Part. 5 – Portland, OR

“How do you feel about driving up the coast from San Francisco to Portland this week?”

You can’t ask that question to a lot of people. But I can ask it of Janell.

Janell and I met when I was a part of a community house–a special season of life that brought hope and life to my very cynical heart.

We’d read Narnia together. Janell would squeal in discomfort as I texted boys on her behalf. I’d obnoxiously barge into her room, flop on her bed, and beg for details from work. She and I worked at a detention center for youth. The stories were always full of blood, sweat, and tears. Literally. Every. Time. It’s pretty horrible and lovely all at once. But it’s not surprising that Janell took this job. It’s what she does.

To this day, Janell steps out into the world the way I long to–with joy, abandon, faith, and love. She’s always in the midst of chaos. Burning Man. The Syrian Refuge Crisis. The Carr Fire. She’s been at them all, hoping to be an agent of hope, a calm in the storm.

It is this person I can ask to drive up the coast on a bohemian adventure with a yellow lab, all the blankets, and no money. And it was worth it! The trip was so gorgeous! Red woods towering above us. Jagged sea cliffs foaming to our left. Cute fishing towns scattered up the coast. It was just simple beauty, and it was so refreshing.

The other thing I love about Janell is that she’s a feeler like me. We can literally say, “Let’s turn left because my heart wants to. Let’s go into that fresh fish market by the bay because something speaks to me about it. Let’s not go all the way up to Astoria. Let’s cut over to Portland. There’s some uneasiness in my stomach.”

And yet, every adventure has it’s moments of discomfort or pain or risk. Otherwise, it’s not an adventure. It’s vacation.

One such moment was a lack of housing in Portland. I had messaged a ton of people, some of which I barely knew. Nothing. And did I mention we didn’t have money? Oh, and did I mention Janell had just spent days traveling in her car from the East Coast?

The culmination of all those factors led Janell and I to a Home Depot. We were searching for campsites, but Janell needed to use the bathroom.

“Brandon. I’m not going into Home Depot to use the bathroom.”

“Why not? They have one, and we’re here. No one will care.”

“Are you kidding me right now? No. It’s Home Depot. They’re not public bathrooms. Brandon, go find us a gas station.”

While I found us a gas station, Janell searched the internet for “safe rest stop Portland Oregon”. We had finally given up due to pure exhaustion and lack of options.

In the end, Janell, her puppy named Gypsy (very applicable), and I sprawled out in the back of Janell’s Jeep Compass, parked next to a few homeless. And here’s the weird part–I felt… at home… and a cramp, but that’s besides the point. The point was that something from my past was reaching out to me.

My life is filled with many moments trying to “prove” something for Jesus. Do something hard for Jesus. Something you don’t like for Jesus. That though process always led me to do things that I believed were uncomfortable or straight up hated.

Sleeping on a tile floor for two months in Mumbai, India. Spooning with roommates in a school bus across country to keep warm. Inching as close to the fire in the Colorado mountains with nothing but a jogging outfit.

All of these moments were some of the most uncomfortable moments I’ve ever had, and yet I felt the most alive. Not because of the pain, although pain does have a way of saying, “Hey, you’re awake!” But because of the beauty surrounding you in those moments.

You’re going after something that’s worth more than what you lose. Cause what you’re giving up is cheap. You’re living for something beyond yourself. Whether that’s loving people or living an adventure or hopefully both, it’s worth the lack of comfort. And as weird as it sounds, I was missing the discomfort. I was nostalgia for purpose and adventure, but I had insulated myself from experiencing both.

Comfort has a way of robbing us of the very thing we actually want, and yet we cling to it so fiercely. I don’t understand why we do it, and yet understand it completely, as I do it every day. It’s as though fear causes us to cling to cheap and easy things. But that night sleeping with Gypsy, Janell, and all the other vagrants I was reminded that there’s more to life than a house, a bed, a decent job… security. I wanted more.

But all those thoughts and feelings will have to wait. I had a friend to meet.

The following morning, Janell and I were pleasantly surprised. An old friend named Sophie met us up for coffee. And let me just tell you, Sophie embodies some of the most beautiful things this world has to offer.

Hours passed as we laughed with complete authenticity. We hadn’t seen each other in years, but the years we missed poured forth with abandon. I could be fully me, nothing hidden. It was like my soul was drinking fresh mountain water. I couldn’t get enough, and apparently, neither could she, because we spent the entire day together. Which is huge. Normally, after an hour or two, I’m thinking about how many more fake poops I have to take to make it through the rest of the time with someone. It’s not that I hate people. In fact, I really deeply care. But that care exhausts me and I get tired of presenting to meet someone where they’re at.

But not Sophie. It was so naturally easy, and I loved it.

We talked about sex. We talked about church. We talked about exes.

We went not thrift shopping. Why? Because we all love grungy, trendy, cheap clothing. But the thrift stores in Portland aren’t cheap. So we bought nothing. We went to Powell’s to not purchase books. Instead, we walked around just looking at books. Maybe it’s the smell. But again, we bought nothing. We just gave ourselves points for being in a bookstore. But then again, maybe we didn’t buy books or thrift clothing because we were just straight up broke. But trendy vegan food. You always have money for trendy vegan food. So we got some.

By the time our time was up, I didn’t want to leave. We had crammed Oregon cliffs, California redwoods, and Portland coffee all into a 36-hour trip. It wasn’t enough time. Too much good stuff! Especially the good people, because ultimately, that was the highlight of this trip, and that has always been the case for me. I can be in the middle of the desert and be as happy as a clam (Why do we say that, and why are clams happy?). I know for sure, because I did it. But regardless of feeling like I didn’t get enough time, time was up. We had to get to Redding.

Part 3. – San Luis Obispo, California

The next leg of my journey was California. It was hard and beautiful and confusing and healing. But before I get ahead of myself, I have to back it up a few months.

While dating a guy, I wrestled a lot. Hell, I still do. Questions would assault my mind. They came and came and came, circling and entrenching me. I couldn’t escape them.

Is this okay? Is this the best for me? What about sex? What about sex before marriage? Where is God in all of this? What do I truly want? Am I okay with gay sex? Am I okay not producing my own children? Will my heart become hard? Will I become a different person? Will I lose my God? Is there anyone out there that is in a successful, monogamous, same-sex relationship while still loving Jesus? 

That final question led me to Queer Christian Fellowship–an annual gathering of Christian LGBTQ individuals from across the world. Some had found answers. Others were still looking. And still others were “straight up” husband hunting. Although I’m not sure if there’s anything “straight up about husband hunting.

The conference held two types of people–Side A and Side B.

Side A: God is approving of your attractions and feelings and you should act on them.

Side B: Your attractions and feelings cannot change. You’re not going to hell for having them, but you should not act on them. Instead, you should live a celibate life or have a mixed orientation marriage.

And in case you were wondering, there is a third side. However, it’s not what you’d expect. Whoever came up with these arbitrary sides and letters did not create a “Side C”. They decided to jump all the way down to X. Maybe it’s because it represents the “ex-gay” narrative.

Side X: Not only is it not okay to act on your feelings, but it’s wrong to have them. You should do everything in your power to change these feelings, including therapy. This is where you get the infamous Exodus ministry.

The idea of the conference was to create a space where the tension of Side A and Side B could coexist to produce a conversation and maybe answers. But probably most importantly, the conference existed so we wouldn’t feel alone.

Being gay and Christian puts you in this very unique space. It’s too Christian for the gays and too gay for the Christians. The result is that you don’t really find family in either community.

But in downtown Denver, thousands of these fringe queers conglomerated to not be alone, to know they have people that support them, to begin the conversation, and to maybe find some peace.

I was the weird one. I wasn’t really looking for any of that.

The biggest thing for me was finding healthy Christian gays. I had read through a bit of curriculum and talked enough with people to excuse away the versus in the Bible using theology. But what about evidence? Where were the gay Christians that believed all of this, still loved Jesus and were healthy?

I wasn’t healthy, and the few gay Christians I knew weren’t shining examples of health either. I wanted to see that God could still move in a gay Christian couple. Screw all the other things. Probably not the best heart posture. But I’m being honest. I was here to find evidence. What I got was a bunch of Queens of the King.

If you were to hack my Facebook, you would find a Messenger conversation with the title Queens of the King. The group is composed of five people:

  1. The fiancés – David and Anthony (the ones that give me hope of a healthy gay Christian relationship)
  2. Side B – Nicholas (the one we tease but love)
  3. The best friend – Adam (the one I could literally do anything and he’d be the first to bail me out of jail or give me a kidney)
  4. Me

Scrolling through the messages of these “queens” you would find prayer, encouragement, and a shit-ton of feisty gifs. Since January, this group has been a place where I could be completely candid about hurts, pains, questions, triumphs, and defeats. I’m understood and loved. If I gained nothing from that conference except these men, it would have been enough.

And you’re probably wondering, “Brandon, we’re talking about San Louis Obispo. Can we get on with the story and stop talking about the homos.” Yes, we can move on from backstory, but it’s still gonna be about the homos. Because the reason I came to California was to celebrate Nick and Adam’s birthday.

The six of us (Yes, I can do math; Nick’s best friend Amber joined us) rented an AirBNB in San Luis Obispo and had one of the most stereotypically gay weekends of my entire life. We cooked brunch every morning, enjoyed Lush facials, tasted rosé, and gawked at the Madonna Inn (Yes, that’s a real thing, and it looks like a pink unicorn threw up gold on everything). But a gay weekend would not be complete, without watching the new season of Queer Eye.

If you have not watched episode one of season two of the Netflix Original’s Queer Eye, stop reading this blog right now, and go watch that episode. Be sure to grab tissues. You’ll need them. Well… if you have a heart you’ll need them.

Crammed in that California bungalow, five of us balled our eyes out. Side B didn’t. He doesn’t have a heart. We’re working on it. (Like I said, we like to tease him.)

But why? Why did it impact us so deeply? Yes, the six of us can all be a bit dramatic and emotional. But that’s besides the point. We cried because we were seeing the story we longed for and a love that most of us weren’t sure existed.

The episode is about a woman named Momma Tammy. Momma Tammy lives in Gay, Georgia (yes, that’s a real place), where the population is less than 100 and the gay population is one–Momma Tammy’s son.

When Momma Tammy’s son came out, it was rough. She was an active member of her church where she served as an usher. How could she love her son but be true to her God?

I’ve seen a lot of parents in the same predicament. For some reason they’re not sure how they can worship the God of love while loving their gay child. But Momma Tammy does it. And not only does that love spill all over her son, but it spills out onto each of the Fab Five. Instead of fear or anger towards these gay men, she treats them with dignity, respect, care, and above all love, refusing to see them as anything less than they truly are–beloved sons of God.

When the episode ended, no one spoke. We were all in shock. It was a holy space. Tears flowed freely down our faces as we took in the love of the Father. We were undone.

Is this the love we should have experienced growing up? Is this the love we’ve heard rumors about but haven’t seen in the churches we gave our lives for? Is this real?

The answer is yes, and the power of that love is more strong than any fear mongering anyone could conjure up. It’s the power of Christ, and you could feel it in that episode.

Most people don’t know this, but that episode wasn’t supposed to air. They had another man they were going to do a makeover for, but it fell through. In a last minute change, Netflix scrambled to find another “hero”. That’s when they found Momma Tammy.

I truly believe that there was an intervention of God for that episode. That might sound super cheesy, but I believe there is a God that was desperate to speak to His gay kids, and He knew we’d be watching Queer Eye.

The fact of the matter was everyone on that trip was “strugs to funk”. Driving those three hours to San Louis Obispo, we were anxious about coming out; we were depressed about the lack of ministry and purpose in our lives; we were stressed with law school; we were scared of dying alone, and we were reeling from failed relationships. But we received a breath of hope in Momma Tammy’s love. And on the drive back, there was a sense of peace for all of us. Well, most of us.

In spite of the love I had experienced in my friends and Momma Tammy, I was still rough. There were a lot of things I was feeling but refused to feel. I was standing in the rubble of my previous relationship, and I had no idea where to go both externally and internally. I felt aimless. Then Adam opened up his little pie hole.

“I have a song I wanna put on. Stop talking.” Who announces they have a song they want to put on and then demands we listen to it? Adam.

We all got quiet in anticipation for this song. It better be good if we was making us all shut up.

“When you try your best but you don’t succeed. When you get what you want but not what you need.”

I looked over at Adam. “I hate you.” Adam just patted me on the arm and said he loved me.

Every word was punching me right in the gut. It was as if the song was written for me. I had heard this song a thousand times before. And literally mean a thousand. It was the finale of a show I wrote back in Europe. So I literally heard it at least a thousand times with how much we rehearsed that show.

But driving up the 101 in that 2007 Honda CR-V nicknamed “Duchess”, every word dove deep within me. Christopher Martin sang of giving everything to a relationship you lose, of being too in love to let it go, of being stuck in reverse.

All of it. All of it was me.

As Duchess roared north, I wept. I started to collapse within myself, silently crying.

But then I felt Adam’s hand. I looked over and he smiled. Amber reached back from the passenger seat and put her hands on top of ours. Nick was driving. So we raised our three hands together and put them on his shoulder.

They were feeling with me. I wasn’t feeling this alone.

