My Day of Silence 2009 Post, A Year and A Month Late

May 12, 2010

Last year I was determined to write something for the DoS, about my own bullying experiences and my frustrations with common Christian attitudes on the subject.  But I had to quit working on it, because it was messing me up, as I mention below.  Mr. DM persuaded me that I had to forget about it for the time being while he worked hard to comfort me and reassure me of my worth and preciousness to him while I was drowning in memories of worthlessness.  I wonder how many hetero-married women get roses from their husbands on that day!

So what you see here was 95% written then, as were the other bullying related posts which should follow this one shortly.  I figure I might as well put them up now.  They’re melodramatic and sloppy to the point of incoherence, but I just want to get them out of my system, so I can move on to blogging other things.  (All the better that I put them up now, before anybody starts reading again!)  So…feel free to ignore!


I’ve been reluctant to say much about the Day of Silence and bullying and gay youth issues.  I mean, I’m fourteen years out of high school.  I’m not close to any middle/high school age kids–my social circle is pretty sparse when it comes to the over-4-and-under-25 crowd. So I don’t know what it’s like today.  I hear from conservative Christian media that things have been completely upended, that gays rule the roost now while Christian students are intimidated and muzzled by teacher and fellow pupil alike, that the Day of Silence really isn’t about addressing anti-gay bullying, which apparently no longer happens, but rather about persecuting Bible-believing Christian kids.  I admit I’m a little skeptical.  I know attitudes towards homosexuality have shifted enormously, but I also remember that conservatives were complaining about the gay takeover of the schools back when I was getting my eleven-year-old ass kicked for being such a dyke.

So, with the frank disclaimer that this may have nothing to do with the lives of young people today, I’d like to talk about my experience, and follow that with some other posts offering related thoughts about conservative Christian reactions to the Day of Silence, including the Day of Truth.  Which, for those who don’t know, is a day (held around the DoS) where Christian students are encouraged to “respond” by  letting people know that Change Is Possible.  [2010 update:  Wow. Exodus, having taken over the Day of Truth  from the Alliance Defense Fund, has apparently removed the change stuff from the message, or at least toned it down!]

Also, I think my experience was pretty  average.  I know lots of people who have been through much worse.  So I’m not trying to say I’m special or throw myself a pity party.  I just want to give some background about where I’m coming from before I start tearing apart the sorts of things that Christians say on the subject.  If I seem unusually angry or irrational on certain points, there are reasons.

I know I’ve said before I don’t want to talk about the bullying because I can’t do it without shaking.  But I found that if I keep on pressing through, the shaking eventually passes.  Sure, it’s replaced by severe headaches, insomnia, panic attacks, and out-of-nowhere fleeting suicidal ideation.  But hey, my hands are steady enough to type!

So here we go…

I first learned words like “gay,” “lez,” “bi,” and “fag” in elementary school.  They were insults, but not especially serious ones, and they had an air of ridiculousness and fantastical unreality about them, like dragons or unicorns.  We knew what the words meant, but the possibility that boys could love other boys and girls could love other girls was beyond our comprehension.  I don’t think hardly any of us knew any out gay people.  There was a boy in my class who got called “fag” a lot; he was *really* annoying, lisped, sucked at sports, and had an obnoxiously protective mother.  (Like, if he pushed you or pulled your hair, and you shoved him back, he would take this dramatic spill in the dirt and start bawling, and he would run and tell her and she would be all over you!)  But I don’t think any of us seriously thought he liked boys.

I was a tomboy during those years, but nobody seemed to think this was a problem.  Nobody seemed to think it was gay.  I had plenty of male and female friends, and was on seemingly good terms with pretty much everyone.  I did get called a “lesbo” once, but it was a friendly tease from an older girl, made just because I absentmindedly held a friend’s hand for too long.  We all laughed about it together, though I suppose I did drop the other girl’s hand pretty darn quick.

But in sixth grade the world pretty much caved in on me, as it does on a lot of kids gay or not.  I went from reasonably well-liked to despised in a couple of weeks, betrayed wholesale by my friends as they realized that in the tough social environment of middle school, they could not be seen with anything other than contempt for me.  I wasn’t just excluded and ignored, I was actively harassed and bullied on a constant basis.  And the worst of the bullying centered on the fact that I was perceived to be gay.

It hurt so badly in part because I was at that time secretly coming to terms with my sexual orientation, which was indeed unmistakably homosexual, struggling with shame, fear, and confusion in the anti-gay (though not very religious) world I found myself in.  My peers’ homophobic remarks made me feel found out and exposed, as if I had “sick pervert” written in neon lights on my forehead.  I don’t know how anti-gay bullying feels to a straight kid, but to a gay kid who hasn’t come out yet, it’s kinda like living the nightmare where you show up to class in nothing but your underwear, only worse, and endlessly repeating.

I wasn’t out in the sense that I hadn’t made any declarations.  But I never bothered to deny the accusations either, partly because they were true, partly because I was butch enough (in a skinny-drowned-rat-with-a-swagger sort of way) that no one would have believed my denials, and partly because I turned beet red and stammered every time a pretty girl spoke to me.  (It was all I could do to avoid getting caught staring at her chest if she had any.)  Sometimes I would play chicken with self-disclosure, dropping hints, *almost* telling.  So, for example, in 8th grade I told a classmate who asked what I was going to be when I grew up that I was going to work for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. (Yeah, I know, Nostradamus I ain’t!) In the middle school peak bullying years, I never bothered any girls or did anything intentional to make anyone uncomfortable.  (I did go through a little bit of a leering-and-harassing phase later in high school, after I came out.)  But it didn’t really matter what I did or didn’t say or do, because it seemed that everyone around me had decided I was a big homo.

So, what did my bullying experience entail?  I heard every insult about homosexuality that you could imagine, and many more that you probably couldn’t (adolescent and teenage boys have exceptionally colorful imaginations and vocabularies regarding these things), often accompanied by barrages of punches and kicks.  Thankfully, the effects of those never went beyond moderate bruises.  I was spit on.  I was sexually harassed (sometimes with certain male anatomical regions pressed up against me or shoved in my face) with remarks about what I really needed, along with charming sweet nothings excerpted from the lyrics of 2 Live Crew.  And I was threatened with everything under the sun, including death.  In retrospect it seems ridiculous, but at the time I took the threats seriously and lived in terror.  I was shocked by the intensity of the hatred I encountered.

At home, when I wanted to get some fresh air or walk the dog, I had to do so in the back yard, hidden behind the house, because otherwise the neighborhood kids would invariably line up along the curb to taunt and threaten me from the street, sometimes even in front of my family.  (My family, as I’ll describe below, tended to respond with embarrassment and shame.)  I loathed and feared time without adult supervision.  The bus ride to and from school, lunch, recess, the time between classes, all were a pit of endless torment.

My misery came more from the universality and constancy of the bullying rather than the intensity of any one particular episode.  I don’t have the horrific stories some have of nearly getting killed, or getting seriously injured or raped.  But day in, day out, many times a day, every day without fail, I was reminded both verbally and physically that I was disgusting, worthless, and queer, and it really got to me.

I tried to escape when I could.  I joined the art club (even though I don’t have an aesthetic bone in my body!) so that at least one day a week I wouldn’t have to take the bus home.  I set up chairs for band practice during recess time so I wouldn’t have to go out with the other kids.  I stayed inside whenever I could.  When I had to be in public, I tried to make myself disappear, become invisible.  I would hide behind the rest of my family when we went out together.  I would run from the front door to the car when we left the house, and did the reverse when we came home. I begged to stay home from school at every possible opportunity (in my defense, I did feel genuinely ill all the time thanks to the bullying) and had my wish granted often enough that my report cards were full of complaints about my absenteeism.

But only so much physical escape was possible, so I had to complement it with mental escape.  And while I’m embarrassed to be so dramatic, there’s only one way to put it:  I died inside.  Often days would go by without my ever opening my mouth to speak–I spoke so rarely that my voice felt rusty with disuse when I did.  I stopped playing even solitary games.  When I got home from school most days I would sit on the floor of my room and just stare into space, opening and closing my fists, hating myself, hating everybody, hating everything, and trying to numb out to get away from all that hatred.  And I would do that for hours and hours on end, coming out only when summoned to eat dinner or do chores.

It didn’t last forever.  Most of it stopped after three years, though there were occasional reminders throughout high school to keep me in my place, and sort of a grand finale one night at the end of my senior year, when a bunch of neighborhood guys–I’d guess about a dozen–drunk with end-of-school-year revelry came to my house, gathered underneath my bedroom window, and kept me and my family awake and trembling for what seemed like hours with a rousing chorus of taunts.  It felt almost like a lynch mob.

