Thursday, July 16, 2009

Gay At Wheaton

This blog is an extension of an essay I wrote for The Pub, Wheaton College's unofficial undergraduate journal. If you don't know, Wheaton is an evangelical Christian college in the Chicago suburbs. I wrote this essay to the campus community. I'm posting it in its entirety here, as the first entry. If you've read it before, read it again. It's edited to make sense outside of Wheaton, I added some sentences, and there are a couple new ideas (most notably the "well-meaning" strain).

I like guys. There, I said it. I am a male student at Wheaton and I’m exclusively attracted to other males. This essay is about having to be both of those things at the same time.

This is not my first time being publicly open about my sexuality at Wheaton. I started coming out as a freshman, telling close friends and family after years of silence. Soon I felt the need to talk to my floor, Fischer 5E, and several campus groups I was involved in. As word spread about my willingness to talk I was approached by campus newspaper The Record to do an interview, and in the spring semester of my freshman year it was printed, with my name and face appearing under the headline Gay at Wheaton. It was a terrible picture. I looked like a missing child on the back of a milk carton.

That’s how I became Wheaton’s gay poster boy as a freshman. Since then campus turnover has taken its toll and only a handful of people know anymore. And that’s been fine with me.

Yet I’ve found myself wishing I’d had more to say when I gave that interview as a freshman. I was eager to share my experience with the world then, but I hardly had any experience to share. Since then I’ve lived in the Wheaton community, attempting to reconcile my sexuality with my faith, for three years. I’ve gotten to know dozens of others here in the same situation. And I’ve gotten to know Wheaton—the ways it’s both the worst and the best place in the world for someone like me. Now I look at the awkward kid staring out at me from a three-year-old Record and wish he knew any of what I know now.

So even though it’s nobody’s business, I now find myself writing to whoever wants to read, once again Gay at Wheaton for all to see. My intentions are three-fold. I want to tell my story to the campus at large, many of whom have no idea what it’s like for their same-sex attracted fellows, or even that they have them. I also realize that there are more students than even I’m aware of who are at some point on the spectrum of gay experience and could benefit from hearing my story as well. Finally, I hope to open the conversation on the subject of homosexual students at Wheaton, a subject I’ve found to be conspicuously absent, despite much talk of homosexuality.

Rather than attempt to tell my story chronologically, I will arrange it topically. I’ve found that the most difficult part of reconciling homosexuality with Christian faith is that there is no shared language to describe the experience. No one has gone before and named the specific trials, questions and problems we face. The language we do have to choose from is weighed down with political and theological baggage we don’t completely understand. [1]

Because of this lack of shared language, as often as not the homosexual Christian has to come up with his or her own language to speak about his or her experiences. After wrestling with a problem for months, all I may have to show for it is one sentence where there used to be confusion. What follows are the results of three of my battles at Wheaton, one sentence at a time.

The first sentence is this:

We exist.

The most harmful and pervasive lie I’ve encountered at Wheaton has been that homosexual students at Wheaton either don’t exist or aren’t worth considering. Outrageously enough, I believed this lie for most of my freshman year.

I came to Wheaton desperate for answers, knowing my faith and sexuality seemed to be at odds, but having no idea how to reconcile them. I hoped I would find Wheaton to be a place that was ready to help me answer some of those questions. I didn’t even know what that would look like at the time. I think I hoped I would find an environment where people felt safe to be open about their sexuality, and where someone more experienced than me could take me aside and tell me what it was I was supposed to do with myself. I didn’t quite find that.

What I did find was a community of mostly straight friends who admitted their ignorance with regard to my struggle, but promised they would be alongside me no matter what. I also met several other same-sex attracted students who had the same questions I had: Did we have to become straight? Was that possible? Were we destined to be lonely? Surely we weren't the only ones in our situation, right?

What I didn’t find was answers, or even any well-worn route toward them. Now I had friends, and we were confused together—we didn’t know what to do with ourselves, and nobody else was telling us. There seemed to be no protocol for us.

Eventually one of my gay friends told me about a support group at the counseling center for same-sex attracted students. I went, hoping this would be a step toward answers. Every Friday, five of us sat in a circle and talked about our experiences with two mostly silent grad student practicum counselors.

It’s hard to describe the way I felt about those meetings. I looked forward to them every week—I’d never been able to talk candidly with others in my situation before. At the same time, though, I felt worse after every session. The more we talked, the more we all felt irrevocably isolated from the rest of the Wheaton community—holed up in the counseling center on Friday mornings, crying because we liked guys. I was even more confused than I’d been before.

Meanwhile, outside our little room in the counseling center, everybody at Wheaton was talking about homosexuality. In April, a gay activist group called Soulforce visited our campus as part of its Equality Ride, which visited dozens of institutions across the country to protest their policies regarding homosexuality. Since Wheaton's covenant does not allow its students to engage in homosexual behavior, Soulforce viewed it as "oppressive" to gay students. In preparation for the Riders' visit, the college hosted speakers, forums and events to educate the student body. Ex-gay speakers gave testimonies in chapel about their miraculous changes in orientation, giving anecdotes about their current spouses and kids. The provost and other administrators took a closer look at Scripture passages that prohibit homosexual behavior, explaining why Wheaton's covenant held its stance.

On one level, this was exactly what I’d been waiting for. Wheaton was suddenly a flurry of information about same-sex attraction, and some of it was extremely helpful. But at the same time the attention on the issue was extremely alienating for those of us at those Friday morning meetings. Despite the floodlights being thrown on the issue of homosexuality, we the homosexual students were still in the dark. Not one of the sessions reached out to same-sex attracted students or illuminated straight students to our struggle. We were occasionally mentioned as a liability—the concern seemed to be that one of us would hear Soulforce’s rhetoric and be won over to the wrong side of a moral debate.

This is one example of a pattern I’ve seen at Wheaton. Every once in awhile, like during the Soulforce visit, the issue of homosexuality flares up on campus, and this usually serves as a valuable time for the campus community to revisit its stance on homosexual behavior and address Wheaton’s place in a wider moral debate. I won’t argue that this is unimportant. Sexual ethics matters, and the entire campus--gay and straight--benefits from discussions like these.

But I want to argue that this type of discussion is always harmful to homosexual students unless coupled with an acknowledgment of our struggle and an active attempt to reach out to our needs. The reason for this is that for us, the issue is one of self-identification. The moral issue for us is not just an issue--it’s an identity crisis. And we can’t be expected to deal with those questions until more urgent needs of community and self-identification have been met. I’ll describe more what this looks like in my third section.

As for Soulforce, they came and went, and I felt unsatisfied by the whole experience. They claimed that Wheaton’s policy prohibiting homosexual behavior was oppressive, but I didn't buy it. Regardless of what I may or may not have believed given my soup of ethical confusion at the time, I knew that the last thing I needed to be doing was having sex with anybody, and I was glad for the paper restriction to hold me to it. Further, the main purpose of the Wheaton prep sessions for Soulforce’s visit was to show us that Wheaton’s stance is based on the overarching story of Scripture, and I was mostly convinced.

Still, what about the six of us wasting away in the Counseling Center? If the Soulforce visit, and the three-month focus on homosexuality it prompted, hadn’t helped me figure out what to do with myself, what would? As the group disbanded at the end of my freshman year, I concluded that nothing would. I felt I had reached the glass ceiling, and from there on out I was on my own. We may exist, but barely.

It took another year and a tragedy to gain a second sentence:

Wheaton is oppressive.

In June 2007, the summer before my junior year, my friend Stephen stepped in front of a train in Germany and killed himself.

Stephen was also in the counseling center group, and had been the first gay student at Wheaton to approach me after I came out. He was a year older than me, and had been coming out to people for a couple months when we met. I had already known him for his brilliant sense of humor and love of philosophy. When I told him I was gay we were in a large group of people. He gave me a bear hug, lifted me off the ground, walked me over to another side of the room, set me down, and told me he was gay too. After that, we frequently met and talked for hours. He was the closest thing to a mentor I had during my first year at Wheaton. Though he was as confused as I was, he was older and smarter and he cared about me. Most importantly, he understood. When he died, it felt like I had lost a comrade in battle.

Stephen and I had talked numerous times about a previous gay Wheaton student, also named Steven, who had committed suicide at a train crossing in the 80s or 90s. We wondered if he was an urban legend, but after Stephen died, a friend sent me a scan of an article about Steven in The Record. Below his picture was a brief description of him, along with remembrances from friends and professors. He was a part of Arena Theater. He wrote poetry. He killed himself on campus, at the President St. train crossing, in March 1988.

The danger of stories like this is that after awhile they become legendary. The 1988 Steven has achieved campus lore status, and after just two years, Stephen is already approaching that status too. But for those of us who knew one of these men or shared their struggles, these stories are far too close to home. In my time at Wheaton, I have known probably two dozen gay students, and almost all of them have shared with me that they were (or had recently been) suicidal.

I have written and re-written that sentence, and I can’t seem to make it painful enough. As it is, it sounds like a statistic, because I can’t share every story. But these people are my friends; they are dozens of my friends. And Stephen was my friend. Of course, Stephen was everyone’s friend. His death was a wake up call to many who had no idea they were so close to someone in so much pain. Chances are, my friends are also your friends.

I remember one specific evening, talking to one of my friends who was at the end of his rope, then walking home, waiting for a train at the President crossing, where 20 years ago Steven died. I didn’t know him, but I have seen his face in the Record I have saved as a PDF on my computer. And I did know Stephen. When I see his face I see it exhausted, across from me at a Saga table, or grinning, cracking me up with poetry about Kant's Categorical Imperative. Sometimes I have to remind myself to remember him that way, as my friend, and not as a legend.

