Coming Out Christian

I have something very important to tell you. I’m not exactly who you may think I am. Please understand that I never chose this for myself, it’s simply who I am – who God made me. I hope that you can still love me. You see, I’m a Christian.

Coming out is a way of life that gay** people are all too familiar with. Contrary to what you may have understood, coming out is not a one-time event that you complete once and then move on with your life. Coming out is an ongoing process. It lasts a lifetime, and along the way it moulds, and defines you. I come out every day: to new friends, to my colleagues – by simply writing this article I am coming out to you, the reader.

I am a Christian. The greatest gift that God ever gave to me was sending His son, Jesus, to die on the cross for my sins thereby granting my salvation through Him. The second-greatest gift that God ever gave me, was He made me gay.


Many of the people who I come out to express difficulty simultaneously accepting these two facets of my identity. Can you really be gay, and Christian? The first time I ever came out gay to a Christian Bible study, they politely (but resolutely) suggested that I didn’t belong in their group. These were friends of mine who I had been learning and growing with for a year. The week before I came out, they were encouraging me to apply to be a Bible-study leader. The week after, they no longer wanted me to attend. Coming out changes the way that people perceive you.

On the flip side, however, I am also frequently met with misunderstanding, discomfort, and an abundance of stereotypes when I come out to my gay friends as a Christian. It’s not hard to understand why – Christians are largely responsible for the crushing hatred felt by many gays. Christians deny them their legal rights, devalue their love, condemn them as sinners, and construct psychologically damaging programs to “convert” them. Gays are twice to three times as likely to commit suicide in adolescence because their Christian parents and friends reject them. When I come out as a Christian to one of my gay friends, the first emotion I feel is shame.

Growing up, I was always a Christian. I was raised by Christian parents (missionary parents, actually, which is a special breed of Christian!). We went to church every Sunday. I read my Bible, and I prayed to Jesus. At the age of 14 I made my confirmation of faith and declared to the world that Jesus is my Lord and Saviour. So I’ve been coming out as a Christian for my whole life.

On the other hand, I don’t remember knowing as a child what it meant to be gay. Nobody in the church talks to young people about being gay, maybe because they believe that gay people don’t actually exist in the church, or maybe because they’re afraid that the suggestion may cause young people to choose that path. Believe me, gay people are everywhere you look in the church, and I never chose to be gay. It wasn’t until my adolescence that, like most teenage boys, my hormones began to take action, only I found that I was attracted to men rather than women. It was so much more than physical attraction – I wanted to love, cherish, learn from, grow with, and spend my life with a man – a husband.

If you are straight, then consider for a moment how you would answer the question, “When did you chose to be straight?”. Now perhaps you have a better idea of how fluid and gradual the maturation of identity is, and how nobody choses their sexual orientation. I am a strong believer that I God made me this way, and that I can come out proud as both gay, and a Christian. After all, we all know what Jesus said about being gay, ”  “.  Oh… that’s right… Jesus didn’t say anything at all about being gay. But He did say that we are to love one another unconditionally.

Reading the Bible is a task not to be taken lightly. The bible has been historically used to justify slavery, the holocaust, subjugation of women, and apartheid. On the flip side, the Bible also says that we’re not supposed to get haircuts but nobody seems to give that any credence. Any reasonable Christian admits that we have to approach the scripture with a sophisticated method of interpretation, constantly asking the questions “what was meant by the author in the culture and time period that this passage was written?”, and “how does this passage apply to me today, if at all?”. If you take your Bible reading seriously, visit http://www.gaychristian.net and read the section “The Great Debate” where you will find two expertly-written, and opposing interpretations of what the Bible says about being gay. After reading those you will, at the very least, come to the conclusion that what the Bible says is not as clear as you might have previously thought.

Regardless of what you believe, how should Christians come out to gay people about their faith? The apostle John once wrote (and it was echoed in a popular Christian hymn) “they will know that we are Christians by our love”. We need to redefine what it means to come out as Christian. We need to shape our identity to be more loving, less hating, and more accepting.

There are quite a number of practical ways that Christians could come out about their faith in a way that is more loving towards gay people.

(i) Learn the terminology. We don’t use the word “homosexual” or any of its derivations anymore because the word is tainted with centuries of hate, medicalization, and pathologising. Please, please do not use this word. It follows from the same principle that you would never call someone “retarded”, or “redskin” (which were both legitimate words only 100 years ago). Ask people how they want to be identified. Perhaps they will identify with the word “gay” but perhaps they will use another word that means something more to them, and you should be respectful of that. Finally, get in the habit of using the word “partner”. It signifies to people listening that you acknowledge the existence of gay relationships. The language that we choose to speak is a subtle way in which we come out about our faith. Our words betray our underlying beliefs. When I want to come out as a Christian in a loving and accepting way, I choose to use loving and accepting language.