But by then it didn’t hurt so bad, in part because I had made some friends again and had found the strength to really come out.

Well, maybe that’s not quite right.  I liked (and still like) to picture myself as having emerged unscathed from that adolescent-and-early-teenage hell, but I probably just got a lot “better” at transmuting pain and sorrow into a slow-simmering anger.  I remember when I was 18, in the middle of an argument over who was going to use the phone, my sister called me a “f***ing bulldyke.” I beat the living daylights out of her as I yelled “There’s a lot of people I have to take that from, but I sure as f*** don’t have to take it from you!”  Which suggests I was still carrying a bit of baggage from my victim days.

I feel silly writing about this, that I’m making a big deal out of something that wasn’t, that everybody has it rough at that age, that plenty of kids, gay or not, have it a whole lot worse.  But all I can say is that the experience devastated me, however weak or oversensitive that makes me.

I think part of what made the antigay bullying so awful was the way it dovetailed with my family’s and my teachers’ attitudes.

My teachers never actively joined in on the harassment or endorsed my peers’ actions, but they made tons of gay jokes and cutting remarks about homosexuality and gay people.  The cool teachers entertained the class with their faggot impressions–homosexuality was hilarious to most adolescents, and teachers would exploit this to try to get on the kids’ good side.  They also had a field day making fun of an openly gay teacher (lesbian, girls’ P.E., surprise surprise) in the school.  In health class, when homosexuality got its sliver of curriculum time, the teachers would simply let the class have a free for all discussion, with no instruction or direction whatsoever.  I think they were afraid of getting in trouble with parents if they said anything one way or the other  But this just meant that the ignorant bigots in the class (and I don’t use those terms lightly or loosely) carried the day while I slunk deeper and deeper into my seat, wishing I could melt into the floor, while the teacher just sat there with his tranquilly neutral smile.  In high school a friend reported that one of my favorite teachers (in an unrelated subject) lectured one of her classes (not mine) on the abominableness of homosexuality.  When I tried to talk to another favorite teacher, she just laughed and told me I was just confused, that I wasn’t really “one of those people.”  (I suppose she’s having the last laugh now, but let’s set that aside.)

My parents’ feelings about homosexuality were emphatically negative.  I didn’t start coming out to them until high school, but my mom would scold me years before that for dressing and acting “like a dyke,” and for shaming her by being mistaken for a boy.  She would drag me out on makeover expeditions to the mall and complain about me to the salespeople.  Around the same time, when she gave my sister and me the “monthly-visitor”/facts-of-life talk, she warned us about lesbians, who apparently were fat, hairy, and ugly monsters who would touch and hurt innocent girls, so we should watch out for them and make sure to tell her if one of them came anywhere near us.  My dad said very little on the subject, but what little he said showed disgust.  My younger sister, bitter about the embarrassing disaster of a big sis she had been saddled with, taunted me homophobically and derided me for my failure to be a real girl.  Later on, after I had come out at school, my sister complained to my parents about the comments about me she was having to deal with in school, and my parents responded by reprimanding me for my insensitivity and thoughtlessness in refusing to hide in shame.  How could I do this to THEM?  What were THEY supposed to say to people they ran into in the grocery store?  How were THEY going to survive? My mom didn’t even want my grandparents to come to my high school graduation, despite the fact that I was giving a big speech and winning a whole slew of awards, because she thought that there would be homophobic heckling from my classmates, and she didn’t want them to suffer that humiliation.

(To be fair, my parents almost certainly did not appreciate the magnitude and nature of what was going on.   My early efforts to talk to them about my troubles at school and my sexuality seemed to make things worse and not better, so after that I tried to keep them out of the loop as much as possible.  If I had tried harder to talk to them more, maybe they would have understood better.  They can’t be blamed for that.  But I’m not trying to talk about blame here, only about what it felt like to be me back then.)

What I’m trying to get at is when it came to the anti-gay bullying, there was no refuge.  Everyone I knew seemed to loathe gays.  Not even my family was willing to be on my side!  So I couldn’t rationalize my peers’ hatred away by saying, “Well, they’re just immature, stupid, sexually frustrated, insecure boys overwhelmed by a rising tide of testosterone.”  The world agreed with them.  Most days it all ran together–the bruises from my peers, my mom’s snarky laments about my looks, the angry preacher on the TV ranting about “lezzzzbians and homoSEKshuls,” the gay jokes from a teacher, whatever the news and the polls said about the American people’s persisting disapproval of homosexuality.  Older, wiser, and with a bit of distance, I can sort out cruelty, ignorance, disgust, fear, awkwardness, and honest conviction into neatly distinct little piles.  But at the time it pretty much all felt like hate.  It felt like drowning in a sea of hate.

There was no one I could helpfully talk to.  It would have been nice to have someone affirm that I did not deserve to be treated the way I was being treated, that it was not my fault.

If there had been a Day of Silence, it would have blessed me immensely.  Just to know that someone cared.  That someone thought that what was happening to me was wrong.  And you know, it would have been especially wonderful to know that someone cared about anti-gay bullying in particular.  Because frankly, so often I was made to feel as though my sexuality made me an exception to the human race, that I didn’t really count as a person.  (Kind of like the fine-print exclusions on the back of a “30% Off Everything* In The Store!” coupon)  So I’m not sure that a generic statement of opposition to bullying or a generic affirmation of the Golden Rule would have made much impact.


WIFGI 4.2: Why Hating the Church Was a Bad Thing

May 30, 2007

(continued from 4.1

(Quick note:  I’m mostly concerned with only one facet of the church in this post–the church as our spiritual family, as the local fellowship of believers who we shouldn’t forsake meeting with, the Hebrews 10:25 sort of thing.  I’m dwelling on the affection/camaraderie/fellowship aspect of the church here because that’s what I had trouble with.  I wasn’t turned off by the sacraments, or by the Word preached, or by the other aspects of corporate worship offered to God–I was turned off by the people, by my brothers and sisters.  Similarly, I’m dwelling on the local (i.e., late 20th and early 21st century American evangelical) aspect of my church experience because that’s what I had trouble with.  I didn’t have issues with the church in all the richness of her global, historical, and cultural diversity–I had issues with the people sitting on my right and on my left .    All that’s just to say, yes I know the church is bigger than the ragtag bunch of evangelicals who happened to be in my immediate vicinity, and yes I know that church is about more than just family and fellowship.  I’m just talking about what’s relevant here.)

I’m not sure when exactly I realized that the situation I describe in the previous post was a problem that was going to have to be dealt with.  I mean, I knew from the beginning that I was supposed to see Christians as my spiritual family and love them as such, and while I still could and should be friends with gay non-Christians, that I was supposed to be somehow different now, not quite as much one of them as I used to be, a little bit alienated even.  But that was just a bullet point in a long list of dogmas that I theoretically accepted but had no idea how to make real in my life.   Gradually, some little annoying problems in my Christian life grew bigger and bigger, until I was pushed to confront them.

1.  Alienation from and hatred of the church left me vulnerable to attacks on my faith.

My alienation from the church and my dislike of straight believers was a vulnerability that Satan (and my sinful heart, for that matter) exploited time and time again.  I heard lots of little whispers in my soul asking what I was doing with those stupid Christians and their Christ anyway.   “Look how shallow they are!  Look how naive and innocent they are, so out of touch with the real world!   That one actually believes the universe is less than ten thousand years old!  Look how lame they are, all the things they don’t do, all the words they can’t use, all the movies they won’t watch!  Some of them don’t even kiss their boyfriends/girlfriends!  Look at what passes for music and art in their sight!  You don’t belong with these people.  This certainly isn’t the God or the religion for you–could these pathetic people have any handle on divine truth?”

Satan never got me to flat-out doubt my faith this way, but he sure got me to waver.  He got me to lose my fire and passion for God. He got me to grow lax in my spiritual disciplines, which gave him countless more opportunities to assault and weaken me.  He got me to skip Sunday services and Bible studies and fellowship gatherings.  If he can’t make you doubt, he will settle for making you ashamed, and I found that being ashamed of my brothers and sisters quickly spilled over into being ashamed of my Father and His Son, the firstborn among many brethren. 

I just couldn’t separate Jesus from His Christians so neatly, loving Him and loathing them.   After all, He is the one who is supposedly working in their lives, so whatever I think about them and their lives reflects in some way on Him. The church is what the Holy Spirit has to show for Himself.  Worst of all, Christ has fixed his love on these fools and delights in them, and is commanding me to do the same!  If my heart is to be conformed to His, then I must love what He loves.  So hating the imperfect church and loving the perfect Jesus, while so very appealing at first glance, was not a tenable long-term policy.  Either the hatred of the one breeds a hatred for the other, or the love of the one breeds a love for the other. 