Waiting for the train that night, exhausted, I asked God why so many of my friends wished they were dead. Sometimes it seems like we’ve been told the lie that we don't exist for so long it was bound to start coming true. In many ways, these two deaths, separated by 20 years, are nothing more than isolated tragedies, each with its own set of circumstances. But for me, they are a reminder that “We exist” is a sentence we have to fight for. Dozens of people on campus—your friends and my friends—are buying into the lie at any given time. The only thing that sets these two men apart is that they acted on it.

That’s really all I can say about oppression at Wheaton. Wheaton is not oppressive for the reasons Soulforce was protesting. Homosexual students aren’t actively oppressed under the community covenant. We just can't have sex--which puts us in the same boat as all unmarried Wheaton students. Wheaton is also not oppressively anti-gay, like some other communities. When we finally share our stories, we are usually well received. The community really does desire to help and love us. But they don't necessarily know how, so they keep quiet. As a result, many of us are wasting away, even in the midst of a loving community, under the burden of a well-meaning but deadly silence.

The argument will be made that depression and suicide rates are higher among homosexuals across the board, not just at Wheaton. And it’s true, a radical paradigm shift like coming to grips with one’s sexuality, especially in the Christian faith, is extremely stressful for anyone, and a lowered emotional state is par for the course, at least for awhile. It’s not right, it’s often tragic, and it’s nobody’s fault.

But I’d like to argue that it could be made so much easier for gay Wheaton students. As impossible as it may be to believe here, thousands of Christians outside the Wheaton community (and some inside the Wheaton community) live relatively well-adjusted lives, doing the hard work of reconciling their sexuality with their faith. They do this in community with other Christians, both gay and straight. They deal with the issue the way normal people deal with normal issues, alongside other normal, fallen Christians with normal, fallen, Christian issues.

That’s the truth that kills the lie, the truth I wanted to hear my first day at Wheaton, the truth that needs to be shouted from the rooftops so every closeted gay Christian can hear it. The reason the silence is so oppressive is that it has hidden this truth under a bushel, hidden it from generations of Wheaton students, gay and straight, except those who were willing to search for it like some stupid gay holy grail. Put more simply, it’s my third sentence:

You are not alone.

I learned this truth by mistake. As I said earlier, when I came out I found myself in a wonderful community of mostly straight friends who promised to stick with me. And they did. That community, over and against the support group, has been what has made my Wheaton experience positive. Though it may be obvious, it’s important to say that community was not centered on my sexuality. What bound us together, ironically, was grief—for Stephen, for other loved ones and losses—out of which grew celebration with and for one another in our different, normal struggles.

The other community I discovered accidentally was Church of the Resurrection (Rez). At Rez I found the healthy, intentional community Wheaton is not. While Rez is active in the moral discussion over the issue of homosexuality, it is equally active in reaching within the church to its same-sex attracted members. Rez ushers its homosexual members into communities of discipleship where they are free to be transparent about their struggles just like everybody else.

These communities have two main elements: community for those who are same-sex attracted, and community between those who are same-sex attracted and those who are not. In my experience, both of these elements are necessary for healthy existence as a same-sex attracted Christian.

To define what this type of community would look like at Wheaton, I first have to describe what it isn’t. First, it’s not a support group. As I stated earlier, the support group I was placed me in an isolated community with other same-sex attracted students, and we mostly reinforced each others’ feelings of alienation.

Second, it’s not a dating service. Wherever two or more same-sex attracted students are gathered, people worry they will have sex with each other. This simple fact is the biggest hindrance to community between homosexual students. Same-sex attracted students are afraid to seek each other out because of this fear. Administrators and faculty are afraid to encourage this type of community because of this fear. Though it is a legitimate concern, it is a foolish stumbling block if it is preventing such community entirely. The solution is openness and accountability both among gay students, and between gay students and their straight peers. This is how straight students maintain chastity, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t work for us.

Third, it's not an underground. Part of the reason students are still hesitant to reach out to one another, either by being honest about their own struggle or by being willing to talk to those who are, is because we have little guidance from above. Students at a Christian college look to the administration and faculty for their example. If our elders keep quiet, the student body keeps quiet, and our attempts at real community feel like a clandestine grope for acceptance that doesn't seem to be sanctioned.

Finally, the community I’m describing isn’t a gay-straight alliance. Community between homosexual Christians and heterosexual Christians is community between Christians. We meet not to celebrate our differences but to remember that we are the same. When I share about my sexuality with straight men, we find that our experiences are more similar than different. With this focus on our sameness, we are willing to learn about our differences so we can love each other better.

Since Wheaton isn’t a church, this community can’t be enacted here the way it is at Rez and other churches. Still, I would argue that some type of intentional, organized community that strives to be what I’ve described above is possible and necessary here. It would likely be a student led, informal but regular meeting of straight and gay students, focused on swapping experiences, confessing and forgiving hurts, answering each others' questions about sexuality, and seeking out more experienced resources who can teach us how to love one another.

More important than any intentional group, however, is to seek out this type of community as an attitude of openness and awareness among the student body. Straight students, you are not alone either: remember that you are surrounded by gay Christians whether you know it or not, and be transparently open to hear their stories. Gay students, be ready to talk, wherever you are in your experience. This conversation has to start with you.

I said before that Wheaton was both the best and the worst place for me to be a same-sex attracted Christian. And I meant it. It hasn’t been easy, but I wouldn’t trade my Wheaton experience for anything. The resources here for someone like me are unparalleled—people here take their faith very seriously, and I’ve finally (though it took until my senior year) started to find answers to questions I’ve been asking since I first realized I liked guys. I’ve caught a glimpse of a Wheaton that is the best place for someone like me, and I dream of a Wheaton that knows how to love its gay students, rather than oppressing them in a well-meaning but deadly silence.



[1] In this essay, I use the phrases “gay”, “homosexual”, and “same-sex attracted” interchangeably. Each of these phrases has a set of political or cultural connotations I’d rather not use, but they’re the words we have. My definition for each is this: one who is sexually attracted, exclusively or not, to the same gender.





...






Though this essay is obviously written to the specific Wheaton College audience, I think it's helpful beyond that audience, because Wheaton really is in many ways a microcosm of evangelical Christianity. I can't speak for the fundamentalists, mainliners or liberals, but we evangelicals seem to both understand where we stand on the issue of homosexuality, and that we need to actively love homosexuals, both inside and outside our churches. But we are only beginning to learn how. I stumbled across the term "well-meaning but deadly silence" but I think it accurately describes the atmosphere in the evangelical church faced by same-sex attracted believers.

So, this blog. The only way to combat silence is with language. The first language I ever wrote about this subject was a sentence in my journal over four years ago, when I first confessed to an audience of me that I was same-sex attracted. It was an MS Word document, not a college-ruled notebook page, and the exact words were not "I like guys." That simple sentence is how I usually say it now--and it is much more true than the sentence I did write ("I am gay,")--but I never used it until I wrote the essay. Still, that first sentence inspired the blog header image (written in my roommate Blade's entirely straight handwriting), and as such this blog will be pretty much devoted to the discussion of homosexuality in the church, using the essay as a starting point. There is plenty more to say.

Second, I would never have written the essay if it weren't for the profound effect other bloggers like Eve Tushnet, Johnny Heard, collegejay, Disputed Mutability and (though I just discovered her) Misty Irons had on me. They were the first role models I had in actively and intelligently working through the specific, practical and myriad problems homosexuality poses for me and for the church. They were also a constant reminder that I wasn't alone. Maybe this blog can serve that purpose too, or at least join them in the conversation.

Finally, I'm not a Wheaton student anymore. Even though I will still be hanging out there for another nine months, looking for a job and living a block away, it's time for me to recognize that there's a world beyond the bubble. So, this blog is also a chance for me to start thinking about The Problem of Everybody Else. Hopefully it will attract some readers who aren't my roommates, and who hold different viewpoints than I do. I don't know a whole lot of mainliners, liberals or fundamentalists, but we are all the church. I know a few more non-Christians, and a lot of this stuff seems really bizarre to them. Hopefully they can benefit from hearing me express it a little more carefully. I always benefit from being told my head is up my ass.

Oh, and since this is the first post and I'm going to staple it to the sidebar: if you randomly discovered this blog, and you are gay, and you have never told anybody, email me. Right now. Let's talk.

There it is. Hopefully there will be many more posts, and hopefully none of them will be this long.




97 comments:

Blade said...

Obligatory comment so you won't hate me.

Jay said...

Obligatory comment so you won't hate me.

Not-so-obligatory comment that really doesn't have much to say other than, "Dude, this is awesome!"

(I'm a beach bum. You're going to see me write "dude" a lot. I'm also a Southerner so if you heard me talk you'd hear "y'all" a lot, but Spell Check always corrects that on the computer and who am I to resist?)

I'm very excited by this and I can't want to hear more about your story and how Christ has worked in your life. Peace, man!

naturgesetz said...

Jay sent me. This is an excellent introduction, and I'll be following. I also want this to get a wider audience, so I'll put a link to you on my blog. People need to see examples of how it is possible for same sex attracted people to live chaste lives.

Caleb said...

Howdy Steve! I'm really excited to see what all you'll be posting here!!