Then the chorus came, and I felt like God promised me something.

“Lights will guide you home and ignite your bones and I will try to fix you.”

I cried more, but now with a smile. God was after me. He had provided these amazing friends. He had redirected an entire television series to showcase Momma Tammy. He had spoken to the heart of my friend to play a song. And all of it said the same thing–I’m right here; I haven’t left; I’m for you; I’m not against you, and I will always love you.

Part 2. – Mack, Colorado

Yep. Mack, Colorado. Less than ten miles away from the Utah border and home of the famous Country Jam.

“Country Jam is like a burning man for red necks.” A drunk girl shared with me between gulps of beer. “Did you know that there are more underage-drinking arrests during Country Jam than the rest of the year? Some crazy stuff happens in those camps.”

But I didn’t come to Mack for Country Jam. I came for the closest thing I’ve ever found to that elusive word called “home”.

I rounded the two-lane road, passing fields of corn and alfalfa till it came into view—the Produce Peddler. Peace, joy, rest, and all those good things you feel when throwing off your backpack after a long hot day of school overwhelmed me.

In the last two years, this place had become sacred to me. That’s truly the only word for this place. Nothing holds such precious pieces of my heart like this farm, and it’s because I find home pulling weeds or collecting eggs or driving a tractor. This place had become sacred to me because of the people who owned it.

The Produce Peddler is owned by two of the most loving and gracious people I’ve ever known—Leah and Zay.

Leah and I met through this blog. She invited me to come to her farm. We had never met. But something inside me trusted her. So I packed up my car and drove six hours away to meet a complete stranger on the side of Highway 70. Good news! I didn’t become a drug mule! Even better news: a friendship was born that changed my life.

If you wanna hear their story in detail, read the blog post entitled “Little Miracles”. For the purpose of this post, suffice it to say, Leah identifies as lesbian and Christian and married a man. She didn’t marry him out of fear. She didn’t marry him because she’s now magically attracted to men. Over the course of her life, any time an opportunity to date a woman came up, she felt a gentle whisper say, “I have better.” No guilt. No shame. No strong-arming. Just “better”. That “better” was and is Zay.

Their story challenges and inspires me. But more than their story, their love creates safety for me. On this farm, two years ago, I could wrestle out my feelings without fear. I could bring my then boyfriend. I could live the same narrative or a different narrative. It didn’t matter. They loved me regardless and simply inspired me to trust God for myself and trust the journey God had for me.

That’s why I feel home every time I drive up “8 1/2 Road”. That’s why I get teary-eyed every time I see that dead oak in their driveway. It’s easier to breathe there, and I can be all of me. My gay me. My Christian me. My confused me. They’re all welcome and loved, and it transforms my heart every time.

But for the first time ever, the peace was interrupted. I turned the corner to the fifth-wheel I’d be staying in.

All the memories came back.

The last time I was in this trailer, I was with my ex. The last time I was in this trailer, I had sex for the first time. The last time I was in this trailer, I wept and cried and pleaded with God to be okay with me dating this man. The last time I was in this trailer, I made a deal with God—unless this relationship would send me to hell, I wanted it, and if God didn’t want me to have it, God was going to need to break it.

A lot had happened here, and I was completely caught off guard.

I opened the door and stepped inside. I was broken. This room was intrinsic to my previous relationship, and now here I was single; now here I was broken… but also hopeful… but also desperately alone… and above all scared. Scared I messed up. Scared I got it right. Scared I broke myself and others beyond repair. Scared I was lost.

The first night with my ex in that fifth-wheel played out in front of me, and a moment I had forgotten was relived.

I got out of bed. I couldn’t sleep. I walked to the couch and cried. I was so scared and confused. I wasn’t sure the relationship was right. I had this anxiousness in my chest. It was a feeling of being unsure, and that I would hurt myself and more importantly this man. A man I loved.

Wait. I know this feeling. It’s the same feeling I felt about moving to Utah, and as soon as I decided to not go to Utah, the anxiousness went away. The feeling I felt two years ago in the trailer was the same feeling that motivated me to not take the job, and then it clicked—that relationship wasn’t the best for me.

I fell on my knees, praying to God, saying I’m sorry. Sorry for not listening to that feeling, and in doing so, hurting someone I loved. I was broken.

The scene played out further.

My ex was now getting out of bed, coming to comfort me on the couch. But there was a third person in the room that I hadn’t seen before—God.

He was standing where I stood now, looking with tears in His eyes at his two sons. Two sons desperate to be loved. Two sons trying to find that love in each other and unable to give it. Two sons broken and hurting and clinging together in the dark, hoping for salvation in the other’s arms.

Seeing that scene play out, I saw our hearts and then I felt God’s heart. It wasn’t anger or rage. It was love and compassion. He never left us.

Throughout my relationship with my ex, any time I prayed, I always heard, “I’m right here. I haven’t left.” And in that fifth-wheel, I saw it, I saw God’s heart, and I was filled with nothing but compassion for my younger self and my boyfriend. I could breathe. I was okay. I wasn’t forgotten.

I wiped my eyes, thanked God for His love, then went to meet up with Leah and Zay. We were headed to dinner.

In celebration of reconnecting for the first time in two years, we went to a fancy restaurant in “Junction”, what the locals call Grand Junction. I always messed it up and called it “Grand”. I was trying so hard to sound like a local. Instead, I sounded like a dingus.

The restaurant was exactly what we were not—fresh and fancy. We had just spent the day in the fields, pulling weeds. Zay sported a baseball cap, and I had on shorts and flip flops. Leah at least tried with a plaid button up. But then again, maybe we were EXACTLY like the restaurant! Farm to table. They just made it look prettier. Oh! And all three of us were mildly high. It was the best!

With a new found confidence and security, I took a bite of raw meat (apparently that’s what “tartar” is) and blurted out, “Alright, I know you guys were nervous about saying any criticism regarding my relationship. Everyone is. Now that it’s over, what are things you wish you said that you didn’t.

Zay didn’t miss a beat. He started talking almost before I finished. “You guys were not right for each other. He’s not a bad guy. He’s actually pretty great. But not great for you. You guys would keep missing each other even though you were trying so hard.” He took a bite of his cheese and meat plate with contentment. “This is really good!” He had the better meal.

I took another fork full of cold, raw, ground up elk. “Anything you’d like to add, Leah?” Leah was across the table just smiling and nodding, agreeing with her husband. There was such an ease to our conversation as we decompressed my relationship. The lack of health and incompatibility. Although hard truths, it all was accepted with such grace. We could trust each other because of the love we had with each other… and maybe the mints were helping a little too.

Never once did they say, “Well he was a dude. So obviously it was wrong.” “You gonna finally follow our story and marry a woman?” None of those things. They normalized me, my ex, and the relationship. They honored and gave space to my reality that includes being gay and Christian. They gave me unconditional love and safety. They gave me home.

And just like the melons in their field, with a confidence in the new soil I found myself in, shit fertilizing the soil, roots pushed further down, creating a sense of stability. God hadn’t left me. He was with me in the relationship, just like these two people, and hope was blooming. In spite of it all, I just needed to trust Him, and He spoke in that feeling. My story could look like Leah and Zay, or it could look like my gay Christian friends in the Bah Area. But He would lead me. And the good news was that I would get to compare them back to back, because now I was headed to California.

Part 1. – Sierra Vista, Arizona

Dallas and Ariel are enlisted vegans, living on Sierra Vista’s Army base. In spite of Dallas’s wonderful squash-frying skills, I was starving… ALL THE TIME!!! Whether the lack of meat or the desert heat, I made more McDonald’s runs in those ten days than I had in a year, devouring with unadulterated delight multiple Big Macs and McFlurries.

Little fact about Arizona… it’s BOILING HOT in June! Also, in case you didn’t know, there’s a lot of desert. I HATE THE DESERT! You can ask my friend Rachel. One time, while we were driving through West Texas, I stared out the window with a melancholy slouch. Rachel inquired what was wrong. She was always concerned about the people she loved.

“I’m in a desert.” I sighed.

Rachel then went into a long monologue about how everyone experiences seasons of “dryness” in their relationship with God and how she had been in a “desert season” for some time.

I turned to her with hopeless eyes. “No! I’m literally in a desert. And I hate it!”

“Oh.” Rachel’s faced flushed with blood, her face now matching her red hair.

Like I said, I hate the desert. So why would I start this trip in the desert? Why go somewhere I hate.

Well first off, I had a free ticket. But second off, I knew I needed to be trapped to deal with some things. I had been running, and it’s pretty hard to run when you’ll melt just by stepping outside. And finally, more than free tickets, more than trapping myself, I knew there was life for me in the desert, and it didn’t come in the form of Oreo McFlurries, though that definitely made the desert more pleasant. It came in the form of faces.

My time in Arizona was so restful and refreshing. Having attractions to guys and being a Christian can be extremely exhausting. Nearly everyone wants you to be one or the other. But not the faces in these photos. They love me deeply and don’t pretend one piece of me exists while ignoring the other. The result was a deep sense of rest. I didn’t have to be something while restraining another. I was free to be all of me.

I was able worship then poke a lesbian couple about the nuances of same-gender dating. I was able to speak of Jesus and the long journey of dating my ex. I was able to laugh with my YWAM friend, Tyané, recounting our days abroad, followed by answering her questions related to my stress with gay sex.

Both were given space and honor. And the result was finally breathing unhindered.

Dallas joked they weren’t much of hosts. His favorite thing to do after work is to sit at his computer and study. But I think it was perfect. I had a lot of time just staring at myself, or running from myself in books and Netflix. But either way, I was allowed to just be. All of me. In wonderful air conditioning! And I’m eternally grateful for it. I felt so recharged.

Then came the drive back to Colorado…

Dallas and I had been laughing and talking, scheming about community, when a lull in the conversation occurred. Dallas asked if he could put on a preacher named Dan Mohler on.

I began to squirm internally, but put on a happy face and agreed.

Preachers scare me. I’m always nervous that at some point I’m gonna get sideswiped with some tirade about the abomination of homosexuality. The result is a anxiousness any time a sermon comes on.

I prepared my heart by raising defenses. I didn’t wanna get sideswiped by anger or some comment that would make me feel like crap. But that’s not what happened.

When Dan came to the stage, there was such life and love in his voice. My defenses slowly came down. I began to open myself up. Maybe I could trust this man.

After talking about the joys of Jesus, he continued on about life and death. If you’ve been around the church long enough, when you hear “life and death”, you can normally expect the preacher to roll into “Now choose! Life or death! Whom will you serve this day?!” As he slams his hand down on a King James Bible. And yes, it is a he. And yes it is a King James Bible. But that’s not what Dan spoke of. He spoke of life IN DEATH. How a death in him produced the greatest amount of life, a new life.

Something shook in me. He’d gotten through. I wanted that life, and can remember when I had it. Joy and freedom and expectation with Jesus. A question I had been scared to face floated to the surface—am I born again?

Before we could reach the Colorado border, I threw myself in the back seat and asked Dallas to put in headphones. I knew this wasn’t gonna be pretty and I didn’t want him to hear it.

I shoved my face into the floor to try and muffle my crying and praying. I was humbling myself for the first time in a long time. My back had become too rigid for kneeling or lying face first into a car’s carpet. I didn’t mean to become rigid. The last thing I wanted was to become hardened to God. But when Christians surprise attack you with fear for years on end, you get stiff. Like carrying too much weight for too long. It just happens. It’s a defense mechanism. How are you supposed to stay humble when everyone around you keeps telling you you’re wrong? It’s like lying down for a curb stomp.

But there in the back seat, I lied on the floor praying and crying. “God, I know there are areas of my heart that are hard. I raised defenses against everyone, including you, out of fear. But soften my heart. I’m open. If I’m not truly born again, tell me. I’ll get baptized again. I’ll do whatever. Just tell me.”

And there in matted, soggy, car carpet, I felt such peace, and it wasn’t a peace that was screaming “Get saved! Get born again!” Instead, it whispered “You are saved. You are born again. You’ve simply forgotten who you are.”

Something started that day. It was a tilling, a softening, and now my heart was ready for what came next.

Incongruents (yes, plural)

Warning: Pretty language not utilized

It’s been an odd few months. The nail in the coffin of my last relationship was hammered in four to five times. I’ve hooked up with about eight strangers. I’ve lied awake in someone else’s bed, wishing I was in my bed, trying to remember what the guys name was, asking, “Why the fuck I’m here again? I was in pajamas an hour ago!”

I hate hooking up. I do it any way.

I hate gay sex. I do it any way.

People will say it’s because of my internalized homophobia. That I would enjoy it if I’d let go of my socially constructed morality. If I’d just relax.

But as I lie in bed next to this chiseled military body (because, honestly, it’s just a body to me), I think of a woman.

I think of holding a woman. I think of kissing a woman. I think of listening to steady breathing as I play with her hair. I think of pulling her in close, and both of us holding so tight our lungs begin to collapse, but we love the breathlessness that is each other, and then we laugh because we’re ridiculous.

I think of kids.

I think of them running around with cute curly hair bobbing up and down as they belly laugh past me. Why they have curly hair? I have no clue. I don’t have curly hair. Maybe that’s what I think is cute. Or maybe I subconsciously wanna marry a woman with luscious wavy hair that our kids will get.