By love of the church, I don’t mean that I ought to pretend she’s better than she is, to ignore her faults and go on vapidly cheerleading no matter what.  But I mean that I ought to look at her sin maybe a little bit like how God looks at my sin–with compassion rather than disgust, with sorrow rather than schadenfreude, with a desire to see repentance and redemption rather than final judgment.  I serve a God who does not delight in the death of the wicked.  And most importantly (and here the analogy to how God looks at my sin goes right out the window), I must look at her sin as my sin.  There is no major sin in the straight church that doesn’t have a home in my own heart.  (And yes, the reverse is true as well–but the refusal of the straight church to realize that and come to terms with it doesn’t relieve me from my obligation to stand with her in humility.) 

2.  I needed TO love in order to obey God and in order to grow.

The exgay literature told me that I needed the love of Christians, that I needed to be loved by them.  I never found that very motivating.    Let’s face it, the church wasn’t overtly gushing with love for me, so if I urgently needed love right then, the most efficient way to get it wouldn’t have involved her.   I’d be better off getting my love elsewhere, or just sucking it up and doing without.  The church at least initially was far more likely to provide me with relational frustration and disappointment than anything else!

What worried me more was realizing that I needed Christians in order to love THEM.  You can see this even in the quote from my residential program application at the beginning of the last post.  The Bible’s clear message that we ought to love and serve and bless our fellow believers was starting to weigh on me and keep me up at night.   Jesus’ statement about who His brother and sister and mother are.  Paul on doing good especially to those who are of the household of the faith.  1 John’s constant emphasis on the importance of loving our brothers.  The very metaphor of family and household itself stresses the importance of this relationship.     The Bible of course doesn’t suggest that we should love only believers…but it does give them a huge place of priority.    “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Of no other behavior or action does Jesus say this, to my knowledge.  He doesn’t say “People will know you are Mine by how you care for the poor, or by how boldly you proclaim the gospel, or by how chastely you control your sexuality.”  He says that the sign of His disciple is his love for the other disciples.   (I can’t remember who brought this to my attention first, but I suspect they got it from Francis Schaeffer.) What good was it doing me to fret over my struggle for sexual obedience if I was going to blatantly ignore the love of my fellow believer that mattered so much to Christ? 

Not only that, but I also needed the church to help me fulfill the general command to love those outside the church, to love my neighbor (as opposed to my brother) as myself.  I believe God intends for us to minister to the world corporately, not primarily as lone-ranging do-gooders.  Mt. 25:35-36 is completely overwhelming and discouraging if it’s your personal, individual to-do list, as is Mt. 28:19-20.  But to get involved with the church in doing those things, while they’re still a lot of hard work, can be somehow encouraging and even energizing.  You’re a part of the Body of Christ, alive and active, advancing the Kingdom–not a severed pinky toe flopping around trying to make the world a better place.

One of the staff in the residential program would always say to me “A step of obedience, a step of healing.”  She meant that the two were the same thing, that it was a mistake to split them as we often do.  We think (or at least I thought):  “I need to get healed and grow in the faith so I can then go obey and serve and glorify God.”  But really, it’s through obeying that I grow.  And this was no less true in this matter of loving the church and serving with her than in anything else. 

Working with the church (and I include para-church ministies here), either by ministering to those within or serving those without, did two awesome things for me.  First, it forced me to stand in identification with the church.  Doing service or “outreach” in partnership with the church to those outside, when people saw me they saw me as the church.  At first, on the inside I felt like I didn’t belong, that I was nothing like the other Christians I was working alongside, that I would stick out like a sore thumb, an obvious impostor, but in my experience the unbelievers never noticed the difference!  However I felt about myself, they identified me as one of the Christians, as one of the church people.  Not only that, but when I got involved in ministry to other believers, they also saw me as the church blessing them.  And how others saw me powerfully influenced how I saw myself.  Furthermore, serving with the church crippled my ability to indulge myself in my old ultra-alienated stance.  She was my church now, not just a group I peripherally hung out with or a building I sat in.  With work came a sense of responsibility, and with a sense of responsibility came identification. 

Second, it forced me into a daily realization of my emptiness and need for Christ.  Nothing pressed me to seek more holiness and more of God than the sense of inadequacy that washed over me when I tried to serve others as a part of the Body of Christ.  The realization that these people, whether they were neighbor or sibling, needed me to show Christ to them, to channel the love of God to them in some way, smacked me upside the head with the awareness of how feebly I reflected Christ, how little of the love God had showered upon me got passed on to anyone else.  (Uh, this is all still an ongoing thing for me, FYI.)  If you want to be spurred to grow in the faith, just try serving others with what little faith you have!  And the natural, God-ordained place to do this is in/with the church. 

3.  I needed allies who shared my faith and convictions.

For me The Fellowship of the Ring breathed new life into the word “fellowship.”  It’s not about coffee hour and chit-chat after the service.  It’s about comrades on a dangerous and difficult shared quest.  If I wanted to take the quest seriously, I had to take my comrades and my need for them seriously as well.  

I have always had close non-Christian friends.  Truly awesome people, in whom God’s common grace shines brilliantly.   Friends of whom I most definitely have not been worthy.  I get pissed off when lifelong Christians who have always been cozily ensconced in the church declare that unbelievers are basically crappy people not worth getting to know. (Until you’ve saved them, of course!)  This is just ridiculous.  I don’t want to deny the power of the Holy Spirit and the work of God’s special grace in the lives of believers, but at the same time I refuse to deny the love and the goodness in the unbelievers I have known.  If you like having me around, sure you can thank Jesus, but you’d also better thank my heathen friends for saving my sorry ass on more occasions than I care to count. 

And unbelieving friends are a special blessing on this path because they can give you a sort of “reality” check.   So, for example, when I started dating Mr. DM, I was really anxious.  It sure felt like love to me…perhaps with a slightly different tint or flavor than love as I’d known it before…but powerful nonetheless.  But how could I know?  Maybe my mind had finally cracked, maybe I had fallen to desperate self-deception and denial.  It seemed unlikely, as the months and years immediately preceding had been ones of increasing peace and contentment in celibacy, but the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, so who knew?  My Christian friends were so excited for me and were sure it was the real thing, but they were hardly unbiased.

Then I got together with an old friend (like, since-my-pre-conversion-days old friend) who knew me incredibly well, but who had been out of town for a while and didn’t know the whole Mr. DM thing, which had happened so fast.  Over lunch, as she inquired what was new with me, I said, “Well, I kind of met somebody.”  “Girl or boy?”  “Uh, boy.”  As I stammered out a brief description of him and what he was like, she scrutinized my face, my mouth, my eyes.  And all of a sudden she squealed and interrupted me, “Oh my God, look at you!!! You’re IN LOVE!!!!!” 

The point is, her random exclamation did more to reassure me than anything a fellow Christian could say.  In general, when I’m doing crazy things related to my faith, I like having one of the heathen to process it with.  A second opinion, an outside perspective, etc.  Even if they think I’ve completely lost my mind.  (Which I suspect they mostly do, although they’re very nice about it.)  So yeah, hip-hip-hooray for the unwashed!

But…when unbelievers were pretty much the only friends I had, it was too easy to escape from the pressure of my convictions.  I could take off my “Christian hat” around them, and they wouldn’t care.  In fact, I was eager to set my faith aside, so I could feel closer to them, just like we used to be–I hated having that sliver of difference between us.  I only needed to put on my “Christian hat” for church and the exgay group and possibly for campus fellowship meetings when I bothered to go.  Those scant hours of superficially playing the Christian could not compete with all the rest of my time spent engaging energetically and authentically with unbelievers.  The company I kept influenced me.  They weren’t trying to, but it was sort of inevitable.  I wasn’t growing much in the faith, I wasn’t becoming much of a Christian.  It was sort of like trying to diet by eating salads for lunch and junk food the rest of the day.

