Save our kids
I want to pause my story for this episode to answer some of the questions that have been coming in since I started This Little Light of Mine with an intention of being as transparent as possible.
Some of the questions that I’ve received are on the lighter end of the spectrum… I was a bit surprised by some that got a little bit heavy.
The easier questions
- I’m currently 42 and live in Toronto
- I’m single but live with my new puppy Keystone (see video below of me attempting to do an at home workout with him)
- I’m the oldest of three children. I have a younger sister with four kids and a younger brother with three kids
- My biggest coping mechanisms during my Covid lockdown time have been “eating my emotions” (I eat like a teenager and would be embarrassed if you looked in my fridge right now)
- My top three ways of practicing self-care:
- Journaling: I’ve kept a journal since my late teens… this is one of my main ways of talking and listening to God.
- Working out: I love HIIT classes, running and lifting weights
- Growing: I am a self-healing/spirituality/personal development junkie. I get energized when I learn new things, discover new insights about myself and others and see new ways forward.
- Does my family accept me? That’s a complicated question and I will definitely be covering that in upcoming episodes. For right now I’ll share that I feel loved and accepted by my parents and that we have made gigantic strides forward in our relationship in the past year
Moving into deeper waters
Someone from LA contacted me to say that my entire project triggered him… He identifies as a gay man in his mid-twenties. And according to him, everything about TLLOM was wrong and highly suspicious. He told me that my message was too slick, too branded and too carefully thought out.
He went on to say that my project doesn’t look like the honest, raw and messy journey of someone seeking to recover from church-inflicted trauma. He thought I was one of the new re-branded programs from establishment churches looking to lure hurting LGBTQ individuals back into an institution which, to many queer people, is dangerous and broken at its core.
As we continued our conversation, I could see so much of myself in his questions and in his hesitancy. There was obvious pain and trauma in his story yet part of him still held on to some hope that MAYBE, just MAYBE… there might be a new way forward.
Prove to me, that you are who you say you are
His big questions were…prove to me, that you are who you say you are.
Show me your wounds, your pain, your trauma and your mess. And then sell me on WHY you’re doing what you’re doing.
After taking some pause to consider how my experience in advertising and marketing were viewed by him as a threat… I started with him that I’m in 40’s and that there are lots of raw and messy parts to my story… those will come out in time but I’m not about to throw that up from the stat…. I shared that this journey has been decades long and he’s seeing me as I come above water again.
I shared that for nearly my entire life I’ve felt alone, disconnected, separate, wrong and sinful. How my church community taught me that God didn’t love me because of who I am and how God designed me to love.
As a young boy I sat terrified in a church pew week after week fearing the day that someone would find out about my shameful secret and ship me off to be “fixed”. To hide my shameful secret I felt forced to create an entirely separate identity, one that denied who God created me to be, just so that those who “loved” me would accept me. Creating a false version of myself was an affront to God, taught me to hate myself, and wrecked havoc on my life and the lives of many around me.
Conversion therapy on myself
Young, terrified and full of shame I didn’t have anybody to talk to. AOL chat rooms were just being invented when I was a teen. I didn’t know that any other gay Christians like me existed. I thought I was the only one. I also knew that if I spoke up I would have been “lovingly helped” to remove my “same-sex attractions”. I now know that my silence at a young age was God saving me from the abuse of conversion therapy. Although I can see now that I actually did something much worse… I conducted reparative therapy on myself and this “therapy” of hate was 24/7 for at least 20 years
As a young boy I would have given the world to turn around in church to see one single solitary example of a loving committed gay relationship, to hear a church song that affirmed LGBTQ people or to hear a positive and affirming message for ALL of God’s people from the pulpit. Or to hear even one positive… just one loving and affirmative comment about a gay person from anyone in my family or church community. Even the hope that love was a possibility for a gay Christian like me would have changed the trajectory of my life.
Others have reached out asking why I’m helping to keep the church alive by talking about such a hate filled place. They felt that by even mentioning church, God and queer in the same sentence was only re-victimizing the hundreds of thousands of queer people who were de-humanized and tossed aside by the church.
Like many other gay Christians I have left the evangelical church.
Why would anyone stay in a space where, at best, they feel that they aren’t invited?
Don’t ask don’t tell
Or stay in a place, where they are told that they can stay BUT ONLY IF they accept second class citizenship or live in the shadows of a ‘don’t ask don’t tell world’?
I thought that walking away was the solution. I explored other types of churches; predominately gay churches, Unitarian Churches, United Churches, Super Mega Pentecostal Churches, Anabaptist Churches, Anglican Churches, Centres for Spiritual Living and not going to church at all.
Being part of a predominantly LGBTQ church played a massive role of helping me reconcile my sexuality with my faith. I will be forever grateful for the loving compassion, the God centred ministry and the friendships that I was surrounded with during this time. Churches like MCC Toronto are desperately needed to help pick up the discarded people who have been dejected by mainline Evangelical churches. As much as I desperately needed this bridge, I also discovered that I don’t want or need my faith to focus exclusively around my sexuality and I don’t want my faith to exist in a segregated community.
At some churches I felt welcomed, included and affirmed and yet the style, format and community made me desperately miss my evangelical roots. At others I could be gay and we could gather as a group as long as we didn’t publicly talk about our existence. At some I felt the familiar sting where ‘all are welcome’ eventually morphs into you can’t be part of our community if you are going to continue with your “same-sex attracted lifestyle”.
Filling the void
And when I didn’t go to church, I desperately missed the community and craved the connection that I felt from the evangelical church… sadly MY way of filling this void nearly cost me my life.
So, to answer the questions ‘why haven’t you completely turned your back on the church?’ or ‘can’t you see that you’re continuing to hurt queer people by even talking about church?’
Save the kids
To these questions I share that somebody needs to go back into the burning house and save the kids. If we all leave and never look back, what hope do the younger versions of ourselves have? We didn’t have anyone to help us. Does that mean that we shouldn’t help them? Change has to start here.
I hope that by sharing my story NOW, I can start to BE that example to other young gay Christians and their families that sit in churches each week TODAY.
Another person was offended and disgusted that I would even use the phrase Gay Christian. He told me that I should be ashamed of myself and that I needed to re-think what I was doing.
No, this wasn’t Trump supporting fundamentalist in the deep south… this was a queer liberal snowflake who wondered how a homosexual man would use the word “Christian” to describe himself. To him I was choosing to align myself and my identity as part of a hate-group.
I don’t fully agree with his view… but I get his point.
Despite leaving the evangelical church God has never stopped urging me to follow through on His mission that he gave me as a young boy. After decades of running, trying as hard as I could to turn my back on my faith, this project is my starting point to help heal. Heal myself, heal relationships, heal families, heal communities and heal (or perhaps radically alter) what we call ‘The Church’.
The time has come for the evangelical church (and quite frankly all faith traditions) to open their doors and fully affirm LGBTQ children of God.
You’re just angry
I’ve been surprised by some of the comments that I’ve received about some of my posts. I’ve heard things like
“You’re doing this because you’re mad and want to get even”
“Wow, that was pretty direct, shouldn’t you tone things down so that people don’t think you’re angry?”
“You’re trying to hurt the church… do you want to cut everything down… think of all the good that would go away”
When I go inside with these comments, I can feel my anger. Who wouldn’t? My experiences with the church nearly cost me my life… and it’s taken the lives of some of my friends. Of course, I’m working through anger as I heal… AND I’m working through this anger with a number of different therapists and specialists.
White male privilege
What I’m starting to learn… is that as I start to use my voice… now I’m angry. Now that I’m speaking my truth… it’s not convenient… not polite… now that I’m taking off my mask I’m no longer part of the majority.
My white male privilege is starting to get a tiny taste of what it must be like to be the angry black woman, the loud screaming immigrant or the emotional woman.