In case you're interested, I posted a trimmed down version of a devotion I gave to the glee club on my own blog. The chaplain asked me to talk about being gay at Wheaton, and I talked about that some, as well as broader issues of faith and struggling/suffering.

http://reconstructible-vessel.blogspot.com/2009/06/thoughts-on-christian-suffering.html

Keep in touch! I miss you!

Oh, and the blog title totally cracked me up! "Only Steve..." I thought!

Martyn Wendell said...

Great essay, even more meaningful now than the first time I read it several months ago on campus. I'm excited about this Steve! Keep the posts coming - you've got a lot of important stuff to say. It would be dereliction of duty to withhold your thoughts from all of us now. God bless you and your new blog too.

P said...

I graduated from Wheaton a decade ago and I guess what they say about Wheaton kids getting smarter and smarter holds true.

Wish I had the balls to face my ssa head on when I was there. Great post.

Sweeney said...

Great post. I hope you write many more as you travel though your life. I will be praying for you.

cvn70 said...

Steve

Hi i found you through naturgesetz's blog and while its a long essay it read well. I dont have any answers for you on your struggles and I dont really believe we agree on these issues but i want to welcome you to the blogworld and i hope you find an audience.

I will give you a plug on my blog also and see if we can find you some followers. I suggest reaching out to others and leaving comments to attract some audience my blog is http://ridngthewave.blogspot.com/ and have a look if you care too. I wish you well with your blog

take care and be safe

bob

A. Friend said...

Via Naturgesetz, via Jay.

This is great!
Hello from Trinidad.

Jacob said...

Comment now posted.

I'm going to bookmark this blog so I can refer people to it. There are people I want to read your article.


-"Richard"

MR said...

Steve,

I am an Evangelical Christian guy who struggles with SSA and who has been reading and commenting on Jay's blog for about 2 years. As you know by now, he posted a recommendation of this blog, so don't be surprised if even more of his very diverse group of commenters add to your discussion.

Silence. We need to talk about silence.

I was raised in the "Bible Belt" and kept silent about my SSA due to cultural pressure. My family mostly would not talk out loud about this subject and we even developed a system of non-verbal communication concerning SSA that offered "plausible deniability". That way, we could all claim we did not know that I or my brother liked other guys.

Anyway, I did find straight Christian friends I could talk with, but I miss the help that might have been if there had not been culturally imposed silence.

Alyssa K said...

Hey! I edited this! And now non-Wheaton people are reading it! You forgot the part about how it shouldn't involve algebra ...

(I think this is good.)

freelancer said...

Do to my desire not to be hated I am leaving this comment. Such harsh rhetoric!

This was an excellent article. I completely understand the part about "silence" and find it commendable you are trying to break it.

RikFleming said...

A friend (Jay) informed me of your blog.

Thanks for writing this.

I wish I could say more, but it hit too close to home so I'm trying just to "maintain" right now.

Love ya man!

Rik - The Battling Christian

DavidMichael said...

Hi Steve,

Great article. Sounds like you are growing by leaps and bounds. Are you dedicated 100% to a life of celibacy or is there more for you to discover beyond the "bubble"?

It's an interesting subject, religion vs fully gay sexual beings. I think the best way to resolve such issues is to study and decide what really works for you as a human being.

Unfortunately for many, growing up in a family that does not like or agree with homosexuality due to lack of sex education, can be a one-two knock down when we find religion, like our biological fathers, as paternally antagonistic, both being non supportive and attacking.

However, I'm glad you found a flicker of light at Wheaton, and that you seemed to have moved through to a good place.

As I read through your article I winced a tear or two because I find rejection of sexual orientation and the expression thereof sexually abusive, which interferes dramatically with natural mental-emotional-sexual wiring. As a victim of sexual abuse, I know it well.

I will offer you my definition of sexual abuse that goes as such ... "An unsolicited thought word or deed exacted on another human being that is sexually offensive seductive rejecting attackful limiting mentally-emotionally-destructive and/or demoralizing by another being or group of beings, thereby causing a potential lifetime of suffering to the victim."

Sexual "suffering" for me is something to ascend from, becoming more Christ-like, not decline or recline in,to, and steep in it's dreary malaise. In other words, I feel no one should ever have to question or feel less than due to their sexual nature and it's expression. That is, in a perfect world.

Along with your revelationary statements i.e. "we exist --- you are not alone" I would love to see you write about, The Right to Fully Be . . .

I find it exhilarating when certain sheep in our flock stand up and transform into the virile bronze-brilliant non-apologizing human gay males they were born to be. Though this may be challenging the ever lauding family/religious paternal "perfect dad/perfect Str8 son" model, it is nonetheless also a sign of tossing off tentacles and entering gay sexual adulthood.

On another note, I laughed out loud at your funny lyric . . .
"If you're reading this and you're not commenting, I hate you." Which tells me you have a good sense of humor, a must in such an age.

So you got me at both ends of the emotional spectrum. Congrats! That's not easy.

Please write more. You are a really good writer.

PS I'm not really a liberal, or a conservative. I consider myself a Rationalist. What else would a Virgo be? ;)

DavidMichael said...

PSS. I am not assuming you had any issues with your father or parents. I meant that statement as a general effect some people experience. Have a good one!

MR said...

I think most of the other commenters here really appreciate your writing and would agree with me:

Post again soon and often !

merey kay said...

steve, i found a type-o. i usually miss this kind of thing, so be proud of me, okay?

"Still, what about the six of us wasting away in the Counseling Center? If the Soulforce visit, and the three-month focus on homosexuality it prompeed, hadn’t helped me figure out what to do with myself, what would? As the group disbanded at the end of my freshman year, I concluded that nothing would. I felt I had reached the glass ceiling, and from there on out I was on my own. We may exist, but barely."

like i say, i usually miss that kind of thing and 100% don't care on my own blog. this is my weird way of saying, "i'm reading closely, i'm on your side, and i think you're great."yay steve!

Jeff S. said...

Another reader referred by Jay. I look forward to more. I applaud you for this post.

b.phillips said...

slaggens, I think you need to have John Heard do a "guest blogger" post sometime in the near future.
ps i love you and this makes me think of spring break 2k9. (obvs!)

Jeff S. said...

I just re-read your blog with more focus and love every part of it. I look forward to getting to know you better. In my own blog (carleton1958.xanga.com) I have posted many times in the past 2-1/2years on SSA-related topics and have shared many parts of my story along the way. Even after many years of dealing with this since my own college days in InterVarsity at Carleton College) my experience continues to evolve, most recently challenged by Andy Marin's book "Love Is an Orientation". In my own way I am trying to break the silence as well in the evangelical community and my local church.
If you're ever interested we have a private Facebook group for support and encouragement of Christian guys who struggle with homosexuality (Jay is a part of it, too). I'm one of the group admins and could send you an invite if interested (or others who might contact me). I think you would have a lot to share with the brothers in our group.

Again, I applaud you for this post!

Lisa Francine said...

Your Southern, Avett-loving mother is very proud of you. Keep your words true, your heart true, your life true...and may your soul always feel brand-new.

DavidMichael said...

Andrew Marin's Love Is An Orientation is truly a must read. Have lots of kleenex at hand.
Andrew Marin may be someone you want to have join your team and you his. I have spent time with him and find him to be one of the most admirable balanced champions of gay evangelicals in the world. The following is a vidoe of Andrew giving a speech on Capitol Hill the eve before the inauguration.

http://love-is-an-orientation.blogspot.com/2009/03/here-it-is.html

Brandon said...

You most certainly are not alone. Thanks for sharing this with all of us! :)

Brandon said...

Sorry, I found my last comment to be a bit short.

I've been looking for answers, too, for what seems like a very long time now. I've gotten some, but then again, some still haven't been answered, and even more questions have come about along the way. I honestly think maybe that is the way of it--life. We'll probably never get an answer to all of our questions. Maybe the best we can do in life is just to live the best we can, following God, hoping with everything we have to eventually see beyond the fog of life and know what we need to know to get by. That may sound stupid, but I think that's honestly how God works sometimes. Look at the Israelites leaving Egypt. It look them forty years for God to answer their question ("When are we going to get to the Promised Land?").

I think some people just get lost in the fog though. They can't see past it, can't see that they're not alone, that not everything is lost, that they're not forgotten or hopeless. Like you, I've known someone who killed himself because he was gay. I've known others who have thought about the same thing at one time or another, including myself. A few years ago I came very close to achieving that on two seperate occassions (I think God prevented me from doing that both times, but that's another story). I remember at the time I felt alone, hopeless, thought that nobody understood me, that everyone would abandon me if I told them I liked other men, and I even began to think God wanted nothing to do with me. It's easy to see why someone would think of killing him or herself when feeling that way. And I remember how horribly depressing feeling like that was that it grieves me to see others who feel or have felt the same way.

I agree with you when you say we should speak up. Living in hiding is certainly no way for a person to live. Your story actually reminded me of a very good friend of mine who, like yourself, also had his story about having SSA published in his college's newspaper. And I think, had I not read his story--had he not been willing to speak up as he did--I'd never have known him to become his friend. He would have just been another person in some other state who I know nothing about. Likewise, had I not spoken up, sending him an email in response to the article about him, we'd have not gotten to know each other. So, yes, speaking up is important.

Everything I've just written here though is to express what I said in my first comment to you, that you are not alone. None of us are. Lots of people struggle with SSA and have went through a lot of the same experiences and feelings. I hope with this blog, you will certainly be able to help a lot of people to see this and understand that being gay (liking those of the same sex) is not the end of the world.