All the curls. All the laughs. We’ll chase them in over size sweaters and cozy up on a big couch with our obnoxiously large mugs cause that’s what the cute Instagram couples do, and that’s reality.

I think of marriage.

I think of family.

And yet I’m sleeping with some dude named Tyler I just met.

The two are not congruent, and it makes me crazy.

I think at some point I was using masculine sex to meet deep places in my heart. Young places. But now I think it’s just out of habit. It’s easier. Like eating fast food because it’s just easier. AAAAND not always having to buy the food is pretty great. And getting pursued. That’s way great! I love being chased and pursued. The fact that women get that is bullshit.

Women. Chase your men. Men. Don’t be too much of a tool to not like it. You know you do. You also like being the little spoon sometimes. Quit pretending.

Calm thy tits, Brandon, and get off the soapbox.

I guess what I’m getting at is that if we always give in to what we want now, it’s very possible that we’re robbing our future.

I’m not in denial of my attractions. I’m not gonna try and explain them away with some psycho babble that sounds smart. I’m sure there’s probably some reason why I’m attracted to men. But that doesn’t change my reality.

I think my reality changes when I trust God with the now with tomorrow in mind. With His promises in mind.

A dear friend shared a sermon on faith, and how it’s rooted in believing in a promise.

To be honest, I never got promised a man. In fact, when I think of younger Brandon, I never dreamed of having a husband.

I have friends who dreamed of marrying the same sex and they have embarked on that journey with God, believing Him to bring those dreams to fruition. I live that! It’s great!

But that’s not me. I didn’t dream of a future with a man. I never romanticized them. I sexualized them. There’s a big difference. I know, shocker. And that difference has created a massive conflict.

I’m attracted to men. But I hate engaging in gay sex. I don’t find pleasure in it.

I dream of a future with a woman, and sex with a woman actually sounds pretty damn great. But I’m so scared I’ll hurt someone.

And I know God has called me to be a dad. You don’t get babies with two daddies. You get them with a mommy and a daddy. Sex 101.

These dreams and realities are all over the place and are not compatible.

But maybe that’s the promise I hold onto. Maybe that’s the crazy Abraham promise I get. Not that I’m an old fart called to have sex with a barren woman. But that I’m attracted to men, that I’m by definition gay. But that there’s hope for me with a woman. That it’s possible, because I actually do want that. And that may sound absurd. But it happened with my friend Leah, and her story is one that awakens hope and faith and love. The eternal things. And she inspires me to trust God again. So maybe it’s not all that absurd after all. Maybe it’s miraculous.

So here’s to blabbering about nothing and everything, to not getting closer to an answer, but trusting God with the incongruents, and the obtuse and peculiar. He’s pretty great with them.

Ten Things Every Gay Man Wishes Straight People Knew…

Ten things every gay man wishes straight people knew…

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  1. There is no “gay agenda” meeting – We’re not trying to make your kids gay or your wife a lesbian. We do want our love to have a level of normalcy. We also know how hard it was to feel “othered” growing up and don’t want that for the next generation.
  2. Yes, I’ve heard of Rue Paul – Doesn’t mean I’ve watched the show. But if I figuratively had *cough*, I’d also say, “Those divas be so extra, I wanna punch them in their put-together face.” (What do you mean I’m being extra?)
  3. Not all of us are liberals – Some of us open carry, drive Harley’s, and want the government to mind its own business. There were actually some of us that were not “with her”.
  4. Gay people are not perverts – I promise your son is safe at camp. Just because you’re straight doesn’t mean you’re gonna rape my figurative daughter.
  5. Being gay isn’t contagious – So stop acting like being around me or getting close to me or showing me physical affection will somehow make you gay. And just because you’re a guy, doesn’t mean I’m having sex with you in my mind. You may be ugly as hell. Attraction in the gay world is like attraction in the straight world. Also, no, if you’re my close friend, I think of you as my friend. I’m not attracted to you. Imagining having sex with you is like imagining I’m having sex with a sibling. Ya nasty! So don’t get weird after I come out to you. Treat me the same. I am the same. You now just know another part of me.
  6. Being gay JUST means I’m attracted to the same sex – It doesn’t mean I like theatre or Glee. It doesn’t mean I am feminine or have a lisp and talk with my hands a lot. It doesn’t mean I’m fashionable or super sensitive. I’m not wanting to get “mannies” and “paddies” (Although I did get a pedicure once and it was greaaaaat!) PS, a good chunk of us actually play sports and go to the gym. In fact, we go to the gym way more than any of you straight people.
  7. No, I will not be your GBF (I’m taken) or your “guncle” (I have a few nieces and nephews already) – We’re in high demand. That’s what happens when there’s one of us for every ten of you.
  8. Being gay doesn’t make me a lesser man – In fact, maybe we embody the other half of a caricatured masculinity.
  9. Just because I’m gay, does not make me more sexual – That said, if you’re gay,  you’re probably more sexual. There are a looooooot of gay men out there that are very sexually driven. But men, in general, are more sexually driven than women, and now you have two sexually charged humans in a relationship together. All that said, the gay community has done a disservice to put so much emphasis on sexuality when it comes to their identity. It creates a sexually charged sub-culture. But that’s also what you get when sexual desires have been put at bay for the majority of adolescence. It’s like we have to have a second puberty. That said, I know tons of gay men that actually don’t like sex. Did you know that over 25% of us don’t even have full-on intercourse, even in a committed relationship?
  10. Being gay is not a choice – Believe me, if we could choose to be straight, we would have, a long time ago. Anyone that “chooses to be gay” is a masochist. No one in their right mind would choose all that comes with being gay (queue for next blog post, stay tuned).

In short, we’re people. Just like you. Don’t try to pigeon-hole us. Get to know us. Like any human, chances are, we’re not going to fit your stereotype. We’re infinitely different, and yet the same in our “human-ness”, just like you.

Intro, Prelude, All That Jazz

Intro, Prelude and All that Jazz

“The gay gene has been found!”

“God hates fags!”

“God made me this way!”

“Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!”

“Hate the sin, not the sinner!”

Media. Politics. Religion.

The topic of homosexuality has saturated our entire society, and it is charged with polarized perspectives, heated with contention. Everyone has an opinion, and more often than not, it is a very vocal one. Statements are made. Protests occur. Legislation is passed. The QUACKS! of ducks are broadcasted.

The lines have been drawn, and a conflict has ensued on our watch.

There is no neutral ground, and those in the middle are caught in a tug-a-war, all over anissue. Our sights have been aimed and focused on a point of contention, arguing who is right and who is wrong, while the lives of those trapped in the crosshairs fade out of focus. It is a war that has faded to black and white, while the color contained in the lives it regards has been drained from its members. The heated quagmire called homosexuality, has become about opinions and politics, and no longer about the people our contentions regard. Ultimately, a “homosexual” is a precious human life, deservering of respect and love. But in the wake of our decisions in legislation, or in our interpretations of religion or straight up personal opinions, lives will be eternally affected.

Have we forgotten what this really is about?

Regardless of how you vote or what you believe, we cannot forget what this topic ultimately entails–persons of priceless value. We can no longer set our sights solely on convictions of cause, because the result is massive causalities in this civil war.

On this blog I aim to do just the opposite. Forget the battle lines. It is time for a ceasefire in hopes to send in aid to the wounded, regardless of loyalties.

In the pages that follow, I want to take a journey with you, a journey void of propaganda. I refuse to give any ammunition to either camp involved in this horrific conflict. This journey is going to be about people, about invaluable souls.

And maybe, as we begin to see people, more than a ceasefire will ensure. Maybe neutrality can be attained for the sake of the lives in affect, lives hanging in the balance, of one such life is my own. For our sake, it is time we put away the guns, bring down the defenses and take a journey of discovery together. But in order to accomplish this, all of us, regardless of background or conviction, must embark with an open mind. Whether you visited this blog out of pure curiosity, whether you consider yourself or a loved one a homosexual, or whether you just saw “duck” and “gay” on the same blog and tensions rose, I invite you to join this journey.

With the first entry of this blog you will hear a story… my story, which I have striven to be open and honest to the best of my ability. In return, I ask you, the reader, to do the same–to continue through these posts open to new possibilities, while being honest with yourself.

In my second entry you will be confronted with observations, tested not in a classroom or labratory, but with my own life. As a twenty something test-tube, I do not have scholarly years, but of the years I do have, they have been weathered by more than experiments. They have been tested in the fray of this so called “issue” of homosexuality.

Finally, I will share what I believe can chang the tide of this conflict.

But it will not come by mere observation. It will take action.

Every day we are faced with causes. No matter where we turn, someone is fighting for our attention. We go on “Facebook,” and a friend asks us to join their cause. We go to university, and movements travel from campus to campus in search of partners. We turn on the television late at night and orphans in Africa ask for money.

Cause upon cause.

We are continually landblasted with them, and we have come to believe that we accomplish something by simply reading the description, by listening to the lecture or by not changing the channel. Although there are causes aiming to solely bring about awareness, that is not the aim of this blog. I truly believe change ensues when men and women of courage rise up and take action, beginning at a personal level, beginning with ourselves.

In the weeks that follow, you will be faced with paradigm shifts, challenging how you see yourself, those around you and ultimately the topic of homosexuality as a whole. But my heart would break if this blog was simply a “good read” with a “thought provoking perspective.”

Every week another segment of this journey will ensue. It is my hope and desire to cultivate a healthy and active dialogue after each entry, hosted in the comments below. All thoughts are welcome, and I hope that all hearts are open to hear more than their own paradigms reverberated. Let us truly take this journey together, and maybe, just mabye we will discover something as one.

There are lives in the balance. Together, as we embark on this journey, let us dare to hope change can occur, as we first dare to believe we, ourselves, can change.

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without first changing our thinking.”     –Albert Einstein

Chapter 1 | My Story

California: home of great actors, great food, great beaches and Brandon Flanery from the years of infancy to well into elementary. Mom—doing a variety of jobs, but always having a hand in the lives of her children and others. Dad—trying his best to love his family through provision and security. Both lavish their love, but one was around far more than the other. As dad jumped from job to job, pursuing financial means for those he loved, he missed out on many moments he could have shared with his family, specifically his children, a fact that he continues to regret. Despite his ambition to show his family he cared through his monetary provision, his son neglected to see his heart due to the lack of quality time shared between the two of them. Mom, on the other hand, was involved in every miniscule area, permeating all aspects of little Brandon’s life.

My name is Brandon Flanery. This is my story.

Like many American children, I spent every Sunday in church. Both of my parents were heavily involved. Dad was the drummer; mom was the children’s pastor, and both of my brothers, as well as myself, were cherished by everyone in the church. In some cases, we were cherished too much.

After services my family and I would linger around, socializing with friends. Parents would talk over coffee, while the kids ran around playing endless games. But every so often we, kids, would play in an area we were prohibited to go—the upstairs storage room, but the thrill of the forbidden fruit was all too tempting. Soon it became home to all of our adventures. Tag, hide-and-go-seek, cops and robbers and, every so often, moments of molesting.

To this day it is all very fuzzy, but what I do remember is that sporadically an older boy in the church and I would sneak away and he would molest me. Thankfully, I was never raped… but rape is not the only thing that produces scars of the heart. Over the course of many years we would rendezvous in our forbidden playground, while never being discovered nor ever speaking of it. For over a decade, the things done in the dark remained there for the sake of shame. Over the years that followed, I would blame myself for our encounters. I did not realize how untrue that was, until one day, while sitting in a counseling session, I decided to take the brave leap, revealing my dark deeds. But that moment was years into the future, in a completely different state. My life went by as if nothing was wrong. I was happy, continuing through life, unaware of the wounds inflicted upon me.

In the years following, I became “Mr. Popular” in school, in church and even in the neighborhood. I was on the local baseball and soccer team, while continuing on through those sweet elementary years. I had my first crush Margarita, a Russian girl, who my best friend Daniel from Angola also liked. The competition between us was fierce, but eventually I was the one she kissed. At home my brothers and I would tear up the streets, launching rockets and swinging from zip lines. On special weekends, my family and I would drive to the gorgeous city of San Francisco, to watch the sun set over the Pacific, while munching on mud pie. The Flanery’s were creating great memories together, and I genuinely loved God with a pure childlike faith.

My first encounter with this Uncreated One, dubbed the title “God,” occurred while I lay out on the lawn looking up the stars. No “sinners’ prayer.” No church service. Just me lying there on my back talking with my Jesus, genuinely believing these orbs of light could not exist from happenstance. To this day, there is something sacred and mystical about being underneath those burning balls of gas millions of miles away. I did not know what it meant, but I asked that Author of Beauty to come into my heart. As a result, I began reading the Bible, and in those early years, I had the audacity to believe what the Bible said—if we pray, God will respond.

Through the prayers of a pipsqueak runt, three women, who were incapable of having children, gave birth, and a girl, who was dying from leukemia, was miraculously healed. But it moved past prayer. With uninhibited love, that little Brandon Flanery would openly speak about his Jesus. On one such occasion, after a heated discussion about the “real reason for the season,” fellow students, who had no relationship with that “baby in a manger,” came to a makeshift altar at the dry erase board in a third grade classroom. Who would have thought?

