Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Christian Closet: Zack

Zack

Name: Zack

Age: 22
Gender: Male

Sexual orientation: Gay

Religious denomination: I was raised in a Nondenominational Evangelical Church and joined the Episcopal Church in college.

Education/career: I’m currently finishing a bachelor’s degree in biology and public health, and going back to school to get a nursing degree. My dream is to be a public health nurse and work for a government agency or NGO in an underserved area.

Favorite food: Chicken tikka masala

Favorite book: To Kill a Mockingbird

Favorite movie: The Prestige

Favorite color: Green

Hobbies/sports/interests: I love reading, spending time with friends and family, and I’ve recently started watercoloring.

Myers-Briggs type: ENFJ


It’s really hard for me to pinpoint the first time that I realized I was gay. I do remember being told at a very young age that people choose to be gay, so I didn’t have the framework to understand why I was so different from the other boys. Being gay was simply not an option. I thought that Christians were never gay, because it was as easy as choosing not to be that way.



I have always been very sensitive, artistic, and creative. I had no interest in sports. My best friends have always been girls. I related to them emotionally better than my male peers.

Looking back it seems pretty clear that I had crushes on boys in third grade. I know that it’s weird to think about a third grader having a sexual orientation, but it doesn’t have anything to do with sex. For some reason, I was just drawn to certain boys in my class and wanted to spend as much time with them as I possibly could.

"Christians can't be gay. They just have to choose to be straight. So was I choosing this? What was wrong with me?"

By eighth grade, I was definitely aware that I was attracted to men. This caused total cognitive dissonance. Christians can’t be gay. They just have to choose to be straight. So was I choosing this? What was wrong with me? Did I do something wrong? Was I wrong? I had to deal with a lot of guilt and shame because of my orientation. I had to suppress my feelings and do anything I could to make myself like girls. There were many years of denial before I was finally able to be honest with myself as a freshman in college.

Once I started to feel more comfortable with myself, I began coming out to close friends and eventually my immediate family. It’s really scary to come out to someone; there is always this fear that they are going to start treating you differently once they know. Will they judge me or think that I’m not a really a Christian? Will they distance themselves from me? It seems like the longer you know someone the harder it is to tell them the truth that you’ve been hiding.

During this process, I never doubted my devotion to God. My faith has always been very important to me. I don’t ever want to hear the Gospel without being completely and utterly transformed and renewed. The Gospel is a promise of resurrection. It’s about the restoration of things to the way they were meant to be. I long for the day when we can enjoy God and the fullness of His creation in perfect communion.

"Sometimes I feel like a spiritual outsider.... I am reminded that Jesus was a bit of an outsider too. I find a lot of comfort in that."

Sometimes I feel like a spiritual outsider. I wonder if most Christians are not willing to make space for me. But then I am reminded that Jesus was a bit of an outsider too. I find a lot of comfort in that. Jesus didn’t shame people or push them away. He went out of his way to draw in those who needed him the most. He treated the marginalized with grace and dignity and they were transformed. Not by following a list of rules, but by entering into relationship with a personal God who is overflowing with so much love that it causes the people around Him to overflow too. He literally loved us back to life.

I’m not going to completely sugarcoat things. I have been hurt by the church. Many people think that there are no LGBTQ people in their churches, but we are sitting in the pews next to you. When the pastor says something hurtful about “homosexuals," our hearts sink. We brace ourselves and try to make ourselves have tough skin.


"I am dehumanized and the entirety of my sexuality is reduced to nothing more than a sex act. It hurts when people like me are accused of being incapable of true love, or my sexuality is compared to lust, pedophilia and bestiality."

Please don’t get me wrong; I’m not offended by the fact that many of you hold a traditional Christian sexual ethic. I’m hurt because I’ve been told too many times that my sexual orientation is a result of the fall. I’m hurt because so often, I am dehumanized and the entirety of my sexuality is reduced to nothing more than a sex act. It hurts when people like me are accused of being incapable of true love, or my sexuality is compared to lust, pedophilia and bestiality. Many Christians believe that celibacy is the only way that I can honor God. That’s fine. Just remember that singleness means giving up so much more than just sex. It means that I will never fall in love. It means that I will never have my first kiss or hold my husband's hand. It means that I won’t start a family or have someone to grow old with. LGBT people want the same things that every straight person wants. We want to be known and cared for. We want to love and be loved. Homosexuality isn’t any more about sex than heterosexuality.

"Remember that singleness means giving up so much more than just sex.... LGBT people want the same things that every straight person wants. We want to be known and cared for. We want to love and be loved. Homosexuality isn’t any more about sex than heterosexuality."

Please understand that some gay Christians believe that God blesses and is honored by same sex marriages. They call for the full inclusion of LGBT individuals in the life of the Church. The people who hold this position don’t disregard Scripture. They don’t twist words to make it fit their desires. People who interpret the Bible differently want to honor God and they truly do love Jesus with all their hearts.

Despite disagreements in the Church, I’m extremely thankful for the Christians in my life who have loved me well. Some of them affirm same sex marriage, some of them don’t. That honestly doesn’t matter to me. I think the Church is big enough for a little bit of disagreement. I want us to love each other and be the Church despite our differences.

"I think the Church is big enough for a little bit of disagreement."

So as a gay Christian, what do I need from you? I need Christians who will love me even if we disagree and give me the grace to not always have all the answers. I need Christians in my life who will help me grow, who will listen. I need Christians who will walk with me through joyful times and difficult times, pointing me to Jesus every step of the way.

1 comment:

  1. I totally love your take on Jesus as an outsider—you're right, he was an outsider. And, funnily enough, he was heavily criticized by church people (and Jesus criticized the church people right back). In that way, I think we can be confident that there are some definite parallels between back then and now. Still, I'm sorry that you've been hurt by the church and it's common practice to dehumanize the LGBT+ community. You deserve to be loved as our fellow siblings in Christ, and I really hope the church moves forward in that direction at its, admittedly slow, pace.

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