I Used to Hide My Shame. Now I Take Shelter Under the Gospel.

How a gay atheist teenager discovered Jesus and stopped living undercover.

For decades, I’ve had Christian leaders asking me to please not share my Christian testimony, despite my thorough agreement with the church’s historic teaching on sexuality. Even the language of same-sex attraction—which many believers have found helpful as a way to disassociate themselves from assumptions about being gay—feels to many others like a tool of concealment, as though I were laboring to minimize the ongoing reality of sexual orientations that in practice seldom change.

 

Bill, I’m gay.”

The word vomited out of my mouth. I had never actually said it before. Not out loud, at least. We were in a mostly empty chapel on the grounds of the University of Virginia, and a dozen or more Campus Crusaders were gathering up on the stage to pray. Bill looked up at the stage, then back down at me.

He nodded toward the door. His tone was hushed. “How about we step outside and talk,” he said. “Someplace more private.”

I imagined that everyone had heard me say what I’d said. I glanced up as others quickly averted their gaze. “I don’t care, Bill,” I told him. “I have to get this out. I’ve never told anyone.”

This was the early 1990s, and I was a newly minted follower of Jesus.

I wasn’t raised Christian. My dad was a senior executive in the federal government, and I was raised in a good secular family in suburban Washington, DC. I had never gone to church or synagogue. I had never read the Bible. I definitely did not believe some ancient Near Eastern sky god was secretly pulling the ropes somewhere. A friend named Spencer once told me I was an atheist. I didn’t argue.

There were two sons in our happy secular household. I was the gay one.

My ‘Velvet Rage’

Though I made crude attempts to hide it, something about me always appeared different. At age six I asked for an Easy-Bake Oven and a miniature porcelain tea set for Christmas so I could serve a proper English afternoon tea with my stuffed animals. Somewhere there’s a photo of me holding a miniature teacup between my thumb and index finger, pinky sticking out like a rainbow flag. I got my Easy-Bake Oven. But then I was sentenced to not one but two terms on a boys’ soccer team.

It didn’t work.

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