I stumbled upon this post a while ago, and it’s an easy choice for this week’s weekly reader. Even though the weekly reader idea has been a little bit less than weekly I suppose. Bi-weekely reader? Occasional reader? Anyway, here’s something I found on the internet that you should read. The post itself is a guest post at Little Did She Know, a blog I don’t actually follow all that often.
In this post, Julie Rodgers shared her story. The one where she came to terms with the reality that she was not as ex-gay as she had said she was, rather publicly. At this point she had been so involved in Ex-gay ministry that people knew her. What people knew was that she had been attracted to women and that she or God was changing her orientation. Except that she knew that she still liked girls. And she said this:
Honesty with others wasn’t an option for me at the time. The potential for rejection was too great. I sat on the bench by myself in the day because the evening involved other people: it meant inviting them in to see me. I couldn’t be seen. I couldn’t risk being known. Looking over the valley to the snow-capped mountains in the distance, I would pray to God to keep my secret safe with Him. Years earlier my prayer had been that He would make me straight, but my prayer had shifted to “don’t let them find out”. That was, perhaps, the greatest tragedy of ex-gay ministry for me. It wasn’t the dashed hopes after my orientation didn’t change, but the isolation I entered into when I feared others would find out.
That is exactly where I am living. I am living smack dab in the middle of “don’t let them find out.” The blessing for me is that I never announced that I was gay to begin with. I never acted on that. Never came out of the closet. Oh, I there were parts of my life which were not above reproach as the feelings I worked so hard to suppress sought an outlet. However, no one knew I was gay, and so importantly, no one knew I was ex-gay.
For me, ex-gay meant an encounter with the saving grace of Jesus. It meant being enveloped in an expression of his love that was so all encompassing, so different from my previous day to day, that it overshadowed my gayness. He freed me from my addiction to lesbian porn. The freedom, the love. It was real, and it was great. And for a time I believed that he freed me from the gay too. It fit my theology – why would a loving God want anyone to be gay? And what I heard from “THE CHURCH” – gays are living in sinful rebellion. It made perfect sense.
Until I felt attracted to a woman again. Until I put the pieces together and realized I was still not attracted to any men. I’ve spent a long time waiting to be attracted to a man. Finally I came to an earth shattering realization. Straight girls are attracted to lots of men not just “The One”. I figured I hadn’t really felt attraction to a guy because I’d not found the one. Silly me. Straight girls deal with attraction to all sorts of guys. They have feelings for guys they don’t pursue at all. Huh.
So here I sit. My sexual orientation is that I am primarily attracted to girls, and I don’t think God has changed that. And I’m not sure that I’m interested in spending time hoping and believing that He will.
That paragraph right there is the most isolating idea in the world for me. If my world knew that, it would be over. I’m thankful that I’m not in the position that Julie was in in that moment. I’m thankful that I don’t have to choose between continuing to tell a story that is no longer true or going public with a truth that would bring me incredible rejection. I get to remain in silence. To be silent is not to lie, not quite. It means awkward set-ups with so and so’s single guy friend. It means smiling along when someone encourages me that the right guy is out there for me somewhere. But it means people won’t attack me with scriptures and criticize my faith. So it works.
Julie’s post goes on. She shares the first time she told her story to someone. The truth. The I’m not really ex-gay truth.
Tears ran down my face and I crushed the empty can in my hand. Eventually I put my head in my hands, leaned forward on the bench, and sobbed. Nathan put his arm around me and pulled my head to his chest, and we sat like that for several minutes while I cried my doubts, confusion, anger, and frustration. I cried frustration with the process, with Christians, with myself, with God. When I finally pulled it together, I unloaded on him: when I realized I was gay, when I fell in love, when I had my heart broken, when I found hope in ex-gay ministry, when I spoke about the change I hoped for as if I was already experiencing it. Then I cried some more and we talked for several hours.
Julie, I’m sitting right there on that bench. I understand those very tears. I guess the real question is who else is sitting on that bench? Are you sitting with them? Is anyone? Who is sitting with me? It’s not easy to sit there. For the conservative Christians I know, it’s world rocking. A gay Christian, even a celibate one, is going to challenge so much of what you have simply accepted over the years. A gay Christian is going to force you to re-evaluate the idea that being gay is something that Christians can and should overcome.
That’s no small thing. For a conservative Christian who has never experienced same sex attraction, it’s going to mean jumping into a mess you’ve never really had to consider before. That takes a lot of time. A much deeper investment in the friendship than perhaps you anticipated.
I’m evaluating my friendships, wondering who I can even ask to sit on that bench with me. I’m looking for two things. One, that someone is willing to invest that deeply into our friendship. To hear me out as I wrestle with these deep, heavy things, and not bail due to the weight of the burden. Second, someone who is going to be willing to put the time into considering complex ideas of sexuality. Someone who isn’t going to give me the answer they heard at church and consider their involvement in the subject closed. Those are hard things. Not everyone in my life is called to sit on that bench.