I became a Christian at the age of 15; I’d done the Alpha course and learned about what I was signing up for. I stand by the fact that it was a totally safe environment where I could throw any/all my questions out into the open and not be met with condescension or judgement. In my typically slow to trust and cynical mind, I decided to ‘give God a chance’.
For the rest of my teen years it stood to be the best decision I had ever made. As I learned more about my faith, settled into church and made a close circle of friends, my faith took me on some exciting adventures. For the first time in my life, I was discovering a profound sense of belonging and sort of confidence that I couldn’t have dreamed of before. I fell more and more in love with the bible; so much of it was not only profound teaching, but also beautiful literature. I used this book to get to know the Jesus I had given myself to, and with each reading I fell more in love. I began to see what Genesis meant about us being made in God’s image, and I finally began to appreciate myself for who I was.
Of course none of this prevented my disastrous attempts at chasing boys. Though to be honest, that could really some up my entire love life up to now. Loving Jesus didn’t prevent the heart ache, the conflict and the futile arguments with him to find me someone so I could have that big white wedding.
It definitely didn’t stop me from voicing opinions on subjects I knew little/nothing about (and probably sound hideously patronising in the process). College Helen was adamant that homosexuality was wrong and that it was the person we loved but not their ‘sin’. I was never sure why I felt this way…why did others feel this way? If the relationship wasn’t harmful or toxic, and was committed and loving, then why condemn it? Why judge it? Why ask people to give up something you wouldn’t ask a straight person to?
Alongside this growing sense of certainty in who I was in Christ, there were also a growing number of questions about the world around me. Late night debates at uni with flatmates about abortion/atheism and homosexuality became common place. I was forced to consider my own stance on the issues. Of course at this point I felt a sense of detachment from them, so though my opinions were (and still are) carefully considered, siding with my church on the issue wasn’t difficult.
But (and this is a big but) four years of university, including a year within a very secular country, experiencing some of the worst periods of anxiety and depression in my life, changed me. It took its toll on my faith. It led me to question all I had previously taken for granted. It led me to explore my whole self. I could no longer avoid the fact that I had always looked at girls a little too long, stared at them a little too much, and taken my ‘girl crushes’ more literally than most. I wanted to know if it was a fantasy or my reality. Really, I already knew.
Half of me expected to be writing a dramatic paragraph here about how much I had stressed over the decision to explore my sexuality, about the turmoils experienced and the terror of ‘coming out’ to my family and friends. Sorry to disappoint, but my story isn’t like that.
At first I didn’t tell anyone I was talking to girls on Tinder, and when I did, I spoke to one of my best friends about it. He is one of the best guys I know and when it comes to Jesus, I value his opinion and wisdom. What I was expecting, and fearing, was losing the respect and/or the love of a friend who fundamentally would disagree with a same sex relationship. Instead, like all my other friends, he met me with compassion, understanding and uttered the words I never expected to hear: “You need to know who you are”. My other conversations went much the same way; words of encouragement, and then onto the details: who, where,what how…just like it did with the boys we’d talked about. In my mind, that is how it should be. Coming out shouldn’t need to be a fanfare. People love people. End of.
But as ever, lurking in the background was the matter of my faith. Of my Jesus. He has been my longest standing relationship to date. While I question, rant and rage at him, I’ve never stopped loving him, and I can’t leave him. However, the homophobic comments, condescending sermons I have heard make the thought of settling into a church again terrifying. This is mainly because one of the things I have always loved about Jesus and how the church aims to replicate/imitate him is that love and acceptance are unconditional. But what happens when people find out I have a girlfriend? What then? Will I be asked to give up the right to something you would never ask a straight person to? What if I am made to feel like my sexuality is a dirty thing? What if I am told to “get help” for it? What if my ‘unconditional’ acceptance comes with conditions?
I don’t write this to criticise or place blame. I write this to say that it’s okay if you feel like you’ve stumbled into your sexuality, that you don’t need to be ashamed of it, and to say that being gay, or being bisexual, DOES NOT MEAN THAT GOD DOESN’T LOVE YOU. It doesn’t change whether or not he accepts you, and you are most definitely not alone.