If you had asked me four years ago whether or not I’d consider writing publicly about my experience as an evangelical Christian guy who is attracted to other guys, I’m not sure what I would have done—except maybe stare at you awkwardly for ten seconds then leap into the nearest hedge and try to escape.
I had just begun to acknowledge and wrestle with the fact that I really wasn’t anywhere close to being straight, that the feelings I experienced in the pit of my stomach whenever I saw him (which felt nothing like butterflies and everything like an explosion of spastic badgers) actually meant something that I should have understood long, long before, but didn’t. But couldn’t. I was afraid and deeply ashamed.
Now, however, if you would ask me the same question I’d be all “I can’t talk to you right now, I’m busy writing publicly about my experience as an evangelical Christian guy who is attracted to other guys.”
So things have changed.
But is it for the better? Has this decision to move into the open been the right one? And, perhaps most importantly, why? Why does the internet need to be witness to my existence and growth as a gay (celibate, side-B) Christian? Is it dangerous narcissism, an exercise in humble vulnerability, or a little bit of both and a whole lot else? The point of this two-part series is to work through, briefly, the pros and cons of, well, this, of offering up a generally misunderstood part of my life to the scrutiny of the generally misunderstanding world.
Today, let’s take a look at the downside of “going public.”
Cons: Have you ever read the comments section of a widely shared article, from any perspective, about faith and homosexuality? I did once, and I was blind for a week. People can be mean, you guys, and the internet seems to encourage otherwise kind men and women to exercise their powers of self-righteous proclamation, sarcastic name-calling, and ignorant assumption-making.
What is more, writing under my real name (I’ve previously done some pseudonymous stuff) invites such attitudes to creep out of my computer screen and confront me in the flesh. Now, I’ve had people say hurtful things about my sexuality before, but usually in the context of intentionally trying to work through theological differences. Writing publicly about this has the feeling of climbing onto the Sacrificial Altar of Unsolicited Opinions. I expect to lose some friendships. I expect to be stared at. This scares me. It’s hard to describe the unique ache of making eye contact with someone you know who finds you, ideologically and ontologically, wrong.
I know some amazing people who have been denied ministry positions or lost jobs because their sexual orientation came to light. I was once restricted from helping lead a high school Bible-study because of mine. I chose to wait until now to come out so publicly because, well, I love working with teenagers, especially orphans and street kids, and I was afraid I’d be barred from an opportunity I desperately wanted because of somebody’s baffling, entirely unfounded, and distressingly hurtful fear that because I’m gay I’m also likely to be a child molester. The first time someone implied that connection, it did something horrendous to my soul.
But perhaps the greatest danger is found within me (sort of like Alien, you know?). There’s a kind of mania that comes with writing something and putting it on the internet, and it directly threatens to undermine the very reason I came out in the first place. A central part of my decision to be honest about my sexuality is the desire to foster authenticity. To be closeted usually requires a constant and exhausting self-awareness, a meticulous and intense image-management that can only be maintained through various forms of manipulation, half-truths, and, at times, outright deception.
I found such an existence to be increasingly antithetical to my faith and thus I “stopped lying.” But the internet poses a similar problem. Suddenly, that dimming impulse to assess everything I say and how it might affect my image begins to flare up again, and “authenticity” is infected with sensationalism to increase reader interest. Writing becomes less about sharing my story so that others may be encouraged and more about others listening to my story so that I can feel affirmed. It is a rather magnificent perversion that what should be an important step toward healing and wholeness can just as quickly plunge me back into the very sins I’m running from.
Being human is crazy.
Simply acknowledging these drawbacks to coming out doesn’t really do much to minimize them. They’re just a part of my life now, and that makes this whole process a little bit scary. And yet, as I’ll talk about in part two, I think the pros outweigh the cons, the reality of redemption overwhelms the fear of rejection, and that something truly good can come from this small step into the open.