Coming Out for Christians
Introduction: Some of the folks who share their stories with me are still not
out and thus do not want their name mentioned in a public forum. I know
Susan (not her real name). She is part of a support network I am on. I have
also met her in person. Here is her story ..
In my first semester of graduate school I wrote a bibliographic essay on
conservative Christian college before that, and I had friends from that
college who had come out as gay. I agonized along with them as they
attended Exodus Conferences, attempted to "pray the gay away," and tried
to develop an attraction to women. I heard their stories of how they were on
their knees, crying before God because they hated themselves for not fitting
into God's ideal. I remember looking at photographs of one of my best
friends from that college, right after he came out as gay, and thinking that I
saw a different person in the pictures than the one I had always known.
Now, thirteen years after writing that bibliographic essay, I am living with my
life partner, a woman. We had a commitment ceremony last year; we wear
commitment rings and our engagement necklaces everywhere we go. In
short, I have embraced the very thing that I used to think was so against
God's plan for anyone's life.
I grew up only going to church sporadically, but once I got to college, I began
to feel like something was missing from my life. I had friends who were
attending a Baptist Church, and I noticed how their lives were changing for
the better. I wanted the happiness that they seemed to have found. So, I
began to pray for God's presence in my life and I had the overwhelming
feeling that God was then with me. I read an old classic book called "The
Christian's Secret to a Happy Life" and I knew that being a born again
Christian was what I needed. In retrospect, I see that I was looking for
happiness and I thought that finding God would bring that to me. I transferred
to my Christian college and met some wonderful people ... although it was
an interesting discovery that people are still people; the Christians at my
college just tried to live by certain moral rules that those at my first college
Over time, I remained in conservative denominations (Church of the
Brethren and then Church of Christ) and I wanted to embrace every rule that
I believed to be God's law for our lives. One day, however, at age 35 no
less, I began to wonder if I was gay ... I had an awakening of sorts where I
felt like a door opened and I began having an almost overwhelming
attraction to women. It took me about a year to sort out whether this could be
a passing phase or whether I had hidden who I was from myself for so long.
My conclusions were mixed; I had always wanted an emotional attraction to
a woman, a "best friend," that went above and beyond the desire to have a
boyfriend or husband. Yet, I knew that I did find myself admiring the beauty
of the male body more than any physical interest I had in women. And mixed
up with wondering "am I gay?" was "why am I even pondering the question if
it isn't alright with God?"
The one thing I knew is that my best college friend who had prayed,
struggled, gone to Exodus, and begged God time after time to remove his
homosexual feelings was now in a long term relationship with a man, and
they were both happier and emotionally healthier than ever. My friend was at
peace; and he was active in church and loved God as much as ever. Their
relationship looked entirely normal and healthy to me.
I eventually came to the realization, after meeting many other Christian
lesbians and discussing it with them, that women often do "come out" later
in life than men do. I suspect this is because women do not have the same
type of sexual awakening that men have at puberty. My feelings about
wanting a female partner as a best friend in life had never changed no
matter my age, but I didn't equate that with any sexual feelings until my
mid-30s. And in-between, even though I did find men to be "cute," I never
made an emotional connection with one that would have made me want to
spend my life with him.
I also realized, from observing my friends, that it was futile to attempt an
ex-gay program. I began to search the scriptures deeper than I had before. I
was in a graduate Bible program, yet the issue had never been at the
forefront of my studies. And my responses to my gay friends, when I had
been telling them that being gay was wrong, had mostly come from listening
to what I had been told. I had not seen anything wrong with being gay before
I became a Christian, but once I entered my conservative college, I was told
simply that it was wrong based on the traditional biblical passages that are
used to denounce homosexuality.
I saw my friends live miserable lives because the programs designed to
change you from gay to straight don't seem to work. And so, once I decided
that my desire to be with a woman as a partner was not a passing phase,
the question became, "do I think it is right to sleep with someone of the
same sex, or will I be celibate?" I cannot believe that God will condemn
someone for having attraction to the same sex. I think the question rests in
whether it is possible to live out that attraction in a sexual way.
I look at the Bible and I see that there are a LOT of restrictions on sex, not
just restrictions on gay sex. Looking at the world today, most people do not
follow the Biblical mandates to remain celibate until marriage and then to be
married to one person for life. At the least, I then ask, why is being gay
worse than these other sexual activities that are at odds with what the Bible
seems to teach?
Then I look at what I want for my life. My plan is to be committed to one
person for a lifetime, barring very unforeseen circumstances. So, the way I
see it, by being in my committed relationship I am keeping to the fact that
the Bible wants to keep sex within a strict guideline, between two people for
life. I am not and will not be promiscuous. What I am doing, however, is
taking what "marriage" means beyond the Bible and assuming that God can
be pleased by two people are sexually faithful to each other for a lifetime ...
dare I say even more pleasing to God than those heterosexual people who
sleep with many partners in a lifetime outside of a marriage relationship.
What makes me think, however, that the definition of marriage can be
changed? As a student of the Bible, I realize that the Bible is a document
written in the first century by men who embraced the customs of their era. If I
were to believe that the Bible is word for word the inspired Word of God,
then I would have to take the statements about homosexuality literally (and
many other things that we do not take literally today). If I believe that the
Bible is the Word of God brought to us by men of a certain time period and
that they wrote through their personal writing styles, values, and customs,
then I need to sift through what's in the Bible and decide how to apply
biblical values to the twenty-first century. Personally, I still see good reasons
for keeping sex within as strict a boundary as possible. I do not see good
reasons in the world today why two men or two women should not set up a
household and live as a productive family in society.
The most persuasive argument to me against gay marriage is the possibility
that God ordained marriage to be between a man and a woman for the
purposes of procreation and setting up an orderly society of family units.
And if I believed this, I could not believe in gay marriage. There is no doubt
that the Bible always talks of marriage as being between men and women,
although there is plural marriage in the Bible as well as the "model" set forth
in the Adam and Eve story. I personally do not think God ordained
"marriage" per se at the beginning of human history. For me, marriage is a
human institution that has changed a lot over time. God clearly created our
sexuality for the purposes of having children and for bonding with a mate,
and the earliest people created a social structure around that and called it
"marriage." People in the Western world today are much different from
those earliest humans; however ... we aren't expected anymore to enter a
marriage that our parents arranged for us. We are expected to choose
someone to marry for love, someone we are most compatible with. The
reality of life is that some people are gay, and they are much happier
partnered for life than as celibate singles. I know I have fulfillment beyond
what I could have hoped for in my relationship and I am a more productive
Christian due to the positive energy that my relationship brings to my life.
I am hoping that by having made my own "marriage bond" before God with
a woman, that He will be pleased that I've spent my life with one person. I will
find out someday if I'm making the wrong decision, but I know I am my
happiest and my best self in a relationship and not as a single person.
My partner and I belong to a vibrant church and we're involved in service to
our community. We put our trust in God, engage in theological study and
debate, and pray together every night. Our faith is at the center of our lives.
And it is the happiest time of my life!