God bless you, and don't ever give up looking for answers.

Joe said...

Great essay! I just graduated from a similar environment (Cedarville University if you're familiar). Soulforce also visited us, and it was the same kind of thing.

I resonated with much of what you wrote for sure, I am definitely going to pass this on to some of my friend. I look forward to reading your stuff in the future!

Joe

Neo said...

I'm another evangelical Christian who just graduated from another evangelical college in the Midwest (one I'm sure you're familiar with - you can e-mail me for a private answer if you really want to know which.) My experience in college was a bit different from yours. I did some individual counseling at our counseling center, which did help me, and I did have quite a bit of community with straight guys who knew about my issues. I never really connected with other SSA guys, which I am starting to regret some. It did help in my case that my SSA is not exclusive (i.e. I also have significant feelings for women), so chastity need not mean lifelong celibacy for me. I still had to deal with a lot of issues like shame and self-perception, but I was never even particularly close to suicidal.

I guess I have felt that my SSA issues were "resolved" (though I still have SSA) for at least a couple years now, in the sense that I am not really plagued with questions or great difficulties as before, and I am at peace. I have continued to read blogs like Jay's (where I found out about yours) to learn about others who have dealt with similar things, to broaden my perspective.

This article really opened my eyes to more of what people have to go through at a college like mine. I feel like I got the "best place" experience without as much of the "worst place" experience. However, we have the same relative silence about these issues. You gave me much food for thought.

Anyway, great article, and I look forward to more!

Caleb said...

DavidMichael: You might be interested to know that the other year I talked to Chappy K about having Marin as a chapel speaker at Wheaton and as an opening speaker for a series of conversations on homosexuality I helped lead. They ended up inviting someone else, but at the end of the year, I brought Andy's name up again, and from what I've heard they might be having him come speak at Wheaton this upcoming year. Though I've not heard anything for certain, but I'm keeping my ears open. I know Chappy K was really excited about his work and seemed eager to get in touch with him.

P.S. we never met, but I went to the same church as you in Wheaton. I'm also a buddy of Brad O., and he's spoken very highly of you.

stanw said...

I saw the link to your blog on MR. as I was reading his post. I must say your writing is so refreshing.

I went to College back in the 60's (there I admitted it!!) and SSA (that term was not heard of then, only 'homosexuality') was addressed by one of the Prof's. There was sort of discussion one dorm meeting but I wouldn't have dared to speak up then. I remember one 'jock' saying that when he had been at the YMCA recently some guy approached him but he was so repulsed by it. Not much else was said. I knew I was attracted to guys but didn't exactly identify myself as SSA'd at the time. Later learned of a couple other guys who were SSA'd at College.

I too have attended a Support Group (outside church affiliation) and was really the first time I shared my struggle with more than one. Still keep in close contact with a fellow member and great to have someone to share (over the phone-different Provinces, Canada) openly with each week.

Since starting a blog a bit ago I have got in contact with great guys with whom I can share and we can encourage each other. I am sure going to follow your blog and I urge you to continue. God bless.

stanw said...

DavidMichael, I have copied down your description of sexual abuse and agree with it totally. Having experienced sexual abuse it did all those things and sure has a definite connection to SSA in my world. Thanks.

Lead_Worshiper said...

I am very much impressed and moved by your article. Thank you for your candidness and your willingness to speak out about a politically volatile subject. I find myself unable to talk in my own church about such things because there are many who would demand that I be relieved of my worship leading duties.

The Bailey family said...

Not obligatory, just wanted to say thanks for the blog. I went to Moody, and after several years found a former classmate who was gay and struggled being there. I was ignorant to it, didn't even know of the struggle. Since then have become more aware and hopefully more understanding and compassionate, but you're right, the church struggles to reach out to anyone who doesn't fit the "right mold." Not just gays, but lots of people - with tattoos, piercings, cohabitation, drug problems, etc.
Lets all remember what you said, to keep the dialogue going and not isolate each other, and learn that we all sin - Rom. 3:23
Thanks

Formysake said...

Like most everybody here, I read your first post and was really impressed by the lifestyle you wish to lead along with the continuing struggle you will have with reconciling your faith and orientation.

I hope you do post more on your experiences, as a fully closeted gay college student who does not wish at all to reconcile his catholic faith(or lack thereof) with his orientation, I am excited to see how you did it/are doing it, although I doubt I will ever follow that path of being religious...

FMS
allformysake.blogspot.com
PS. please put email on sidebar so its easier to contact you. lol
Also got here from Naturegetz...

Mr. Piro said...

Hey Steve, it was enlightening in many ways to read this post, especially in light of the talks we've had this summer. However, I once again find myself with about a million questions so I'm really just looking at this as one more step in the right direction to finding some sort of truth and harmony in this crazy whirlpool of life. Someone once said, "Peace if possible, but truth at all costs." and I'm glad that you're searching for truth, even at the expense of the relative peace you might find were to simply pretend that this wasn't an issue. I honestly think that's one of the biggest problems with our society right now (and not just within the church); many of us put on a good face and pretend everything is all rainbows and butterflies instead of looking at the cold hard fact that is our brokenness, no matter how it is manifested. Anyway, I've got a lot of other things I'd like to talk about in regards to this issue with you, but I'd prefer to save that for face to face interactions.

-Chris

PS:I know we're not super close, but I'd like to say that I'm one of those people that would like to be with you to the end on this thing. The Christian life is all about relationships, we weren't meant to deal with all of this crap on our own. Love and Peace brother.

Diane said...

Great post. Thanks for opening up.

As a chaste SSA Catholic, I would not recommend DavidMichael's advice to
'...decide what works for you as a human being'....I would most definitely rely on the wisdom and guidance of the fathers of the Church and 2000 years of Christian teaching/tradition and follow what works for you as a child of God.

Following our own sexual desires and actions is problematic for so many reasons and validating acts because the desire exist is a mistake.

We exist to serve God, not ourselves. The struggles of adhering to what God has made clear to us regarding our sexuality will reap eternal rewards.

I invite you to the Catholic Church, where chastity and self-denial are both heroic and virtuous, especially in a culture that promotes self-satisfaction as the only way to true happiness.

Keep reading Eve and John Heard. God Bless You.

kae vin said...

and you didn't leave your email address elsewhere

the good thing is, ssa isn't racist and does not practise geological-favouritism.

the bad thing is, there's no wheaton college or anything similar outside of the United states.

Stephen said...

i'm so glad you're getting heard on this, steves. post again soon.

Gabriel Ellison RiCharde said...

love you steve. thanks for a totally awesome weekend! can't wait to write music with you and go on tour.

what is "geological favouritism"?

and was kae vin implying that wheaton college is institutionally racist?

DavidMichael said...

Caleb ---- Those are very nice thoughts for DavidMichael, but I am not in the Wheaton area, so it looks like he and I have the same name. Push as you can for Andrew Marin to come to Wheaton, I'm sure he would be well received.
Stank ---- Glad you liked that definition of sexual abuse, yet I did forgot the word intimidation. SA is rampant and fairly detectable on a 1 to 10 scale and can be generated against the self as well as from external sources. I truly hope you've had success resolving it within your life.
Steven --- It would be really great to hear any comments you might have. You are garnishing quite an audience. Either way keep writing, it's good stuff. Thanks.

Rachael Schaffner said...

Steve-
Amazing essay. I'm not sure I ever told you that at Wheaton. Thank you for this blog. Please write more!
Oh, and I have your CD (Gabe sent it). Incredible.

a.jane said...

Hey man, really glad to have found your blog! I love your voice, and I can't wait to read more from you. I also went to a Christian college, and though I am not personally gay, I always was frustrated by the lack of discussion and understanding in this area.

Peace,
Anna
http://goloveserve.wordpress.com/

Nikki said...

I found your blog from misty irons' blog.

I have a few gay friends who have essentially left christianity and turned away from God because of lack of understanding on how to reconcile homosexuality and relationship with God. I want to learn as much as I can on this subject because my relationship with Jesus is so rewarding and I hate that christians have misrepresented Jesus and His love and grace. All I want for myself and anyone else who wants to follow the Lord is for us to be after God's own heart like David was. Why should anything else matter?

Miss Ogilvy said...

Steve - THANK GOD for your post. I really relate to your experience of impersonal public discussions of SSA as damaging / painful, and would love to hear more from you re: the point that SSA isn't just a moral issue but an identity crisis for gay Xians. Would love to hear more about how you manage that crisis in community.

So, it's kind of hard to leave comments on your site, bc folks who use different blog platforms (like wordpress) have to sign up for a Blogger account / username. I've noticed on other ppl's Blogger blogs that you can set up a function where ppl with accounts from other blog platforms can sign in to the Blogger comments from their other account - see here for an example:

http://cigarettesmokingblog.blogspot.com/

If you did this, I think it would be a lot easier for folks to react/engage.

-Miss Ogilvy
missogilvyfindsherself.wordpress.com

jimmy said...

Good stuff. I'll be following your journey as well.

grace and peace, jimmy

Steve said...

Wow! I did not expect this kind of response! I hope people didn't take it seriously that I'll hate them if they don't comment. Obviously, I can't respond to everybody, but seriously, thanks, wow, etc.

Jay & Misty: Thanks for the press!

Miss Ogilvy: Thanks for the heads up! Anyone should be able to comment now, provided they're not bots.

DavidMichael: I hope to write about some of what you brought up in your comment. I hope to write about a lot, though...