As someone who felt convicted that homosex is sin, and trying to live that out in obedience to God, I needed friendship, community, and fellowship that made me stronger in living the life I felt called to, not weaker.   I don’t merely mean the specific and intentional things Christians could do to help me:  pray for me, offer spiritual counsel, talk about the Scriptures, etc.  All they really had to do was to just be with me to have an effect, just as my non-Christian friends just had to be in order to influence me the other way.  Being the sort of relational chameleon that I am, just hanging out with Christians helped enormously to strengthen my faith.   It encouraged me to wear my “Christian hat” more of the time.  And specifically regarding this struggle, it was great to have people who were on “my side.”  I didn’t need them to be experts on homosexuality or anything.  But it was a relief just to be able to look at the faces around me on certain occasions and know that each one thought I was doing the right thing.  Maybe that means I’m too much of a people-pleaser, but I don’t think so.  It’s just that when you’re constantly under a barrage of opinion that tells you you are making the biggest mistake of your life, it’s reassuring to know that some people think that what you are doing is sensible and right.  It took the edge off the isolated lunatic feeling that haunted me.  Sometimes we might have to go it alone in life, take on the world as a minority of one, but why put ourselves in that position when there are allies to be had?

And I needed to be in touch with believers who were having their own struggles, both similar to and different from my own.  I needed to be reminded that I wasn’t the only one fighting a spiritual battle, the only one trying to swim upstream against a ferociously swift current.  Sometimes it helped me to think of us as taking on sin as a team.  I was more encouraged to make holy choices in my own life if I knew that my brother D was fighting hard in his struggle against pornography and my sister K was confronting her spiritual apathy and laziness and my brother T was making war on his own greedy lust for Stuff.  Satan would have to fight us on many fronts!  More importantly, I needed the constant reminder that other believers struggle to avoid sinking into a morass of self-pity, the kind that says:  My own struggle is special, unlike anything recorded heretofore in the annals of Christian experience.  Resistance is impossible.  A cruel God has put me in this situation in order to laugh at me and finally doom me. Might as well give up now and go back to sinning, so I can at least have some fun on my way to hell.    What I realized from fellowship is that other people with other struggles could often see my situation more realistically and more hopefully than I could see it myself.  Similarly when I observed them overreacting and overdramatizing their own difficulties and struggles, it helped me realize that my own dark take on my struggle was distorted by despair, not an accurate perception.

4.  What mattered most to me?

I didn’t just come to worry about my gay identity and the inability to connect with Christian community that it caused for these practical reasons.  It also bothered me in principle.  What did it say about me and what mattered to me, that I found shared sexuality such a more powerful common ground and source of connection with other people than shared faith? 

I used to pay lip service to the doctrine that other Christians were my brothers and sisters.  But I didn’t feel it, and I sure didn’t live it.  On the other hand, while I accepted theoretically that gay people were no longer my tribe, my family, it still felt like they were, and I still lived like they were.  .  Homosexuality was far more important to me than Christianity in determining who counted as “kin,” who I enjoyed socializing with, what I liked chatting about.  I began to worry that this was an accurate barometer of where my heart was at, of what mattered to me.  (Isn’t that true in general?  What kind of Patriots fan would I be if all I wanted to do was hang out with Colts fans and rhapsodize about Peyton Manning’s brains and arm???)

There was a flash of recognition and excitement when I met a gay person, but nothing comparable when I met a Christian. I was generally unimpressed by those who shared my faith, especially if they weren’t gay or exgay.  It didn’t strike me as very interesting or significant that we believed the same things or worshipped the same God.   I remember complaining once that I couldn’t be expected to hang out with Christians when all I had in common with them was Jesus, as if He were somehow trivial, unfit to serve as a basis for conversation, connection, family. 

I’m not trying to repackage the exgay claim that people need to “grow into healthy relationships” with the hetero-attracted.  I’m just saying, if someone’s sexuality is always more important when it comes to determining how close you feel to them than their faith, I think it may say something about what matters to you; namely, that your sexuality matters more to you than your faith.  I understand that many people have mitigating and complicating factors—some have been abused and rejected by straight Christians, which would obviously make Christian fellowship harder for them, even if Jesus is way more important to them than their queerness.  But I know for myself it was a worthwhile question to ask.  I know for myself that as Christ and living a Christian life became more important to me, that my appreciation of the fellowship of believers (regardless of their sexuality) increased commensurately. 

If you had asked me seven years ago (i.e., a couple years after my conversion) whether I would rather be stranded on a desert island with 20 random gay non-Christians, or with 20 random straight Christians, I would have chosen the gays in a heartbeat, without any qualms.  If you asked me the question today, and if I were choosing purely based on comfort, I would ultimately choose the Christians, though probably not in a heartbeat.  It’s not that the gays are less appealing to me–heaven knows they aren’t!  But it’s just that the thought of living without Christians nowadays seems awful to me.  No one to pray with?  No one to study Scripture with, or to ask “Hey, what do you think this means?”  No one to sing hymns with?   No one to talk about God with, or the same God anyway?  No one to share my spiritual struggles with?  I’m not saying this should be a universal law or litmus test, but in my own life I think it was importantly revealing. 

I think early on my attitude was, “Hey, who cares how much I grow or how great a Christian life I end up living?  I’m saved by grace, aren’t I?  And sanctification is a lifelong process anyway, so what’s the rush?  I’ll live my Christian life as half-heartedly and half-assedly as I please!” But the problem I found is that the Christian life, lived half-heartedly, just plain sucks.  It’s the worst of both worlds–you end up losing the pleasures of the flesh (oh you can try to taste them again, and yeah there’s some fun there, but they just aren’t the same anymore), and you don’t get the joys of the Spirit that only come with a relatively pure and earnest devotion to Christ either.  I slowly learned the hard way that the world with its enticements had been ruined for me by my conversion, so if I was going to ever truly delight in life again, I was going to have to try the Christian way more seriously.  My life as I knew it had been lost, more or less; my only hope was that perhaps by losing it completely, Christ’s promise that I would find it again might be borne out.   Once I realized this, and consequently started to care more about my walk with God, I found myself naturally looking for spiritual brothers and sisters to grow with and learn from. 

WIFGI 4.1: How I Came to Hate the Church

May 30, 2007

Previous Installments:  (Part 1, Part 2Part 3).   

 Another character quality I would like to change is my fearfulness of and lack of love towards my brothers and sisters in Christ in general.  I don’t mean that I’m generally especially unkind or cruel or uncaring towards other Christians, or that I don’t cherish my few Christian friends.  But I have a tendency to be “pathologically shy”  (as one of my friends put it) around straight Christians…This fear keeps me from getting connected to the body of Christ, which I think is essential to my healing and growth, not to mention being essential to my obeying God’s commands to show love and kindness to my fellow believers. My hope would be that in a safe and loving community environment where I wouldn’t be terrified of judgment all the time, I could begin to overcome this.

 –from DM’s application to the residential program
(April 2001)


Reason #2:  My gay identity got in the way of my loving the church, and my identification with my brothers and sisters in Christ. 

(Okay, the length of this discussion got too unwieldy even for me, so I’m splitting it in half.  This post is about how my gay identity, my particular understanding of and attitude toward my sexuality, kept me from loving and identifying with the church.  The next post (WIFGI 4.2) will be about how I came to realize that this was a mistake.)

 Pre-emptive clarification:   I’m NOT saying we should abandon solidarity and empathy with gay people.

I believe that God has mercifully left us a blessing of common grace, in that we naturally feel a bond of empathy and connection with those who have life experiences and characteristics similar to our own.  It’s almost as though our fallen selfishness is tricked and cheated into loving and caring about others when we recognize something of ourselves and our experience in their lives.  I think it is a mistake to ignore or devalue the bond of common experience that we feel with other people who have homosexual attractions, and the fact that this will make us feel closer to them, and help us to more easily develop a comfortable rapport with them.  Am I so wonderful at loving others that I should forgo this instinctive, natural help?

So I find heinous the suggestion that homo-attracted people seeking to live chastely should cut off all feelings of empathy and solidarity with unrepentant gays.  Sometimes it sounds like conservatives would consider it ideal if we felt nothing towards gay people, if we just kind of looked past them with a glassy stare of non-recognition.  Or, worse, ideal if we primly cringed with disgust whenever we encountered someone or something gay, just like “normal” Christians would.  The thoroughly repentant homosexual, on this account, would react toward gay people and gay culture exactly like a straight person from the heartland who has never encountered either before in his life and is completely freaked out by both.

I have tried to be adamant here on this blog about the importance of not denying reality—the reality of our past, present, and likely future.  Based on the experiences that we have had, are having now, and are likely to have more of in the future, as human beings we are going to feel intuitive empathies towards some people more than others.  I don’t see the point in trying to destroy those, and moreover I believe it would be downright evil to do so.  If I have been blessed with insights into certain aspects of what it’s like to be human in this crazy fallen world, I shouldn’t try to blind myself to them in order to “normalize” myself.

