Being LGBTQ+ and a Christian? Let’s stop you there. I want to explore this one a bit further.
The idea that you can’t be a Christian if you’re LGBTQ+, or that you can’t be LGBTQ+ if you’re a Christian, is certainly how a lot of queer Christians feel at some point in their coming out journey. It’s how I felt for a long time, but I’m here to tell you that these things definitely CAN go together.
It took me until I was 19 to realise that I was queer. I’d been a Christian my whole life and, until I went to university, I wasn’t sure I’d ever even met a gay person before. There was barely any representation on TV or online, so all I really knew was what I learnt through rumours and whispers at school. So when I realised that I was in fact gay, it was a bit of a bombshell.
Before I came out to myself, and to others, the idea that being gay was sinful was a fairly easy thing for me to accept. It didn’t affect me or anyone I knew. It was a thing that happened to ‘other people’. There was no need for me to question the things I’d been taught or told and it had no real impact on my life or my faith.
When I came to the realisation that I was gay, my faith crumbled. I felt rejected, betrayed, and pushed away from the God I thought was meant to love me unconditionally. I looked at my queer friends and wondered how God could look at them and see anything but love and beauty. ‘God hates me,’ they’d say to me. ‘No, God doesn’t hate you!’ I’d try to argue back, unable to really believe it for myself. A tiny thread of faith clung on, surely God loves us. I stopped going to church, convinced that everyone could tell I was hiding this huge, unforgivable, secret. I was convinced that as soon as they found out they’d force me to leave, that I’d have to fight for my own existence as a queer person.
I didn’t go back to church for a long time, too scared at what they might say to me. Too unsure of what I believed myself to argue my case. Too anxious to pray for fear of what God might say to me. It was easier to hide, but it was eating me up inside.
I moved back home after living in France for six months. Lost, exhausted, confused. I received an invitation to meet a local minister and their partner at their home. I was intrigued, so I went along. We had coffee and chatted together. I looked through their kitchen window and spotted a couple out in the garden. ‘Oh – that’s Helen, and her girlfriend Lydia. They’re part of our church,’ they said. Wait – what? My heart sped up. There’s a queer couple in this church – and that’s okay? The wall I’d built around myself started to crumble. ‘I’m gay too,’ I told them, wondering where this confidence had come from. ‘Cool,’ they said. ‘Do you want another drink?’
The invitation to join that church changed everything for me. A church where I could rebuild my faith, where I could be fully and truly myself, where I could invite my partner, where I could bring my friends along, where we could discover more about Jesus, where we could learn the meaning of community.
You may not have found a space where you feel safe to come out yet, that’s okay. It will come. But believe me when I say you’re not on your own. There’s a whole community of us out here, a big lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, trans, non-binary, intersex, asexual, genderqueer and Christian family. You’re not a mistake. In fact, you’re far from being a mistake, you’re a miracle. You reflect God’s image. Take that in. You deserve to know love, acceptance, celebration and belonging.
There are lots of ways you can connect with other LGBTQ+ Christians. Look up Diverse Church, Wild and Holy, One Body One Faith, Quest or explore the Christianity page at www.queerstreet.org.uk/christianity – community can be so healing and there’s so much value in finding a space where you can be truly yourself. And, lastly, God loves you. I really mean it.