On April 14, 2015, I had an article, which I intended to call “The Expectation of Love,” published in Westmont’s school newspaper, in which I briefly discussed my perspective on romantic love as a celibate gay Christian. It left a lot of questions unanswered, and I felt it deserved some elaboration. This is my story, along with a few extra thoughts — without a 750 word limit.
Coming out at Westmont was the third best decision of my life; the first being my decision to follow Christ, and the second being my decision to attend Westmont.
Although I expected a bit of backlash from the controversial nature of coming out as gay at a Christian institution, in reality I received the largest outpouring of love I’ve ever experienced.
I continued to brace myself for the insults and the condemnation, but it never came. For that I’m extremely thankful, but I also know that as an openly gay man in the modern evangelical church, the road I want to travel is one filled with pain and difficulty. It always has been.
A Preparation of Love
I grew up under the assumption that I was straight, just like everyone else. But for as long as I can remember, I have always wrestled with the suspicion that I was different somehow — and not just in terms of sexuality — I was always the kid who wanted to talk with the adults, who hung out with the girls, who read books instead of playing sports. I was never “one of the guys,” or even really “one of the kids.” Even before I was aware of what sexuality was, I wanted nothing more than to be normal — to be accepted and be treated as a fellow human.
But something told me I could never be that.
My earliest memories from elementary school were those of being treated like a “sissy.” All my closest friends were female and my aversion to competition earned me a reputation for being a wimp. I was sensitive, loved to spend time with my mom, and liked to sing.
I remember thinking that life would have been easier had I been born a girl, since everyone thought I was “girly” anyways. For as long as I can remember I have had an uncanny fascination with the male form, and it wasn’t until puberty hit at the age of 10 that I began to realize that I was an outlier.
The existence of the internet is one of the defining factors between the generation I was born in and the generation of my parents. And when raised on the internet, curious young minds like mine quickly learned to use search engines to answer our questions when our parents neglect to give us the sex talk. In my case, the lack of a family filter resulted in my stumbling across a gay porn site.
At the time I had no idea what sex even was; I was just trying to satisfy a curiosity in myself that I had no one to tell me was different than most. Even after my parents confronted me about the internet history, the only thing they had to say about it was “don’t do it.” No explanation why, no moral arguments whatsoever. Just “don’t do it.” You can probably tell how that worked out.
Being the precocious science brain that I’ve always been, I’d done reading on human pubescent development. I didn’t like what was going to happen, but I was nonetheless prepared. Voice cracks, check. Acne breakouts, check. Magnetic attraction to and fascination with girls, not check.
What was happening? Going from innocent child to testosterone-amped teen boy seemed to be going fine for all my peers, who frequently talked about their crushes, but I felt nothing. Nothing except that admiration for the male body I’d always lived with and never questioned. I was just “too mature” to notice girls.
The absence of real-life sexual chemistry in my life felt like a Godsend in middle and high school, since I was planning on saving dating for college — I didn’t need the distraction from academics. I understood that good Asian American Christian kids dedicated themselves to their work and didn’t let puppy love get in the way; as the old saying went, “true love waits.”
I didn’t have a problem with that, except deep down I was still constantly perturbed by a lack of attraction to girls; I didn’t know what love felt like, but the sisterly affection I felt toward my female peers didn’t sound like the heart-stopping, space-warping, stomach-twisting love that everyone described.
The only things that came close were the bewildering glances I would sometimes find myself stealing at guys around my age, and it sickened me. I didn’t know much about homosexuality at the time, except that it involved crazy, almost naked people running around in grotesque rainbow parades and having promiscuous, ungodly relations. It was wrong and the Bible was clear about that.
So instead of confronting my feelings and being honest with myself, I swept it all under the rug and numbed the pain with what had become a full-fledged porn addiction. On the outside I was a brainy church kid, ready to defend the gospel and whip up some science, but on the inside I was a boy with a secret so dark and painful that I couldn’t even admit it to myself.
This secret wore at my soul throughout middle and high school. Unable to honestly cope with the possibility of a homosexual orientation, my answer was to throw myself headlong into theology. I felt permanently dirty and shameful inside, and having been a Christian my whole life, I knew that Jesus wouldn’t let me down.
So I became well-versed in conservative apologetics (for a high schooler, at least), and argued as hard as I could against the evils of homosexuality, as if saying it enough would make me believe it — that somehow, through sheer repetition and effort, I could make myself straight.