So, when I loved gays more than my Christian brothers and sisters (yeah I know there’s overlap, but I’m talking about groups here!), my problem was not that I loved gays too much, but that I didn’t love Christians enough.   Picture me jumping up and down and waving my arms over this point:  This post is not about loving gays less or cutting oneself off from them, this is about me removing barriers in my heart that kept me from loving hetero Christians, from embracing my Christian family and my identity within the covenant people of God, within the church.

Background–my feelings about the church, and how they got there

I hardly knew anything about evangelicals when I became one. 

I had grown up occasionally seeing them on TV and reading about them in the news, usually with a bug up their rear ends about “homosexuals and lesbians.” They had their own funny way of saying it which I can’t really imitate, where they packed the words with maximum disgust, sounding meaner than the worst antigay slur, and yet at the same time they savored the words, like they were rolling them around in their mouths and finding them delicious. I thus had rather strong impressions of them as this frighteningly vast but largely invisible population of stupid fanatics, perversely and creepily fascinated by gay sex, who had declared themselves My Enemy.  I had literally no idea what they believed about Jesus Christ, except that it seemed that being “born-again,” whatever that meant, was very important.  (But not, apparently, as important as not being gay!)

I never met any evangelicals personally until college.  And even then, as you can probably imagine, I didn’t really move in the same circles as they did.  With the exception of a small number of ssa (affirmingly gay, celibately gay, and exgay) believers I met on campus and online–the people who actually led me to Christ–most of what I knew about evangelicals came from horror stories told by gays.  So my conversion meant joining a group that scared the !@#% out of me.  Despite the sameness of our faith, I was always conscious that I wasn’t one of them, that I was Other, a stranger in a strange land.  I felt doubly alienated, piling exile upon exile, not like a long-lost child who had found her way home. 

Was some of this straight evangelicals’ fault, their failure to sufficiently welcome me, include me, reassure me, and respect me?  Perhaps.  I will say that the reception I got walking into gay campus activities for the first time as a freshman was far warmer than the one I got walking into Christian campus activities for the first time (or the second, third, fourth, or fifth times) as a junior.  There’s no getting around that. 

But in hindsight I’ve come to see that a sizable chunk of this alienation was self-inflicted.  My gay identity hardened and thickened from social exposure to straight evangelicals.  I became extra-mindful of my differentness in their presence.  Hanging out with them provided me with endless opportunities to feel misunderstood, to get offended, to bristle with indignation on account of my gayness, and I rarely passed up any of those.  If they misstepped in their interactions with me and offended me, they were to blame for being such dumb bigots; if I misstepped in my interactions with them and offended them, they were to blame for being so incomprehensibly weird and oversensitive.  Heads I won, tails they lost.

I got into a feedback loop of refusing to give straight Christians a chance.  It went something like this.

  1. I’d start out with a suspicion/dislike of heteros.
  2. As a result of (1), at predominantly hetero Christian activities, I’d be closed off and aloof, maybe even disdainful.  But with queer people, I’d be warm and friendly, feeling at ease.  (Well, relatively speaking at least.  I’m socially awkward whoever I’m with!)
  3. As a result of (2), I’d get to know the gay people much better than the straights.  I’d know about their troubles and burdens and joys and complexities of life.  In contrast, I wouldn’t know much about the heteros, because of the distance I’d helped to put between myself and them.
  4. As a result of (3), I’d conclude that gay people had rich inner lives, and were authentic and friendly, while hetero Christians were simple, shallow, fake, and probably homophobic, reinforcing (1), which would start the loop again. 

Many ssa Christians have painful stories of rejection by the straight church.  I have no such story, because I never gave them a chance to reject me, but I didn’t hesitate to assume that they would if they could.  I was constantly judging the Christian community like this, comparing them to the superior instances of gay community I had known.  Of course, all that did was make me miserable about being condemned by my conversion to spend the rest of this life and all of eternity (!!!) with these people

I couldn’t let go of seeing them as The Enemy–wasn’t that my birthright as a dyke?  I couldn’t let go of being an outsider looking in (and down!) on them–wasn’t that another birthright, another privilege of my kind?  I groaned at the thought of having to trade my sexy queer alienation for lame-o Christian alienation–not being of the world, being hated by the world, having my citizenship in heaven.   Going from dyke to Christian (and the tackiest kind of Christian to boot!) was taking a huge step down in the eyes of those whose opinions mattered to me. 

You might think that connecting with the homo-attracted believers who had led me to faith in Jesus would have gradually warmed me up to the broader church, so I could make the transition to general Christian fellowship.  But you’d be wrong.   In fact, the same-sex attracted Christians, in my experience, were almost always communally seething about the foibles and failures of the straight church, which actually made me more rather than less scornful and distrustful.  Not having any fondness for straights or Christians in general to begin with, I joined right in their seething with them.

To hear us talk, you would’ve thought we were all the older brother, the “good son” in the parable, the less-enlightened heteros all prodigal sons.  Look at how those straight Christians screw it all up.  Look at what hypocrites they are.  Look at the rampant rates of divorce and adultery among them.  Look at how greedy and materialistic and selfish they are.   Look how they fail to love as Christ loved.  Look at their ignorance and bigotry.

This is, of course, eminently understandable.  Many homo-attracted folks have been hurt and overzealously scrutinized and judged by straight Christians, and the latter surely do fall short in the above and many other ways.  This makes the delicious revenge of judging them as harshly and condescendingly as they have judged us incredibly tempting.  But by obsessing about the sins and the unworthiness of straight Christians–particularly those I didn’t know at all except as stereotyped bogeymen– I was making the same pharisaical mistake they do when they obsess about other people’s homosexual sin.  I was succumbing to the same weakness that devoured them, that of finding another man’s sin problem more urgent and more fascinating than my own. Perhaps turnabout is fair play, but at least in my more level-headed moments, I’d rather have the gospel than turnabout. 

This attitude of judging the straight Christians and dwelling on their shortcomings (while ignoring the extent to which I shared their shortcomings) was of course antagonistic to real fellowship, to my ever feeling part of the larger church.  I was, after all, attempting to focus on how they were different from me, how they were worse than I was.  This made identification with them as my brothers and sisters pretty much impossible.

There’s a saying I heard, adored, and often repeated to myself during this time: “The church is like Noah’s ark:  if it wasn’t for the storm outside, there’s no way we could stand the stink inside.”  I dwelt on the stink, on everything I didn’t like about my “normal” fellow evangelical Christians and their culture and their quirks, all the while patting myself on the back for being so humbly and graciously willing to share a church, a faith, and a Lord with them.  It never occurred to me there was a problem with this attitude–in fact I genuinely thought it rather devout–until I wondered one day what it would be like if the shoe were on the other foot.  What if we imagine an extremely conservative hetero, homophobically uncomfortable with the repentant exgays in her church?  How would I feel if she repeated that saying to herself, thinking of me?  “Well, I’d get away from this nasty dyke if I could (this many years after her supposed “conversion” and she still can’t be bothered to wear makeup or proper shoes or carry a purse?!) but unfortunately, I really need the grace I can find only in Christ Jesus, so I guess I’ll just have to suffer her presence in the pew.  Lord, give me strength.”

While I don’t think that sort of attitude is good for any Christian, it had an especially devastating effect on me as a new convert.  See, most of these homo-attracted Christians I was hanging out with, especially the loudly griping ones, had been raised in the church.  So they spoke about it as angrily as they did in part because their frustration was built on a foundation of love of the church, or if not love of it, at least identification with it.  It was a conflicted relational squabble—something like a lovers’ quarrel, or perhaps a teenager’s frustration with his parents’ evident stupidity, unfairness, and uncoolness.  A lot of anger and ugly emotion, but ultimately built on a sense of identification and relationship, a family fight.  But for me, babe in the faith that I was, I had no context in which to put their anger and frustration in which I joined so enthusiastically.  There was no foundation of love, no background of identification, no sense of family.  My attitude toward the church wasn’t conflicted.  It was one of frightfully pure disgust and hate, and nursing my gay grudge against the straight church only fueled that hate.  Sure, I would make occasional exceptions to the rule, deeming decent those few hetero believers who bent over backwards to love me and bless me despite my frosty and prickly initial response to them.  But nothing they could do changed my attitude toward “the church” one bit.

(Incidentally, this is precisely how bigotry and prejudice work.  Every time you meet up with a counter-example to a generalization about a particular group, you ignore it or explain it away as an exception that doesn’t really count, rather than rethinking your generalizations.  For years it never occurred to me that maybe I was slightly wrong about straight Christians, despite encountering some flamingly obvious examples of awesome ones, and despite almost never having been personally mistreated by any.) 