I was witnessing some incredible things, a lot of which I wish I could conjure up once more. It was all as a result of a child who simply prayed an impromptu prayer, believing every little thing he read in that big book entitled “The Bible.” God was moving in my life. Yes, I had dormant secrets and hidden scars, but God was still using the little child of my past for big things.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them. For to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven.”

But what happens when the little children become big children? Does the kingdom still belong to them?

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Christian school. For the first time in my life, during my fourth grade year, I walked the halls of a Christian school. You would think this would be the perfect place for a kid who was in love with the God he found in the stars…

I hated it.

Profanity and pride, selfishness and cynicisms, cliques and complacency… the stench of religion. From the second I walked through the doors of a Christian school to the second the doors closed behind me, a bitter taste for Christians and Christianity permeated my mouth. It was like wormwood, and the God I loved became distant, due to reputation of the people who carried His name. But hope kindled with news of a change in setting.

“We’re moving to Colorado.” The words came out of my mom’s mouth with hesitation. She anticipated backlash from her three boys. However, she was thankfully disappointed.

“YES! Let’s get out of here!” My brothers and I were eager to start afresh! As we packed our bags, there was almost a skip in our step, onward to new horizons in “The Land of the Rockies.” Who would have thought that a smile could be on the faces of children as they drove through the endless deserts of Nevada and the vast salt flats of Utah? I most certainly would not have thought it possible.

But our smiles would not last. We were unaware of what awaited us in Colorado Springs, Colorado… another private Christian school full of what we dreaded most… religion.

However, despite my uncertainty of enrolling in yet another Christian school, I was hopeful. In fact, many of the things that I had thought were synonymous with Christianity were lacking. Unlike my last school, I made friends, and our times shared on the playground were full of laughs, adventure and make-believe. Life was great, full of Cowboys and Indians, Pirates and Aztecs, Zombies and Humans (all essentially alterations for the exact same game).

But as if to interrupt a great dream, it happened… middle school.

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Pimples. Braces. Cracking voices. Raging hormones… more like a raging nightmare.

It was during this time that a hunger for acceptance from my male peers was painfully growing. My friends from elementary had dispersed, finding themselves new compadrés, new hobbies and altogether new lives, while I was left behind… alone. I was frantically trying to grab straws, desperately trying to cling to my two best friends from elementary—the one thing that I thought gave me belonging. But when push came to shove, I was always the odd man out, the third wheel, and through the hard years of middle school I was surrounded by more than solitude, but rejection.

One specifically painful memory comes to mind.

It was my birthday. These two best friends, who I longed to keep in my life, came over to stay the night. We played video games, ran around the house with Nerf guns, jumped on the trampoline. It was great, but quickly switched, when all of a sudden they sprinted for the house. I chased after them, wondering what was going on. Once I got inside, I was confronted with a locked door. My two “best friends” had locked me out of my own room, while they began to play my new birthday video game. I began pounding on the locked door, pounding to be let in, pounding to be included, pounding to be not left behind. But they simply laughed at my pleading, numb to my pain.

To this day, I still wrestle with being that boy. I can be surrounded by people, and yet it is easy to believe I have to bang on doors to be accepted. Yet despite my banging, I feel shut out, unwanted. Who knew one moment could be forever frozen in the pain of a child’s mind?

It was there, defeated at the door, I realized our entire friendship, even since elementary school, consisted of me being excluded in our “Three Musketeers” friendship. The rage suppressed for years of injustice boiled to the surface. Little Brandon could not take it any longer. I was through. I ran down-stairs crying and cursing. “I want those _______ (insert profanity of choice; every one of them was used that night) gone! I want them out of this house!”

Now the door unlocked, and they came downstairs claiming to not know what I was talking about, for me to stop cussing and treating them this way, trying to turn the tables on me. Even their parents tried to blame me, saying, “You made us come get them at this hour? Why didn’t you try to work through this? You need to stop your language right now young man.”

With the door slammed behind them, and tears in my eyes, I decided I would rather be alone than deal with this. After all, when you are alone, no one can reject you, right?

Walls were erected, and that night a vow was made—I will never let anyone get that close ever again.

From that moment on I was the lone ranger (although not nearly as rustic or badass as Clint Eastwood). The friends, I had clung to, were gone, and to make new friends was close to impossible. I was a sensitive soul with a love for singing, acting, writing—anything birthed from the imagination—while the boys of of my Christian private school loved sports and cheap crude humor. It seemed, as though, I was the only one given a heart of flesh, while those around me had ones of stone, equipped with sharp arrows, dripping with hostile harassment. “Fag!” “Gay!” and “Queer” came hissing out of the mouths from the boys around me. To them, it was their native tongue, as natural as breathing. But to me… to me, their words were poison, slowly killing me, making it hard to even breathe, let alone live. To this day, I would have taken sticks or stones over those words.

I did not belong, and I hated the boys around me for it. Rather, I hated myself for it, and I saw the world around me through those red lenses of hate. Feeling unwanted, I would hide on the side of the school, eating my lunch with two girls as equally hurt by the students we felt trapped with. We would fume together, heating our hate, blaming everyone else for our problems, all the while sinking further and further into our bitterness and farther and farther away from everyone else. Like mismatched socks, we were thrown aside, and to deal with the rejection, I turned to something that I never thought I would—homosexual pornography.

*                                *                                *                                *                                *

The board had been set. Like a master chess player, that Enemy of Our Souls had destroyed my defenses, and his pieces were all in position. Check was called, and the pressure was on. All that was left was for me to make his move, trapping myself in checkmate… and I did.

*                                *                                *                                *                                *

As my heart cried for a place to be loved, I remembered the moments in the storage room at our old church in California. I had begun to believe a lie: it felt good, and it would make me feel better, especially when I felt alone. So I would touch myself, while looking at nude images of men on the internet. I imagined they were touching me, that the boy from my past was touching me. After all, he wanted me. He wanted me week upon week. It was false intimacy, partially satisfying the cravings of my loved deprived heart, parched for true masculine friendship.

It started in sixth grade as a very mild curiosity, a casual and sporadic hobby. But by the end of my sophomore year of high school, it had become a full-fledged daily addiction consisting of XXX gay porn videos and cyber-sex rendezvous. Nearly every night for five straight years I would “quench my thirst,” while no one knew. I had become a master actor, and my skills had passed from the stage to permanent residence in my daily life.

At school I simply put on a smile, in spite of the insults and mockery. I played sports, despite my hate of them, and joined the school’s volunteer ministry program. At the young age of 14, I was running a café and participating in endless outreach opportunities.

At home, I was the “good Christian kid,” never dealing with anything, the crown upon my parents’ head. In fact, every time I hid away to go online, perusing endless amounts of pornography, I would blame it on the mass amounts of homework I had. Not only was I morally perfect, but I was a good student.

At church, I joined the student leadership program and began volunteering everywhere. I served every Sunday in children’s ministry and would tear down chairs every Wednesday. I would jump from small group to small group, engaging in the discussions of the Bible and morality. I was at every retreat, and when I was old enough, I would go on mission trips.

School. Home. Church. On all fronts I was the perfect Christian kid. But on the inside, I was that boy pounding and screaming to be heard, to be included, to belong. I had no clue that those pleadings would carry over to the very door of God, the one I had loved since staring up at the stars. That little boy of yesteryear believed God was just as indifferent to his pounding fists as his friends were years ago. I believed I was locked out of Heaven, and no matter how hard my fists hit those gates, I believed he would never let me in. He was a Father refusing my entrance on account of me being muddy on a rainy day. The roads of gold might get dirty with my filth.

I was desperate. Though I was flawless on the outside, I was broken and bleeding on the inside. Every night I would cry out to God, asking Him to change my emotions, to change my attractions, to just change me. I knew the Bible verses all too well, and they continuously haunted me.

“And they exchanged natural lusts for lusts for each other.” “The immoral, homosexuals, liars and God haters will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.” “It is an abomination, and they received in themselves their due penalty.” “And He consumed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire from Heaven.”

The echoes from thousands of years ago reverberated into the fibers of my heart, and they all said the same thing: “God hates you; you’re condemned, and you’re going to Hell.” God had apparently joined the chorus of my peers in their accusations.

So I tried to change. Every Sunday I would come to the altar. It did not matter if the sermon was about financial crisis or fornication; I would come down to the altar, vowing I would never look at a man lustfully again. I would pray for God to take these desires away, to lust after women, but the answer to those prayers seemed like they would never come.

I did not want to be gay; I did not want these emotions, but there they were regardless. No matter how hard I prayed, no matter how many times I came to the altar, no matter how many times I would vow to change, I could not do it. I was caught on an endless emotional rollercoaster.

On Sundays, I would promise to never look at gay porn ever again, pulling myself up by my “spiritual boot straps.” During the week, sometimes by Monday, I would be drawn back to the computer, as if it were heroine, injecting underneath the toenails or eyes in order to destroy any traces of my addiction. Condemnation would overwhelm me, until Sunday, where hope blossomed. I could do better; I could change, only to fall again on Monday… maybe holding out till Tuesday.

All vows failed, while the sadistic rollercoaster continued to ebb and flow, fall and climb. To top it all off, those around me made me feel even worse, as my emotional insides began to toss and turn.

Any time a gay couple would come on the screen, my dad would freak out and condemn them. One time, unable to keep the secret of my lusts to myself, I came to a small group leader and confessed what was going on. He proceeded to say, “That’s demonic. We need to pray that out of you,” upon which he began to explain I should vomit as he prayed, proving the demon was leaving. To top it all off, the pastor of my church was excommunicated because he received a “happy ending” from his male masseurs. Not only was he expelled from the church but the state, and the church began a witch-hunt, forcing every staff member to turn in their computers to be examined.

I had no safe place. Even the God I loved, who I had asked to invade my heart as a child, apparently hated me, but I did not know how to change. I tried to please Him; I tried to change, but I could not do it. I would pray, but I never stopped fantasizing about men.

So what did I do? I hid, dancing in this masquerade called religion, keeping my porcelain façade intact. My concealer was far more impressive than any beauty product. The scars and bruises beneath the surface would never show… until one most unfortunate night.

*                                *                                *                                *                                *
In the summer of my tenth grade year I went on a mission trip to Los Angeles. My team and I worked with a ministry called the Dream Center, where we worked with the homeless, drug addicts, poverty stricken and prostitutes. My heart was breaking for these people and God was gripping my heart. I returned home with some friends from the team, but mainly girls. By this time, I did not let men get close, because if they got too close, they might see the cracks in my porcelain mask of heterosexuality. I figured I would just chase them away, and I refused to be hurt again.

The vow proved strong. The walls stood tall.

A few days after my team returned from L.A., my youth group put on a conference. Full of “zeal and power,” I renewed my will, deciding I would finally change. Another vow was formed, but it proved far less strong, lasting barely a day. Like a dog returning to its vomit, as the phrase goes, I returned to my accursed sin. I turned on the computer and intoxicated myself with my faithful narcotic. The world around me melted; my heart raced, and I was enthralled in the moment. But something happened that night that changed everything.

“What are you doing, Brandon?” My dad had sneaked upstairs where I was “doing research” on my computer. They had tried to figure out what I was doing with my vast amount of sessions on the internet on multiple occasions, but I was a pro at covering my tracks. I had other screens up; I lied; I erased the history. No one ever found out… except for now because the screen froze. All I could do was turn off the monitor.

“I was trying to do homework, but this stupid computer froze; so I’m rebooting it.”

He leaned over my shoulder and pointed out the monitor was off. With the push of a button, every secret I had been keeping for years was exposed. As the electricity surged through the monitor, igniting the bulb behind the glass and colors combusted in the pixels, a gay porn clip, frozen in action, came into focus. “Brandon, what is this? What is this crap? What the Hell is going on! Turn off the computer right now and come downstairs. NOW!”

My secret was out. Panic and fear seized my chest. I could not breathe. Horrifying hypotheticals swam around in my mind, and I was drowning. I could not think. But past all the thoughts of dread, past the inability to breathe, there was a subtle and reassuring feeling beginning to grow—sweet relief. For the first time since the dawn of my addiction, I felt like hope was on the horizon. Someone finally knew; it was no longer a secret. But those feelings of fear and dread soon recovered, now accompanied by fear, shame, humiliation and condemnation, swallowing any hope.

After going downstairs, my dad proceeded to announce to my whole family my “activities” as of late. My mom was horrified; my brothers were in shock; Dad was fuming, and I was crying, hiding my face in my hands (as if that could somehow make this all disappear). Immediately after my father’s announcement, he proceeded to take me to the local prayer house, pulling me in a utility closet to “pray the gay away” and pummel me with endless inquiry.

“Why would you do this? How long have you been looking at that crap? Where did this come from? Did I do something to cause this? I understand porn, but homosexual porn? How could you let this happen?”

After the inquiries came the lecture.

“You know God didn’t make you this way. God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. This is wicked in God’s sight. The Bible is very clear on this. It’s a mockery and abomination. God destroyed two cities because of this.”

Echoes of the self-condemnation I had already inflicted upon myself over the course of 5 years.

