I was inspired to do this #SpillSesh after some recent press involving the conversion therapy movement. Conversion therapy is the practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation using psychological or spiritual interventions. Recently, 14 states have enacted laws banning conversion therapy against minors. Despite these efforts, religious organizations and others continue to support the practice of conversion therapy. I read a story that one of the survivors of the Pulse nightclub massacre was now a spokesperson for the conversion therapy movement, saying he was no longer gay due to an awakening after the tragedy. This got me thinking about just what it meant to be gay and religious, and if it was possible to align these often contradictory realities. I spoke to a follower who runs the @gayinspire Instagram about his journey. He had some great thoughts…
- Please explain your coming out story and if you considered yourself religious before and after identifying as gay
I always knew I was gay growing up and even growing up in a Born Again Christian household. My father once said all gays should be put on an island and blown up. I still felt peace with God and knew there was nothing wrong with being gay in God’s eyes. I am thankful for my ability to trust the Holy Spirit back then. I felt more fear in the church’s eyes and the eyes of others. I first came out to friends I met when I moved to a big city and got a boyfriend when I was 18. I came out to family and friends in my early 20’s. It wasn’t until I started wanting a deeper relationship with God that the six “anti-gay” scriptures (as interpreted by some Christians) in the Bible confused me. This confusion forced me back into the closet. I attribute this to the lack of biblical education in most churches on homosexuality and the lack of support by straight Christians. But my spirit yet again told me it was ok to be gay and nothing was wrong – that’s when my deeper relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit began. I found a gay-affirming Christian church to guide me in my journey. I would attend church from time to time, but I would focus on reading the Bible, praying, and listening to God.
I get the occasional awkward look when I’m out on a Saturday with gay friends and tell them I have to be home early for church. Now that I started an Instagram on gay religious inspiration (@gayinspire), I get some hate from anti-gay Christians. I feel that pastors and church leadership need to educate themselves on the “six scriptures” and their context and history. I have a great pastor who has studied the Bible extensively and clarified these scriptures for me. At the end of the day, I am a firm believer in trusting your heart (or, as some say, your Holy Spirit) when you don’t understand things and letting that guide you. God doesn’t care if two people of the same sex are in a relationship based on love and support. What a beautiful thing that two people can support each other and love each other in today’s world.
- Many LGBTQ+ people feel rejected by organized religion or are told that being gay is a sin, what made you feel differently?
I might have answered this earlier but I overcame this by trusting the Holy Spirit. Our spirit is not our thoughts. I’m so grateful for this. I also educated myself on religion. I’ve spoken to both sides – anti and pro-gay Christians. Ultimately it is up to interpretation since both sides can be argued.
- What is your goal with @gayinspire and what made you start this project?
It’s a fairly new project that I hope can inspire the gay community to know that God loves them and there is nothing wrong with being gay. Most gay men have been rejected by their families, society and church, so when they are looking for something to fulfill them they may turn to drugs, lots of sex, obsessing over their bodies and/or alcohol to fulfill. Those are things that will never fulfill. It’s a never-ending search for more. If more gay men knew that there was nothing wrong with being gay in God’s eyes they would be more fulfilled. Whether it is coming out and growing up in church, fighting depression, struggling with alcohol, or wanting to be fulfilled as a gay man, I hope @gayinspire can give them some inspiration and guidance. The gay community is fairly new and still evolving and can have aspects of it that are extremely unhealthy. I hope to share what I have learned as a gay man having a relationship with Jesus for the past 20 years.
- What is the hardest thing about being a gay Christian? What is the best thing?
The hardest thing about being a gay Christian is dealing with other Christians who think being gay is wrong. Most aren’t educated and are harsh at times about being a gay Christian. I saw this bumper sticker once that said “God please save me from your followers.” I couldn’t agree more at times. The best thing about being a gay Christian is being able to turn to God and the Holy Spirit with any feeling, thought, or problem I have for advice and know I won’t be rejected and given an answer. The Holy Spirit is powerful.
- Do you have any advice for people trying to find an LGBTQ+-accepting church?
As cheesy as this might sound, pray, meditate whatever you want to call it. Ask God for guidance. Stand firm in your faith and know that there is nothing wrong with being a gay Christian. Feel free to DM @gayinspire for some recommendations on churches. There are some gay affirming churches that even Facebook live their services if you aren’t close to one in your area.
- How do you feel about religious organizations supporting the practice of conversion therapy, especially on minors?
I think it is extremely harmful. There is nothing wrong with being gay in God’s eyes. Maybe in the eyes of some religious people, but not in the eyes of God. The problem is the gay culture can be full of so much promiscuity, drugs, and alcohol that that guilt transfers over into being gay. I feel the churches use this guilt at time to try and back up that being gay is wrong. There is nothing wrong with being gay. But the choices gay men turn to aren’t always healthy. No judgment and only compassion though, because being gay and finding yourself is a hard process. But God is always there to love on you and strengthen you to make better choices. No Shame.
- The Pulse survivor has mentioned he has not hatred or hostility towards LGBTQ people. What would be your message to him in light of him lending his name and story to religious organizations and the pro-conversion therapy movement?
First of all, so much love to him. My heart goes out to him and everyone there that night. Prayers and love always. I would let him know there is nothing wrong with being gay. And if he has questions about those scriptures in the Bible to reach out. I pray that he goes to a church where the pastor has gone to a Theologian School and is properly educated on the Bible. There are lots of gay Christians out there. Him being gay is not why that horrible event happened if that is how he feels. Unfortunately, lately it seems like it happens to innocent people a lot more often I would encourage him to continue to pray to the Holy Spirit and ask for guidance. And regardless of his choices and journey through all this, we still love him and accept him!
The anger I have is more towards the conversion therapy movement and churches that could be taking advantage of him during the healing process.
- Any other thoughts or comments?
Here is a great website for people struggling with Being Gay and a Christian: http://canyonwalkerconnections.com
Here is a book about this called: What the Bible Really says about Homosexuality by Daniel A. Helminiak, Ph.D
Regardless if you gay or straight, spirituality isn’t about being perfect it’s about knowing you have a place to go to for love, strength and guidance!