So that was how I felt about my new Christian family, thanks to my gay identity.  I’m not saying that other kinds of identities can’t have a similar effect, or that gay identity would do the same thing to everyone.  But this being my story, that’s how it went.

Note:  I am very much aware that much of the straight church (individually and corporately) HAS treated ssa/gay people awfully.  I don’t want any of what I say above to be taken as a diminishment of that.  So, please…I’m not trying to minimize or divert attention from the very real and terrible wrongs that lie behind gay anger, frustration, and bitterness with the church.  That’s not what this is about.  All I’m saying is that given my particular experience, the emotional atmosphere of gay/ssa Christian circles in this regard was toxic as all get-out for me.  And that this is a problem.  However screwed up the (predominantly straight) church is, if Jesus is our Lord, then she is our family, and somehow we’ve got to work it out. 

(go onto part 4.2)

Why I Forsook Gay Identity, Part 3: Openness

April 12, 2007

(Okay, enough groundwork.  The rest of this series will be spent discussing five reasons why I gave up my gay identity, one reason per post.  The posts are arranged so that they should get increasingly interesting as the series progresses, so if you think this one is stupid, you can just check out right now and come back later.)

Reason #1:  My gay identity made me less open to the will of God.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an identity that acknowledges where we are at, that says, “This is who I am, this is how I feel, this is what my life looks like right now.”  That’s why I balk at the exgay tendency to deem any sort of gay identity a “false identity.”  There is nothing false, in my opinion, about coming to terms with the fact that you are attracted solely to people of the same sex, as well the ramifications that has had on your past and is likely to have on your future.  Our sexuality does influence us powerfully, and it is a significant chunk of who we are, and denying that seems to be the sort of thing that always comes back to bite us.

So, as I see things, a valid Christian gay identity might say “You know, the fact that I like chicks is part of the reality of my life today.”  It would be an identity that’s like a tent we pitch in a place that looks good to spend the night.  For me, however, gay identity was more like a lovely mansion that I had done up real nice on the inside, that I would never dream of leaving.   I was settled, I was comfy.  I didn’t merely see same-sex attraction as my present reality, I saw it as my destiny.

Let me try to explain a little. I have this general tendency to fall in love with the idea of myself as a certain sort of person, even to the point where I do things in order to conform to that idea, out of fidelity to it.  

Sometimes this is good.  Being deeply invested in my sense of myself as a loyal and honest person helps me do the right thing when my rather limited stores of virtue wouldn’t do the trick on their own.  I often find myself rejecting a sinful course of action not only because it’s wrong, but also because I have this conviction that DM just isn’t the sort of person who does things like that.  Sometimes it’s just silly.  I started listening to Bach not so much because I liked him, but because I thought of myself as a person who would listen to Bach.  (Now I love his music in its own right.)  The same goes for buying my first leather jacket–I didn’t really want a leather jacket, but my DM-ideal wore one, so I had to get it.  And sometimes it’s downright pernicious.  I like to see myself as a physically tough person who never gets hurt.  So I am notorious for brushing off and ignoring various injuries, so that little things become very serious, all because of my stupid devotion to an idea of myself as somebody who doesn’t feel pain. 

When it looks like I might have to give up or change things in a way that threatens my cherished idea of myself, I get really ticked off.  For example, I love my pessimism.  I love that while other exgays see their experience of attraction change as a comforting token of God’s favor, I look at mine suspiciously, waiting for the other shoe to drop, thinking there’s gotta be a catch.  I love how intensely brooding I can get.  I love how I so often find myself pleasantly surprised with life, simply because it would be astoundingly difficult for the world to underperform relative to my gutter-level expectations.  So when I recently read in a book about pregnancy (I’m not, yet, by the way) that optimism in pregnant women correlates with healthier babies, and that moms-to-be should therefore “try to see that glass of milk as half-full,” I was furious.  I’m supposed to become one of those sunshiny people?  I wasn’t upset because I thought change would be impossible–I have no clue whether or not I could actually be an optimist if I tried–but I was upset because optimism just seems so beneath me, so unworthy of the ideal vision of DM that I have. 

My relationship to my gay identity was like that, only exponentially more intense.  That’s because it was something I had fought hard for, something I had labored to build, something I had achieved.  It had been a huge struggle to make sense of who I was and what I was doing here. When my queerness began to dawn on me (and everybody else!) at age eleven, I was confronted with tons of questions:  What did it mean that I liked girls in roughly the same way that the girls seemed to like boys, and what was I supposed to do with that?  What made my mom freak out about the way I instinctively dressed, walked, and acted, and what compelled her to keep trying (futilely) to make me over?  Why were the other kids asking me in between punches where my dildo was, and what the heck was a dildo anyway?

Over the years, I gradually worked towards an idea of what my feelings meant, of who I was supposed to be.  Learning at first from snippets of gay-related stuff in the mainstream news and on TV,  and later from gay books, gay music, and other queer kids, I somehow cobbled together an understanding of what it meant to be gay, and correspondingly invented myself as a dyke.  And I really, really liked the finished product.  I saw my queer existence as an impressive hard-won accomplishment, which in a lot of ways it was, and looked forward to spending the rest of my life enjoying it.  Even after Jesus crashed that party a few years later, I fought like crazy to hang on to whatever I could. 

I mentioned in the previous post in the series how I would have rejected a hypothetical miracle pill to make me totally straight.  This remained the case even years after I became a Christian and renounced homosexual sex and relationships.  (I would still reject such a pill today, though probably somewhat more politely than I would have then, but that’s a post for another day.)  Not only did I not desire attraction change, and the sorts of lifestyle that might go along with that, I found the prospect repugnant.  Sure, I wasn’t real thrilled with a probable future of lifelong celibacy, but there were certain depths to which I couldn’t imagine myself sinking. 

It wasn’t so much about hetero marriage’s evil patriarchal nature or anything like that.  It’s more that I just felt that heterosexual attraction, heterosexual relating, and marriage, should have absolutely nothing to do with me.  I mean, I was gay, after all.  Maybe I couldn’t be with girls, but I was still somehow special, somehow above intimate dealings with men and the messy business of breeding.  Heterosexuality, like optimism, was unworthy of me, and there was no place for it in my vision of who DM ought to be.  If an extraordinarily naive Christian acquaintance innocently asked if I had a boyfriend, I would go gripe to my Christian friends afterwards about the heterocentricity and marriage-idolatry of American evangelicalism.  How dare that silly girl think I might be involved with a MAN! 

But several of these friends eventually challenged me on this, suggesting that it was sinful to have such a dismissive attitude toward something that God had created and called “very good.”  It was fine for me to point out that I wasn’t attracted to any man, and that I would likely never be, and that in such a case singleness would make a lot of sense.  But I was going further than that.  I was personally scorning heterosexuality as being beneath me, as being entirely out of character for me, and in the absence of a clear divine call to celibacy, such an attitude was sinful.  If I loved God and trusted Him as God, they argued, then I ought to see heterosexuality and marriage–His creative intent for humanity–as beautiful, excellent things, and not just for those I looked down upon as “normal” women.  I didn’t necessarily have to marry, but I had to at least be able to raise the question for myself, to see myself as the sort of person who could marry a man, if the circumstances were right.

My friends’ arguments seemed plausible enough, so I decided that I needed to try to open up my heart to the possibility of heterosexual relating and marriage.  Not that I needed to seek those things or pursue them, and certainly not that I should enter into them without some significant changes occurring first. But just that I needed to be ready and willing, if direction and opportunity arose–in the same way that we ought to be open to any call from God.  That I should prayerfully consider the possibility that God might take me down such a path in my future.  That I should consciously and explicitly submit my own comfort in my exclusively homo-attracted state to His will for my life.  I didn’t need to be straight to be a Christian, but I needed to be willing to be straight, or married, or whatever, in the unlikely event that God should so will it.

I had already sought to make my heart open to go wherever God called me to go, in a literal, geographical sense.  (Many of my friends at the time were feeling the pull of overseas missions.) I had striven to make myself willing to do whatever God might call me to do in terms of work/career.  I had tried to ready myself to renounce whatever privileges God might ask me to give up for His sake, whether money, or prestige, or whatever.  But my attitude toward all things hetero stood in stark contrast to those postures of submission.  When I tried to contemplate the possibility that God might someday make me start to like a boy and call me to go the hetero marriage route, I watched my heart crouch defensively, its hackles raised and its teeth bared.  And to see that was to know that my gay identity had to get put down. 

As part of a broader commitment to letting the Bible interpret me, I had to see myself as a woman created by God, and therefore a candidate for marriage to a man, if God placed a suitable one in my life and so led me.  I could no longer see myself as a special kind of creature automatically guaranteed exemption from the heteronorms God had instituted in His creation, even though that was central to the conception of myself that I had fought so hard for and treasured for so long.