(ii) Adopt a fearful humility regarding the Word of the Lord. When you come out as a Christian, don’t pretend like you know everything the Bible says and exactly what it means. When I come out as a Christian, what I’m really saying is: “the only reason I know anything at all – otherwise I would know nothing – is what Jesus has taught me. And the only thing that I am sure of (yes, the only thing!), is His deep love for me.” My Christian identity is more about my weakness and dependence, than about wisdom or authority.

(iii) Apologize. Whenever I come out as a Christian, I make a point of apologizing – not for who I am, but for what the Church has done. Although I may have not taken part personally in the hatred or killing that gay people have experienced in the hands of Christians, those people did those things in the name of my God. When you come out as Christian, I believe it goes a long way with gay people to repent for the brokenness of the Church. I often tell people that my Church does a very sinful job of representing my God. It’s this kind of honesty and repentance that is required to mend bridges between the Church and the gay community. With profound mirroring of the Good News itself, it is only through brokenness, repentance, and forgiveness that we find love for one another.

You, thoughtful reader, also come out every day. No matter who you are, every single day you reveal part of your identity to the others around you. Often it is the minority groups, like gay people, who pay the most attention to the process of coming out, but I would encourage everyone to pay more attention to the ways that we come out about our identity. If you are a Christian, how do you tell people about your faith? What message(s) do people receive about you when you come out about your beliefs? Coming out is a life-long process. Each time you do it, you practice and refine it. Make sure that the way that you come out is representative of the person you want to be. On the flip side, allow people to come out proud about who they are! I am gay, and I am a Christian. I’m far, far away from learning how to come out gay and Christian in a way that people will understand and accept my compound identity. But I’m paying attention to how I come out, and I’m getting better at it. You can too.

** For the purposes of this article, I will use the word “gay”. In LGBTTQQIA circles there is a shared commitment to allowing people to identify with whichever word(s) they feel fits them best. Unfortunately that poses a problem to the writer who must select to use only one term at a time! When I say “gay”, please understand that I mean lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transexual, queer, questioning, intersex, two-spirited, and all other colours of the sexual and gender identity rainbow.

Jason Booy

Jason Booy is beginning a career in medicine and training as a general surgical resident at the University of Toronto. He received a BSc in Biology from the University of Waterloo in 2008 and an MD from Queen’s University in 2012. He lives downtown Toronto with his partner, Daniel.

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6 comments

  1. I feel I should clarify one point: when I used the adjective “missionary” to describe my parents I meant it in the most complementary and respectful way. It was pointed out to me that there is also an archetypal Western missionary prototype, which my parents do NOT fit at all, and this was not what I meant to imply. My parents have been undeniably the most supportive, loving, accepting, and understanding parents I EVER could have hoped for. I love them dearly.

  2. Copy and pasted from my Facebook comment.

    First off, I applaud the writer’s honesty and genuineness in coming forth to share his personal struggle and journey with this issue. I will also be one of the first to apologize on behalf of Christians who have not loved when faced with someone they know who is gay, but have turned to condemnation or hate.

    However, I do have some comments on this article. First off, I think that we as Christians have to be very careful with how we use the terms “God told me” or “God made me this way.” Not only is that potentially taking the Lord’s name in vain (Exodus 20:7) but it is using God to justify or support our actions to other people. It also takes the need for personal responsibility, personal growth and most importantly, CHOICE off of us. Not a road I would advocate us going down. How many of us know someone else who has used “God told me” as a reason to do or not do something? I know a few. There was a great article by RT Kendall on this topic: http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/evangelical-essentials/15790-god-told-me-really

    Here’s a quote: “Likewise, if I truly have a word from the Lord, I can say it without mentioning His holy name. It will speak for itself. And if people don’t recognize my authenticity because I don’t include God’s name, that is not my problem.”

    Dr. Ray Pritchard also weight in on the issue here

    http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/dr-ray-pritchard/god-told-me-really-11625095.html

    My second thought was with regards to the author’s upbringing. Now I do not pretend to know the author, but I do have gay friends, and gay relatives, and one of the underlying themes I have found when talking to them or hearing their story is that they were either rejected at a very early age (Even in the womb this has an affect on the baby) , including if they were not recognized for the interests they had as children (ie everyone in the family played sports except the one boy who liked art) or they did not receive the love and affection from a parent while growing up. This includes forms of neglect such as the parent who is not absent but still not “present” in the home. Even the simplest things like not physically loving your child (hugging, wrestling) or not saying “I love you” can have a huge impact and can cause the child to search for love in other places. I’m not saying this happened to the author but from my experience I have seen it pop up very frequently. Plus, growing up in a Christian home doesn’t mean things are going to be perfect, or you are going to turn out a certain way. Every family has their definition of “normal” and it never hurts to take a look at our upbringing and see how it helped shaped us into who we are today.

