This is the sixth in a series on “One Christian Minister’s Response to Homosexuality.”
When I have the privilege to listen to a person’s story as he or she shares a personal journey about sexual orientation, you begin to hear common themes over and over again. Matt wrote part of his story and sent it to me when he discovered I was writing this series.
The themes in Matt’s story below are familiar: Early awareness of being different; recognizing secret feelings towards the same gender in middle and high school but still trying to fit in with the norm; finding persons to talk to openly about feelings in young adulthood; and finally finding peace about one’s orientation. For many of the persons I listen to, like Matt, he or she finds that a spiritual journey is at the heart of it all.
When I was little, I knew there was something different. In 5 year old kindergarten, I remember playing with the girls over in the toy kitchen, more than with the boys over with the rubber balls and such. The teacher would always come over, and with her hands on my shoulders would push me over to where the boys were. She would tell me that I should play with the boys…so without hesitation I looked at one of the boys and said “Hi, my name is Matthew and I’ll be your server this evening, can I start you out with some drinks?” I would take everyone’s order then head back to the kitchen. The girls loved the idea of playing “restaurant”, and the boys could care less….the teacher eventually gave up.
I went through local public schools for elementary grades, then transferred to a private Christian school for middle and high school. As I grew older, I still knew I was different and towards the later years of high school had an idea of what was going on. When I tended to have crushes on the boys and not the girls…I knew. However, I was programmed to believe that it was wrong. My school taught that it was an affect of a poor relationship with one’s father. At the time, I bought that idea as my father and I hardly said two words to each other through high school. It wasn’t until my arrival in college that I began to really deal with me being gay, and how it affected my spiritual walk.
Fortunately, my best friend from high school (also my roommate) and I began attending First Baptist in my college town in my freshman year. We both began to get really involved with the Baptist Student Union and our church’s college group. Everything was going well…I had met a cute girl and we had begun dating, school was going great. I was having the time of my life.
I walked into my freshman political science class along with around 400 other freshmen. The professor had a seating chart in order to maintain attendance records, so I found my spot and sat down. I started talking to a guy next to me in class and before long he let me know he was gay. Through his friendship I was able to talk to someone about everything that was going on and he understood exactly. The weight that was lifted off of me was incredible. I immediately thought that if I am questioning myself, the last thing I need to do is cause someone else pain. I talked with my girlfriend and told her what was going on. She was angry and decided to tell all her friends and my friends what was going on.
I kept attending the First Baptist Church. The minister of college students eventually pulled me aside and flat out asked me what was going on related to my breakup. We ended up going to lunch one afternoon and I dreaded the conversation. He asked…I told….but his reply was not what I expected. He sat there and told me that not all Christians believed the way I was taught…that there are some out there who actually believe being gay is perfectly fine…and that many of those Christians were in attendance at First Baptist.
That following summer, I scheduled a meeting with another pastor in my hometown and we talked. His first response was to laugh. I looked puzzled at him. He apologized and then said he had known I was gay ever since I was a little guy. I continued to look puzzled…he affirmed that not all Christians believe it is wrong. He continued to reassure me that everything is fine with me, and that I need to find my own spirituality…his words were “To own my spirituality”. He wanted me to drop everything I had learned…and to re-read the Bible again for the first time. Clear out everything I had been taught…all pre-conceived ideas and to develop my own faith based on my own relationship with God.
So I did. I began reading everything over again. I took theology courses, studied different viewpoints and arguments on interpretations. Through the years at college, I began to open up to different ideas and beliefs. I questioned everything.
I finally understood that I am created by God as a gay man…this is who I am..who I am supposed to be.
Matt is now an active member in his church in Birmingham, AL. I appreciate his friendship and for sharing his story so that others could hear it.