am hurting?”
Toward the end of college, I learned about a long-term mission trip. I heard that miracles happened. I was told that many people even met their spouse while in the field. So, of course, I saw this opportunity as the thing that could finally fix the hole in my heart. I signed on and left shortly after graduation.
That trip was a beautiful experience. I saw some amazing things and met wonderful people and really gained a new love for humanity. But my love for humanity was dwarfed by my disgust with myself. I wasn’t going to get fixed. I couldn’t change the fact that I was attracted to men. There was no miracle for me. Nothing shifted. And I was ashamed of myself.
One day I wrote in my journal, “Well God, since I cannot stop my body from sinning, I’ll just end my body, allowing my Spirit to be made whole by You on the other side of Forever.”
Logical. That’s what I thought about that statement. It was only logical that if I had tried everything in my power to stop sinning – even though I never chose my sexual orientation – I would cut off the thing that was causing me to sin, which was my imperfect and broken humanity.
I booked a plane ticket home to see my family, hoping that maybe seeing them would help the pain in my heart go away, but I just became more numb to everything. Death seemed like the right choice, the right thing to do. I remember thinking that it was impossible for me, as a gay person, to add anything of value to the Kingdom of God, so I better stop ruining it with my gayness.
I went to a bar, got severely drunk, and blacked out. The plan was to get into a terrible car accident and not make it home. But much to my chagrin, I woke up at home, car parked outside, and keys on my nightstand.
“Well, damn…” I thought. It didn’t work. Either someone drove me back home or angels attended to me or something. I was still alive.
I confessed what I had done to one of my friends: that I didn’t feel much, that I couldn’t stop these feelings, and that I also didn’t want to live anymore. I didn’t know what to do. He let me move in with him and his wife. And it was in that space where I was finally allowed to wrestle with my faith and my sexuality. I was shown that no matter what, no matter where I was, I was completely and fully loved. It didn’t matter if I was gay or straight or otherwise. I was a brother to them, a full member of the family.
They loved me back to life.
It still took about a year before I was finally able to reconcile my faith and sexuality, but when I finally surrendered my sexuality to God, I felt like God said, “You can keep that. I gave that to you. And it’s good.”
The road to self-acceptance can be long and arduous. It can be filled with loneliness and heartache and self-hate. But it doesn’t have to be.
I wish I had opened up my mouth sooner about how I was feeling. I wish I had told someone about the doubts I had about my faith and what I had been taught my entire life. I wish someone had told me that I wasn’t alone, that there were literally thousands and thousands of people who were feeling the exact same way as me.
I wish someone had told me it was OK to be gay. I wish someone had told me I didn’t have to choose between my faith and who I was created to be.
So whoever you are, wherever you are in your journey, hear me when I tell you: You’re not a mistake. You were made uniquely and perfectly, and you need to open up your mouth and tell people your story. Because it can save someone’s life.
Be brave. Tell your story.