After his ravings, I eventually went and prayed by myself, crying out to a God who I believed would not listen, asking Him to make this alright, asking Him to make this all go away, to wake up. But this was not a dream. It was a living nightmare, and now I was getting into a car to return to the family I had devastated.

On the way home my dad prepped me. Apparently, due to the pain of my actions, my mom did not want to see me or talk to me. She had been texting him and mentioned it might be good to make me move out.

For years I refused to bring my hidden life to the surface for fear that I would be rejected, and in that moment, every fear was being confirmed.

Upon arriving at the house, the only thing my mom said was, “Call your ministry leader at school. You’re telling him what is going on, and you’re stepping down as a leader,” upon which she proceeded to shove the phone into my chest. Those would be the last words I would hear from her for many days. I had been given the silent treatment.

I sat on the stairs with a phone in my hand, contemplating how I would tell my leader what had been going on and why I had to step down. I could not even talk to my parents who were aware of the situation, let alone my uninformed leader. How was I going to do this?

My mom glared down at me.

Ring! Ring! Ring!

Please go to voice mail. Please!

Ring! Ring!

“Hello?”

With overwhelming anxiety, I told him I had to step down as a student ministry leader.

“Why?”

Well, you see Mr. Ministry-Leader-Man, for the past five years I have been addictively looking at hardcore gay pornography, while hiding it form the world, and my parents found out tonight, forcing me to make this call. That’s why I have to step down.

…I did not say any of that. I figured it was sufficient to say…

“I’ve been looking at porn.”

“I’m picking you up so we can talk about this.”

Within a few minutes he was at my house, and he took me to Village Inn. I was terrified. But as the night progressed the emotions slowly subsided. He simply wanted to know what was going on in my life, showing genuine care. I again explained I was involved with pornography, but again the word “gay” never came out of my mouth. I would die before I would confess the “unspeakable.” We talked until closing, when Village Inn finally kicked us out, and through the comfort and conversation, my heart slowly began to grasp a parcel of peace. We got in the car, shut the doors and simply sat there in silence for a few minutes.

Then came the question.

“Brandon, have you been watching guy and girl porn, guy and guy porn, or girl and girl porn.” No one had ever asked me that before. My heart began to quiver as my leader patiently expected a response. I had to answer him. Moment of truth… literally.

“Um… guy and guy.” The words fell flat, stealing my breath like a death sentence. I braced myself for the expected condemnation. But instead, the only thing that followed was love. Following those fatal words he encouraged me, reminding me of Jesus and speaking about how sin is sin, regardless of its nature. After his affirmation, he asked if I would not step down, but work through this as a leader—a theme that would reoccur throughout my life.

Thank God for that man.

I do not know what would have happened if it were not for that man believing in me, if he had not spoken life over me, and ultimately loved me with Christ’s love. My family was refusing to talk to me. They were completely shocked, and as a result, I felt utterly alone. Unlike the loneliness of years prior, at least then I had my family to count on, but now I had no one. No one except a listening leader. Prior to calling Boucher, I was contemplating suicide. The incredible weight of be utterly alone was too heavy to bear. But I was not alone. There in Village Inn, God was showing me I had not been abandoned. I was not locked out by indifference. The door had been opened. Once my leader dropped me off, I could face the situation back home with hope. Sure, I was still terrified and fearful of the future, but for the first time in years I was not alone, and it meant the world.

*                                *                                *                                *                                *
Over the weeks that followed, I was heavily isolated. I was only allowed to go from school to home, and while home, the isolation expounded, since I was given the silent treatment and under continuous scrutiny. The computers were all relocated to the living room, and blockers were installed. Like the years prior, now with new sorrow, I spent most of those nights crying out to God. Would He finally hear?

After a week, my mom pulled me into her room. This had happened on numerous occasions prior with the announcement of my dark past. My parents wanted to know everything, and due to shame and fear, I had no idea how to communicate the past five years. Summoned, yet again, to the room of my parents, I was not surprised to see my mother sobbing. I was the cause of this, and for that reason I hated myself. I braced for what she was about to say next, but she caught me off guard.

“I’m so sorry.”

I did not know what to say, so I said nothing.

She continued. “I have been treating you as if you have committed the ultimate sin. But sin is sin, and I should be treating it as such.” She told me she loved me no matter what and continued to apologize for how she had been reacting over the past week. She just wanted to help in any way she could. She offered to get me in counseling; I refused at the time, but the fact that she promised she was there for me made more of an impact than any counseling session. Every night, while trapped in my years of sin, torment and confusion, I had said to myself, “Don’t tell anyone; no one will understand; you’ll break their hearts; they’ll reject you.” With the initial reaction of my family, my fears had been solidified, but when my mom uttered those words, she broke every lie that had been keeping me in isolation.

That year, although very good, was one of the hardest years of my life. My parents limited me a lot, and were keeping an ever watchful eye. However, I still managed to feed my addiction through hidden avenues, but every time it came to light. God was answering my “unheard” prayers, and He refused to let this affliction of the heart sink into darkness. He was so concerned to see me succeed; He would not even let me get away with looking at pornography at an employer’s house. I lost my job when I failed to clear the history one day after work.

Life was rough. But it was through this tough time that God was working. For months I was battling, going back and forth from “sinless” to “sinful,” from “condemned” to “saved.” Finally, in May of that year, after messing up yet again and crying out in shame to God, He spoke very clearly to me in love and absolute seriousness. I heard my Father say, “Brandon, it is time to choose—this or me. You will not serve both of us. Either you can choose this, which will eventually kill you and leave you unsatisfied, or you can choose me, and I will give you an abundant life. But it’s time to choose.” It was like The Matrix, and God was Morpheus, offering me the choice between the blue pill or the red pill. I wrestled for a couple of hours, but deep in my heart I knew.

The flaming balls of gas millions of miles away beckoned me to jump down the rabbit hole.

I had one objection: “God, I don’t know how to ‘pick’ you.”

His response: “Brandon, I don’t want you to worry about any of that.  I don’t want you to worry about the sin, or the pressure to evangelize, what you should or should not do, or how this thing works. I have one command for you—know me. I’ll take care of the rest.”

That night, I chose Jesus, and it is interesting… He has kept both those promises. As I chose to come to Him, despite my fear, despite feeling dirty, He changed me, He transformed me, and He gave me what I He promised—an abundant life, not a perfect one, but an abundant one.

I have heard countless testimonies where this is where the story ends, where the individual sharing says, “And that’s my testimony,” as if our lives conclude with “I gave my life to Jesus.” It is where the tattooed guy on stage vamps and vamps about how wicked his sin was. “Oh, I wrestled for years and years; I did this drug and that drug; I slept with this girl and that girl; I went to this prison and that prison,” as if there is a secret competition for who struggled the hardest and longest. Once a sufficiently massive monster of sin is glaring down upon us “good Christians,” the “man with a past” then says, “And then I got saved. Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus!” The tattooed man then leaves; the pastor comes up on stage, and those terrifying words are uttered, “Now with every head bowed and every eye closed…” Hopefully you were not too moved by the tattooed man; otherwise, you are getting saved for the umpteenth time. But the “I gave my life to Jesus” moment was just the beginning for me. I guess I do not have that “stereotypical” testimony.

After those fateful words, my life did completely change, but it was not the end. That moment launched me on a journey of learning to embrace His love, trusting His will above my own. He really had been for me and not against me all those years I felt abandoned. The door was open, and He was fulfilling His promise. But He promised an abundant life, not a perfect one. After all, a life of adventure is not without risk or failure or mistakes. But it is the love of God that uses all things for a redemptive purpose. Regardless of circumstances, He was faithful to His word, and faithful to that word I began to live an abundant life.

That year, I switched out of my private Christian school and began attending the local public school in my neighborhood. Besides putting my trust in Jesus, it was the best decision I had ever made. I was no longer surrounded by hypocritical bigots, telling me how I should or should not look or how I should or should not act. I was allowed to embrace my faith, and I was no longer scared of people. In fact, I spoke to my friends all the time about how this Love had changed me. Whether through a skit in the parking lot, or a sign on a corner or simply talking over a cup of coffee in a café, I loved talking about the love I found in Jesus.

I became a camp counselor, and had my heart ignited for youth. I was a part of a men’s discipleship program, imparting masculinity on other men (which is completely ironic in retrospect of my story). I have gone on multiple mission trips all over the world. I toured through Germany, expressing God’s love through dance, music and acting.

But more than anything I was doing, more than the “adventures” I was encountering, I discovered the life of abundance promised me was found in one simple fact: I was now doing life with my Jesus. Whether I was making a non-fat, triple, decaf, stirred, sugar-free vanilla latté at Starbucks or talking to strangers on a street corner in Cork, Ireland, it all had meaning and purpose, because my Jesus was in the midst of it. The desire of my heart was to be welcomed, was to belong and to be cherished. I had found it, and it was hosted in the heart I had opened up long ago while under those blazing infernos light years away.

Life and the moments composing it are the lines and shadows in a coloring book. But the trust I had put in Jesus had become the spectrum of crayons, breathing life onto the page. He was my orange and magenta, my aqua and salmon. Sometimes He stayed in the lines, creating structure and uniformity. Other times He broke past barriers, creating something entirely new. Either way, it was beauty.

After high school, I went off to a Christian leadership academy, which launched me into a youth pastor position. It is here where my story breaks yet again from the stereotypical pattern in the cliché Christian testimony.

If the tattooed man continued past, “And then I got saved,” the next anticipated line is, “And I’ve never struggled since,” as if our entire story with Jesus is all about conquering sin. Unfortunately, and yet, fortunately, trusting Jesus is not all about sin, and it is not always, “I never struggled again,” because I definitely did.

Six months into my first year as a youth pastor, I began to look at homosexual pornography again, after a 21-day fast to top it off. I did not know what to do. I had not had these feelings or desires for years.

Does this mean I was born gay? Does this mean I am running from who I am? Maybe I should just give up and give in. But that is not true.

That fact of the matter is I have never wanted to be homosexual. It has never been fulfilling. No matter how many images I looked at porn, no matter how many times I “indulged” in homosexuality, it never satisfied. However, a life swallowed in the furious love of God, trusting Him in my decisions, has always been fulfilling. But that does not mean it is easy.

Resolved that the life of abundance God promised me was worth it, I went to speak to the youth director at the church. I had been hiding this newly resurrected porn addiction for a few months, and when I went to my employer, I fully expected to be fired. People got thrown out of church leadership positions for this kind of stuff, just like my previous pastor. This was not something you struggle with in a Christian leadership role. Pride? Maybe. Lying? Tolerable. But homosexuality? Never

But yet again, something happened I was not suspecting.

“Brandon,” the youth director said to me, after I confessed my secret dealings on the internet, “on your best day or on your worst day, you are still equally worthy of Hell. It is only the blood of Jesus that has qualified you for Heaven, qualified you for God’s love.”

When I look back on the moments that have meant the most to me, none of them were sermons, none of them were a pep talk, none of them were some “hard love.” In fact, of the moments that have transformed my life, I can barely remember a single word that was said. It was what was done that impacted me so immensely; it was someone stepping into my pain and hurt that awakened something transformation.

My mom apologizing.

A mentor hugging me and crying with me as I confessed my thoughts of homosexuality.

A pastor refusing to fire me.

A friend saying he loves me and believes in me regardless.

You want to change someone’s life? Give them love, and prove it with action.

In the years following that conversation, I have been on a journey to discover and embrace God’s love and truth, to “not worry about x,y or z,” but to simply get to know Him. He has taken care of the rest, as He has promised, long ago. I think I just complicated it for a while with the title of “Pastor” in front of my name.

Have I been attracted to men or looked at gay pornography since that conversation over the past three years? Yeah. Do I wrestle with who I am or want to be, specifically in sexuality? At times, yeah. But that does not change this one fact—I want what my Jesus promised nearly nine years ago—an abundant life, and I know it is not with homosexuality. I have tried it, and it never satisfied my heart. My arteries were pulsating for something so much deeper than getting naked with another guy. They longed for intimacy and vulnerability, to be accepted and cherished through thick and thin. I had simply found a coping mechanism.

A few months back, I found myself sitting in the office of that pastor who was fired for his “happy ending.” He has since started a new church. While explaining my story to him, he asked me, “Brandon, what do you want to be? Do you want to be gay? Bi? Straight? What do you want?”

For years I believed the only answer was one that was picked for me—heterosexuality. After all, God made Adam and Eve, not… yadda, yadda, yadda, and we continue down that haunting strain of thought which plagued me for years.

Guess what? God loves me if I am gay or if I am “straight.” (Whatever that means.) I simply could not see He loved me regardless, because the people surrounding me did not love me regardless. In fact, many of them failed and abandoned me. I had lumped Jesus in with the rest of those who had rejected me over the years. But God did not say he died for me if I would stop being gay. He died for me. Period.

So in that office I allowed myself to ask that question for me, diffusing it of all the pressures of what I should do. And you know what I picked? You know what I want? I want to be straight, and despite my struggles, I know that is the best plan god has for me.

You may not agree with my decision. Cool. But you have to acknowledge my story. God was not angry with me all those years; He simply wanted the best for me. Regardless of what I chose in that office, His arms are always wide open. He embraces every person right where they are at. Does that mean He created some children straight, others bi and others gay? I do not believe so.

