My social media feeds light up whenever the subject of faith and sexuality is in the news — and it feels like hardly a week goes by that I don’t see some sort of conversation. It is easy for me to look in on these discussions and feel unseen by my fellow Christians. Here are five things that I wish all people in the Church knew about gay Christians:
1. We didn’t choose to be gay.
I’m still surprised how many people see my sexual orientation as a choice that I made. The increasingly familiar question “When did you decide to be straight?” is a good one for Church people to think about. I didn’t choose to be attracted to men; that deep-set attraction was something that I gradually realized about myself. For a long time, I was horrified and attempted to redirect myself in a variety of ways, but nothing I tried worked. Yes, I can choose the actions that flow out of my orientation; however, I cannot choose the type of person I am attracted to.
2. Celibacy isn’t something to be taken lightly.
Many gay Christians are choosing to pursue celibacy. This is a difficult decision that often comes after years of wrestling and it means giving up hopes and dreams. When I was leaning toward celibacy, I spent many nights grieving the loss of the husband and family that I so desperately wanted. The problem is that too many people in the Church act as if celibacy is a wonderful thing — I’ve heard it cheered in an auditorium filled with Christians — without understanding the incredible burden such a lifestyle can require. If the Church is going to advise celibacy for gay people, a life of singleness should be regarded as the profound commitment that it is.
3. We want to be part of your church.
A little Facebook group that I’m a part of serves as a support for fellow LGBTQ Christians as we navigate life in the world. One of the most common conversations I see is about trying to find church homes. Many of us were raised in evangelical circles. We hold Scripture in very high regard and have conservative values. But it is extremely difficult to find a church where we both feel spiritually fed and welcomed. We want to be part of a beautiful church family, and we don’t have to agree on everything. However, if there is not space for dialogue within disagreement about human sexuality, then we’ll probably find ourselves searching again. Please don’t treat our identity like an “issue” that needs to be dealt with, especially from the pulpit.
4. We aren’t broken.
Of course, we are all sinners and we are inherently broken people. However, I am not broken simply because I am gay. In fact, if God came to me today and told me that he would change me to being straight if I wanted, I would tell him no. Many of us are proud of our sexuality despite the difficulties it may cause within a church context. We see it as a blessing to be able to view the world from a different perspective. We experience our sexuality as something that God is using in our lives for his Kingdom.
5. We are everywhere.
Somewhere between 4 and 10 percent of the population is gay. That means even in a tiny rural church of 100 people, there may be at least 4 people in that church who are gay. Don’t assume everyone in your church is straight just because you don’t know a gay person — chances are you know several. Please don’t talk about us as if we are “somewhere out there” — you don’t know who is listening and what damage your words are causing.
As more and more people in the Church come out, we must be willing to put our faith into action and truly be Jesus to our gay brothers and sisters.