Want to know what I think we should ALL be angry about?
Queer Youth Suicide
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth 15 – 24
- Queer youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of their hetero counterparts. (this stat includes me and dozens of my friends)
- Queer youth are almost five times likely to have attempted suicide compared to their hetero counterparts (same connection as above)
- Queer kids who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to QUEER peers with low level or no family rejection – THIS STAT IS TALKING TO YOU CHURCH
- 40% of transgender adults have reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals report to having attempted suicide before 25
- Suicide has claimed the lives of my friends Ron, Chris, Steve, Scotty and many others who have died way too early, but with these friends, we pretend it was for some other reason so that we can make ourselves feel better or less guilty.
Queer youth mental health and substance abuse
And let’s just touch on mental health and substance abuse for minute:
LGBTQ individuals are almost three times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder,” and LGBTQ teens “are six times more likely to experience symptoms of depression than the general population.
- Substance Use: LGBT youth are more than twice as likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol.
- Self-Harm: With each instance of verbal or physical harassment, the risk of self-harm among LGBT youth is 2 1/2 times more likely.
- Happiness: Only 37 percent of LGBT youth say they are happy, compared to 67 percent of non-LGBT young people.
We are abusing our kids
We can no longer afford to ignore the psychological, spiritual, emotional and mental abuse that the church inflicts on children when they teach that any of God’s children are less than, unworthy of love or unable to love in the way that God has designed them to love.
I’m sharing my story for other LGBTQ children, their families, their friends & allies, their churches and for all the people that go to and support their churches.
It is unacceptable for anyone to be made to feel less than whole for who they are.
It is unacceptable for any more children end their lives for feeling unloved.
It is unacceptable for any more parents to loose their children.
It is unacceptable for any more siblings to grow up without really knowing their brothers or sisters
It is unacceptable for any more people to be turned away from God’s message of love because of a message of exclusion from the church.
Someone needs to scream FIRE
Call that angry… I call it not wanting people to die. Somebody needs to scream FIRE and help get people out of the building. Hopefully you’ll help by calling 911 instead of just standing there to watch… or walking by pretending that nothing is going on.
To the LGBTQ children growing up in the church right now and to those who have left this project is dedicated to you.
You are loved
I want you to know how loved you are. You are loved unconditionally by God who made you exactly as you are.
You are one of God’s chosen children and you were created to live a brilliant life, full of love, joy and peace.
You, your heart, your mind, your body, your spirit, your gender expression, your sexuality and the way you love, are created perfectly in His image.
You were created on purpose and your purpose is to fully love yourself, connect deeply with others and share your love with the rest of the world.
Let your light shine
Your purpose is to let the light of your life shine.
Now is the time for our return to love. Our time to let our lights shine. Our time to celebrate God’s unconditional love for ALL people.
You are creative, guiltless, resourceful and whole. You are loved and you are worthy of love… we all are.
And when we fully accept this… we can create whatever world we want. And that’s when we can start our miracle making together
Thank you for coming along with me today as I paused to answer some of your questions. As I get deeper into this project I’m realizing how important this work really is to me.
Our kids need you
As I look back on my life (and as you’ll hear in future episodes) I’ve smelled smoke coming from that burning house since I was a little kid. But back then I was in the house and needed to be rescued… I needed to be protected. I’m now seeing the opportunity for me to use my voice to be part of the solution. Thank you for joining with me… our kids need us. They need us to be leaders and examples of what unconditional love actually can be. And I’m learning that love is a verb… it’s not a noun. It’s about action, it’s about doing something, it’s about showing people what love is.
Become an investigative reporter
Before I go I want to assign you with some homework to lock in some of the learning today’s episode. Have you ever dreamed of being an investigative reporter? Well, Now’s your chance.
I want you to call up your local Baptist, evangelical, Pentecostal, Catholic or non-denominational church (and let’s not leave out Mosques, temples and other places of worship and ask them the following questions.