After years of research scientists have yet to find that rumored “gay gene.” There is no proof supporting people are born gay.  However, I do not believe homosexuality is a choice either. I did not choose to have attractions to men. It chose me. Why? That is what I hope to discuss in this next chapter.

Chapter 2 | Your Homosexuality Was Made Possible By…

Recently, my family and I had an inspiring family meeting, instigated by our current pastor. All of us texted the man, asking, “Why are we meeting? What did you have in mind to talk about?”

The only response I received was, “Just be very open and honest. That’s all I ask of you tonight.”

As we all gathered in nervous expectation, every individual of our family shared some of our deepest fears or hurts. The result? Reconciliation and mutual understanding.

During the eveing, the question was asked, “Do you believe people are born gay?” All of us at the table agreed that it was not. There is not enough scientific evidence to prove it. The next question was, “Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?” As parents nodded their head, I shook it.

“Brandon, why did you chake your head? Do you not believe homosexuality is a choice?”

“No,” I responded, “I didn’t choose to these feelings and attractions. In fact, multiple times I prayed God would take them away. I never wanted this.”

The question then comes, “If people are not born gay, but it’s not a choice, what is it and where does it come from?”

To answer that question, I think the question must be asked, “Why is Harry attracted to blondes, while Steve is attracted to brunnettes? Why, if you were to go to an porn site, are there multiple ‘genres’ and fetishes? Why is there not just one way of having sex? Why are there all these ‘flavors.'”

Like all preferences, whether it be between chocolate or strawberry icecream, between blue or yellow, preferences have evolved as a result of our experience.

I am currently studying brain plasticity–cutting edge research analyzing how the brain is consistently changing. Patterns and habits are formed simply as a result of life experiences. In the book, “The Brain that Changes Itself,” Norman Doige shares how a specific client he is treating is attracted to women who remind him of his mother. However, he always abandons them as a result of feeling abandoned and unable to mourn the loss of his mother. This patient’s entire relational and sexual encounters are formulated based off of a massively traumatic experience with his mother.

Our sexuality is not determined at birth. Any studies attempting to accredit sexuality to DNA are inconsequential at best. But there are hundreds of studies supporting a the theory that sexuality develops. Through these studies, we have discovered sexuality is composed of three major parts:  

1. Initial Sexualization

2. Conditioning

3. Orientation

 

Initial Sexualization

This long word basically means this—your first experience with sex, whether it was a on your wedding night, a heated moment of “passion” after your high school prom or a suppressed moment as a child when you were raped, that initial moment has shaped your idea of sexuality.

My initial sexualization was with an older boy in the church. When I felt alone and my hormones were raging, I replayed those secret moments in our church’s storage space. In hopes to recreate that moment, I would touch myself, thinking of that guy. From the echoes of years past,my sexuality was shifted.

Conditioning

Conditioning means if you masturbate to bridges, you will be aroused by bridges. How you train your brain affects your sexuality. If you are having sex within a mutual trust, established between you and your spouse, your brain does not assimilate fear or self-satisfaction with sex. If you train your brain to “get off” in a matter of seconds, allowing your hand to please you, you are training your brain to make sex about one person: yourself. If you masturbate while looking in the mirror, you are training your brain to be attracted to your anatomy—aka your gender’s anatomy.

For some of you, this can be incredibly disheartening because you are just now realizing patterns you have conditioned your hormones to embrace. No fear, you can actually retrain them. Your brain is not hardware, wired at conception. It is a living, active and incredibly powerful organ, shaping and shifting so drastically, you literally do not have the same brain you did half-an-hour ago. Every decision you make determines your chemistry. You are a product of your decisions and the decisions forced upon you.

Orientation

Orientation consists of how each individual perceives themselves to be. Essentially, orientation is wrapped up in how you answer this question: Are you gay, bi or straight?

This is where I would like to spend the majority of this chapter. Conditioning will be a major factor in chapter three, but I believe it is this third portion of sexuality which affects the question—why do I like boys or girls… or both? Here are factors that I have discovered in my own life, as a result of analyzing my story and the story of those around me.

*                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *

Factor 1—Masculinity and Femininity

What is a man? What is a woman?

What does it mean to be womanly? What is it to be manly?

Manhood… if I were to ask you to define it, could you? Few can. When I was a youth pastor, I asked the guys that question multiple times in our small group. In the quiet of my room, especially with my own insecurities and uncertainties flaring before me, I self-inquired, asking myself that same question—what does it mean to be a man? But even in the confines and security of my own room, while staring at my own reflection, the answer continues to be elusive.

As is the case with every word, its value is only found in the meaning that we assign it, and as we give words meaning, we can judge by that meaning what things are. For example, the Webster’s dictionary defines a bird as: “a feathered vertebrate, whose forelimbs have been modified to fly.” We can look at a fish and say, “it is not a bird, because it does not have forelimbs modified to fly.” Therefore, our definition of “man” and “manliness,” or “woman” and “womanliness” (I apologize for my focus on masculinity. I am a guy. It is an easier position to understand.) is crucial to determine who or what falls under those predetermined definitions. 

But there is a problem, in that we have a loose, vague and, I would argue, false definition of the words “man” and “manliness,” of “woman” and “womanliness.” As a result, people who were never meant to be excluded from these definitions have been ostracized from that which is rightfully theirs, a birthright.

What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be manly? Is a manly-man someone who can grow a bushy beard or who possesses a deep voice? Is it someone who loves power-tools and takes pleasure in smashing things? Is it someone whose tear-ducts have vanished, being replaced by a strong right hook? Is it someone who is an avid sports fan and can be found in front of the television on a Sunday afternoon with a beer in their hand?

Webster’s defines “man” as: “an adult male human; a bipedal primate mammal with notable brain capacity, capable of speech and abstract reasoning; the quality or state of being manly.” Webster’s then defines “manly” as: “having qualities generally associated with a man; appropriate in character to a man.”

Does anyone else see the problem here? It is circular reasoning. “To be a man is to possess manliness.” “To be manly is to have the qualities of a man.” This complete lack of clarity results in confusion, forcing every man to define manliness for himself based upon inputs from society. The result, we are lost in translation. 

As a society, we have created a cookie-cutter man, and going outside of those parameters is prohibited. If you do not conform, you are not a man; you are not manly, and if you are not manly, you will be ostracized. According to our society’s false definition of masculinity, a “man’s man” (the phrase sounds slightly homosexual, but whatever) is a guy who loves sports, continually drools over the female anatomy, loves a good action movie and is incapable of vulnerability.

People who do not fit these false stereotypes may still be “men,” but we view them as “lesser men.” We have labeled such qualities as tenderness, creativity and sensitivity as feminine qualities. Not only does this affect the male species, but females as well. If a woman does not possess these qualities, she is labeled butch, less feminine. Therefore, many who truly belong to the definition of “man” or “woman” have been excluded from their rightful identity.

Still following?

Think of it this way. Imagine one of those baby block games where you insert shapes based the corresponding holes. You have circles, squares, triangles, diamonds. Now imagine it with only three shapes—straight girl, straight guy, homosexual.

This is the dilemma of our society. We have a warped definition of what manhood and womanhood is, and those who do not fit are ostracized, when in fact, those we label “less of a man” or “less of a woman,” complete the whole picture of masculinity and femininity.

The football jock on the field is not more of a man than the artist expressing himself through dance. They are two sides of the same coin. Together, they complete the picture of masculinity. The strong-willed, ambitious business woman, is just as feminine as the “stay at home mom.” One is not less valuable than the other. They are both sides of yet another coin.

You may ask, “Brandon, does this really matter? Is it really that important of a factor?”

Absolutely.

While drafting this chapter, I began watching YouTube videos of guys “coming out.” I watched story after story of boys “stepping out of the closet,” “embracing who they are.” I am not making light of their stories. It takes a lot of courage to confess those internal emotions to those around you. But I want to point out a consistent theme in every story I watched.

“Now looking back on how I was as a kid, I don’t know why I didn’t see I was gay sooner.” They then continue to share how they were always more sensitive than the other boys, how they loved to dance and valued the arts, how they could better get along with girls.

From a very young age I have been creative, imaginative, fashionable, relational and sensitive. I love writing, acting, singing and dancing. Starting in early elementary, I was writing stories, singing aloud in grocery stores, running around playing make-believe and even doing a handful of fashion shows with my female cousin.

By society’s standards of manhood I failed with flying colors, and in the words of Bradley Hathaway, “Society tells me all day long, that I have defined manhood completely wrong.”

But when did these qualities become telltale signs of homosexuality? Since when did the adjectives “sensitive,” “sociable” and “artistic” become synonymous with gay? Last time I checked, homosexuality literally means you are attracted to your same gender sexually. Thus, “homo,” meaning “same,” and “sexual,” referencing “sex.”

As I walked the halls of middle school, enjoying intimate conversations and spending my afternoons acting and singing, I was labeled “gay” and “queer”—a lesser man. I did not belong. As a result of the rejection from my close male friend and my gender as a whole, I began to distance myself from the “guys,” thinking I did not fit in. I was not fully man, when in reality that identity was my possession. 

I was robbed of my birthright.

But no worries, society has crafted a solution for me—homosexuality.

*                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *

Factor 2—Gender Hunger

A plane plummets from the sky over the Pacific. Upon impact with the crashing waves, everyone, except for a young woman named Rachel, dies. As water pours into the damaged plane, Rachel takes a deep breath, unbuckles herself and swims out a broken window. Desperate for oxygen, she frantically swims towards the sky above. Her nose and mouth breaches the surface. What does Rachel do? She inhales the most exhilarating gasp of oxygen in her existence. After looking around, gathering her bearings, she descries an island not far away and begins swimming towards it. The island that seemed not too far off, has taken Rachel hours to reach. When her feet finally touch the earth hidden beneath the water, she sprints towards the hot sand, flinging herself upon its bank. She regains her strength, after lying there for what seems like eternity. What is Rachel’s next immediate concern? Water. Rachel scours the island for a spring of fresh water. Once she finds it, she plunges headfirst into its depths, sucking down the most delicious gulp of H2O she has ever consumed. Evian could only envy. Finally, after first fulfilling her need for oxygen and water, she begins to notice a desperate hunger in her belly. She breaks off a nearby branch, carving a point into one end. Rachel is going hunting.

The body prioritizes its needs, nullifying the less important ones, to communicate to the conscious what is needed most. The soul is the same.

Too bold of a statement?

Last year, I spent two months in India, where I worked in a Mother Teresa Home. The facility housed 200 of the most destitute women of Mumbai. Absent limbs. Absent minds. Absent family. They are all alone in the world. However, every twenty-four hours the women receive three meals, plenty of water, proper medication and restful sleep. Their bodies have every physical need met. Yet as I walked the halls, I saw hopelessness, and later on I would discover multiple women die on a weekly basis, many of whom were completely healthy. Why? Though every physical need is met, the facility is understaffed. There is no time to get to know these women. There is no “tender love and care.” As my team and I desperately desired to help, we realized the best thing we could do was to simply hold their hand, to tell them their beautiful, to sing them a song, to simply be with them. As we announced our time in India had come to an end, the women wept, not because they would go hungry, but because their souls would be left starving.

Our souls have appetites. It is not just our bodies.

Upon birth, the first person little Joey is drawn to his mother. Baby Joey registers he used to be one with this human entitled “mom.” From there, Joey begins to understand the importance of “dad:” the counterpart to mom. His soul breathes fresh air, as an unmatched loved pours forth from his parents. Security and belonging is established.

As little Joey grows, he begins to distinguish there is a difference between mommy and daddy, and that his anatomy is just like daddy’s. He begins to long for acceptance from other same-gender peers, from other boys. And thus, the era of “cooties” and their limited remedies was born. At this stage in life boys could care less about the acceptance of girls. Why do you think they call them “gross,” “dumb,” “silly” and an assortment of other wonderfully articulate vocabulary words? The genders are at war. That is why clubs like the “He-Man Women Haters Society” are born. The Joey’s soul is thirsty for belonging from his male peers. He wants to know he is “one of the boys,” that he “has what it takes.”

As he understands his “boyhood,” Joey begins to become curious of yet another group, his childhood sworn enemy—women. They no longer have “cooties.” “Circle, circle, dot, dot; they finally got the cootie shot.” Hostilities have ended; the war has ended, and they have become pleasant, an epic adventure to embark upon. Joey’s soul hungers for something new and exciting, and this occurs at the exact moment hormones begin to rage. The desire to be loved and accepted by women becomes a sexual one.

But what happens when a need is unmet? What happens when priorities get mixed up, and the soul is left parched, though sustenance surrounds him? Our souls need to breathe; they need to drink; they need to eat.

If our soul does not receive air, it does not care about its thirst or hunger. Once properly saturated with oxygen, the soul notices its thirst. But if the soul remains thirsty, it does not care about any hunger for the opposite sex, for their acceptance and promise of adventure. The hunger is overshadowed.

In my own story, I shared how I drifted further and further from the peers in my gender. I was scared of rejection. In my mind, I believed everyone saw me as gay, despite my efforts to hide it, and avoided me as a result. Homophobia.