    The other common thread I see is if there was any abuse in the person’s life growing up, whether physical, sexual, verbal or emotional.

    In spite of all this though, I do still believe it is a matter of choice. While one choice may seem like the more obvious, or easier one, that does not exclude the fact that there is another choice in every situation. The ability to make a choice can be influenced by outside sources and the nature of a person’s upbringing, which is what I was trying to get at.

    Overall though, I just want to state that God is in charge, not in control. He is a gentleman, he won’t force his love on us, even though he yearns for our love passionately. He won’t force us to do certain things, even though we may make the wrong choices. Lastly, he had a hand in our creation, but he does not control our upbringing and life. That goes back to my main point, that at the end of the day, it is all about choice, and free will.

    I saw the authors addendum to his original article on the Podium, so I’d be interested to hear his thoughts on my post.

  3. Hi Paul:

    First of all, please call me Jason :) . Thank you for your thoughtful response. I admire the depth of your contemplation, and how obviously you are engaged in the genuine pursuit of truth. I loved your description of God as “in charge, but not in control”!

    I feel the need to respond to a few of your comments. For a moment, I’m going to take off my gay Christian hat, and speak purely from my experience and knowledge as a medical doctor. The psychological theories that you made reference to about how gay people are made (for lack of a better way of saying it) are decades out-dated and have been completely debunked. Developmental factors like an unsupportive family, absent parents, reversed gender roles as a child, and abuse have all been rigorously tested by psychologists and psychiatrists, and have been found to have no bearing whatsoever on the sexual orientation of an individual. Those theories are rejected by all of the available evidence, and rather are rooted in the bigoted historical mind-frame of “there must be something wrong with gay people.”

    If not those factors, then what does make somebody gay or straight? The truth is that we don’t know yet. As a doctor, I am confident that there is a psychological/developmental explanation for it (just as there is a developmental explanation for every part of who you are!), but modern science doesn’t know what it is yet. Here’s what we do know (this is based on decades of strong psychological research):

    (i) Being gay is not a choice. Whatever process defines whether a child will grow up straight or gay, we know that it occurs in very early childhood – long before the child has any capacity to understand or choose a sexual orientation. By the time a child is 8 or 9 years old, the decision is already firm. This makes intuitive sense. As I mentioned in the article, if you are straight, then ask yourself when you chose to be straight and it becomes clear that you never made such a choice. Your sexual orientation is somehow decided by your genes and your environment, but you had as much choice about it as you did about the colour of your hair, or the accent in your voice.

    (ii) No-one can change their sexual orientation. Programs that attempted to convert gay people were incredibly destructive and psychologically marring, not to mention completely unsuccessful. People can live their lives in denial, but they cannot, and have never been able to, change their sexual orientation.

    (iii) Being gay is a normal variant. Modern psychiatry is very clear that there is no illness, no disease, no abnormality, and no disturbance in being gay. It is a perfectly normal variant of the human sexual experience.

    I would encourage anyone approaching the topic of what the Bible has to say about being gay to come armed with the knowledge that modern psychology has uncovered. God wants us to use our brains just as much as our hearts in the pursuit of truth, and we are doing Him a disservice if we ignore the scientific evidence that He has helped us to discover.

    • Jason,

      Thank you for the kind words. I am definitely pursuing truth, and it’s very humbling. It makes you admit you are wrong very often, and keep an open mind.

      I do have a few comments regarding your…comment, hehe.

      The speculations I made in my comment were not without base, and were definitely not based in a bigoted frame of mind either. There is something wrong with ALL of us, not just gay people, and that is why we ALL need Jesus. I’m speaking from personal experiences as well as testimonies from other people who have had terrible upbringings that helped to shape them into their future self. Thankfully, God is good and the story doesn’t end there. I’m also referencing much of the research I’ve done into Co-dependency and the HUGE ramifications it has on a person’s development. The term Co-dependency doesn’t just apply to alcoholics though, it has a much broader range of areas it affects.

      I am not doubting your credibility as a Medical Professional, but I would like to see those studies you have referenced. I have a hard time believing that A: someone would support a study that intentionally puts a child in distress in order to try to prove a point, and B: that those studies were unbiased in their research. I’m very involved in the Strength and Conditioning community and in a pursuit of health not only for myself but for others, and I will say this: Biased science does exist, not to uncover the truth, but to support a point of view or someone with a vested interest. I’m not saying that science cannot be trusted, but I think we have to be proactive and look deeper into the motives behind certain scientific developments so as to not be mislead. And if the goal of science is to uncover truth, then we must realize that our current knowledge can change with new understanding and developments. Seth Godin talks about this in the book “Linchpin,” regarding not getting attached to an ideal or way of thinking, because it will hamper your development as a person. In a Christian’s perspective, this would be the equivalent of putting God in a figurative “box.”