No one would have to know, and I would be on track to achieving the Chinese American Dream: get good grades, get into a good college, get a good job, marry a (preferably Chinese) girl, buy a nice house with a picket fence, and have 2.5 (preferably male) kids.
The only thing I successfully did was make me hate myself.
The Devastation of Love
Up until I was about 17, my conception of the word “gay” was decidedly negative. It was about overthrowing traditional marriage; it was about wild and unprotected sex with strangers in the red-light district; it was an insult, a curse, and an invocation of God’s wrath against sinful mankind.
This began to change when I decided to write my senior research paper on how to compassionately respond to the gay marriage controversy (no irony there). In my search for resources, I happened upon a page called “The Great Debate” on GayChristian.net.
‘Gay’ and ‘Christian?’ I thought to myself, no Christian in their right mind would identify as gay.
Still, my interest was piqued, and after a quick read-through, my concept of what “gay” meant began to expand. I never ended up using The Great Debate as a source in my paper, but I subconsciously tucked it away in the back of my mind, not knowing I would need it in the future.
By the time I entered college I had begun to suspect that my attractions were more than just a phase. I had spent the last seven years building emotional walls and trying to push down my feelings for guys, and now I was living in very close proximity to a number of frustratingly attractive ones.
It drove me insane, and the fact that it drove me insane drove me insane. I was a Christian, and Christians weren’t gay. Gay is something you choose to be, and I sure as heck didn’t choose it. So why was I having these feelings? I didn’t want them, and I couldn’t let anyone else know I had them, aside from my roommate, who I felt deserved to know.
But don’t get me wrong; Westmont College became my favorite place on Earth. My favorite thing about it was the people. Beautiful, inside and out — they were people who would ask how I was doing, and actually want to know the answer. People who would stay at the table and wait for me to finish eating at my excruciatingly slow pace. People who would drop whatever they were doing to talk with me late into the night, listening to me and sharing their stories with me. It was as if I’d been running my entire life and I had finally been welcomed home.
But despite all that I still felt an enormous resistance deep inside myself. I had become so acquainted with my self-loathing that I sincerely believed I wasn’t worth loving. I cynically told myself that they were all just being nice to me because that was the “right” thing to do. No one could actually, really love me.
I was a closeted gay boy living with incredibly hot guys who I had to pretend not to be even remotely interested in. Stressful did not even begin to describe it. So for everyone’s safety, I stayed quietly behind the walls I’d built. But they just kept doing nice things for me. Including me. Loving me in the most Christlike way I had ever seen, even when I was being a pretty hateable person.
Brick by brick, the walls slowly tumbled down. I allowed myself to think the unthinkable — to even consider the prospect that I was exactly what I feared most. I was gay. And without any walls to protect me, I fell apart.
By now this experience has mostly blurred into a huge haze; but I do distinctly remember three emotions: the 1st was fear — I feared what my friends would think, of what my church would think, of what my life would look like. The 2nd was shame — I felt like the biggest fraud in the world, completely unfit to even speak the name of Christ. The 3rd was anger — I bitterly wondered why God had let this happen to me. After all He blessed me with, I could have done so much for His kingdom.
But who would listen to a gay man preach? Who would trust the word of a homosexual? What church would be proud to welcome me? My life could have been perfect if not for this one pesky detail — I had the talent, I had the grades, I had the friends, and I even had the interest of an amazing and Godly woman. And I could lose all of it simply because of my brain chemistry — I had no choice but to change.
The first thing I did afterwards was reject the label “gay.” I didn’t want the baggage associated with the word, so I opted to identify as “same-sex attracted” (SSA). SSA meant that I had some difficulties in life, but that didn’t mean that I couldn’t carve out my own path for love. Love was a rational decision — a choice — and just because I was attracted to men didn’t mean I couldn’t build a relationship with a woman; obviously God wanted that for me, right?
I suspected my best friend from high school (who will go unnamed to protect her privacy if you don’t personally know her) had feelings for me, given that she had asked me to our high school’s equivalent of prom, among other things.
Although I still cringed at the idea of being physically intimate with a woman, I knew I loved her in the agape and filia ways — the eros part had a ways to go, but I was convinced I could make it happen. After all, she was the valedictorian of our class, a biomedical engineering major, and the student leader of our youth group — what wasn’t to die for? So after a number of visits to her college and with her full knowledge of my SSA, we began what we began to call a relationship.
Every day I begged God to at the very least make me bisexual, so I could have a chance at being “normal”. But nothing ever changed; night after night I would lie in bed, praying, too emotionally exhausted to even cry myself to sleep. I would wake up every morning just as gay as I was the day before.
I was trapped in despair, with no one to talk to and no words to say. I was Chinese American, gay, and yet Christian — a minority among minorities — in other words, completely and utterly alone.
Then in the beginning of my sophomore year, when the woman who would become a mentor to me bought me a book called Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill, things began to change — though not in the way I had wanted them to. Just like me, Hill grew up in the church and realized he was gay at a young age; he eventually went to Wheaton and pursued Biblical Studies. Now he advocates for celibacy among gay Christians and teaches at the Trinity School for Ministry.
I often call Washed and Waiting the book that saved my life, because it gave me comfort to know that I wasn’t alone — that I wasn’t some freak destined to burn in the special part of hell that flies a rainbow flag. It gave me hope, and I still keep a copy of the book at my bedside.
But Hill’s narrative also rang true with another experience I didn’t want to hear: that there was no humanly reliable way to change my orientation. Between this harsh realization, my inability to reciprocate the love I received from my girlfriend, and a desire to see her find full love with a man who could love her the way she deserved, we ended our relationship. I went on to fully accept my identity and pursue a life of celibacy as a gay Christian.
With the door to romance closed, all the expectations I had for love became more painful and apparent with each day. I mourned the possibility of ever being a husband, a father; I mourned that because of my unchosen orientation, I would always be viewed as subhuman — inherently more broken than the average person, and perpetually disgusting in the eyes of God.
It was at this time that I slowly began to come out to my close friends, one-by-one. The process was exhausting, but it brought us all closer together as a result. Each time, I was met with unbelievable support and understanding; over time I assembled a list of friends who I had come out to so I could give thanks for each of them individually. By the time my article was published, the list numbered 56.
The Transformation of Love
If I was given the chance to drink a magic potion and change my orientation to heterosexual, I’m not sure I would do it.
In theory, it does sound nice — being able to enjoy a life like my friends’, a life full of hope in lifelong companionship, and a life without fear of being hated for something I had no choice in. But in reality, I am thankful to God for what He is doing through my experience; to undo what He set forth in me would be selfish and ungrateful.
My gay orientation has usually felt like a curse, but nowadays it’s becoming more of a blessing in disguise — it has transformed the way that I love.
Not only has my experience informed the way I prioritize my friendships above romance, it has helped me extend compassion to others who suffer from marginalization in modern society, especially within the church.
The fact is that an estimated 10% of the general population is LGBT+ in some form, and the Christian church is not doing the best job of extending the love of Christ to that community. In reality, even as a Christian myself, I feel unsafe in the larger community of believers. I live in fear that I will be condemned for how I choose to identify before I can say a word of Scripture. I feel like a ticking time bomb that could explode and split a church with the confusing paradox that is a gay Christian.
My sincere hope is that I could help contribute to LGBT+ acceptance in the church — not necessarily theologically, but at the very least humanly. There is no charge in the Bible to condemn others for their sins; on the contrary, we are charged with creating a community in which all can come to Christ as they are. We are charged with creating disciples of all nations and living peaceably with all people if possible.
The fact that we are so okay with making 1 out of every 10 people feel unwelcome in the family of God is shameful — and I desire to be a part of changing that.
Since I realized I was gay, my journey has been filled with doubt, agony, and weakness. But these are precisely the things that brought me closer to God than ever before. Through this experience I have tasted Christ’s love, His suffering, and His wisdom — for His plans are higher and better than I could ever dream.
Does that mean I don’t doubt sometimes? No. I still wrestle with extreme theological distress concerning topics like homosexuality and gender complementarity, which prove to be more complicated subjects than I previously thought. But such exploration is necessary for us to even begin to understand the great story that God writes through each one of us. In my case, I needed the experience to change my prayers from “God, change me” to “God, use me.”
It has taken a while for me to reach my current conclusions (and I’m sure I have a long way to go), but I now believe that having a homosexual orientation is not sinful in and of itself, and that regardless of my attractions I can still live a life pleasing to God.
I am still under the impression that homosexual behavior is sinful; I have yet to be convinced by an opposing argument, but I avoid drawing a solid conclusion regarding behavior until I have more information. However, I am confident that truth reveals itself to those who earnestly search for it. For now, I plan on continuing a life of singleness and helping the church realize deeper community to include the unmarried. The journey has just begun, and while I still fear for the future, I’m also faithful that our God who began a good work in us will see it through to the final day.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this [thorn in the flesh], that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
— 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (ESV)
UPDATE: I’ve since changed my theological stance on gay relationships, which you can read more about here.