Most wardrobes don’t have secret worlds with epic adventures and magic waiting inside, but a few of them still conceal stories of their own. There, the sun never shines, the eternal winter doesn’t thaw, and the lion isn’t your friend.
You spend years upon years fighting the monsters, hiding from lions, and wishing that someone would come to strike down the wicked witch, but no one ever does. You stand by the lamppost for hours at a time, ready to escape your cold shadow of a world, but always stop at the border, thinking it safer to fight the demons you hate than fight the people you love.
Until, one day, you realize that living in darkness is hardly living at all. That if there was even a glimmer of light where the wooden doors have cracked open, it would be better to die in the sunlight than to waste away in the shadows.
So with one final push, the closet door swings open, and you know there’s no going back. The next words will change your life forever:
(If you’re looking for a story, you can find my testimony here. In this post I’ll be addressing the reasons I chose to publicly come out of the closet today.)
“Normal” has never been a word I’ve used to describe myself. Even as a child, I knew I was different somehow. Maybe it’s because I was told that everyone was unique, but something about me — my precociousness, my personality, my priorities — left me with the understanding that I was an outsider. Not simply one-of-a-kind, but inexplicably unrelatable — and bitterly alone.
Such is life for people like me. Unrecognized and left for dead by both the Christian and the LGBT+ communities at large, we who claim both identifiers often find our existence to be one of isolation. We are unhelpfully caught in the crossfire of the culture war, straddling an ever growing gap between two families we dearly love.
Sometimes it feels like we have to choose one or the other, but I’ve found that to be impossible. For me, to forfeit Christ would be to forfeit life itself; to forfeit the acknowledgement that I’m attracted to men would be to flat out lie. So as someone who is hopelessly dedicated to Jesus, and therefore to the truth, I’m deciding to put an end to this false dichotomy in my life.
I am a Christian. I am also gay. And I refuse to hide in the shadows any longer. Though it’s long overdue, I choose to walk in the light.
Given the kind of person I strive to be, I’m a little disappointed it took me so long to get to this point (also kind of surprised I managed to fool everyone — and myself — for this long). Transparency and vulnerability are two of the great pillars on which the koinonia of Christian life stands, yet it’s saddeningly rare to see such raw honesty because of how poorly our culture handles it. We’re afraid to bare our souls, because if only everyone knew the truth, they wouldn’t love me anymore.
I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I pretend to be. Because in some ways, I did pretend to be someone else, and for that I apologize. But for the most part, I’m still the same Jason you knew before — now you just know a little more about me. This is an invitation to get to know me better — to know the whole and undiluted truth about (hopefully, still) a friend. It’s an invitation you have the option of declining, but I sincerely hope you accept. It’s a call to navigate the meaning of agape in the midst of potential disagreement or confusion. It’s a bridge into a possibly foreign experience that I hope you have the compassion to cross.
It’s part of the human condition to resist being fully known — after all, it’s dangerous. Putting yourself completely out there can get you seriously hurt by the people you love, but I think that’s precisely why it needs to be done. Not only is it a great exercise in trust, but honesty enables us to become more fully aware of our common brokenness, and therefore more adequately equips us to bear one another’s burdens. In the words of the theologian Tim Keller,
To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.
In order to follow the Light, you have to do two things: 1) keep your eyes on it, and 2) move where it shines. This is the goal — to constantly pursue a position that keeps me humble, centered on Christ, and outside my comfort zone. It’s a horrible and wonderful place both at once; the light pulls us into the best version of ourselves, but it does so by searing away the dying parts of us that we so desperately want to cling to. It draws us out of our individualistic, selfish worlds and into a space where we are free to grapple with our darkness, struggle with our uncertainties, and wrestle with God Himself (see: Hb. “Israel“). If we ever want hope of taming our shadows, we first have to recognize them, and realize we can’t ever do it alone.
So as you can see, authenticity is pretty dang important. That’s why I’m writing this, and that’s why I’m coming out. I know that without the help of others, I’d quickly sink into the throes of loneliness — but I thank God for the people who’ve kept me afloat thus far.
That said, I also recognize that not everyone is afforded that same support. For many LGBT+ people in conservative/Christian environments, hiding is a means of survival. An estimated 1 in 10 people of the general population is LGBT+ in some form, which means that there’s a good chance at least one of your friends is suffering in silence.
How disappointing is it that we’ve created such a hostile environment that church is the last place an LGBT+ person goes to for help? That the most common words associated with Christianity are fear, condemnation, and judgment? A tragedy indeed.
In an ideal world, I would have gone public the moment I realized I was gay. But it took a while to get to the point when I felt adequately ready to first come to terms with that realization, and second trust others with that information. Like most LGBT+ folk, I’ve been deeply wounded by the Church, so I suppose it’s no surprise I took my time coming out.
So apart from being “vulnerable” and “authentic,” why take the risk now? I’ve arguably got a lot to lose by associating myself with “the gays.”
My answer is the same as fellow celibate gay blogger Matt Jones’: “I’m choosing to live openly because I love the Church too much to let it love LGBTQ people so poorly.” This is more than just about me — far from it. This is also about everyone who comes after me, who realize they’re different but have nowhere to go and nobody to talk to. This is because no one should ever have to endure the crippling self-hatred and desolation that I did — and I’m one of the lucky ones. For the literal love of God, the silence must end.
I hope that my writing would encourage these people and remind them they are not alone. That the God of peace and justice is with them, even when His Church is not. That Jesus didn’t die for you to feel worthless, but that His resurrection makes you worth it.
I also hope that my straight readers would be willing to engage with a new perspective. I hope you have questions, that you would ask them, and that you would embrace uncertainty for the sake of learning to love more wholly.
There’s so much more to say, but there will always be time to write more in the future. I invite you to join me on this journey, because this is only a single step on the tricky and confusing path we call life. Together perhaps we’ll find beauty in the grey areas — where we find ourselves neither here nor there, suspended between what we knew and what we will know — perhaps we’ll find glory in the liminal, because that’s where the Light often leads.
Personally, I’m done running away from the light. Today, I choose to chase it completely, as it leads me through the realm of the in-between.
PART 2: A God of Love and Surprises