The Killer Choice

I just spoke with a 20 year-old who is faced with what seems an impossible choice. He comes from a conservative Christian family. His father is a pastor, well known in the area where they are from. This young man chose to be a Christian years ago, but he also is gay. He tried for the past few years to “fix” his gayness, going to Christian counselors, reparative therapists, ex-gay programs. Three years ago he began to suffer from depression and is now undergoing medical treatment for it. He recently came to the conclusion that “change” is not possible. He has heard it from ex-gay leaders themselves, leaders who still struggle on a daily basis with their own desires, ex-gay men who secretly look at gay porn all the while seeking to maintain their heterosexual marriages and public ministries.

The young man has a choice to make. If he accepts the reality that he is gay, he will likely lose his family and his church friends. If he stuffs his orientation, it seems things will only grow worse for him, that he will stave off the inevitable only to come out later in life suffering from psychological, emotional, spiritual and developmental harm that can come from repressing one’s sexuality.

He has few gay role models in the world around him. He knows hardly anyone who is gay, and has only begun to branch out an connect with people. He has witnessed a gay party crowd that he has avoided and has heard from conservative anti-gay leaders that gay men have no morals in regards to families and faithfulness. He’s a thoughtful, intelligent, deep person who doesn’t want to party, but to be a person of integrity, a person of faith and in good health. He has begun his journey of self-discovery and of education about the world around him. With each step he comes closer to having to make a choice–one filled with risks no matter how he chooses.

What a dreadful choice to have to make. For those who wonder why it takes some of us so long to come out, consider this young man and the challenge of having to lose something no matter how he chooses.

Those of us who are transgender, bisexual, lesbian and gay, we offer our communities and our families a great gift. So often “the other” is someone on the outside–the foreigner, the person who practices a different religion, the man or woman living on the street, etc. But with queer folks, we pop up in the middle of our churches, communities and homes. Suddenly those around us face a test–How will you respond to “the other” in your midst? Too often people fail this test, react in fear and thoughtlessness and drive “the other” (who is also their own) far from them.

Others rise to the challenge. They read, research, think, consider, pray–no just in one direction, the one they have been programmed to go in, but they allow themselves to hear new voices, to take in new perspectives. They do not let fear rule them, but they trust that they will find the truth and not assume they already have it. As a result, their faith changes, their lives change, their outlook changes. They too may experience loss, friends who cannot abide them as long as they accept their queer child, sibling or friend. They may lose their standing in their community, acceptance by their peers, opportunities to serve in their faith communities. They may get treated as “the other,” a problem to be removed instead of a person to be understood.

I too am a Christian, and from what I understand of Jesus is that in his ministry, he did not concern himself with politics and instead demonstrated a deep and growing concern for people. He challenged the thinking of his day, of the religious leaders around him who had gotten stuck, who sought to keep everyone in the boxes these leaders constructed and insisted God wanted them to maintain. A few of these religious leaders opened themselves up to see beyond the rules and regulations and got to the heart of the matter. They received the gifts “the other” brought them and grew wise. The boundary lines demarcating their religion grew fuzzy, and their faith grew stronger.

I pray for this young man, and I pray for his family that they will be happy and close and loving and that they will see beyond what they have been taught and come to a place of understanding.

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This post has 13 Comments

  1. +Jn1034 on December 3, 2008 at 8:56 pm Reply

    This post is the harsh reminder of what so many unseen, unvoiced people live with each day. We know from our ministry that we live with a continuum of loss with each breath, be it family, friends, community, religion, career, education, housing, and so on. Often, for the religious, the closet of secrecy needs to be embraced and transformed into a sacred space of intimacy and empowerment, a place where one’s safety and integrity precedes coming out with allies and friends who make the journey joyous, not just a venture into a hostile universe. Thanks for providing a remarkable blog. Our prayers are uplifted for that young man.

  2. Vincent Cervantes on December 3, 2008 at 10:13 pm Reply

    There are so many young adults that are coming out of the ex-gay world now, which is definitely a blessing. It worries me though that there aren’t enough resources out their for young adults though. Many of them are turned off by huge “gay churches” like MCC and others.

    I’m definitely keeping him in my prayers, as someone that’s only a year older than him and has been on such a similar journey I can definitely empathize with him.

  3. Mark on December 3, 2008 at 11:34 pm Reply

    [He] has heard from conservative anti-gay leaders that gay men have no morals in regards to families and faithfulness.

    Such assertions are lies of course. There are families headed up by same-sex couples that are concerned about and practice “loving God, loving our neighbors, loving ourselves” and “do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with their God..”.

    I’d like to think mine is one of those.

  4. Yuki Choe on December 4, 2008 at 4:45 am Reply

    When I first attended my high school Christian fellowship, I did it out of the need of the sense of comfort that I am accepted as long as I conform (living for people). In church, I did my utmost best to deny who I am and believed people told me, that the “feeling” would go away (living for comfort). When I attended the church camp I was thrown promises that I am going to be a pastor, that I am going to be somebody, as long as I continue to “improve” myself as a boy (living for promises). After I was ex-communicated from my hometown church, I was taken in by my cell group leader who claims he disagrees with ex-communications, and hopes I still continue to guard myself from the “spirit of delusion” (living for hope).

    It was when I started to pray to God to accept myself, that I am good enough for Him and society, and just stop acting and just be my natural self that I started to grow (living for God with me). So this story speaks a lot to me. I lost a lot of course. But I gained more in return, especially finally getting to know who I am in God, instead of what people think they know I should be. That is the gift. To love who we are in God.