This so called “phobia” is a curse to humanity. It isolates the very people who need masculine love the most (or feminine if the individual is a lady), and as that desperate thirst for belonging grows, due to its neglect, puberty hits, converting the natural urge to a sexual one.

If you have an attraction to the same gender, let me be the first to say, your longing is completely natural. It has just been blown out of proportion as a result of that thirst left unquenched for so long. But it is not just the stereotypical “gay” that is in desperate need of love and acceptance. For fear of “looking gay” men have long abandoned intimacy and vulnerability. If a dude cries, he is labeled gay—assimilated with weakness. So despite their crusty, rough exterior, inside is a desperate boy desperately desiring to be loved.

In my years “perusing” the internet, I found thousands of “straight” guys wanting a homosexual encounter. Ads on Craigslist would say, “Wife is out of town, needing a friend with benefits.” “Was just transferred to another base, feeling lonely.” “Never done this before, wanting to try it out.” During my time on Chatroulette sites, there would be numerous “curious” guys simply “exploring their sexuality.” It was actually during one of these moments online, that I discovered what I was ultimately looking for in a homosexual relationship.

“So have you ever been with a guy?” My random partner inquired, and for some reason, I decided to be brutally honest.

“No.”

“How many times have you been with a girl?”

“Well… I actually haven’t been with a girl. I’m a virgin. I’m currently dating someone. I’m waiting till marriage (as I’m looking for virtual sex online!)”

“No way! I’m waiting too, dude!”

“Are you a Christian? Why are you waiting?”

“Yeah actually. In fact I’m a small group leader at my church, and I lead a Campus Crusade Group on my college campus.”

This guy was me! In fact, the more I scoured the internet, the more I realized there are thousands, if not millions of others in my shoes—raised a Christian, wanting a heterosexual relationship, saving sex for marriage, but looking at gay content online.

“Why do you think we do this?” I asked my mystery man. We then began to divulge more of our story to each other. Over the course of multiple hours, we discovered thing we wanted was simply intimacy, acceptance with deep vulnerability and exposure.

It is all about a thirst left unquenched, and as that thirst grows, we cannot even discern if our souls are hungry for the opposite sex. People who struggle with same-gender attraction think there is something wrong with them, something off. But the desire simply is composed of a twisted, parched soul. The desire, and even the attraction to the same gender, is completely natural. It has simply exponentially grown to unhealthy proportions.

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Factor 3—Fear of the Opposite Gender

In my experience with female friends, I have found one of the main reasons women turn to lesbianism or bisexuality, is because they have a deep wound from men. Men cannot be trusted; they have hurt them too many times; they are viewed as chauvinistic slave masters; they are incapable of empathizing with their worries or concerns.

However, they have found a form of intimacy that is safe within their gender.

While processing through my same-gender attraction, I was extremely fortunate to encounter a lovely elderly lady. She became like another wonderful grandmother in my life. One thing I love about this woman is her heart for single mothers. She has been all over the world, and the “type” of person she is most drawn to is single mothers, especially those who have been severely hurt by men. When talking about the book, she brought up, “Brandon, it’s not just a desire to be accepted by your gender that affects your sexuality, but a fear of being rejected by the opposite gender.”

Because this is not my experience, it was foreign to me. But then she started sharing story upon story of women she does life with. Many of them, after being abused or abandoned by their ex-husbands have become homosexual.

Why?

Their gender is safe. They understand the mind of a woman, and their “sister” is far more trustworthy than the questionable man hitting on her at the bar.

*                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *

Factor 4—Parents

My generation (I am currently 23) has been labeled “The Fatherless Generation.” Never before has the percentage been so high of single mothers. But more than a literally absent dad, there are also dads who are physically present, but gone in affection and support.

It is a proven fact that affection of a father, specifically physical affection, helps to solidify in a boy’s mind that he belongs to the male gender. The funny thing is many fathers are under the false presupposition that showing too much affection to their son could make him soft or gay, but the opposite is true.

In my own story, I briefly shared how my father was never around when I was growing up. While running around the country in hopes to retire early, he missed out on a lot of my early childhood moments. But my dad has more than made up for it. Although I did not talk about it much in chapter 1, after my initial “exposure” with my dad, we have been reconciled and have a fantastic relationship.

But here is one thing that is critical for fathers to do—do not just tell your son to “be a man.” Show him how to be one; equip him to succeed, and show him he belongs to this elusive idea of masculinity—he is fully man.

Probably one of the number one things guys my age are frantically pursuing is mentors. We are looking for wise men to show us the way, to equip us and believe we can succeed. Why are we looking? I think the answer may be that we are looking for what we were meant to get from our dads.

But Fathers are not the only culprits.

While sitting in the office of a pastor, he shared with me the story of a frantic mother looking for answers.

“I don’t understand, Pastor.” The woman was frantic and emotional, because her son told her he thinks he is gay. “I don’t understand where this came from, or what we could have done differently. We had him in church all the time. We sent him to all the retreats. We made sure he didn’t date or get involved with pornography.”

“Maybe that’s where it came from.”

Overbearing mothers can devastate their children. I have often had to draw lines and boundaries with my own “concerned” mom. I understand that mothers are caring and worrisome. In the words of my own mother, “It’s in our nature.” Well, it also in my nature to feel like less of a man when my metaphorical balls are chopped off.

Men cannot be pampered all the time. We need to mature and learn how to stand on our own two feet. We need to get out, scrape a knee, fail in a business venture, live life and learn. Call it a narrow perspective, but men need to learn to be strong. It is part of what distinguishes a man from a woman… besides anatomy. We are called to be strong and courageous. How can we possibly do that if weight is never forced upon us? Or run into “battles” of our “not-so-terrifying,” 21st Century world, when a sword has never been put in our hands?

*                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *

Factor 5—Taboo

Before I conclude this chapter, I need to say something, and unfortunately, I could not come up with a quirky way of including it smoothly in this chapter, however it is something that contributes to homosexuality, and it is a problem that has to be addressed. The final factor in someone struggling with same-gender attraction is how the church responds to sexuality and homosexuality, and it is summarized in one word—taboo.

Taboo: proscribed as improper or unacceptable.

While growing up in the church, sex was rarely talked about, but when it was, it was always spoken about in a negative light. It was something gross and twisted—something that “nonbelievers” did.

From a young age, boys are taught to avoid vaginas like the plague, while girls are taught to cover every crevice that might remotely trigger a lustful thought in her “brother.”

But the fact of the matter is, humans are sexual beings. The very first command before “do not lie” or even “do not have any other gods” was “Be fruitful and multiply!” AKA “Have sex!”

Let me give you proof that sex is too taboo and viewed through a distorted lenses within the church. When I said the word “sex” walls in your heart rose, and when I said the word “vagina” offense swelled. Neither sex nor vaginas, neither penises nor breasts are dirty or wrong. In fact, they were crafted by God, believe it or not, and after He molded them, He said, “It is very good!”

But as hormones rage, and the natural process of the human body continues, the church would prefer it if we just keep pretending our kids are in Sunday school, without a “dirty thought running through their little brain.” But what does this communicate to little Tommy, taught about how sex is wrong with a pastel Noah’s Ark mural plastered on the wall?

Girls are a bad.

So what does he do with his progressing sexuality? It turns towards men.

To this day, even though my conscious has grown numb to gay pornography, I find it so “wrong and wicked” to look at straight pornography? Why is that? Sex is evil.

Funny story time, incorporating a serious lesson.

I went to a Bible school immediately after high school (as shared in Chapter 1). In this school, students were kicked out for any form of PDA (Public Display of Affection, but Christians are very conscious of that acronym). The director even shared a story of how a guy was removed from the school because he caressed a girl’s ear.

One day, during one of our banquets, a lively song was playing. My friend Alyssa and I got up to dance. We were reprimanded. To kind of make fun of the situation, we “danced” with each other, but now standing four feet away from each other, not touching at all. We were reprimanded again. Then a guy friend of mine jumped in, spun me around and started dancing with me. No questions about our motives were made.

A little bit distorted? I think so.

But, if you are lucky, your church will talk about sex, in a special seminar, when you are a senior in high school, with parent permission of course. A topic that will never be spoken about within the confines of the “four walls” is homosexuality, and the vow of silence regarding this topic is devastating.

Without a word uttered, what does that communicate to a girl or boy wrestling with thoughts of same-gender attraction?

They are the only ones. They will not be accepted. It is the worst of sins.

Unable to process, they let the thoughts and feelings boil inside. Where will they go for answers? Where will they turn for comfort?

I guarantee you, it will not be the elder board.

*                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *

Factor 6—Sin

With the whole “Duck Dynasty” nonsense, I heard a wonderful response from a professed lesbian. She spoke of true tolerance, how we as tolerant people, need to tolerate other people’s beliefs. It is true tolerance to say, “Mr Duck man, you are entitled to your opinion about homosexuality.” That, my friend, is true tolerance.

From there she attempted to explain why Phil Robertson believes the way he does. It was in that statement a revealing remark was made. “The fact of the matter is, we don’t know where homosexuality comes from. I was raised in the church like Mr. Robertson. My homosexuality could simply come from the fact that every human is sinful, and we each have our ‘sin’ to deal with, but we don’t know.”

This is a really important factor. In fact, if all the other causes had to have a source, I would say it comes back to this tree letter word, infamous within the church. You may not be a Christian. If you are not one, props to you for getting through this blog. But regardless of your worldview, every human being has to come to terms with this prevalent fact—the world is broken. If that were not the case, homicide would not happen, kids would not be raped, genocide would not occur. But it does. Why? The world is broken, and that brokenness, I believe, comes from sin.

A wonderful mentor asked me a question the other day, regarding the blog. “Don’t you think that some people just struggle with homosexuality, that it’s the ‘button’ Satan pushes.”

I think we can all agree with that sentiment there there is that one thing, that habit we just cannot kick, that temptation that is always there. Could homosexuality simply be another symptom of the depravity of man?

Maybe. Possibly. Likely.

However, I do not view “sin,” as we have come to term it, as the root issue. I believe sin is simply what was stated just two sentences prior—a symptom.

Let me ask you a question: if a child had a fever and was covered in rashes, how effective would it be to cover the rashes and put ice on the forehead? If that was the only advice you received at a pediatrician, run. The fever and rashes are only symptoms of a greater issue. A good doctor will start doing tests to see what is going on internally, the root, and that is what he will treat. Not the rashes, not the fever. He is after the cause.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost, to be the “Great Physician.” He said, “I did not come for the holy, but sinners. The well do not need a doctor, the sick do.”

Jesus came for the root—Sin (Capital S). He did not come for your habits or failures. He came for the root, and do you know what that elixir of the soul was? Unconditional  love.

Our hearts are cracked and bleeding. We are hurting inside, and “hurt people, hurt people,” as the saying goes. Moments of healing did not come through endless counseling sessions; they did not come through moral discipline. They came when I tasted that sweet love or a shadow of it in those around me.

I sampled God’s love when a leader refused to fire me in spite of my failures.

Traces of that love, lingered on the pallet of my soul when a friend held me and cried with me as I shared all my “baggage.”

A scent drifted from eternity into the temporal when a Pastor asked, “What do you want to be? You’ll be loved to matter what.”

But more than mere samples, scents and tastings occurred when I heard God Himself said, “Stop worrying about the sin or how to behave. Your only concern is getting to know me. I’ll take care of the rest.”

The problem with unconditional love, the thing Christians have termed agape (based off the Greeks), is that it cannot have conditions. “But what about sin? What about righteousness? If we take off the all restrictions, what’s to stop people from sinning?” The very thing you will not allow.

It is a scary thing to remove all restrictions, all guidlines, all clauses, and simply say, “You’re loved… no matter what.” It is a leap of faith, but God is not after “caging the beast,” He wants to transform it. No laws or guidelines are needed if the character of the creature is good. 

We, as Christians, need to believe that this was the aim of Christ, not renewed morality wrapped up in one commance. Otherwise, we are going to continue to get wrapped up in behavioral management, which simply paints a clown smile on an already rotting corpse.

We have to believe it is the remedy.

Which brings us to our final question—Is homosexuality something to be cured?

Lets talk about that next.

Chapter 3 | Conflict Resolution

Chapter Three-Conflict Resolution

“Is homosexuality a sin? Does God hate me? Am I going to Hell because I’m a homosexual?”

If the question of where homosexuality comes from is not enough, we have to unpack the question, that probably gives rise to the question of origin in the first place. After all, if we are born this way, then God cannot be angry with us, right? He made me this way! If He did, then I am not to blame for these feelings.

But we are not born this way. The reason someone has same-gender attraction is nurture, not nature. But now comes the question—what does God think about homosexuality, and how do we respond? Or, if you do not believe in God, should people be homosexual?

If we take God out of the picture, and we look at the issue of homosexuality completely from an evolutionary perspective, homosexuality makes absolutely no sense. The preface of Darwinism is survival of the fittest. Part of fitness is the ability of producing healthy offspring. That is absolutely impossible within a homosexual relationship. No matter how hard you try, you cannot get a baby from two “mommies;” cannot get a child from two “daddies.” Through the lens of evolution, homosexuality should be completely outlawed. It is a threat to our species.

But I am not an atheist, and I do believe in God. So what does God think about “homosexuals?”