I would go even a little further and say that I came to the conclusion that I ought to desire heterosexuality and marriage.  Not that I necessarily had to spend time and money and effort pursuing them, especially when the available methods were of dubious efficacy, but simply that I had to see them as things I would welcome and delight in if they came my way.  I had always mocked the young straight women who dreamt of their future husbands, their Prince Charmings.  While there were no doubt elements of unrealistic escapist fantasy and idolatry in their reveries, I had to recognize that in their seeing marriage as a beautiful, eminently desirable thing, the sort of thing one could easily stumble into fantasizing about, their hearts and minds were more closely conformed to the heart and mind of God than mine were.  Similarly, I had always despised the older, thirty-something single women who were panicky about their prospects, priding myself on how superior I was to them in my attitude of self-denial and willingness to accept singleness.  While I was probably right that some of them had some serious contentment issues, I failed to realize that they were light-years ahead of me in their appreciation of the goodness of God’s design, their conviction that they were meant to have spouses and families, their sense that their singleness had something to do with the world being out of joint in some way.  Truly virtuous self-denial does not arise from a despising of God’s creation and blessings, from deeming worthless what He has called good.  Rather, it comes from acknowledging and rejoicing in the goodness of what God has made, yet being willing to lose all lesser goods for the sake of gaining Christ.  My gay-pride style of resignation to celibate singleness was no more pleasing to God than the most pathetic marriage idolatry of a straight woman; in fact, her inordinate love of a particular good was probably better than my having no love for it at all.

My gay identity thus proved to be a double impediment. It made me cling to my same-sex-attractedness, unwilling to consider the possibility of changes in my life that God might call me to, and thus made me less open to following wherever He might lead.  (This may not seem like such a big deal, but for me as a believer, one who professed to love Christ with all her heart, mind, soul and strength, it was incredibly distressing to realize that there was something I simply would not do for Him, something I would flatly refuse to give up if He dared to ask it of me.)  And it made me less open in another respect as well–it made me less able to receive what God had to say about who I was and who I ought to be.  It made me less able to embrace what I could see Scripture teaching about men, women, sexuality, and marriage.  Regarding those subjects, while my gay identity held sway in my heart, I could not truthfully say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

ack! (2 Points of Clarification)

April 12, 2007

1.   I should specify that this whole identity-forsaking saga thing, while not easily pinned to a particular instant in time, took place roughly two years before I fell in love with Mr. DM.  Otherwise, readers might think, “Well duh!  Of course your gay identity took a hit, because you fell for a guy!”  But it didn’t work that way at all.  While I wrestled with these issues, I was not aware of any significant bisexual potential.  I fully expected to live and die single, celibate, and totally same-sex attracted.  Renouncing gay identity with that sort of life outlook seems to me a very different matter than suddenly falling in love in a way you hadn’t quite planned for. 

2.  Peterson Toscano writes:

So interesting that now we have met, now I hear your humor in your posts.

Uh, for those who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting me, and therefore may not be hearing the (evidently inadequately conveyed) humor in my posts…it may help enhance your DM experience if you realize that I don’t take myself all that seriously.  Granted, I’m no comedian, and this blog isn’t meant to be slapstick hilarious anyway.  But you should know that when I write this stuff, most of the time I have a wryly amused smile on my face.  

Why I Forsook Gay Identity, Part 2: What Gay Identity Meant To Me

April 2, 2007

In this post, I’m going to briefly describe a few characteristics of gay identity as I experienced it, in order to give some idea of what I’m talking about before I spend the rest of the series sharing why I became concerned about that identity. It’s not rigorous analysis or anything, but I hope it will help flesh out a little what my gayness meant to me. 

(Note:  I am not pretending to define the word “gay” here.  When I talk about gay identity, I’m talking about patterns of thought, ways of seeing oneself, what kind of significance we ascribe to our homosexual attractions, what they mean to us.) 

And yes, I’m very aware that the identity I’m about to describe is strikingly immature in some respects.  Several of the things I talk about would probably only be issues for a younger or freshly out gay person, as most people tend to mellow a bit as they grow up and get on with their lives. And some of this is possibly also very ’90s.  So…if you want to make fun of me for having been a gay teen in the ’90s, well, you’re a little late to that (well-attended) party, but go right on ahead. 


I saw my gayness as a very important, perhaps the most important, fact about myself.   I’ve said elsewhere that if you had asked me to describe myself in three words, “dyke” would have been one of them. But that was an understatement. In fact, if you’d asked me to describe myself in one word, “dyke” would have been it, even after becoming a Christian.  Every morning when I looked in the mirror, the first thing I saw a dyke, and was quite pleased by that. When meeting other people, I felt that if they came away from our encounter not knowing I was gay (if that were possible!), they hadn’t really met me and they didn’t know who I was at all.


I felt this powerful bond with other queer people, that our shared sexuality was this hugely significant thing. I would sometimes feel I had more in common with a gay girl who was otherwise nothing like me than a straight one who was practically my clone in every other respect. It went way beyond the ordinary affinity that comes from shared experience or adversity.  Gay people were my people.  In my isolated small-town teens, I longed for the day when I could surround myself with them, as my high school had little more than a handful of troubled closet cases. Upon arriving at college, I threw myself into queer circles energetically, and later found myself in a bit of a social pickle when my conversion snuck up on me all of a sudden. After I became a Christian, I was tormented by feelings of guilt from being such a traitor, but nonetheless continued to feel a much stronger connection to gay people than to my new “family” of believers in Christ.


I saw my gayness as being about far more than sexual or romantic inclinations. It was about having all sorts of other qualities, about being a generally superior sort of human being. All kinds of virtues were attached to gayness in my mind–a clever wit, an independent streak, a creative bent, a knack for sports (on the girls’ side), a flair for design (on the boys’ side). Of course, I didn’t actually possess most of those, but I belonged to a group that did, which was just as good.  I savored those studies and reports which claimed that gays were smarter, more successful, and contributed more to society than straights.   There was also a sense of identification with the accomplishments of the Great Queers of History, a sense of pride in their awesomeness, as if the achievements of Sappho, Alexander the Great, Michelangelo, Alan Turing, and Bayard Rustin were something for me to brag about. I blush to remember this, but in high school I once indignantly declared to a hetero classmate that while everyone had their vices, few were worthy of the vice of great men.

Nobility of the Cause

Being gay was something that was always worth suffering and fighting for.  This started in middle school.  I’ve learned recently from talking to straight people who were picked on, beaten up, etc., as kids–for being geeks or losers or whatever–that the mistreatment they endured never held any great meaning for them.  It was just a profoundly unpleasant experience, a miserable time of their lives, and they were just glad when it was over.  In my mind, however, my suffering at the hands of my peers on account of my queerness was woven into the struggle for gay rights, this grand cosmic narrative of good versus evil.   Somehow, just by being myself in spite of the consequences, I felt I was fighting a little battle in the great war for justice and freedom and equality, doing my part for the cause. (In retrospect, that was all incredibly silly, but it sure did help me survive early adolescence.)

Once I got out of high school and away from my parents, I tried to make myself as queer-looking as possible, but unfortunately most people just assumed I was a straight boy. (Or occasionally a gay boy, which made for some awkward situations!) So I stuck all these gay buttons on my backpack, hoping some ignorant hetero would notice and get in my face about it. The few times I did get serious negative attention, I was admittedly a bit frightened in the moment, but after it passed I would be very proud of myself for being such a fighter and messing with those bigots’ comfort zones. (Miraculously, despite my mother’s dire predictions, I never got gay-bashed during this time, although I did have to call upon my gifts as a sprinter on one occasion.)   I saw Matthew Shepard not as a victim, but as a martyr. I was very out, and was convinced that anyone who didn’t instantly respond well to that wasn’t someone who was worth knowing. I gloried in discrimination and homophobia in the way that some American evangelicals yearn for persecution and harassment to the point of hallucinating it.  I was a zealot.


I used to think that my gayness lay at the very heart of who I was. That it was somehow tied to my essence, in a way that was unlike almost any other desire or trait. More essential perhaps than even my gender/sex. (Gender was a collective social fantasy, but sexual orientation, now that was real. That was BIOLOGY.) Certainly on an entirely different plane than any other kind of sexual preference or taste. I can hear the voices in my head even now: “How dare you call it a taste? How dare you suggest that it is a preference? It’s at the core of your being! Your bones are gay! Your soul is gay!”