      I read a great book last year called “Love is a choice.” Written by 3 Doctors; Dr. Robert Hemfelt (Author), Dr. Frank Minirth (Author), Paul Meier M.D. (Author) it goes into how your upbringing and your environment, while they may seem “Normal” to you can actually cause damage and reoccurring trends to happen in your life, which you can then justify. I can hardly do the author’s justice by trying to summarize the book, but one of the main points they touched on was that if a child is continuously deprived of love and affection, they will try to “fix” that longing by looking for that love and affection somewhere else.

      I would highly recommend you check out this book. It changed my outlook on so many things, and helped me get to the root of many patterns I was seeing in my own life. http://www.amazon.com/Love-Choice-Definitive-Unhealthy-Relationships/dp/0785263756/ref=pd_sim_b_1 .

      I am not saying that there is a formula, that 1 + 1 = 2, as everyone is different, everyone has a different upbringing, and a different method of dealing with their development, but like you said, you are sure there is a psychological/developmental explanation for why people are gay or straight. How is it unreasonable to say that if a boy is neglected and never verbally or physically loved by their father that they will seek out that love from other men to fill the gap? Or if a girl has an abusive relationship with her mother that she will have trouble having close female relationships later in life? Or if a woman has an alcoholic father and vows to never marry someone like her dad, but she marries a man who is addicted as well, not to alcohol but to his job. That is human nature, to try to fill the gaping holes of lack in our lives with another substance, or person. As a Christian, I’m sure you are aware of this. That is one of the main reasons why my church really focuses on showing people the Father heart of God, and how he makes you whole and loves you like your earthly father never could. Again, I’m not saying Correlation = Causation, but I do see some trends that I can’t write off as mere coincidence.

      Dr. Drew Pinski, who I’m sure you’ve heard of is someone I very much admire is very aware of the affect abuse (physical, verbal, sexual) can have on someone’s development and how it causes them to act out later. And while I believe he is of the same belief as you regarding what causes someone to be gay or straight, he recognizes the damage that an improper development can have on a child, to the point that later on in life they become addicted to substances, or people, or situations.

      Now as for your last few points, you’re right, I never asked myself, “When did I decide I was straight?” I was raised in a home where I was much closer with my mother then father, and while my lack of emotional intimacy did not influence my sexual orientation, it did affect how I interacted with girls in the pursuit of a relationship. But again, this kind of reflection does not go through the head of a 8-9 year old, they just think that whatever kind of upbringing they have or had, that it was “normal.” Therein lies the danger. As far as sexual orientation being decided by your genes, that is a trend I’m seeing now in Modern medicine. If someone is overweight, well it’s genetic, if someone is an alcoholic, well it’s genetic, if someone gets type 2 diabetes, they claim it’s genetics (Which is a joke I won’t get into). Where is the personal responsibility? Even if a small portion of your genetic code is predisposed to be a certain way, does that mean that it decides your whole destiny? Or do YOU have the POWER to shape your future? That is what I’m trying to get at. Example: I was genetically predisposed to be skinny, but that didn’t stop me from gaining 50 lbs of muscle in about 5 years. That is what I mean’t by choice. Just because there are two paths available and one of them seems the more logical one does not mean it’s what’s best.

      Lastly, I would never advocate trying to “Change” someone. That is a decision they have to make for themselves, no amount of coercion can force someone to see that which they do not want to see. My goal is just to have people keep an open mind and help them on their journey of discovering themselves, while showing them the Love of God the father along the way. I hope that makes sense.

      Love you Jason!

      Paul,

  4. Hey jason,

    I was reading your response and at point ii I thought of an amazing preacher.
    I thought you would be interested in hearing his experience… His name is Sy Rogers ( syrogers.com ). I was honoured to be able to hear him speak, and this individual is incredible. It is because of him, I began to see where you are coming from.

    Phil

  5. Jason, a friend shared your post on our forum (FWIS). Thank you for your courage and honesty. I had a dear friend commit suicide in seminary because God wouldn’t “cure him” and he couldn’t face life alone. He had inspired me with his intellect and study of religion (I even dated him for a while so he could have a “cover” – perhaps it helped or perhaps I made it worse, but I couldn’t say no. ) While I have found another Path in my life, I tell his story to everyone when there’s another instance of homosexual persecution. The reality is most gay couples I know have been together longer than most married couples (that would be a great study). Again Thank you.

    Trish

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