I’m a Christian with gay feelings. What should I do?

Dear Bear,
I want a different perspective on something I’ve been going through. I’m a 21 y/o female and one semester in school about a year ago I developed a crush on a classmate who was a girl. I could feel it happening and I finally realized that I was developing my first crush on a girl. I cried a lot and felt this big war within my soul because I’ve been living a Christian lifestyle since I was 18. I know exactly what people in my church will say about homosexuality and I know what the Bible says. But these feelings aren’t going anywhere as I continue to have multiple crushes or feelings toward girls. I haven’t acted on anything but I just feel very confused. I know no one really knows the answers when it comes to heaven and hell and everything but I really don’t know what to do… live the Christian life but continue to battle with these feelings and desires or…leave my faith to really figure out what this other side of me is?

Dear Brave Correspondent,

Oh, honey. That sounds hard, hard, hard and I am so sorry you’re feeling confused and stuck right now. Let’s talk some things through.

The first piece, what feels like the most important, is this idea of the “Christian lifestyle.” Now, I’m Jewish, and not an expert on Christianity (except to the degree that living in a Christian macroculture makes us all inadvertent participants in Christianity because of how omnipresent it is) but I have worked often with brilliant Christians and one thing I have learned from them is that Christianity is multifaceted. There’s not one “Christian lifestyle,” there are many. You’re currently following the teachings of one Christian church, but there are others, and SO MANY of them welcome and celebrate LGBT2Q people and identities. That may feel like surprising or new information, but in fact there are dedicated people of faith in many Christian denominations including an absolute ton of priests, ministers, deacons, and other faith leaders who think you’re perfect just the way you are – so many of them, in fact, that there’s even the entire Born Perfect movement dedicated to helping people from fundamentalist religious backgrounds move through the stuck, hard place in which you find yourself.

So, there are a lot of Christian lifestyles, and many of them love you as you are and believe JUST AS FULLY in you as a perfect person regardless of your sexual orientation or your gender identity. Acting on your feelings and loving who you love does not disqualify you from Christian fellowship and certainly not from the love of Gd, even though there are people of many religions who like to interpret it that way.

Some of this is holdover colonialism. When Spain and England started exporting their religion and laws all over the world through violence, slavery, forced conversion, genocide and imperialism they rode really hard on the idea that there are men and women and no other genders and that all people must be heterosexually married or celibate – even though Indigenous societies all over the world had maintained neutral-to-positive language and social roles for people we would today identify as LGBT2Q. Gay, lesbian, bi, queer and trans people have existed since people have existed, even though that information was heavily and violently suppressed for over half a millennium (give or take) in all the places that were colonized. So it’s not at all surprising that you find yourself struggling with an imagined choice between faith and sexuality – the system into which you were born formed that choice for you by erasing all the others.

I’m telling you all this history for two reasons. One, I want you to let yourself down off the hook you’re struggling on (for real, if you can, visualize gently lifting yourself down and onto the ground or if you don’t feel strong enough please feel free to visualize me doing it for you). There’s solid ground under there and no need to dangle and suffer. But also, what you’re feeling isn’t “natural law” or “Gd’s plan,” it’s completely created, fabricated and enforced by humans who believe they understand what Gd wants. While they’re free to believe it, I suppose, the enforcement part is a whole other kettle of loaves and fishes. There are plenty of other religious leaders who don’t believe that, who do want you to have a life of faith and a relationship with Jesus Christ no matter what your sexual orientation may turn out to be (and, I assume it goes without saying, I agree with those people). So you may need to leave your church to explore your romantic or sexual feelings for women, but you definitely, absolutely don’t need to leave your faith to do it.

(Then, too, sexual orientation is more complex than many people tend to discuss. I conceptualize it as actually being three things: behavior, identity, and desire. You’re figuring out your sexuality right now and while I think gay is great and you can live a fulfilling queer life and also be religious, I also think that it’s very fine and okay to be uncertain about your sexual orientation as you move through this part. Maybe you’re gay, or maybe you’re bisexual or pansexual or queer, and all of those are fine and okay. I’m just saying, follow your heart and don’t let people rush you into making declarations about your sexual orientation until you feel ready and clear. It’s very okay to keep your own counsel for a while.)

I really feel the pain in this letter, Brave Correspondent, and I don’t want that for you at all. I would encourage you so strongly to visit some nearby affirming churches or at least some affirming church websites, and keep an open mind – maybe you’ll vibe with the queer Quakers or the lesbian Lutherans or the pansexual Presbyterians (also researching this I discovered that there’s a gay god worshipped in Taiwan by people who go to his shrine to pray for a same-sex partner, should you find yourself in the neighborhood).

Okay, now one more thing, very tenderly: being a teenager and young adult can be complicated and confusing business. It’s not uncommon for people who are trying to make sense of their lives to find a system of religion that has strict and clear rules very, very appealing. That’s not at all to invalidate your faith but to question the container it’s currently coming in. Is there a chance that maybe your sense of uncertainty about your sexuality might have led you to choose this rigid church? Or were you maybe flailing a little post-high-school, unclear about how to proceed in life, and you found clarity and purpose from the external source at your church? That sense of “okay what now?” hits a lot of people when their previous rules system – bathroom pass, defined tasks, clear boundaries – ends with the end of school, and it’s super reasonable especially in this complicated world that a person might feel unsure about how to proceed and therefore look for who seems sure. Oh, hello, church-with-a-clear-life-path-defined-and-rules-to-follow, you’re looking nice today. Were you looking for a way to be in faith community? Or might you have been looking for structure and rules? Those don’t always come together, it turns out.

Brave Correspondent, I have a sense that you’re pretty convinced by the strength and magnitude of your attractions to women and that it seems like that calls your faith into question. It doesn’t. The world is full of LGBT2Q people of faith: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, and a whole variety of others, and today’s best news is that you can join them. You can love girls, love Gd, and feel confident that you are joining a lot of other thoughtful dedicated humans in those joint pursuits. All blessings to you.

love and courage,

Bear

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2 comments on “I’m a Christian with gay feelings. What should I do?”

  1. Allison says:

    Thank you for this, from someone who’s been out as both queer and “of faith” (polytheist, in my case) since my mid-teens. There are so many of us!

  2. Selena says:

    As an LGBT2Q-affirming Christian (Episcopalian, in my case), thank you so much for this lovely answer! LW, you are so loved and welcomed exactly as you are!

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