Coming Out! – Who and What I am.
This is a post primarily for those who know me personally – however, I hope that parts of my personal story and my thoughts on it will help encourage, challenge and galvanise others out there.
A dear friend said to me this year, “You’re either in or you’re out” – so this is me; I’m a Christian, I’m an Empath, I’m a Friend and I’m Not Straight.
You might categorise me as Bisexual if you like – but it’s not a perfect label – especially as although I really like looking at very nice men (Thor, Hello!) I have no interest in being sexually or romantically involved with one. So maybe Queer is the better label – although I resist labelling of any type, because as soon as you name something or put someone in a box, you limit them.
It’s taken a long time for me to be able to say publicly who and what I am – coming out within church culture is quite different (I believe) to coming out in a non-church culture – certainly for me. Because it was the culture, the words spoken to me and over me for so many years that has kept me in a prison of pretending, of not being able to fully be myself.
The very short version of the story
As for my story, in a way it’s a simple one – I felt crap about myself for over 30 years and now I don’t. But of course, no story is really as simple as that now is it. I understood who and what I was from a very young age – I say this so that my friends and others who know me aren’t tempted to say that I’ve “decided to be gay”. I’ve heard this spoken about people so many times and it makes me sad, because it just reveals the ignorance people have about their friends and about the spectrum and fluidity of sexuality. It’s because those LGBT folk have tried so desperately to be “normal” (whatever the hell normal is anyway) for so long; tried so determindly not to be the “abomination” they’re told they are (fyi, the same scriptures label Eagles as abominations….); have longed so deeply for love and acceptance but like me reach a point where the lies and the hiding and the deception and the concept of never being able to be with a soul mate like everyone else just overwhelms them. I felt so crushed by the lies, so alone – despite having amazing family and friends, all I could see was the judgement of the few, those determined to “pray for me to be healed of my perversion”. For future reference, I need to be healed of my orientation as much as someone with blue eyes, red hair or left-handedness need to be healed – just NO people.
Being Bisexual, and therefore genuinely fancying men, made it easier to hide. But the facade I’ve been presenting to all but the closest of friends (and the ones who knew but didn’t say anything) over recent years has felt increasingly deceptive and wrong – and I have no doubt that hiding my true self, living with the shadow of condemnation and judgement has been a large contributory factor in my poor mental health. And so here I am, coming clean, free to be myself, free to follow my heart.
The sort of Theological bit
I’m no theologian, but I’m also neither ignorant of the scriptures nor a stranger to the Holy Spirit who guides us in their interpretation – and I’m also not prepared to leave my God given genius at the door on approaching scripture or theology. And as far as this particular Issue goes, my understanding of the scriptures, God’s nature and of people leads me to see no impediment from God to monogomous, loving, committed relationships, whether they be between those of opposite genders, same genders, multi genders, same races, different races, whether they be called partnerships or marriage. My belief is that God will not condemn anyone who loves – for if anything, He is love. I know the “arguments” for the opposing view – I’ve lived them, God help me I’ve used them – this is one of my shames; that in my confusion, desperation and determination to be more “Godly” and in order to “fix” myself, I have myself been a tool of unlove, of cruelty, of judgement. So yes, I’m very familiar with the “clobber” passages (If you don’t know what they are, just google that phrase), I’m also familiar with the stance based on Genesis (“male and female he created them”) and on Jesus’ words on marriage in Matthew. But I just ask that in discussion going forward, that those who hold to “view B” acknowledge, as I do regarding my own view, that it is an interpretation of scripture. To not present their view as fact, or to say that the scriptures are clear (because they’re really not clear on anything except the fact that God Loves us – everything else is packaging).
But for me, it’s not just the “clobber passages” that are at issue, or the model for “biblical marriage” (hint – there isn’t one!) because the “answer” isn’t confined merely to the pages of scripture. I’m coming to the realisation that I don’t hold to the doctrine of “Sola Scriptura” – the idea that the Bible is the last word on Theology and Doctrine; I don’t think I’ve ever held to it. For me, Jesus is the last word, and yes he is revealed in scripture, but not scripture alone. This is a slightly different debate, but sheds light on the two main factors behind my coming to terms with who I am and why I believe as I do.
Fruit & Feelings
The first factor for me is a negative one – one that sways me to the idea that “view B” (that Homosexuality is a sin) is not only the one that misunderstands scripture, but is opposed to the heart of the gospel. Because it’s the fruit you see – the outcome of the actions, talk and theology of the folks holding this view is one of destruction, pain, illness, exclusion, shame, guilt and death. (Appreciate the initial thoughts on this from Straight Ally James Prescott – here). If your theology produces such negative fruit, is it really that good a theology? I don’t want to use the phrase “culpable homicide” when it comes to the hundreds (thousands) of LGBT brothers and sisters who end their lives as a direct result of the negative words, implicit emotional, spiritual and mental abuse and the explicit condemning and violence – but it’s worth thinking about when it comes to how you speak to people, especially in the light of the fact that especially in Christian/church communities, LGBT folk tend to hide their identities – so when you’re vehemently denouncing homosexuality as demon possession (believe me, this is a thing that has happened to me!) you may actually be talking to an LGBT person, possibly one who is already under much duress and emotional strain. Let your words be always leavened by Grace and seasoned with salt.
The second factor was/is a positive one. (Yay!) A bit more background on me first. Although as mentioned above I resist labels, I’ve found that the Meyers-Briggs Personality typing is a useful way to understand myself and those around me. The Type descriptors are not foolproof and I’ve found as many exceptions to my own and my friends’ types as there are accuracies – still, when I first read the description of an INFJ (that’s me!) I was astounded at how close to me it was. As an INFJ I rely a great deal on feelings – and if you know anything about this Type (and me) you will know that there is a deep empathic element, with a highly attuned intuition. Basically I rely a great deal on gut instinct and intuition – and it’s rarely wrong. I say all this to highlight the strength of feeling I’m about to describe. Because when it comes to feelings about myself and my actions, I’m extremely familiar with how some feelings can be deceptive and how some feelings can come from outside of myself – the feelings of shame and disgust I’ve experienced as a result of the negative words and attitudes of Christians around me. (Tangent – imagine that, the one group of people who are supposed to be identifiable by how they Love one another being the one group of people guaranteed to exclude and to make folk feel like garbage about themselves. But that was Jesus’ risk in setting up the church – that He left in it the hands of flawed humanity. -ed update: since publishing this post I’ve had almost 100% positive and supportive feedback and felt nothing but love from my local church community. I’m humbled and privileged to be part of such an accepting bunch and I owe them a debt. So yes people, it can be done right – you definitely know that these are disciples of Jesus by the Love they show. ) There are also those feelings and intuitions that come from within – especially those that help me understand when I’m doing something sinful or wrong: In religious circles, this is what we call the conscience. There’s also an element of the Holy Spirit’s conviction (NEVER condemnation). Why am I talking about this? Because although I feel that familiar stab of guilt/conviction/self-loathing, that sense of wrongness whenever I’m cruel, unkind or rebellious; when I lie, cheat or betray; when I assert my own rights over my responsibilities.
But when I kissed the woman I loved, it felt like the most right thing I had ever done. There was no guilt or feeling of conviction – there was fear that this would change everything – but nothing, no intuition that kicked in, no instinctual warning to turn away from an “abomination”. Just a feeling of absolute love, of total rightness, of acceptance, comfort, pleasure and the sense of belonging to someone, of connecting to someone. This alone is enough for me to say God is most definitely for the inclusion of LGBT people and their partnerships/relationships/marriages in His Kingdom. There’s also the complete and utter peace I now feel at coming out, at being able to finally be myself, at not having to be careful about the things I say – I haven’t felt this happy in a very long time. Of course, this intuitive leap is enough for us INFJs, the rest of you may need something more of course. That something is to endeavour to listen to the stories of people like me.
The Final Furlong…
And so, here’s one of the problems. For so many it is a Theological Question, an intellectual issue to be argued and debated. And as long as we continue to treat it this way there won’t be a resolution. It’s only when we meet the flesh and blood people who are involved that we can begin to reshape the conversation – we need to hear their stories (that’s how empathy is born and grows), we need to get skin in the game. This is one of the main reasons why I’m going completely public. I could easily have kept this to my circle of intimate and immediate friends and still felt the benefit of being able to be myself. But it’s not only about me. I am not the only one. Certainly not in the wider church community and highly likely in my own church. And standing up in my locality, in my community and saying this is who I am, it’s part of telling the stories – it’s a way to get skin in the game. It’s a way to show those who still hide that they are not alone. And they are not freaks, they are not perversions or abominations – they are each children of God, precious and equally deserving of Love and life-long companionship. And I want to say to the Young People (and 20s, 30s, 40s….) in my church, in my community and in the wider community – there are probably people who will want to “come after” you. But they have to go through me first. If you are struggling with your sexuality and what the church is saying and how you’re being treated and what all this means for you – I have your back. And so do a lot of other people.
So, I’m going to draw to a close now. I’ve said most of what I want to say, but I accept that in many ways this is just the beginning of the conversation for our local church and part of the wider conversation in the church universal.
Thanks for reading, God Bless.