Question 1: Do your policies allow LGBTQ+ folks to be baptized in your church? Get married here? Are there any restrictions on how LGBTQ+ folks can participate in your church?
Don’t be afraid to get specific. Start with the lowest level of participation, maybe a hospitality team member, door holder, cafe worker, etc. Continue towards roles with more responsibility, and ask if all LGBTQ+ folks can teach Sunday School to children, preach in services or serve as pastor. If there is a “women’s retreat,” specifically ask if trans women can attend or if it’s only for cis women. Clarify if the policies differ for gay, celibate folks as opposed to non-celibate, gay folks. Even if the church has a rainbow flag in the sanctuary, double-check if they officiate same-sex weddings, because they may not be able to due to their denomination’s policies. Asking yes-or-no, policy questions will get you the clearest answer possible.
QUESTION 2: Are women currently permitted to preach in the primary church service? Serve as elders, board members, or be a part of other governing bodies of the church? Would a woman be permitted to be senior pastor/minister?
There is no room for ambiguity when faced with questions like these. If the pastor responds with verbose, vague language (e.g. “we support women’s leadership”) and doesn’t give you a clear answer, be polite but insistent. Redirect them back to your original question, and (if needed) ask for a simple yes or no. And if they do answer “yes,” ask them about the gender demographics within the leadership team and how often women preach.
Question 3: Will you ordain (or recommend for ordination) and hire openly LGBTQ+ people at this Church?
Policy. Policy. Policy. The more specific you can be, the more direct the answer should be. Asking about hiring and ordination policies is one of the quickest shortcuts to getting a satisfactory response. Clarify if the policies differ for gay, celibate folks as opposed to non-celibate, gay folks.
Once you’ve completed this assignment I want you to look at your investigation results and ask. What message do these results send to my children?
Question 4: How much of your paid staff identifies as Black, Indigenous, other Person of Colour, women, queer or non-binary?
When all else fails ask for the numbers. This question ask for a clear, measurable answer, free from ambiguity or flowery language
Question 5: What programs, policies and teachings does your church have in place to help dismantle white-supremacy.
Again, ask for the specifics. Who leads these programs? Where specifically do you find the content, research and stories to create these teachings? What measurable results are you tracking in this area?
Ask for the evidence: Can you please send me the links to your most recent Sunday morning service were a:
- queer affirming message was shared by a member of your staff who identifies as queer?
- message of dismantling white-supremacy and the intersectionality of race and sexuality, race and disability and race and colonization was shared by a member of your staff who identifies as Black, Indigenous or other Person of Colour?
- message of gender ethics, sexuality, equality and the bible was shared by a lead pastor on your staff that identifies as female
What message do these results send to the children who are hearing these words?
What subtle messages do these findings teach our boys on their place in the world when interacting with women and queer people?
What messages of worth and equality do your findings reinforce and teach our girls about their place and space in the world?
What messages of worth, equality, love and inclusion do your findings send to our queer children who may be silently wrestling with their orientation and/or gender but too afraid to ask a question?
What messages are being taught about race, colonialism, white privilege and the urgent need of the church to dismantle racism?
What would our world look like if our governments could answer these questions in the same way as our churches do?
What about our places of employment? Would you even be able to have a job if your employers were allowed to answer these questions in the same way as some of our churches do?
Are these the messages that we want to be teaching to our children? Are these the message that YOU ACTUALLY BELIEVE FOR YOURSELF? Or are these the messages that you’ve been told that you HAVE to believe so that you can belong yourself?
What kind of person are you going to be?
One final thing to consider before we close. Are you going to join me and go back into the burning house to save our kids? Will you at least call for help or maybe run to get some blankets to help with the rescue? OR… are you going to be one of the people that stops and gawks at the blaze… or are you going to be one of those people who continues to sit silently while you pretend not to hear the alarm, smell the smoke and feel the roaring heat from the flames.
Special thanks to my friends at ChurchClarity.org for their help in providing these questions
I love hearing from you and would love to journey this path forward together.
You are loved.