The light that shined through the cracks

It's time to let religion and sexuality coexist.

Brooke Adams, Jr. Managing Editor

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July 4, 2010. To most people, it was just Independence Day, a day of fireworks, barbecuing and celebrating America. To me, that was the day I publicly professed my faith in Jesus Christ.

I was only eight years old, but I had already developed a strong foundation of faith. At the time, I believed nothing would ever crack that foundation. Young and naïve, I never thought anything could push me away from the church. But as I grew older, hateful ideas of what was sinful developed among my peers, and adults I once looked up to.

It all started small. The word often avoided when I was little, my church scared of influencing our young minds, began popping up once I reached middle school.

The dreaded, terrible word: homosexuality.

People spoke about this supposedly horrible word like one would about a severe mental disorder. It was so sad to them that homosexuals were so “confused” that they “couldn’t find God.”

As I matured, I couldn’t seem to fathom: what could be so bad about simply loving someone?

People I knew slowly began to come out during seventh and eighth grade as everyone discovered who they were, a common occurrence throughout most of middle school. During this time, church leaders advocated so heavily for inviting these newly out and proud friends to Wednesday night Bible study or Sunday morning services. I understood the desire to bring people to Jesus I had Matthew 28:19-20 preached at me since I was at least six years old. “Go and make disciples,” it said. But what I didn’t understand was, when did patrolling who someone gets to love become part of that?

Slowly but surely, my confusion morphed into anger. I was so frustrated that the church, which had always been my home, was not a home for everyone. I had spent my entire childhood hearing about sharing God’s everlasting love, only to not see His love represented in the church.

Once I became filled with this anger, I wasn’t sure what to do with it, so I poured it into advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community that I felt wasn’t being welcomed as it should be by the church. I didn’t quite understand why I was so passionate about something I wasn’t even a part of. I neglected to acknowledge the reason behind my motivations and continued to be an ally for the community.

It wasn’t until the beginning of my sophomore year that the pieces finally fit together, and I realized that all this time, I hadn’t been just an ally. I was a young, queer girl who, for my entire life, had never been told it was okay to be gay. I was so afraid of the idea of being gay that I suppressed it so deep that it took sixteen years to finally rise to the surface.  

I looked back on my entire life and saw so many times where it had been there, but I was in so much denial of the idea that I never even considered it. I claimed to be an ally, but all along I was really filled with internalized homophobia. Anyone else could be gay, as long as it wasn’t me. If I was gay, then I was going to hell. That’s all I’d ever heard, and that overwhelming fear of eternal suffering kept my identity hidden from myself.

The coming out process that followed this realization was not all rainbows and sunshine as one might believe, even though I surrounded myself with sweet and understanding friends once I reached high school. My friends responded with love, but it wasn’t them I was afraid of. It was the rest of the world and the very slim likelihood that they would accept this part of me. Specifically, my Christian family and everyone who went to my church.

It took me three months before I made one social media post, mentioning how it was okay for me to like girls too. My friends showed me so much kindness and said they would make sure no one said anything negative. I later learned how impossible that would be because in this day and age of social media and technology, word travels fast. So incredibly fast.

Before I knew it, everyone suddenly felt like it was their job to know all of my business. All it took was one post before questions started coming in nonstop. Are you gay? Are you really not straight? What’s your sexuality? Aren’t you a Christian?

The last question, the biggest question, stopped me in my tracks. Yes, I was a Christian. By grace, through faith, I had been saved. I had called myself a Christian for more than seven years of my life, but suddenly people who didn’t even know my favorite color felt like they had the right to question my faith in God. That very moment was when my foundation began to crack and crumble.

The day the news of my sexuality finally reached my peers at church, I was horrified. I hadn’t even worked up the courage to tell any of my family yet, but somehow these people who didn’t even care about me knew. Their response was expected, but it didn’t hurt any less. I was mocked and ridiculed; my sexuality was made a joke to them. I couldn’t even get basic respect as I was seen as the laughing stock of the church rather than a human being with feelings. I was back to being afraid, but this time, I was afraid of being made fun of. I felt like a child, so scared of what others said about me that I felt the need to avoid them. They made me feel small and it filled me with indignation, so I distanced myself from them and the church.  

I also encountered the ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ Christians, who claimed they weren’t like the rest. They disguised their feelings and used love as a scapegoat, but they still shared the same common thought. They believed I was choosing sin and that I wasn’t really a Christian, simply because I could love girls while also loving God. Being told that I had a choice in who I was ignited more anger, and I floated farther away from the toxic church environment in which I once felt so safe.

Once I finally got around to telling my parents, hoping that the experience would lift a weight off my chest, I dealt with the most uncomfortable conversation of my existence. They didn’t understand at all. This was either a “phase,” or I was “confused.” Their daughter was straight. Straight in their eyes, but not in reality. They were still clouded by their biases, and they couldn’t understand how I could be in any way gay. But despite not understanding completely, they still loved me and tried to listen to how I felt. I knew this was more than most kids got, so I tried to be grateful. 

My life will never be how it used to be because I chose to come out, but I’ve never felt more like myself than I do now. My parents may still be confused by the idea, my peers at church might never respect my sexuality, and I might not be out to the entire world (including church leaders and plenty of family), but that’s okay. I have friends who will always be there for me, parents who support me, and a God who loves me unconditionally, no matter what some imperfect and hateful Christians might try to tell me.

Coming out is one of the most difficult moments of anyone’s life, especially someone who is young and religious. If you are Christian, or queer or both, I want you to know that your God will never betray you. Whether you’re already out to everyone, or you’re deep in the closet, God’s got you. There’s no need to be ashamed. Be proud of who you are, love who you want to love and believe what you believe. At the end of the day, nothing matters more than that.

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