Jeff: purhcased Love is an Orientation, thanks!

Diane: Thank you for your bold invitation to Catholicism. I'm currently a happy Anglican, but there is so much the Catholic church gets right about homosexuality. Sometimes I read Eve and Johnny and get jealous...

Blade, Caleb, Marty, Alyssa, Meredith, Barbara, Lisa, Chris, Steves, Gabe, Rachel: LOVE

Seth.A.Bird said...

By merely bring up the issue, you continue to contribute the same healing I've seen in others. :)

(in case you care, I have friends who deal with SSA, but not me personally)

btw, I could very well have just missed it, but I can't actually find your email anywhere (even though you offered email conversations wit people :) )

But again it could be really obvious and i missed it :)

Thank you!!!!

Autumn said...

SO....Yes. Thanks for publishing this in the Pub, Steve. Its good to break silence with you.

Razzie said...

Wow, found your blog from Jay's. I am giving this to my parents to read. Your essay really expresses what I have been trying to tell my parents for years and I am hoping that seeing that someone else is saying the same thing will help. Can't wait for more posts!

Willie said...

Steve, Please view the post titled Lessons learned from an interview with Alan Chambers.
You may view it at www.GayAgenda.com
This may help you in your journey to find your place in God's kingdom as He created you to be.
Godspeed on your journey.

will, a friend

Telmarine said...

Steve -

I hope you're still checking comments, I know I'm a bit late on this (I got a link to your blog from a friend who doesn't even really know you, so I must say its gotten around ;). I wanted to say that you powerfully distilled your thoughts on being homosexual at Wheaton... bits and pieces of which I had heard over the years. I don't think in all this you should discount the effect your faith has had on others--encouraging people both straight and SSA (I like that acronym :). Really, God used you at Wheaton, I know both firsthand and secondhand.

More specifically, I like how you brought some perspective to Stephen's death, something that bewildered and frightened so many people. I don't understand everything either about homosexuality at Wheaton, and I had the privilege to know people like you. So we certainly do need to be more open and to have more conversations about it--but even more importantly, to commit to prayer and to teaching the truth of Scripture, for it is only in that that we will truly find deliverance. Not just "social activism" or any other buzzword.

Just a few comments on your piece -

1. I think you need to connect this to other issues of sexuality in the church. Our church is stuck in a difficult position in a culture that is absolutely obsessed with sexuality, both homosexual and heterosexual. It is a constant referent to how we interpret how experiences and even how we identify ourselves--as the use of words like "straight" and "gay" imply. After all, these words only capture a part of our identities at best--they don't tell us anything about how Steve is also a lover of indie music (Sufjan Stevens! :) and a fantastic improviser. So I think you need to also include people who also feel isolated struggling with various forms of sexual deviance--pornography coming to mind quickly. Until quite recently it was also a taboo topic in the church, and it still is a black sheep. Obviously its a bit different from what you're talking about, but I think its relevant because the church is struggling with sexuality in general right now, in a deeply profound way, and there are many people that feel cut off from Christian community because of sexual issues.

2. I also think you need to broaden your categories perhaps a bit, particularly to talk about bisexuality, something I really don't understand. Some people would write "I like men... and women", which raises questions for how we identify people based on their sexuality, and how static of an identity it in fact is. I don't want to deny your experiences, but it is an issue that I have yet to have any clarity on, so I think it'd be good to also try to address issues of both homosexual/heterosexual attraction in your growing framework/conversation.

But overall, thanks for writing--what impresses me the most is how you DON'T throw the baby out with the evangelical bath water. Its easy to stand outside the church and simply criticize away--making a god of our own suffering. The courage to follow Christ even when it seems to cut against our own desires and at times even sensibility is what makes a Christian--for a Christian is not one by what he does, but by what he is. So keep trusting in Christ, although people have let you down (and will), He will never do so.

thanks for sharing!
Bob Kubinec

boundingsquirrel said...

Caleb pointed me here. I'm a Wheaton staff member, with SSA. I wrote Caleb anonymously before the first Forum.

Because of Steven and Stephen, I'm emboldened to write openly. By the way, I was at just about every Wheaton Improv show last year.

I read your article yesterday. Mental images of Steven and Stephen, trains and finality, persist. The stories have bolstered me against the fear of being found out, or the shame of feeling misinterpreted.

As a "struggler," I'm surprised that Wheaton College students don't seem connected or familiar firsthand with a segment of SSA support that I've found valuable.

I'm part of a large and tight-knit community of SSA men who have attended various men's experiential weekends. Not conferences where lectures and testimonies take place from a microphone. (Was that a bit snarky?) Active, creative, multi-tiered, reflective, responsive weekends with various processes and tools.

Journey into Manhood is designed to get to the underpinnings of SSA. It is not meant to lobotomize participants and turn them into heterogigolos. (See http://peoplecanchange.com/JIM_announce.htm)

Dare to Soar is a Chicago-based men's weekend for believers of any stripe. This is a venue to connect with true masculinity.

http://www.thecrucibleproject.org/retreats.html

New Warriors Training Adventure (ManKind Project) is wide open to all faiths and all sexual expressions...but most of that doesn't come up, as the focus is on honesty and authenticity.

Any members of The Forum--please contact me if you'd like. boundingsquirrel ( at ) yahoo.com. I'd like to hear what's on the horizon for the group. I hope Andy Marin is among them!

Dean Grey said...

Steve!

First off, I'm sorry to hear about the suicide of your friend Stephen two years ago. How very sad.

I'm curious though.

You said your friends at Wheaton college stood by you. Were you ever harassed there?

From the sound of your essay it sounded like the other students and faculty were rather civil towards you.

I'm rather surprised it went so smoothly.

Thanks for sharing!

-Dean

MG said...

THANK you for such a well written encouragement. I love seeing this kind of openness and honesty.

I struggle with SSA as well, but one thing I'd like to mention... why label it as 'gay' or 'homosexual'?
If our pursuit is focused on Christ, and He truly is THE axiom for our Christian life... I just don't see why we must label our struggle as a worldly condition... does that make sense?

I can admit that i struggle with SSA, but I'm not comfortable saying "I'm gay"... Because i don't identify with that label.
I identify with Christ, in that I AM a sinful man, who is more sinful than I can comprehend, and yet I am loved beyond any measure I can imagine.

My goal is NOT to be able to call myself "heterosexual"
My goal IS to conform to Jesus' example, and become more HOLY.

Am I making sense? I'm not intending to argue... I want to better understand the position of being a "gay Christian," because currently that label makes me uncomfortable, and... awkward.

by the way: I'm not saying SSA, or homosexuality, is any more [or less] than any other sin or struggle or temptation being in this world. That's not my stance on the issue. It used to be. No more.
thoughts?...

Jay said...

MG: I can't speak for Steve, but as someone who used "gay" and "SSA" interchangeably, maybe I can shed light on why I at least am comfortable describing myself as a "homosexual" (sometimes).

THE axiom for our Christian life... I just don't see why we must label our struggle as a worldly condition... does that make sense?

You seem comfortable with the term "SSA," though. How is saying "same-sex attracted" any less of a worldly condition than "homosexual"? Just because most people in the world use "gay" doesn't mean that "SSA" is really something Christians came up with. Both terms are, in my mind, and by their dictionary definitions, interchangeable. With "gay" meaning "SSA" and vice-versa. There certainly are political connotations to "gay" which is why I think "SSA" is pretty nice and drama-free, but theologically, I don't have a problem with either. They're just words.

For the record, I don't think words are identities. They're descriptive. In other words, whether I called myself "gay" or "SSA" or not wouldn't change the fact that I liked guys. Those words merely describe something that already exists. Even if I didn't call myself a "Christian," the fact that I have Christ in my heart means that I would be.

I could call myself a "schlajamatiff" or something equally silly. So long as everyone understand that I love Jesus, am attracted to men and am celibate, I'd be good. :)

Steve said...

Jay: I wouldn't quite jump to saying that "SSA" is drama-free. We may not have invented the term, but Christians are pretty much the only people who use it as a layman's term. In my experience, if I use the term with non-Christian friends they are kind of puzzled and usually respond, "You mean 'gay'?" It strikes them (and it initially struck me) as a sort of rhetorical backbend to avoid using a common word the rest of our culture has pretty much agreed upon. I don't necessarily think that's what it is anymore, but it does seem to have subtext as a Christian buzzword.

So, while I agree it's an extremely useful term (especially as an umbrella term when talking to mixed audience that ranges from self-identified gays to bisexuals to ex-gays to Christians who are same-sex attracted yet wouldn't call themselves gay, etc) and that objectively it is probably the best term to use, I can't say it's without subtext. And when referring to myself, it still feels dishonest somehow.

MG: I hope my above comment to Jay helped explain some of where I'm coming from. Expect a full-length post on exactly what you were asking about in the near future, though.

six11 said...

I can see where MG is coming from - in that I also believe our identity should be wrapped up in who we are in Christ and not our sexuality (or anything else outside of Christ).

I can also see where you (and others like Jay) are coming from, Steve. I think where the confusion comes in is when you refer yourself as a "gay Christian".

In my experiences, when people refer themselves to be gay Christians, they mean: God has created them to be gay, and that their actions are not sinful.

It sounds, from your essay, that you do not fall into this camp; rather you strive to fall hard after Jesus as best as you can - just like the rest of us. Hence, why there might be some confusion ...

Make sense?

MG said...

