Side-B Retreat/National Coming Out Day

Today, it just so happens, I have two fairly unique topics to talk about. I tried to think of how I could tie them together and nothing is coming to mind so I apologize for the disjointed nature of this post (and it’s title 😜 ). The first thing I want to talk about is the retreat I went on this past weekend.

For those who don’t know, I’m part of a Side-B gay Christian Facebook group. I joined the group after meeting some awesome people at GCN this past January and, while I was not particularly active for the first few months, recently I have been making so many friends and connections there and receiving so much support and it’s been an amazing blessing. This past weekend I attended the annual retreat for this group and it was absolutely outstanding! In addition to meeting several people in person who had previously only seemed to exist on my computer screen, I was also able to meet several new people who I had never interacted with. Every single one of them was amazing and such a source of joy and encouragement (even the one who routinely calls me a turd and a moron 😜 ).

We prayed and worshiped together, I attended my first Catholic Mass (an awesome experience so hit me up if you wanna talk more about it), hung out at the Cincinnati zoo, and did basic gay stuff like musical/Disney sing-a-longs and talking about which guys we think are hot (I know some people might disapprove of this part, but for those of us who weren’t able to do this with their peers growing up, there’s something incredibly freeing and normalizing about it). In addition to the deep conversations we had and the blessing of being reminded that we’re not alone in our struggles, I was incredibly blessed by the gift of physical touch that I received this weekend.

Again, some of you might doubt the prudence of putting a bunch of celibate gay Christians together and allowing the freedom to express our affection physically, but again, it’s something that our straight brothers and sisters often get to enjoy, but that we are often sadly left out of. I know that, personally, I almost never have physical contact with anyone other than a handshake or a quick side hug. I’ve become more convinced recently that expressing love through physical touch is a very important part of being human. It was so healing to have someone come up behind me and rub my shoulders or to embrace in a real tight hug with someone. I even learned about the Maori greeting called hongi which now holds a special place in my heart. All in all, I can’t express in words just how much this weekend meant to me. I love and desperately miss every person who was there and I’m already looking forward to next year.

The second topic relates to this day in particular. October 11th is National Coming Out Day. I first began coming out during a church winter camp almost 13 years ago. Back then it involved a lot of tears (so many that I usually couldn’t even get the words out) and an overwhelming fear that I would become a pariah in my church community. I’m so glad that, as a Church, we have come a long way from those times when a young gay person naturally assumed that admitting their sexual orientation would result in excommunication and disgrace. We still have a long way to go and there are many churches where this fear is still a reality and that’s why I want to take a minute to address why I came out and why I feel like it’s so important even for people going the Side-B route.

Many Christians will say that there’s no point in coming out and being open about your sexuality if you are planning to remain celibate however I believe the potential benefits are very significant. For one thing, being in the closet is a sad lonely place to be. It’s so easy for the shame and guilt to pile up and with no outlet,  it can easily lead to depression and self-harm. When you are upfront with your friends and family about what you are feeling, you open yourself up to all the love and support they can offer you. I suppose the potential downside is that you also open yourself up to the potential for rejection and that is why it is probably important to take it slow and test the waters with safer people.

Also, being willing to be honest about your sexuality can help someone else who may be struggling. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t found Julie Rodgers’ blog and the Spiritual Friendship community. They helped me realize that I wasn’t alone in my desire to be open about my sexuality while remaining faithful to traditional Christian views on marriage. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons I started this blog (and the reasoning behind the blog’s title). Even if you decide not to come out on a large scale, you can still share your story with individuals and bless them that way.

Finally, I want to be clear that I am not suggesting that every queer person immediately come out to everyone in their life. While I would love to see everyone have the freedom that I enjoy, our society still isn’t there yet. There are still many places where being open about your sexuality can cause significant harm. Be wise and prayerful about who you choose to speak with and where you choose to post. Also, know that I am always here and I hope that you will reach out if you need someone to talk to.