I grew up in a fairly conservative Christian household. When I came to recognize my gay identity, my first reaction was to bury it as deep as I could. I told myself that it was just a phase, I just needed to find the right girl, I couldn’t be gay. As time passed and my feelings didn’t seem to change, I started to become angry.
Initially, I was angry at myself. I couldn’t understand why I had these feelings and my instinct was to pray about it. I was taught that homosexuality was a sin. I asked God to help me change, but He never did. In time, I became angry with God. I asked why He would make me gay when it was detestable to Him. My anger led me down a path of skepticism and finally atheism.
At that point in my life, I wasn’t out to a soul. I was still trying to bury it deeply, still trying to find the right one who would snap me out of it. To prevent others from stumbling onto my secret, I began distancing myself from everyone. Soon I had no friends to speak of and my relationships with my family was rocky. I became depressed, but I had no one to turn to.
Over time the depression deepened. I started to have suicidal thoughts all the time. I would pass over a bridge and imagine how easy it would be to drive off it and end everything. I would walk under a power line and imagine how painful it would be if the lines would fall on me.
There was a lot going on in my life at the time. The secrecy and denial, however, had forced everyone in my support group away. I could not turn to friends, family or God for help. I felt completely alone and that made me even more vulnerable. Fortunately, about this time I found a new spiritual path. I discovered a congregation that was supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and very slowly began to rebuild my spiritual base. With this support, I was able to connect to a psychotherapist who helped me through the depression, but I still couldn’t talk about my sexuality. It was still too deeply hidden, I still was convinced that it needed to change.
As my spiritual foundation grew, I came to realize that God hadn’t changed me, because there was nothing wrong with me to begin with. I finally began to accept myself as a gay man and in time came out to my friends and family. Religion is a double-edged sword in my life. It has, probably literally, saved my life. At the same time, it is a weapon used by my family members against me.
It is time for our religious communities to wake up and realize that God loves all people, not in spite of who we are, but rather because of who we are. It is time for the religious community to realize the tremendous harm they are causing people by their condemnations. It is time for supportive faiths and congregations to became way more vocal so that if nothing else, LGBT people know they have a place to call home and build a spiritual foundation. I give a damn, because people’s lives literally depend on this.
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