[callout]The photo was taken by my friend Maggie when I was 27 years old at Venice beach.[/callout]
Right after sharing publicly that I had embraced who I am as a gay man, I would get the following set of questions in some variation from a wide variety of people. However, one friend just poured it out there, she asked;
Randy, how in the heck did you go from being out and gay?… to Christian right-wing ex-gay poster boy EVP of Exodus?… to helping shut all that mess down, and now back to being out and gay…and still a Christian?
My first thought was, “How the *&#! am I supposed to know?” I did laugh a little after she asked and shrugged my shoulders. Of course, I do know but, it would take quite a bit of explaining.
I am not a youngin’ anymore, but the vast disparities between believing one thing, then adopting another whole paradigm, and then swinging off that to something else has given a few of my friends and me relational whiplash! But in truth, none of this just happened willy nilly. One thing has led to another, and it is my hope to humanize and celebrate the good while sharing what I have learned from the mistakes and negative events. Plus, there will be a fair share of revealing the ongoing unknowns I am stepping out in faith on.
They tell me that at a book introduction is the place to summarize the book so here goes: Growing up was a nightmare for me on many levels. Severe abuse, abandonment, bullying and eventually internalizing all of that into self-harm and substance abuse nearly prevented me from becoming an adult, to begin with. However, when I found the gay bar scene where I could externalize my dysfunctional inner prison I finally felt free.
Of course, I wasn’t. I finally found a community that accepted and defended me. That said, drug abusing assholes exist in every community, and I found them in the gay community quickly. Why? Because I was a drug abuser with asshole’ish tendencies. I felt free-er than in my prison of abuse out in a homophobic, bullying, stigmatizing world, but the party scene also nearly killed me in a different way.
I eventually found a 12 step program full of healthier gay and pro-gay people. They saved my life, and it was there that I first heard the two words “unconditional love” strung together in the same sentence. As a part of that process, I professed that I was Christian, but it was a simple version of Christianity. During my third step in this program, I did fall in love with Jesus and knew, still know, that He fell in love with me even before I was born. I became a Christ follower.
I didn’t become a Christian to be straight. I was still ok to be gay as far as I was concerned. I hated Christians even after becoming one, but I did love Jesus. He made sense, and still does, when everything and everyone else does not. I found a groovy artsy little church where we all actually believed that everyone is on level ground at the foot of the cross. No one blinked or fell for my shock tactic manipulations when I would share that I was gay.
I did try, too. One of my former mentors said, in the midst of deep manly chuckles, that I have the “gift of provocation.” At that time in my life I got a sick thrill of telling the most licentious story I could, just matter of fact, to watch conservatives squirm or get weird. I know… not helpful… to anybody. Still entertaining, though; except that this church wasn’t falling for it.
It surprised me when they would just look at me like, “… ok… and?” I was completely disarmed.
It was nice to go to church not hung over or still high. That was amazing to be around people who weren’t afraid of being awake at 9 am or walk around in sunlight. The only thing, though, while it was the first place I wasn’t bullied by straight people and was treated with respect even when I was disrespectful, I was taught that the negative things I experienced in the gay community were because of the gay community. I was surrounded by conservative theology regarding sex and identity, and it permeated everything. I was told that my being gay and seeking romance with a life-partner of the same sex was a sin that even had its particular support group on Thursday nights. Because of religious and cultural stigmatization of gay people, I was told that the gay community was truly horribly broken, and it was ok to blame them, and my parent for my ills. That I could scapegoat the LGBTQ community for the nightmares I had experienced. So again, I felt even more free-er than at any time in my life before, so I slowly changed my views and denied my true self, my dreams. For the first time, I was rewarded and affirmed for believing and doing my best to vocalize a worldview that seemed to have all the right answers for the here and now and eternally. So, I ran with it.
Eventually, I went to an ex-gay support group. Became a part of leadership there and rose through the ranks of ex-gay leaders nationally. During my time in the church closet, the Lord did transform my life in many ways. I no longer abused substances. I overcame emotional and co-dependencies. I developed a firm faith in who I am in Christ and the life-giving Grace His finished work gave to me. But the ex-gay world is built on lies that you aren’t who you are and that you can’t be a healthy and whole gay person in Christ. After the suicide of a friend and watching the Exodus International networks split and implode (from my position as the Executive Vice President), my life started spiraling down into depression. I realized that while God is good, had blessed and guided me; I was slowly dying inside because of living a lie that I thought was truth. I realized that while I was freer than ever before, I was still not truly free. That this misery was not, could not be, truly the fruit of the Spirit.
It became very clear that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead so that I could live in the misery of a church closet built with inherent shame and condemnation for who I am as a gay man.
Even before coming out, again, because of coming into a greater awareness of God’s grace, everything and everyone fell away except for Jesus and a couple of close friends. It was in that space of solitude that I finally escaped the maelstrom of external noise, strife and constant pulls of incredible pressure to believe this or that, to espouse this or that. It was in that season after leaving Exodus on August 23rd, 2013 until January 12th, 2015 that I decided to embrace true freedom in Christ to be all of who I am; this includes being His gay son.
At the time of this writing, I realize now that at every point along the way I found a level of freedom I had not known before. First was leaving my abusive upbringing for the fun and frolic of the gay bar/party scene. Then leaving the destructive forces of the party scene for the life-giving relationship with Christ. Then leaving the stigmatized (for gay people like me) environment, and finally leaving the church closet to live out an authentic life in Christ.
Am I completely free? I doubt it. I haven’t met a person of any age who is completely “free” of all their problems or need to learn more. But I can tell you; until now I wasn’t free to be me, in my context for who I truly am. Today I no longer strive for or seek someone else’s approval or avoiding relational/social consequences of being an openly gay man.
I am free to take personal responsibility. Not only for how I live my life now but in how I approach life and in making amends for the past as the opportunity arises. I am also free to take personal responsibility in how I view events and people of the past. I am free to love from a place of authenticity; secure in who I am and loving God and others in how I was created to love. I am free to see with the eyes of grace, to speak up and loudly against bullying of any form and religious stigmatization of gay people. I am free never to dehumanize or stigmatize in return. I am free to receive and extend truly life-giving affirmation and fellowship.
Yep, if it isn’t clear, I am gay. I am free.
Regardless of whether you are a Christian or not, a conservative or progressive Christian … or not. LGBTQ of any flavor … or not, being comfortable in our skin is something I believe God wants for us. It is my sincere hope that anyone reading this blog will see that the God I believe in, and His Son Jesus, is Good. I want to share about a Jesus who isn’t afraid of people like me who were raised by a pack of Drag Queens (not true but fun to say) and love to cuss way too much.
Jesus understands my need to cuss often. Especially around spiders.
He understands. He cares. He loves, and He is not limited to our culturally imposed fears, expectations, consequences or goals. There is so much more to us than one part of our lives. There is so much more to God than one might think or any of us can even comprehend.
Jesus isn’t limited to a single-issue mindset.
How did I get from one point to another, and then another? Like every soul does; pursuing authenticity and freedom one breath, one revelation, and one moment at a time.
[callout]If you enjoy my posts and want to support my efforts to affirm and encourage others through writing, creative projects, and advocacy, I’m on Patreon! Check out my page. Thank you![/callout]