Thanks Jay and Steve for your quick response.
I've been doing some thinking, trying to assemble an adequate reason why I feel uncomfortable with the term "gay & Christian"...

I don't see my attractions as "ok." Through study of Scripture, i know that gay sex, forms of acting out, or engaging in a romantic relationship with another man is not what the male heart was designed for. My attraction was not a built-in condition, other than a condition of being born under bondage to sin: total depravity of man.

And, I'm not ok with my heart being stagnant in that condition of craving those things... even though Paul still struggled with things he didn't want to do. I'm not ok with my heart staying there, living as a perpetual homosexual-Christian...


and yet, i really, really want to be wary of becoming judgmental of a position that may turn out being true. But as for now, from what little i have learned about the heart of God and the heart of Godly masculinity... I'm not ok calling myself gay. Especially since I have seen some interest of the feminine building up in me.
There still isn't sexual attraction, but there is appeal to women that I've never felt comfortable acknowledging before.
I am, in fact, seeing a change... weird...

I'm enjoying this discussion, and I hope i'm being clear. I refuse to condemn or judge you guys just because I don't understand (or fully agree) with your perspective. We are brothers, and I want to keep this up if at all possible!

And since we've got the same spirit in us: I love you guys :)
later.
-MG

J-Ra said...

So, you said to e-mail you if there are other SSA Christians out there, but I don't see an e-mail address, so I'm going to (1) leave a message asking that you e-mail me (there's a link on my profile) and (2) thank you for being open and honest about this struggle, something I wish I had the balls to do. It's truly taking a lot not to click that circle that says "Anonymous," though I'm kind of hiding behind the pseudo-anonymity of the internet.

Anyway, I thank you for your third sentence. It seems that way sometimes.

Jeff S. said...

We have a good fellowship of Christian guys that blog on Xanga abotu SSA-related issues and also a private Facebook group for acountability and support between guys who have struggled with same sex attraction in their lives. Contact me through my own blog or email at carleton1958@gmail.com

Jay said...

MG: I understand your position totally, and I don't think that you being uncomfortable with a certain term is judging me for being comfortable with it. We're all different. I think honesty and clarity are the most important things here, not terminology.

Now, if you start calling yourself "heterosexual" when you still like men, I might disagree (because that would go against honesty and clarity), but if you'd prefer to not use labels, then I totally respect that.

MG said...

Jay: thanks for understanding. You've actually been really encouraging, and knowing where you stand is helping me.
I made a post about this topic in my blog... But it honestly may come across as a little... aggravated... I've been struggling through this topic a lot since I first read this blog, and I'm trying to figure out where I stand. So, if you read it, keep that in mind.

I guess one thing that bugs me is that, when God talked about homosexuals or the effeminate, He was describing those who engaged in sexual activity with those of the same sex, especially through prostitution. And yet, we as a culture have defined "homosexual" as just having attractions for the same gender. just the attraction...
God was talking sex.
we're talking feelings.

by that standard, I'd HAVE to call myself homosexual.
What bugs me even more than the label, is our english definition for it. Ya know?

thanks for the response Jay. It's been great to meet you man.

Jay said...

I think that's probably why many translations use the term "homosexual practitioners" or "men who practice homosexuality." That is more accurate to the Greek terms which strictly reference the action.

Mr. Piro said...

Hey MG, I'm a friend of Steve's and I too was initially unsure how to refer to the whole thing. I refuse to use SSA because it just seems strange to me. However, I felt an objection to saying that Steve was gay either because, like you said, he wasn't having sex with guys. It seemed that until he was having sex with guys, then he wasn't gay. But then I looked at myself right after that to evaluate whether or not that was true. If someone asked me if I was heterosexual I would say yes, without hesitation. But, if I am to base my assertions off of the standard I initially used with Steve, then I should have said no, because I'm not having sex with women therefore I'm not heterosexual. Then I thought to myself, "Well, maybe we're all sort of nonsexual until we start having sex." But that didn't really hold water because I started thinking about lust. I know that when I lust it is after women and when I masturbate (I know it's a sin and I try not to but sometimes we all fail) it is with fantasies of women in mind. And there just has to be something sexual in lust and masturbation, so that debunks the idea that we're all nonsexual. So where I've settled is that I am completely okay with people using the term gay to describe themselves, the big distinction is whether or not they are practicing. But ultimately, it seems that the more important label or identifier is not gay or straight, but child of God. That is where I find myself in relation to Steve. Is he gay? Yes, but not practicing. But what matters to me more is that he is my friend and that he is my brother in Christ, for broken though we all are we still stand united as one body of believers, the beautiful bride of Christ. So, that's my two cents. I'm really open to discussion on this topic as well, so if you've got thoughts feel free to share them.

Love and Peace,
Christopher

MG said...

Christopher, I really appreciate what you said.
It does make sense when you put it in those terms... that just because you aren't physically acting out of your lusts, you still lust... if I like guys, but don't act on it, that doesn't change my current attractions. If my current attractions aren't yet leaning towards women, I can't truthfully say that I'm not homosexual... (that's weird to type)

What I'm wanting to pray through and listen for is, what is God's heart in this? Am I simply being prideful, holding myself at a higher level, simply because I haven't admitted my attractions in an every day life?

I'm not any better than my brothers. That's a fact...

Here is my faulty presupposition: If a guy claims to be gay and Christian, He's not pursuing Christ, but is looking for a way to justify his struggle with his faith and just keep living in it.
Again, I DID say that was faulty...

I'm assuming that those of you who are currently gay and Christian aren't making your goal to stay gay and Christian... but your goal is to be Christlike. right? Please, tell me I'm correct here, and that I have held a wrong presupposition against you... in which case, I apologize.
Seriously. If I have been wrong for the majority of my life on this, I need to be corrected. Help me out.
Thanks for all of your insight, and help in understanding this... and thanks for not forcing your perspectives on me, but just sharing it. I hope I've done the same...

I love you, my brothers.
have a great day.

Jeff S. said...

MG et al.

I've been on this journey for quite a few years myself. Until recently I shunned reference to the term "gay" because I considered it to have all the political tone that the evangelical and fundamental church generally gives to it. I was opting for the "struggles with SSA" phrase, However, I've come to understand from guys like Jay and Steve that "gay" can be just a commonly understood term in society today that describes being attracted to the same sex, or more imply, "liking guys". It does not automatically imply that one is not following Christ in his life. It is simply a descriptive term for one's attractions, or orientation if you will. You might even hold the belief that God creates us all heterosexually, but through whatever circumstances, even with genetic factors, one finds himself attracted to the same sex, then the term "gay" in common usage can just mean attracted to the same sex. Both Jay and Steve have expounded on that at length in their own blogs. I have posted on it in various ways as well.

Since I made the decision to marry 17 years ago, and I am sexually intimate with my wife while still dealing with same sex attraction in my life, I don't generally use the word gay to describe myself, but from a Kinsey scale perspective I could describe myself at least as bisexual, if not homosexual at certain times of my life. I do try to focus on Christ for my identity, but in discussion of sexuality when it is relevant I try to be open and transparent as much as possible. The important thing is to not hide even from yourself if you struggle with something, and to not feel shame within the church if you struggle with something ike homosexuality that others have a hard time dealing with. That is why guys like Jay, Steve and I try to make it easier and more commonplace to discuss and support others who deal with homsoexuality as Christians.

Lead_Worshiper said...

Thanks for this comment, Jeff. I appreciate your wisdom and leadership of others.

Mrs T said...

I ead your article thru the carlton xanga site! Thank you for such a wonderful writeup. I'm glad to hear that Wheaton allows gay students & that, even tho your experience wasn't perfect, they cared for you & are willing to deal with the isssue.
Have you worked with the Marin Foundation? Andrew is so caring & has done something that is long overdue in his minstry. Try themarinfoundation.org to connect with him. andrew@themarinfoundation.org
He's also on facebook.
I also grieve for the 2 Steves. It seems so senseless.....

David Alves said...

Brother Steve—

Thank you SO much for this article! I found it via Karen Keen of Pursue God. And I thank God He directed me to it.

I am an evangelical-fundamental (not wacky fundamentalist, just fundamental on “the fundamentals”) Calvinist currently attending an evangelical university for a BA in English.

I also happen to be SSA.

I've told a couple people back home, including my pastor and a few teachers, as well as my parents. But I haven't told anyone here and I'm afraid to. So for that, I would greatly appreciate your prayers. (I would have emailed you but your address was nowhere to be found. You may contact me by email if you'd like, as I would enjoy discussing this further with someone who’s been there.)

You are a great encouragement to me! I hope to hear more from you in the future.

Re: Catholicism and homosexuality. Yes, they do. I would recommend the bishops' letter "Always Our Children."

The Muser (aka Beautiful Mama) said...

Hey! I was "bi" at Wheaton and also was a part of the ex-gay ministries over at Rez. Ultimately I found that Rez was incredibly damaging and unhealthy, but that was many years ago, and I hope it continues to be a positive experience for you. For me, Rez, and esp. RL, compounded the depression and trauma I was already experiencing and I ended up having to spend several yeas healing from their "healing" ministries. My experience of reconciling my faith and sexuality led me to a different understanding of Scripture and faith so that I am now gay-affirming though I am in a heterosexual marriage. I spent many years trying to "heal" from my attractions to women (I went through 4 diff. ex-gay type ministries including RL, PCM, and a couple of Exodus affiliated programs). I found all of them more damaging than helpful and found that none of them helped me lessen my desire for women. Also, most people I met who claimed healing, admitted to continued "struggles" with homosexuality and often were in straight marriages but still primarily were attracted to members of the other sex. You might check out Ray Boltz's ex-wife's blog for an account of the kind of damage that can do both to the straight and to the gay spouse (http://myheartgoesout-carol.blogspot.com/). Of course, this is only my experience, and perhaps you will find a liberating path in all of this. Wherever God leads you, I pray peace and wholeness for you!