I saw myself as someone who was meant to be with a woman. My gayness meant that the proper shape of my life, if all went well, would involve Ms. Right(s).  It was part of what I was made for, in some incoherent atheistic sense. Even after my conversion to Christianity, I still found myself feeling this weighty sense of normativity and telos. The Bible seemed clear on this subject, and the Christian witness over the millennia seemed even clearer, but how could they be right? How on earth could a good God possibly not want me to be with women? Wasn’t that cruel and destructive of Him, preventing me from being what I was supposed to be, from fully living out what my life should be like?


For me, seeing myself as gay meant seeing my same-sex attractedness in and of itself as something to celebrate and delight in. It made me different, it made me special, it made me extraordinary, it set me apart from all those run-of-the-mill breeders. I saw it as an asset. I saw it as a beautiful thing. I saw myself as transcending the petty, trivial distinctions of sex and gender. I saw myself as a true lover of women, one who could appreciate their worth, care for them, and love them in a way that no man ever could. I saw same-sex love as being a higher love than any other, precisely because of its biological purposelessness, and considered myself gifted that such a love came so easily to me. 


I was very attached to the homosexual direction of my sexual attractions, and generally found the thought of their changing horrific. Perhaps in my preteen years I would have considered the hypothetical “straight pill,” but by the time I was an older teen I definitely would have spat it in the face of whoever was offering it to me. I had fought too hard to be queer to let it go, even if doing so would have made my life easier in many ways.

(go on to part 3…) 

Why I Forsook Gay Identity, Part 1: Introduction

March 30, 2007

Last August I said:

But I found for myself that moving past gay identity was essential for living stably and contentedly according to my beliefs as a same-sex attracted Christian woman. So this part of the exgay teaching I found extremely helpful. I really need to say more about it, but I don’t think this post is quite the place to do it. So let me just say this: Abandoning gay identity doesn’t mean being in denial. It doesn’t mean “naming it and claiming it,” proclaiming that you’re “healed,” that you’re totally straight and happily heterosexual, while you’re still homosexually attracted. What it means is radically altering the role that the fact of your homosexual attractions plays in your thinking about your self and your life. 

Well, this is the place where more gets said.  The question of gay identity and what should be done with it keeps popping up in my posts here and there, and I feel guilty that every time I just do a little handwaving and move on.  If I’m going to run around talking about how great it is to nail your gay identity to the cross, I had better take the time to examine that idea and to clarify what I’m talking about.

In addition to fulfilling my intellectual responsibilities, I also want to encourage my brothers and sisters who feel similarly convicted.  In my experience, when you are struggling to give up your gay identity, nobody understands you.  Christians can’t grasp what the big deal is, why there would be any struggle at all, why you would ever be tempted to think of yourself as gay for a moment now that Jesus has liberated you.  And gays think you are being dishonest or that you’ve simply gone insane or that you’ve “drunk the exgay kool-aid.”  It can really suck to be caught between the “How dare you call yourself gay?” crowd and the “How dare you NOT call yourself gay?” crowd. 

I’ve wrestled with this subject off and on for a long time, but this post of Eve Tushnet’s is what inspired me (eventually) to sit down and try to hammer out what I think.  Virtually nothing of what I have to say will be a reply to her, at least up until my final post in this series, and even then it’ll be a rather oblique reply, more of a “yeah, but…” than a “no way Jose!”  Still, her articulation of what she sees as reasons for embracing gay identity really got me thinking, precisely because I mostly agree with her about all those things.  The intriguing question for me was:  Given that we share so many premises, how the heck did I end up here?  

 In the rest of this post I want to emphasize and explain how the posts that follow are a discussion of my personal experience. Hence the very me-focused title of the series.  This is not “Why Gay Identity Is Bad” or “Your Gay Identity Is A Stench In God’s Nostrils So Get Rid Of It Now Before He Becomes Very Wroth And Smites You.”  I expect that bits and pieces of what I have to say about myself and my life might have some relevance to others. But this is not an advice column, and it’s definitely not a lecture or sermon about what anybody else should be doing.  It kind of started out as an apologia, but it’s not even that now.  It’s more just, “Well, this is what I was thinking.” 

What follows reflects my Christian convictions and my convictions about homosexuality.

Everything that I am going to say assumes that homosex is sin. I know some readers are eagerly waiting for me to defend that assumption. Unfortunately, I’m really busy right now, and therefore reluctant to open the floodgates of controversy.  I suspect I would get many intelligent replies disagreeing with me, which I simply could not adequately respond to right now. I don’t want to start something I can’t finish.

What follows reflects what gayness meant to me.

I am aware that the gayness means different things to different people, which is why I think it’s a little silly to obsess about the word “gay” in the way that some do.  I spell out in my next post what being gay meant to me. What I have to say will probably have little relevance to those with a radically different view. I’d love to hear in the comment threads or via email how others saw things differently, but I don’t intend to take such differences to be objections to what I have to say.  Your Mileage May Vary.

What follows reflects my own positive experience of gay stuff.

Although I don’t get into it explicitly in this series, my struggle with homosexuality and gay identity has always been in part about the difficulty of giving up something valuable, something at least partly good.   This is confusing to some people.  I have heard well-intentioned Christians insist that true healing for the homosexual means “seeing through the deception of homosexuality,” which apparently means devaluing and despising every aspect of gayness and gay life as utterly corrupt and worthless.  So what I have to say in this series will seem to many to stop well short of where I should go.

As I’ve said before, if there was some extraordinary inherent awfulness and emptiness to gay life, God snatched me away before I could discover it. Yes, I converted when I was twenty, and maybe if I’d been a self-avowed unrepentant practicing homosexual until the age of forty or sixty or whatever my perspective would be different. But I can only talk about what I know. My experience of gay love, friendship, community, culture, etc., while far from perfect (hey, it involved me, so what did you expect?) was chock-full of common grace.   When I converted, there was rejoicing in my heart over my new life in Christ, but there was grief as well, a sense of great loss.  Maybe some of that grief was sinful, but I don’t think it all was.  God has made up to me richly and abundantly everything I gave up, but that doesn’t mean the things I gave up initially were worthless. 

I have heard some tragic and painful stories of others’ experiences with gay people, gay relationships, and gay life, and I know many more who were simply far less impressed with their gay adventure than I was.  It is not my intention in this post (or ever) to argue with anyone else’s story.  But again, I can only tell my own.

What follows reflects my observations of the “spiritual dynamics” of gay identity within my own life.

For me, I don’t think gay identity in and of itself was sin, but it wasn’t exactly innocuous either.  It was like Samson going to sleep in Delilah’s lap.  (Jdg. 16)  Temptation is an unavoidable part of life, but there are things we can do to put ourselves right in temptation’s hands (paws? talons?) so that it can abuse us, torment us, get an advantage on us. In this specific case, my homosexual temptations were perhaps unavoidable, but in continuing to embrace my gay identity I made myself more vulnerable to them, weaker agaisnt them. It made it harder for me to think clearly. It compromised me in a lot of ways.  Anyway, I understand that gay identity might interact differently with other people’s spiritual lives.

What follows reflects my own struggle, based on my own specific weaknesses

Abandoning gay identity was a last resort when my spiritual life was more or less in total meltdown. If I had been better at living a celibate gay-identified life, I probably never would have tried anything else. But I had some strikes against me which made that incredibly difficult, and turned my Christian walk into this constant soap opera of whether or not I was going to ditch God:

  1. I was spectacularly butch. Like, getting-repeatedly-barred-from-or-chased-out-of-ladies’-restrooms butch. (Once by a very large female janitor brandishing a mop handle, which was especially exciting!) I suspect that if I had looked a little more normal, I might have felt more comfortable with Christians, and vice versa.
  2. I was deeply ashamed of what a hard time I was having as a homo-attracted Christian. I did not make it look easy. I felt humiliated over being so much worse at something (i.e., being a Christian) than everybody else who was trying it. And I was totally ashamed of being associated with exgays and homophobic evangelicals. My pride kept screaming at me to go back to familiar territory, to what I was good at–as if my libido needed any encouragement! If I hadn’t been so prideful, maybe I wouldn’t have had such a hard time.
  3. I simply could not figure out how to sublimate sexual desire. I had some very patient long-term celibate friends who tried to explain it to me. I believe it’s possible, I really do. I just must really suck at it.  So I was basically super-sexually-frustrated all the time.  (uh, except when I wasn’t.)  

So, my particular issues with gay identity were the issues of a woman struggling fiercely, teetering on the brink of apostasy.  (You can read more about that here and here and a little bit here.)  They may not apply to those who aren’t doing such a crap job of living the Christian life, which most likely includes you, dear reader. 

Go on to Part 2