Sometimes people don’t understand when I say: “My experience of God is filtered through the lens of my sexuality.”
Or perhaps people just get uncomfortable when I say it. So, allow me to explain.
Caveat: when I refer to God, I use “they” pronouns, because I feel like that is a much more expansive view of the beauty that is our Creator.
Growing up Evangelical (and proud of it) at my public school, I’m pretty sure they called me “Christian Stace.” I was convinced that wearing overtly Christian-themed t-shirts and a cross necklace was going to bring my “secular” friends to Jesus on a weekly basis. But that was in my teens. Before I started “struggling” with liking girls, and my journey of being an extremely “good Christian girl” took a dramatically sharp downward turn. Or, so I believed.
Back then, I had absolutely no clue what those feelings meant. I had no Christian vocabulary for it. Literally, I did not even know that the words “lesbian” or “homosexuality” existed. They had been forbidden in our house, and I hadn’t heard them at church yet. Also, this was way before Netflix. I had no tools, no support, and no understanding of what was in front of me. I had only ever known this straight, heteronormative Christian world, and my feelings were coming from an entirely different universe. This was the very beginning of an arduous 13 year journey for me. One where I intensely wrestled with my faith, with myself, and with God. My church home was my refuge since birth. But it slowly started to become a dark & lonely place where I no longer fit.
About a year into this part of my journey, I very quietly admitted to myself that I was actually attracted to other girls. This led me to hide away and learn all about ex-gay ministries and people who had apparently “prayed their gay away.” Christians in the ex-gay ministries spoke of “same-sex attraction” like a disease that could rapidly spread. I couldn’t believe I, “good Christian Stace,” could identify with that.
I began to hate myself. I prayed and prayed for these feelings to go away, but my prayers were futile. When my church did eventually speak on homosexuality, the message was clear: it was the most wrong of wrongs. I would have to choose: embrace God, or be damned by embracing this Capital Sin. There was no world in which they could co-exist.
I clearly remember sitting in my room at 18 years old, writing in my prayer journal and sobbing. What if everyone was right? What if I was the worst of sinners? How could I live a life God would be proud of if I couldn’t shake this “disease” of same-sex attraction? What did I do wrong to allow this sin to consume my life?
I tried to read those infamous clobber verses in my various bible translations, wishing they would say something different. I emailed every pastor I could find outside of my church. There was no such thing as a “gay Christian” then, so I looked only to my trusted Christian community. There was no way I was going to get advice from that secular gay community. Satan had enough of a hold on me! However, each one of the pastor’s “love the sinner, hate the sin” responses only fed my shame and self-hate. It was a constant confirmation as the years ticked by.
I believed this struggle was my fault. I believed that I had made a huge mistake, or more accurately, that I was huge mistake.
So I kept fighting the “good fight.” Except, it wasn’t good at all. Looking back, I know God was grieving as I bullied and hated and tried to erase this beautifully creative & sweet part of myself. This part that They made. On the surface, I was probably the same ol’ Stace. I hid my struggle very well. But I developed major anxiety, physical health problems; and quite honestly, I started to question how much longer I could live.
Church had taught me that this sort of sin was too large, too ugly, and too damaging. God despised homosexuality, I’d been told. So obviously, God must despise me.
I viewed my sexuality as a thorn in my side that I needed to remove or ignore—a constantly uncomfortable and inconvenient reminder of who I was trying not to be. Then one day, bone exhausted, something hit me.
What if this thorn is actually a mustard seed?
What if I stopped fighting, turned around and embraced my sexuality as an integral part of who God made me to be? What if my sexuality actually enriched my faith? I decided I had nothing left to lose, so I asked God the one question I had been avoiding: “Can you still truly love me if I love the gay part of myself?” The answer was not what I was expecting. I realized that I had been listening to “God’s people” for 13 years, but what did God Themself want to say to me?
Soon I felt inside my soul, bubbling to the surface, a deep, resounding yes. I felt God finally exhale.
Oh yes, Stace. I love all that I made you to be.
A thousand times over, yes.
Almost immediately, peace began to wash over me in waves, consuming the shores of chaos and washing them away, layer by layer. I did not get written answers from heaven or even theological clarity. But I got peace. A peace that has not wavered since that day in 2010. By opening up my heart and mind to these things I had thought impossible, my view of God themself expanded. I reflected a lot on my journey these last couple years as I wrote my book Still Stace: A Gay Christian Coming-of-Age Story. And it made me think about my experience of God versus what I was taught about God. I was taught a whole lot of things about God. And a lot of those things did not bring peace.
My experience of turning myself over, of inviting God into all the pieces of me, that experience was peace. And if you ask me, the evidence of God is peace.
I’ve experienced so much from this vantage point as a gay Christian. Since coming out in 2010, I have chosen to be visible. To speak up, to share, to choose to take up space in this world as I am, to not just quietly exist. Because I never had someone to look up to, I vowed that one day, if I ever could, I would try to be the person that I had once needed. Because quite frankly, gay Christians like me being visible might save someone’s life. Let me say that again for the folks in the back: gay Christians like me being visible might save someone’s life. Here’s why: I loved my church community so much, but they were not able to love all of me back.
Now, straddling the Christian and gay communities does come at a cost. I’ve had my fair share of anger from the gay community—How could you call yourself a Christian? All they do is hate us! I’ve had my fair share of anger from Christians—How dare you add gay with Christian? It’s blasphemous! But, these are all just words and labels, and God knows my heart. They know, and I know. And I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
I’ve seen a lot of people scared & angry by that three letter word. G-A-Y. Faces that cloud over in judgement, voices that drip with disgust, eyes that dart away in discomfort. Sometimes they don’t want to know, and they close their eyes and miss what God is doing. And I think maybe, people are afraid to see who God is using.
By being immersed in this LGBTQ+ Christian community, I have learned there is so much beauty just beyond the borders of what we typically see. Listening to these voices is like stopping and squinting into the distance, just long enough to notice that there are new and wondrous colours just beyond the horizon.
Well, anyway – this is what I see.