Thanks so much for sharing your story. I will be following your blog!

P.S. If you are interested in a Christian and gay-affirming approach to Scripture and faith, you might check out Virginia Mollenkott _Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?_, the conversations between Tony and Peggy Compolo re. homosexuality (http://www.bridges-across.org/ba/campolo.htm) and Evangelicals Concerned (http://www.ecwr.org/index.php) .

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed hearing what you had to say about your struggle with homosexuality. I've read the book you mentioned by Chad Thompson, Loving Homosexuals As Jesus Would. There's a link called www.Homosexuality101.com that gives an explanation of the triggers of homosexuality. It provides some great insight into this issue. In a book by Gordon Dalbey, Healing The Masculine Soul, there's a chapter titled a non-politically correct view of homosexuality.

I hope all of this helps, and I am glad to hear that you are fighting the good fight to overcome this. It can take many years, but it is well worth it, and I will keep you in my prayers, bro. I am sorry about your friend Steven who jumped in front of the train in Germany. I know others who have taken their own lives, and I wonder if a struggle with homosexuality was a key factor. I need to go, but I look forward to hearing more about your journey with Christ.
Love you, bro!

Anonymous said...

The closing of this blog said to contact you if I'm gay and have never told anyone. But the problem is I can't find your email or anything. How do I go about doing that?

Katie said...

SteveSteveSteveSteve!!! I was just reading Bagley's blog, and he had a link to yours, and I didn't realize you had a blog, so I was so thrilled to find it! Now that I think of it, you have probably mentioned it to me before, but I forgot about it. I'm so glad to have found it now!

Woohoo! I agree with Alyssa's comment - I helped edit this! I feel so honored to have gotten to proof-read this essay. Bravo, indeed.

It was so good to see you yesterday at the "Bro"thel - thank you for the hot chocolate. Let's have lunch again soon.

Love Katie

Anonymous said...

Hey - I want to say first that this must have taken a lot of courage on your part to do this. I live in Wheaton and have grown up here. I agree with almost all you have said regarding the communtiy but for one thing- these feelings of love and/or support they care to give to their gay community is only that. I am transgendered and gay, something very few Wheaton Christians have extended to me. I have had to resort to groups out of town and even been denied access to join the GSA because of my 'trans' status even though I am gay. I believe the thing Wheaton lacks is an open mind. They can love the gay community but when it comes to questioning their God, they will not take me in their church because I am transgendered.

Ian said...

Wow, I love this.

I'm pretty much in the same situation you were, if you replace Wheaton with a Bible-belt Christian high school, so I can relate to almost all of it.

Finding out I wasn't the only Christian who struggled with this was one of the best moments of my life, so I agree 100% that the lie that we're alone needs to be broken.

I'll be reading the rest of your posts shortly, and I'll definitely be following this blog from now on. :)

mary said...

What a breath of fresh air and perspective. I've had gay friends throughout my life and later, as a Christian, have had so many concerns about this subject.

This is the conversation that needs to be out there. Thanks for your raw honesty and may God bless your message.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

I admire your honesty in talking about something that is a tough topic. I want to throw something out there based on what I believe from Scripture (I have never had any SSA so I am the first to admit that I don't know exactly where you are coming from so I ask for some slack if I say anything insensitive as that is not my intention). In my own life I have recently been convicted about how I have lived the past 30 years as a selfish Christian. I could tell you that my priorities were God, family, friends, blah blah blah. The reality was that God was not priority one or anywhere near the top.

God has been working in my life and revealed a ton that has helped me and I am hopeful that this may be of use to you as well. Love the Lord your God with all your heart mind and soul. Spend some time really thinking about that. What I was left with is that as a Christian (a new creation) it is no longer about ME. Anytime that I am being selfish and putting my needs first I am not loving God with all my heart mind and soul. I fail at this often, but the realization has been pivotal in making huge strides towards dying to myself daily.

How I believe this relates to SSA is this; The act of homosexuality is a sin because God says it is. To me whether someone is born with SSA is not the point. The point is that God has called us to die to self. Easy for me to say I know since I don't struggle with SSA, however I do struggle with sin (and all sin separates us from God). As a straight male I am naturally attracted to women. Pornography is a real temptation. If I choose to satisfy my flesh I am not loving God with all my heart mind and soul. As a heterosexual male I believe I will struggle with that type of temptation for the rest of my life, however I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I act out on that temptation I am sinning. If I choose to live in this sin (repentance without change) I am telling God that it is not about Him, it is all about me and what I need. I believe my creator knows what I need a lot better than I do, and he has instructed me to allow Him to live through me. He can't live through me if I choose to make this life about ME. Why do some have SSA? I do not know, but I do know that we were created to glorify God and we can’t do that if we are living in sin.

Mark

Marc said...

I am hooked specifically because of the "...I hate you..." condition. LOVE that.

Thank you for taking chance to share this in such a non-personal venue.

Nancy said...

Hi, Steve!

A mutual friend sent me a link to your blog, since I'm involved in discerning directions re: civil unions and marriage issues for a mainline denomination.

I am a Christ-follower -- mainline and evangelical -- and I know and love many gay Christ-followers, who struggle with the very questions you articulate so beautifully.

Thank you for your bold and humble honesty. God bless you!

Nancy

Spencer said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I also attend a conservative Christian school that loves people but struggles to deal with and often ignores the reality of students who struggle with same-sex attractions. I live out loud intensionally, to help break some of the silence. I am not "loud" in the sense of "out and proud," rather, "out loud" in the sense that I live my life out loud to those who I share life with; I am available as myself for them as fully as I can manage with the grace of God. Yet, there are many students who struggle in silence and I fear they self-loath and suffer the misery of hating themselves and life. God help us. If you have any advice or counsel in how to respectfully and in a healthy way elevate the level of Christian, campus community in this regard please contact me. I am tired of hearing things like, "Why would they [gay students] want to come here?" from ignorant student leadership.
Peace,
Spencer

Joel said...

Thanks for this Steve. I'm a Wheaton grad and was part of the SSA counseling group when it was being run back in '02-'03. I agree with all you've said here; in so many ways, I feel like your story mirrors mine. I did the RL / Rez thing, I had a support group, I told my straight friends. I still have no answers, but I'm prone to agree with one of the other commenters to find what works 'best for you as a human being'. It sounds terribly relativistic against the tapestry of right/wrong that many Christians hold, but for now it's the best I have.

Lastly, your words here couldn't be more apt and timely for me:

'Wherever two or more same-sex attracted students are gathered, people worry they will have sex with each other... The solution is openness and accountability both among gay students, and between gay students and their straight peers. This is how straight students maintain chastity, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t work for us.'

Thanks for being so open and honest.

Grace and peace to you.

joelbond (at) fastmail.net

Collin said...

I was led to your blog from FOTOS' (Fish On The Other Side) ministry website. Thank you for writing and sharing this, and thank you for the powerful reminder that we really are not alone. This also brings to mind the verse in Hebrews (4:15) - "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are...". Praise the Lord!

Anonymous said...

I am a parent of a graduating Wheaton senior who calls Church of the Rez home. Thank you for your post and transparency. I praise God that you found true Christian community and share a description of it. As we all recognize our individual brokenness and the hope of the gospel, we are reminded that the ground at the foot of the cross is level.

I assume you are no longer at Wheaton. I pray that you have been able to continue to be blessed by and create excellent and healthy community as you experienced at Rez and eventually at Wheaton. I pray that I may be able to be a vehicle for that in my own community.

God bless you.
Kelly

Anonymous said...

I found this post through a link on the OneWheaton facebook page. I find a parallel between the isolation and silence you felt as a gay student at Wheaton has a lot in common with my 15 year old daughter's experience in her Christian high school: You see, she struggles with depression and suicidal impulses. She felt like she didn't measure up to their supposed perfection and even transferred to a public school in hopes of finding a more diverse community.

Well, the chaotic atmosphere of our particular public school left her feeling worse than ever, so after a semester she went back to her small private school, but with a significant difference: She talked about her struggles. She gave her testimony and talked about depression, cutting and thinking about suicide. Afterwards, three girls privately told her about their suicide attempts. She has become a safe person for so many at the school because she listens without judgement and doesn't spread their stories around.

I struggle with what is the biblical response to homosexual behavior and tend to come down on the more conservative side, but I am certain that treating people with respect and love is always Christ's way. I have decided that God fortunately did not appoint me judge of my friends' and neighbors' sexual behavior.

Sorry about the anonymous post, but I am respecting my daughter's right to tell her own story in her own time.

Wheaton '85

Sara Elliott said...

Steve,
I read this because of the link on the One Wheaton site. I graduated from Wheaton in 1989, so I was there when Steve Thyberg also stepped in front of a train. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend, Steve. I am glad to see you writing, though, and keeping the conversation going.

Liz said...

Steve, as I reread this (directed by OneWheaton's website), I was struck that in some ways, our experience at Wheaton was similiar.

I think that Wheaton doesn't just do LGBT community poorly; they do ALL community poorly. I'm not sure if it's only limited to the gay community, although I do think that's one way they especially fail at helping develop community between Christian brothers and sisters.

