Sometimes you are just left wondering... did that really just happen to me? I look back on the past two years of my life and I ask that question, seeing how my social network has completely changed, friends have made continuing relationships with them impossible unless I believe what they believe, and how ridiculous my coming out processes were...all because of Christianity. It was a double-whammy; not only did I come out of my faith, but I also came out of the closet.
I became a Christian at the age of 13. I'm 20 now. It makes sense now as to why I chose to become part of the faith; I had almost no friends in school at that time, and my parents took me to church where I met all sorts of potential friends...who were all extremely serious about their faith. I think now I see it also as a way for me to have hidden the fact that I was gay...after all, no one who was THAT big of a Christian could POSSIBLY be gay right?
And by BIG Christian I am not exaggerating at all; I went to all sorts of youth group retreats, led bible studies, attended church sometimes 3-4 days a week, prayed and fasted, was in all the Easter and Christmas plays, and went on to become the captain of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, or FCA, in high school (I wasn't an athlete but it seemed that my extreme faith made it appropriate for me to take the title)
So since I was FCA captain, I waited until I graduated to come out as gay... I was not about to deal with that kind of drama in addition to pre-existing normal high school drama. But I came out as gay to my parents and some close friends, and the first time I said those words out loud it was SO liberating. But as I went through my first semester of college I confronted a very serious issue -- how to mesh my new-found gay identity with my pre-existing strong Christian Faith.
So I was advised by Christian mentors to take a route that begins the "did that really just happen to me?" part of my life. I became an "ex-gay" through a group known as Exodus International. This is a group that is bound to determine you that you can live as the straight man or woman that "God" apparently intended for you to live as. One of their books actually says that no matter how strong your homosexual desires are, that deep down everyone is innately heterosexual. Silly.
And one of my mentors described my homosexuality as something that I could easily get rid of if I put my mind and heart to it, just like taking off a heavy backpack. I mean we all now how easy and black and white these things are when you are a Christian right? So I went to ex-gay retreats/conferences, made some ex-gay friends, and attended different group therapy sessions.
I mean if you think about it long enough, you could see that it's a win-win situation...you keep all your Christian friends but you also get to reveal to them your secret (that you are not exactly on the "straight" and narrow -- hehe.) You don't get disowned by your Conservative Christian family and you feel freedom...that is...until you ask yourself a one word question..."Really?" Finally, after about a year, I answered that question with a loud and proud "NO."
One of my friends, for whom I will always be thankful to this day, challenged me to think about my inner desires that I was holding captive for, as he saw, no logical reason. Somehow the light just clicked. I did not want to be in that kind of denial for the rest of my life. The next day, I essentially came out of the closet...again. Except this time I did it so that there was no doubt. My closet door swung open, rainbow confetti went everyone, and it went on the one place that really DOES make it official...Facebook. :-)
Another series of questioning came as a result of this decision...WHY in the world was I a Christian? Why did I believe it? And Why is it SUCH a big deal in the relationships with my peers and my family? I began researching skeptically, and finally came to the decision that, at age 19, I was dropping the faith that I held for 6 years. This decision caused so much more controversy than my coming out as gay; I had in-home interventions, Facebook-harassing interventions, the lovable glances of my old Baptist church when I would seldom attend to appease my parents, and of course, the loss of about 50 friends, one of whom I thought was my best friend.
What is really sad is that, and I'm sure many can relate, I realized that I had wasted so much of my life away over this faith. I didn't give myself room for very many hobbies; and without my faith I almost felt like I had little to no personality. I have had to rebuild an entire identity from the ground up since then. It's really difficult to tell someone about yourself when you have such a heavy past, so I try my best to look from my de-conversion forwards when describing myself...almost like I have to consider myself reborn from that moment (hmmm...where have we all heard that before?)