  5. Tim Morris on December 4, 2008 at 1:35 pm Reply

    The church has been the cause of my most enduring and longest lasting hurts and hurdles to get over.
    Nothing compared to what this kid faces but it’s stories like his that motivate my activism as an ally to equal acceptance for GLBT’s in the church and equal rights in this country.
    So many kids turn from the church only to pursue poor choices because they feel and are rejected by their faith community. Rejected because Christians are offended by science and empirical data that doesn’t fit into their narrow translation of scripture. They draw battle lines in Christ’s name and lose hearts and souls.

  6. p2son on December 4, 2008 at 2:13 pm Reply

    Thank you all for sharing such deep and moving comments from your own lives. Each one of you stands up in a public way to counter the ignorance and lies that enable church folks to oppress LGBT folks in their midst. Thank you for the fine work you are doing.

  7. Ben Whitehouse on December 4, 2008 at 5:46 pm Reply

    I prayed every day for many many years for God to “fix” me and it didn’t work. My family are evangelical christians and also heavily involved in their church.

    I came out at 18 after moving away to university. I put lots of distance between myself and my family. It’s one of the hardest binds I find myself in- deny part of who I am or deny my family.

    It’s not something I’ve been able to solve in many many years and I can’t offer any easy comforts. Wish I could. One of the things I’ve done is to build a really good support network around me of friends and “family” to help augment my genetic family relations.

    My family still, I think, don’t accept that I’m gay but see me as being like someone who belongs to another faith group. Different ideology, probably going to hell and needs to be told the Good News.

    It’s hard (I’m sure I’ve said that already) and the parents need to see it as gaining information to work with rather than as losing a son.

  8. P on December 5, 2008 at 1:59 am Reply

    Peterson -first of all it was a pleasure meeting you in person at the “ex-gay expose” event in Denver. You are one hell of a performer.

    Like yourself, I too feel sadness for the seemingly impossible place many like the kid you described find themselves in. Yet I take issue with your seemingly blanket statement about ex gay leaders, saying they are “ex-gay men who secretly look at gay porn” While I don’t doubt that some are tempted to (and lets be honest, Randy Thomas has probably never been tempted to look at http://www.bigboobs.com) to say that they all do isn’t very fair now, is it?

  9. Carol on December 5, 2008 at 2:01 am Reply

    I spoke this week with a pastor who has the challenge of presenting an affirming voice to his congregation. This congregation has historically been fundamentalist, but is now more “emerging church.” While labels like that are not helpful, it does describe where many of the attendees are coming from. I did all I could to share all the things that helped me to understand and learn (since that church was formerly mine) so I’m hopeful that there are changes coming. Not soon enough, but I can accept it as long as there’s movement in the right direction.

  10. p2son on December 5, 2008 at 4:34 am Reply

    P, GREAT seeing you in Denver!

    About my post above you misunderstood (or I didn’t write clearly) but I was not saying that ALL ex-gay leaders look at gay porn. This is just referring to the ex-gay leaders this young man met. In one case after connecting with a particular ex-gay leader and building trust, the leader confessed to his struggles with gay porn. I recognize that not all ex-gay leaders look at gay porn (and I truly doubt any of the man ex-gay leaders struggle with a big boobs site!)

    When the young man told me about the leader, it gave me a pang, not because an ex-gay leader is looking at porn, but because he shared it with a client, perhaps one of the few people in the world he felt safe with. I often think about ex-gay leaders and how some of them can be the most isolated people on the planet. They may struggle, but who can they tell? From former ex-gay leaders, I have heard that there was no where to turn when struggling without being punished. It’s a tough road to travel.

    Ben, thank you so much for visiting and sharing some of your story. I had not known all that about your family. Wow, amazing how you have come out and accepted yourself so fully.

    Carol, wow! Thank you for being such an active ally. Between you and Tim, I think you have the mid-West covered!

  11. Angelia Sparrow on December 7, 2008 at 5:18 am Reply

    The young man is in my thoughts and prayers. No matter which way he chooses, it will be hard and bitter.

    In the end, I walked away from Christianity. There is no place in it for an intelligent bisexual woman. Mother called me to Herself, through my daughters, and we walk a different path to the Divine now.

    May he be guided the way he needs to go and given the strength to walk it.

  12. Greg on December 15, 2008 at 12:56 pm Reply

    “God send me a good Christian man who loves Jesus!” lol. That’s what I prayed before I met my current partner.

    I remember only a few years ago, when I began to first come out to myself, that I struggled with what it actually meant to be gay. I did not “fit in” in the club/party gay scenes. I was also marginalized in the Baptist tradition in which I grew up, and was finally kicked out of a congregation once my sexual orientation became known (I was a youth minister there).

    Through a local PFLAG group (and a wonderful ally who became like a mother to me), I was able to connect with two open and affirming ministers – one UCC and the other Episcopalian – and they have become mentors and very close friends since. I have since become a member of a wonderful church join-affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists and the UCC. It is a great community where I feel at home as a gay man, but where being gay is not the primary issue (the church is probably about 50/50 gay/straight). I have a partner now of two years, who also joined the church a year after I did.

    So I said all that to say that the young man you mentioned is not alone in his struggles (as the other comments on this post attest to as well). There are gay men in committed relationships and who are people of deep faith. I consider myself one of them. I will certainly keep this young man in my prayers!

    Thanks for blogging, Peterson!

    Greg

  13. Robert Thomas on December 31, 2008 at 6:40 pm Reply

    It is a said situation. I will join you in my prayer for this young man, who has sadly far too much company in the Christian community.

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