But honestly, as I've reflected on my time at Wheaton, I think that what has struck me is how poor the formation emphasis was. It was lonely journey for me as well. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on that.

Love you, friend.

Liz Grant

(P.S. my new cell is 719-439-5394)

Andrea said...

Found this through One Wheaton. Thanks for sharing your story. As a queer atheist it helps me understand the struggles of my Christian friends better.

Daniel Lee said...

Dear Mr. Steve,
Thanks loads for posting/doing this blog. I greatly hope that making this effort is as rewarding for you the author as reading you is/has been for me. I am so deeply happy to read that growing up evangelical has not killed you off. I was almost literally killed by such a childhood, and even now, some parts of me which I liked and hoped I would be able to use in witness, service, and discipleship ... sadly have inwardly died ... or at least gone into such a deep inner coma that nobody knows if those parts of me will ever awake, speak, and functionally live again.

Two witnesses that I deeply appreciate, nourishing, running like golden threads throughout your post ... are:
(1) you really try to be honest and self-observing; I really miss that vitamin a lot, in both my professional work life, and my spiritual/religious life; My best guess for now is that this vitamin opens me/us up, to the Holy Spirit which bears witness to Christ as Risen Lord?
(2) you really work hard to remain open; another vitamin that refreshes and invigorates. I get a bit more of that vitamin in my professional life, as human service folks work to stay open and updated on things like new treatment models, quality improvement and quality assurance, and of course, sufficient work team support, consultation, and continuing education that we hope and pray we may not burn out from the nearly insurmountable human needs and life tragedies that we tend to see, day in and day out.

I appreciate being welcomed ... did I read that right? ... to your post/blog as a liberal Christian. Maybe I've confused you with Andrew Marin? I don't often hear even a superficial tang of welcome from USA Bible Belt conservative/evangelical Christian believers. The more common norm is to hear that liberal Christians are not really Jesus Freaks at all, at best ersatz, and at worst so self-deceived that talking together will never, ever be worth the time. No matter how odd or singular your welcome may be, it felt really nice to see it written out loud, if I did not mis-read.

I am also quite gratified to see references to Andrew Marin and the Marin Foundation (Chicago) in the comments. I have just checked that stuff out again, and the Marin witness is one of the most honest, open, hopeful signs I have ever seen from the USA Bible Belt.

So, many, many, many thanks.

Let me finish up by commenting on the language thing, and the modern knowledge thing.

I find most language, especially church language, fatally tinged with social distance, church life us versus them assumptions, and elaborate talk unhelpfully confined to presumed negatives.

Count me out, for attributing any struggles with same sex attractions in the going sense. I struggle with the negative beliefs and negative activities of others who believe rather nasty things about me, all the time.

With all the new science flooding out - genome stuff, neurobiology stuff, synthetic biology stuff, you name it stuff - my best guess is really that we believers are quite like set up, to have to redo on a big scale, both our Christian anthropology, and our Christian cosmology. Sniffs of unpredicted new change in these domains might have started long ago, on such a small and quiet scale that church folks could ignore what was happening for as long as possible. Now the pace of new data is faster, and the new data more plentiful, than perhaps any other previous era in global history.

Eyes wide shut is not essentially our rigid Christian royal road, for me as a liberal Christian. Just my two cents.

Prayers, best wishes to all.

Anonymous said...

College professors struggle. When I was in community at Wheaton College in the 80's, the dean's son had a big "thing" happen! We do not reach "sinless perfection" until we meet Him face to face, often, but I believe that some have walked this earth as nearly perfect human beings. Hiding out at "REZ" seems to just not help some people. Fellowship or identifying ourselves according to sexual orientation is not useful. Truthfully, sexual bondage is soooo common to man and woman. There IS community in Wheaton with loving, honest relating between men and boys, women and girls that is honest, respectful, and edifying. The requirement for being a part is willingness to receive prophecy, willingness to let other Christians speak the truth in love into your life.

Anonymous said...

I knew the earlier Stephen.... he was amazing. Thank you for sharing yourself. Class of 86 grad...

The Fried Doctor said...

I know you won't hate me either because you're a Christian, and there are some passages that -- wait, you know what I'm talking about, duh!

So, this is it.
I have nothing much to say than that I stumbled a across your blog before, but never gave it the attention it deserves.

Now that I read, I greatly regret -- and I thank God for finally taking the time to read it.

I know Jay, btw. I knew him.
We lost "online touch" from some time ago, when "circumstances" sorta "forced me" to cut it off. However, he had always been in my prayers. [If you're reading this, Jay... :).]
Oh, he, and another bloke names Ron Belgau. :)
And also a third one I won't name. Heh...

Anyway. Just like for you, these guys and some others were a driving force -- given from The One, I sincerely believe -- to drive me to something higher.
I truly owe a lot of the good decisions I made regarding my sexuality + faith to these guys, and also a few others too.
And, a now-lost post made half a decade ago, by someone named "LeNnY_B.", on a LiveJournal community.

I'm Brazilian, and I'm seriously considering starting a blog [using a made-up name] about Christian faith and homosexuality from, uh, a quite Side B -like point of view [for the lack of a better term; for those not familiar with it, it reads: celibacy. Just like Facebook says it, "It's complicated"].
I feel we -- Brazilians and Portuguese-speakers -- lack this "resource". I know there are very few blogs in English about it, but they at least exist. I was unable to find NONE neither in Portuguese, nor even from Brazil [nor Portugal, nor any other Portuguese-speaking country].

I'm not sure if I *will* start this blog, mainly because of "family issues" [again quoting Facebook, "It's complicated" -- more than Fermat's theorem interpreted by a Picasso specialist!].
Some time ago, I was waiting for *someone* to start it.
Now, I'm seriously wondering if *I* am that someone.
... ...

Please pray.
I hope you actually read this long, boring-looking comment. :)

And, if someone wants, feel free to email this alter ego of mine / E, se alguém quiser, fique à vontade pra mandar email para esse meu alter ego >>> fried dot doctor at gmail dot com / fried ponto doctor arroba gmail ponto com.
Btw, I just "saved" the url / A propósito, acabo de "reservar" a url >>> http://docfried.blogspot.com/
Although the name may sound stupid -- well, it IS stupid, really --, it gives some very few hints of my real identity and [hopefully] my in-a-very-near-future situation -- but probably only those that really know me will recognize them.

Okay, enough.
Au revoir.

Thanx for loving me in Christ meanwhile I did not comment.
And thanx for no longer hating me know.
:)

God bless,

~ The Fried Doctor

DRDAVIDTRACE said...

Maybe I missed it, but I didn't get the impression that this guy hates the fact that he is attracted to dudes. He seems to embrace it every turn. Every person has sinful misalignments and disorientations in the sexual area, whether they are hetero or homo. If you don't hate what God hates, how can you say you love Him and what He loves?

Anonymous said...

I was genuinely touched by this essay. It clearly comes from real experience and something like "gospel angst'.
The starting point for comprehending the God of the Bible is to study, understand, bow before, and embrace HIS rights. This essay does not even approach this vital starting point.
I would be eager to engage further.
Shalom
Robert Carter
rc@robertcarter.org

Holly Hendricks said...

Thank you so much. I was at Wheaton in 1970-71 when homosexuality was hardly mentioned. There were no support groups, visiting speakers, or even overt condemnations, and it seemed widely understood that it was a disgusting abomination that people had to deal with somewhere else. It was a tough place to come out to myself and I had the wisdom to leave and seek questioning-friendly contexts. But even though our experience is widely separated in years, there is so much that is the same. I wish I could have known then that by the time I reached age 60, I would be happily and legally married to my wife, a homeowner long accepted and welcomed in my community, and a longtimeUnitarian Universalist whose church is much more interested in asking hard questions and feeding the hungry and homeless than in social control. Keep writing! The world needs you.

Diane S. said...

Holly: A hard question certainly is one why you thing that equal rights should apply to un equal situations (homosexuality and heterosexuality are not equal, so equal rights are not due). The reason why my Catholic Church (the #1 non-govt charitable group for 2000 yrs now! That's a bunch of 'feeding the homeless'!)is concerned with what you call 'social control' is that family arrangements such as yours do not provide what is optimal to kids and affects society in the biggest way. Our biology and gender difference are profound and help to tell us what it means to be human. Your home in the Unitarian church is about trying to have that connection to God while not having to accept His terms...easy.

Jeff S. said...

Diane, there are so many good examples of gay parenting and so many bad examples of straight parenting that your assessment of "what is optimal to kids" cannot hinge on whether the parents are same sex or oppositre sex. I do not believe research has proven any ill effects of gay parenting either. Maybe a good home with a mother and a father is an ideal state, but we live in a fallen world and most homes have some form of brokenness that impact kids. Having two gay parents is not one of those issues harming kids.

Diane S. said...

jeff s.
you are right about good and bad on either side, which is why I always add 'exceptions not withstanding'...the bad on both sides will cancel out and we are left again talking about a standard of child rearing. Glad you got to the truth with mom/dad being the ideal state for kids. Since it is, then that's why the govt has recognized marriage as one man and one woman. It's the LEAST obtrusive way for the govt to forward the common good, which is based on child rearing. as for data, read Mark Regenerus' study on gay parenting....it affirms what you know: mom/dad is ideal.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve,

I had not, somehow, read this before. Very glad you wrote it, though. I have been pretty astounded how many of my friends have come out since I graduated.

-Jacob T.