I recently went to a bible study about dating with grace and how to put Jesus first in all of your relationships. Instead of leaving feeling like I learned something or feeling closer to Him, I left feeling unworthy of His love. The group created a ‘man panel’ which featured men from all walks of life (single, divorced, married, etc) to answer questions women have (it should’ve been women but anyway…). When they let each man answer their story, they were surprised to find out that the divorced man ended his marriage due to struggling with his sexuality. That’s when women chimed in with comments such as “we never would’ve let him on the panel had we known” and “you could tell by the look on his face that he knew how wrong it was.”

It was at that moment I felt unsafe, more so, that I was burying my struggles deep down inside. I was pretending not to notice that the closer I got to God, the further I felt from myself. My therapist and I had come to terms with my struggle with sexuality/pda being social anxiety and I felt okay with that. Little did I know, this would come up again a couple months later.

In May, I was baptized. I wanted to give myself and my life completely over to Him. I wanted to be forgiven for my sins. Yet after my baptism, I still felt as though I hadn’t fully given myself to Him. It wasn’t until attending the bible study that I decided to talk to someone about my struggle. I ended up coming out to a church friend and told her about the bible study. She told me to come over as soon as I could. She welcomed me into her home with open arms and told me “I couldn’t let you go to sleep tonight thinking that God doesn’t love every piece of you. He made you perfectly and righteously you.” That is something I will never forget.

From there, with my permission, she told the pastors the gist of what happened. At the following week’s service, the pastors asked if it was okay to take me upstairs to speak about what happened. They apologized on behalf of the church, asked how I was doing and what they could be doing for me. This got me thinking about what I could be doing for others.

I knew I couldn’t leave my church. This type of event is one of many reasons people in the lgbtq+ community leave or don’t attend in the first place. There are many steps we need to take to make others feel welcomed and I believe that staying is one. My friend mentioned how slowly coming out to those I’m close to in church could help those who are closeted feel like they can be their true selves. I do agree with this, of course, only if they feel safe. A bad situation brought light to my struggle. Now I am ready to help bridge the gap between church and the lgbt+ community.

To end, I want to share a paragraph from Cheryl Strayed’s book “Tiny Beautiful Things,” where she talks about attending a gay pride parade:

“I think I cry because it always strikes me as sacred, all those people going by. People who decided simply to live their truth, even when doing so wasn’t simple. Each and every one of them had the courage to say, This is who I am even if you’ll crucify me for it. Just like Jesus did.”

You are perfect. Your love is not a sin. You deserve to live life authentically you.