For Christians, or for people from a Christian background, finding the strength to admit to yourself that you are gay or bisexual can be a long and arduous journey. However, finding the courage, moment and method to start being open with people at church – particularly when you suspect the response might not be 100% positive – can at times seem even more challenging. Here are 5 top tips from ‘out’ LGBT+ Christians that might help make the first handful of conversations easier.
1. Tell people in your time and on your terms – You don’t owe anyone anything. Yes it’s true that being open about your sexuality will allow people to get to know you on a whole new level - but that doesn’t mean you’re being dishonest with someone if you’re not ready to tell them yet. This is something personal to you and no one has a right to know anything about you that you don’t choose to tell them.
2. Build a support network before you start – The reality is that even in the most inclusive church in the world, you will receive some negative (or at least ‘clumsy’) comments. Dealing with this alone can be isolating. If you don’t have any other LGBT+ Christians in your life, you might want to consider joining some confidential online forums or Facebook groups which will be full of people who have walked a similar path. Hearing stories of those that have come through the other end and found peace and happiness will keep you going if the going gets tough.
3. Remember, you are not asking for permission or validation – This one is tricky, but before each conversation you need to decide whether you are genuinely canvassing someone’s opinion on what you should do or if you are simply informing them about a personal development. If the latter, you are totally within your rights to start shutting down the conversation should it start to become a lecture. You can simply and politely say, “if you don’t mind, I’d rather not talk about that at the moment.” Crucially, it is really important that you only ask people’s opinion on the subject if you really want to hear the answer – if you’re asking what they think about same-sex relationships because you are hoping and expecting them to say something positive, you can’t be angry if they tell you what you don’t want to hear.
4. You simply do not have to justify yourself or any other LGBT+ Christian – In a similar vein to the point above, the fact that you are an LGBT+ Christian does not mean that it is your job to answer everyone’s questions on the topic. While you might want to share your views and story with close friends in a safe a constructive dialogue, no one has a right to demand answers from you. If you’re accosted by a fellow church member wanting to know how you square your sexuality with Romans 1, simply point out that there is a wealth of information online where people lay out all the arguments methodically. If you want to be extra helpful, you can even provide a few web links.
5. Don’t assume confidentially – For many LGBT+ Christians this has been one of the most painful learnings from the coming out process. Sadly, being openly LGBT+ in church circles can still be relatively controversial and we all know that church-goers can be just as prone to gossip as anyone else. Similarly, more well-intentioned confidants may – for reasons of their own – feel that the information must be shared for reasons of your own spiritual protection. Others might simply feel that it’s okay to tell a wider audience it they think they are going to be ‘okay with it.’ If you’re nervous about the news becoming too widespread be very selective about who you tell.
Don’t forget, if things get really tough, and you don’t have the support you need, there are still people you can talk to. You might want to try: