This post is going to be started by promising, once again, that I will definitely get to answering any of the questions that people have sent me, because I really want to. However, I think that before I do that, it would be beneficial to everyone reading if I told my story of how I came to this place, because it definitely has not been easy. I want to make that abundantly clear. But I also think that it will add another layer of understanding of where I’m coming from and why I decided to start writing about this.
My story starts pretty uneventfully, in my opinion. I’m from and have grown up in Minnesota in a Christian family my entire life. I didn’t have a bad relationship with my parents or my siblings. We went to church and youth group almost every week, and I distinctly remember going to VBS as well several summers. I also went to a small Christian school all the way through elementary and middle school and for half of high school before I left. It was all very typical. Nothing was really out of the ordinary, and I didn’t really think that anything was either.
So, of course (as well as being the oldest of my siblings), I was determined to be the good Christian kid. I readily took in everything that the church and my ultra conservative school said as fact, never questioning any of it. My stances were always automatically determined by whatever my school and church taught: on relationships, on divorce, on drinking, on gay marriage, on everything, and I thought that you couldn’t possibly believe anything different and still be a Christian. Oh, middle school and early high school self…
Naturally there were things that were taught at my school, specifically, that I didn’t agree with, but they were just the typical middle school/high school gripes. Yes, I thought it was stupid that you couldn’t wear anything that didn’t cover your knees. Yeah, I thought it was dumb that you couldn’t have hair dyed an “unnatural” color at school. Yeah, I thought it was ridiculous that only “side hugs” were allowed at school. But I always told myself that ”when it mattered,” of course I would side with what my school and church taught. They had to know best, didn’t they?
In fact, I’m embarrassed to say that I can perfectly recall a time that I used the very kind of language regarding LGBT people that I cringe at today. I probably 13 or 14 years old at the time, and I was at a Dairy Queen near my school with a few of my friends. Being the good, conservative Christian kids that we were, our conversation took a random theological/political turn and we started talking about LGBT people. At some point in that conversation, the words “well, the Bible clearly says that homosexuality is wrong,” came out of my mouth. How naive 13 or 14 year old self was, and little did he know that several years later I would have completely different opinions.
How could I have possibly expected that I would end up being one of those people wrestling with what it means to be both gay and a Christian in just a year or two? After all, in the small Christian school bubble, heteronormativity was king. There was always the drama going around of whether or not a certain boy liked a certain girl or vice versa, and I don’t really think it ever even crossed our minds that any of us might be attracted to the same gender (but then again, to my knowledge, I’m the only gay person that ever went to that school).
And in retrospect, I realize that I didn’t even have a full grasp on what the difference between a romantic relationship and what a real friendship looked like (post on this to come). Or at the very least, I didn’t know what the difference between those two things felt like. Disclaimer right here: the vast majority, like 90%, of my friends are and always have been girls. I can’t really explain to you why, though the gay best friend stereotype comes to mind, but I’ve just always been able to get along better with girls that with other guys. That just added another level of confusion to my middle school/high school life. I always knew that I was a little bit different, because I wasn’t into the same kinds of things that the other guys were, but at the same time, I didn’t really know exactly why that was. While the guys in our group of friends would talk about which girls they thought were hot, I tended to play off the fact that I didn’t really understand what exactly they were seeing, because in reality those were the things that I was noticing about other guys, though I didn’t realize that was an anomaly yet. I didn’t realize that the way that they were talking about girls was the way I felt when I was stealing glances at the other guys with their shirts off when we were all changing for basketball or soccer. But I thought that was all normal. The thought that I might be gay never occurred to me.
During my freshman year of high school, I did what I think a lot of closeted gay Christians in conservative circles did: I dated a girl. It lasted for four months, and it took me another year or so after we broke up to realize why it didn’t work and how it wasn’t really either of our faults.
This girl and I were (and still are) pretty good friends. We were in the same smaller circle of friends and had known each other for about three years before we were officially a thing (my school’s word of choice for when people were in a relationship, oh Christian high school). It seemed textbook for a good Christian high school relationship. Apparently, several of our friends had been pulling for it to happen for a while, and our parents were fully on board with the whole thing. It was all so ideal.
But then the unthinkable happened (seriously). After a month or two, I started to get squeamish with the long hugs and hand holding (SO, Christian high school). I mean, I’ve always been a little more prudish than a lot of people I know, but at the same time this wasn’t supposed to be making me uncomfortable. I was supposed to be enjoying it, or at the very least not minding it. But no, so I started pulling back and basically just let the relationship fizzle out, not the best way to end things by any means (go super mature 15-year-old self!). It was sort of rough right at the very end, and I definitely regret the way it ended, but I couldn’t even give myself a good reason for why I wanted to end it at the time. We ended up making up a few months later, and we still talk and are on good terms today, but again, the thought that I might be gay never occurred to me. I thought that it didn’t work out just because I’d rather have been friends with this girl, not that, in reality, I wasn’t really attracted to her at all.
It wasn’t until almost a year later that the truth smacked me in the face. Like a true stereotypical closeted gay Christian, I literally had to be told that I was gay, in a matter of speaking, otherwise I never would have put two and two together. After all, I had seen the super flamboyant gay guys on TV and subconsciously ruled that out as an option, because I wasn’t like that. Little did 15-year-old self know that there was a lot more to being gay than simply whatever stereotypes the media chooses to portray.
But anyway, I realized that I was gay (or rather, same-sex attracted, the term my church used, post about why I don’t like that label here) in church while one of my friends was giving his testimony in front of the youth group about how he had been battling with same-sex attraction. Almost everything about his story reflected things that I had felt or experienced in my time at my tiny Christian school. All of the things that I thought were normal and all of the things that made me different from the other guys in a way I couldn’t explain were being repeated back to me in his story. It was both shocking and comforting at the same time, shocking because at the time I couldn’t even think of using the word ‘gay’ to describe myself and comforting because so much of my life finally made sense to me.
The only thing now was how I was supposed to deal with that revelation? Wasn’t I a Christian? How was I supposed to reconcile those things? Had I been sinning all those years without realizing it? The struggle to find answers had only just begun.