To answer that question, I ask another. What does God think of liars and murders, of adulterers and gluttons, of fornicators and the proud, of God-haters and promise breakers?

It is all the same.

In chapter two, I spoke of all sin as symptoms to a deeper issue—we are all broken inside; our hearts are in need of mending. The reason we lie, cheat, steal, murder or slander is because of one thing—a broken soul.

So the real question at hand is what is God’s reaction to our brokenness?

I am going to be speaking about the Christian God, expressed through Jesus. Although you may consider God to belong to a different religion, Jesus is the one I am most familiar with, and the one I have “wrestled out” my same-gender attraction with.

“As he (Jesus) was speaking, the teachers of the religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. ‘Teacher,’ they said to Jesus, ‘this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?’ They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, ‘All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!’ Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she said. ‘And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more.’” (John 8 NLT)

According to Christian beliefs, Jesus was and is the only human without sin. He was the perfect man. When Jesus says, “He without sin throw the first stone,” he knew he was the only one who could initiate “justice” on the adulterer, and it was Jewish justice to stone her. According to their law, all adulterers were to be stoned. Jesus as a man after “holiness” should have picked up the stone and throw it as hard as he could, but the stone never left the dust. Instead, he showed mercy, because he knew the reasons this woman was running from man to man was because her heart was in desperate need of love, and he gave it freely.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17 ESV)

Jesus is the only one with “credentials” to execute justice, but he never does. Instead, he showed love; he showed mercy.

In another portion of scripture Jesus says, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” (Luke 5:31-32 NLT)

Throughout Jesus ministry he hung out with the “worst of the worst,” while the religious sneered and mocked.

We, Christians, claim to be followers of Jesus, but what would be your reaction if our kids threw a party at the house, and they invited prostitutes, drag-queens and divorcées (the “worst of the worst”)? Would we welcome them?

I once sat in a church service where the pastor was speaking of repentance (a very inaccurate view of repentance). Here were some of his words, “People don’t want to be held accountable anymore; people don’t want pastors to get mad at their sin. I have heard people complain that the church isn’t welcoming and open enough. That it’s judgmental and hypocritical. If you want to be welcomed, if you want an “open” environment, go to a bar. I don’t have time for your lack of repentance.”

How does that make someone feel who is in desperate need of love—the true healing nard, able to transform our broken souls?

The church expects people to simply “get their act together,” to repent of our sin because Jesus died for us. While growing up, the church was not a place I went to feel loved. I went because I felt like I needed to in order to be a “good person,” whatever that means. Between that and a Christian school, I felt like I was “the worst of the worst, the dirtiest of sinners.”

But when I look at Jesus’s life, the people who were drawn to this man were “the worst of the worst, the dirtiest of sinners.” If the church really is composed of his followers, why do we not have the same crowd? Instead, this is what we look like.

Many of us have abandoned unconditional love, and as a result, we have turned to moral management. Here in lies a fatal flaw, and a fact is quickly discovered—none of us can manage our darkness. But instead of pouring forth love, instead of speaking belonging and holiness found in “Christ Alone”, we have manufactured a moral scale with slander and pride at the bottom and homosexuality and divorcees at the top.

A wise woman I know gave the best advice to an abused wife. The woman came in with tears and bruises, looking for answers. She confessed to this wise woman that her husband was hitting and screaming at her on a continual basis. She wanted to do the right thing, and every time she went to the church, the elders counseled her to “just keep praying.” Do you know how that elderly woman counseled her? “Kill him. The church will eventually forgive you for murder and if you find Jesus in jail, but they will never let you live down a divorce.”

It is so sad, but true.

In order to cope with our humanity, we have made the more “severe sinners” feel isolated and alone, in order to put pins on our shoulders and lift a dignified nose. A pathetic cause. We are supposed to agents of love. If the pastor were to give me that same ultimatum—religious piety or the “welcoming” bar, I would pick the bar. We long for a sense of home, even if it is found at the bottom of a glass.

Jesus was the reality of home. Why do you think so many literally left their literal homes? Because he embodied a “hearty welcome”—so much better than a roof and walls. People long to belong; they long to be cherished, and they found it in a vagabond.

At the moment of his death, Jesus uttered those immortalized words, “It is finished.” What work had he completed? At the very second those words left his lips, a curtain in the temple of Yahweh, a symbol of the eternal separation between God and man, was ripped in two. Coincidence? I think not. The work that Jesus came to accomplish was to reunite the parted Creator with His beloved creation, through cleansing any stain that would separate us. In one moment came the justification of man and victory over sin through the thunder of agape.

I have a bold claim to make. It is broad, regarding the issue of morality as a whole, but it applies to the topic at hand, namely homosexuality.

When Jesus died and resurrected, the whole world was redeemed, the whole world was reborn. Sin was conquered; death was defeated. Everyone was “saved,” that term so often mentioned within the church. We were all made something new that day, the only difference between a “Christian” and an “unbeliever” is just that—belief.

Because of Jesus, I can look at everyone and say, “You are holy; you are blameless; you are something new.” It is a reality, which was initiated at the cross.

Baptism is agreeing with that fact. I am no longer what I used to be. In the words found in Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

Everyone has been put on equal ground at the cross. That is probably why it is always referred to in the Old Testament as “leveling of hills, and lifting up of valleys.” We all stand on equal ground, and it is the unconditional love of Jesus. There is no moral hierarchy.

Now back to the issue at hand. So what does this mean about homosexuality? Is a homosexual going to hell?

I have not gone to either Heaven or Hell, so I cannot tell you first hand, but based off of what I find in the Bible, entrance into Heaven is based solely on faith, on trusting entirely in what Jesus has accomplished with those words. Our “merit” is based entirely on belief. Period.

It is bigoted and absurd to hold up signs saying, “God hates fags!” “Those queers are going to hell!” The God who had the right to condemn chose not to. What right do any of us have in judging others? It is complete ludicrously to deem oneself worthy of determining other’s destiny in eternity. To accuse others is joining the chorus of that age old Enemy Christians have deemed “Satan.” By condemning ally yourself with the King of Lies when raising accusations.

Christ did not come to condemn, but to save.

This all bring us back to yet the question—should people be homosexual?

Now my answer. I do not believe God’s best plan for an individual is a homosexual lifestyle.

At the age of seventeen, when God came all too much like Morpheus, He did not say, “Pick me, or go to Hell.” He said He loved me no matter what, but He said I had to choose to either trust Him or trust my homosexuality. If I chose to trust Him, He promised me a “full life,” but if I chose homosexuality, He let me know it would not satisfy.

Either way He loved me, either way the blood of Jesus was for me, not by merit, but faith. But my decision that night would determine my satisfaction in life. God was letting me know homosexuality would not satisfy the crying broken pieces of my heart.

My soul had created a counterfeit—mirage—when deep down, the greatest need my heart had, was for someone to open the door, to let me in and belong. My heart thirsted for intimacy, for home, and I believed I could find it in a homosexual relationship.

In recent news, Tom Daley, a British Olympic diver “came out” via YouTube. In his very personal confession, he said “I’ve met someone, someone that makes me feel safe, and that someone happens to be a guy.” Of all the words Tom could have picked, he picked safe. Why? We are in a quest for home, and our souls are desperately searching for belonging, for safety, for purpose, for love.

“My people have abandoned the fountain of living water and hewed out cisterns for themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13 ESV)

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me… out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38 ESV)

As shared before, when God asked me who to trust, I told Him I could not follow Him, I could not live right. His response was to just to get to know Him and He would take care of the rest. As I became intimate with Christ, thirsts of my soul were satisfied. The rivers of unconditional love transformed my life. It was not until I became a pastor, adding conditions and requirements to my relationship with God that I began to have thoughts of same-gender attraction.

My question to you, if you find yourself in a homosexual lifestyle, is not, “Don’t you think you should change?” Nor is it “Do you think it’s wrong?” My only question is: are you truly satisfied? Are the longings of your heart met?

I had a roommate once. Growing up he had same-gender attractions. When his mom and step-dad found out, they put him into the foster care system, where he was adopted by another family who said, “Live however you want to live. You were born this way.” Throughout high school my roommate had multiple boyfriends, and continued to have multiple men in his life on into his young adult years.

Then one day an old friend from a mission trip years ago (this was before my roommate’s family kicked him out) reconnected with him. My roommate was very blunt about his current lifestyle. In response, the old friend, after a few moments of silence, asked my roommate one simple question—are you satisfied?

Are you satisfied with homosexuality?

Statistics show heterosexual relationships last much longer than homosexual relationships. Fidelity, although decreasing overall, is startlingly higher in heterosexual relationships vs homosexual relationships. During the time of my life, while I trying to pursue a homosexual relationship, the amount of men I encountered who were in pursuit of relationship number twenty blew me away.

Yes, there are accounts of life-long homosexual partners, the amounts are incredibly low. To me this promise of satisfaction within a homosexual relationship seems all too elusive.

But the facts do not matter. This is about you the reader. If you are currently in or pursuing a homosexual lifestyle, are you satisfied? Or are you left wanting?

Below you will find three letters. It is my heart that through these letters, change can occur. We cannot keep pretending that or opinions on this matter do not matter. They do. Whether you consider yourself to be a “less than please” homosexual or simply someone who wants to be a part of a movement, ushering in the healing of an all-too-abusive topic, I encourage you to read on.

 

To those who are caught up in same-gender attraction…

I want to start by saying, “You are beloved. You are precious. There is a God, and He is not mad at you. In fact, He cannot stop thinking about you. If you are a guy, you are a manly man. You exude masculinity! The amount of testosterone pulsing through your behemoth veins bewilders me! You are handsome, strong and all together manly. To you women, you are gorgeous! You have captivated the heart of your Eternal Papa. You are His beloved daughter of grace and beauty. The amount of femininity pulsating from your body is overwhelming! You are a beautiful womanly woman, and you have ravished His heart.”

Whether you are tired of continuing in your endless chase of same-sex romance or you are not even sure what you want, I want to emphasize that this is a God of love, and He wants to know you—with or without your attractions. Just get to know Him as you are. Take a leap of faith.

Begin there.

After that, if you begin to decide that the homosexual lifestyle is not for you, a choice must be made—a choice to believe that what Jesus did actually did change you; that you truly are a new creation; that you are made in His image; that you are 100% heterosexual. To those of you who are women, you are 100% woman. You must believe you do not fall short any longer. You must not forgo your birthright. You are woman, look at you roar. To those of you men out there, you are 100% man. You are strong and capable. You do belong to your gender. You are not different. You are not alone. We all struggle, and despite the doubts, despite any uncertainty, even in the wake of committing a homosexual act, you must choose to believe you are something new.

But you cannot do this alone. In fact, life, despite the state of it, is not meant to be done alone. Some of my deepest moments of healing in my life came from taking a leap of faith, and inviting someone into my story, to have them fight for me, to bleed with me.

If you have not told someone about your same-gender attraction, it is time to do so. You cannot remain alone any longer. You may be terrified; you may lose sleep just thinking about how someone will respond? Welcome to the club. I had some of the worst reactions when I shared I had attractions to other men. But I also experienced the deepest moments of love. It is a gamble, but it is worth it.

How are you allowing the unconditional love of God to penetrate your heart, if you are unwilling to acknowledge where you currently are. Regardless of your present state, it is time to invite not only God, but others into who you are now.

Life is not about the destination; it is not about “arriving.” It is about the journey. Life is a never-ending, eternal journey, and cannot be traversed alone.

I know the number one thing that will hinder you is shame. “Christians” and even culture has done a really good job of making same-gender attraction something to be shameful of, that it is something special, the exception. Shame will rob you, rob you of the love God has for you.

One time, after looking at homosexual pornography, I felt so dirty and shameful. Tears streamed down my face as I exclaimed to God, “I’m so sorry.” But I was quickly silenced.

There in my brokenness I heard God say, “Quit robbing the cross with your tears. Get up off the ground, and just start thanking me for the death of Jesus. It was enough. I don’t need your tears.” I got up, wiped my face, and simply began to thank Jesus. He really is enough. Then God asked me, “Who do I say you are?” Holy. Blameless. Loved. A man.

Who does God say you are?

Throughout the years, as I have simply trusted that what Jesus did was enough, as I surrendered to God’s furious love, the cracks and scars of this bleeding soul become whole. My restless searching comes to a conclusion. He told me, “If you will just get to know me, I’ll take care of the rest.” He did not lie. Stop worrying about “your sin.” He took care of it.

You know what is crazy? God is not intimidated, surprised or scared of your mistakes. If fact, you see, “Crap! I messed up again!” He says, “Yes! One mess-up down! Only five more to go!” He sees the whole picture; He sees your journey, and He does not abandon you in your sin. In fact, He has brought immense healing through some of the “darkest” of moments.

One time, while I was masturbating, I heard an abnormal statement from God. “Alright, Brandon, if you are going to do this, we are going to not imagine guys. We are going to imagine this moment is happening with your wife. Imagine the amazing sex and intimacy you two can share void of shame or fear, serving each other in your ‘obedience’ to that first command I gave.” And instead of masturbating to homosexual fantasies, another fantasy was formed—a foretaste of what it will be like in marriage, and I loved it!

You may disagree thought, claiming it was not God talking to me in that moment. Well please tell me who it was, because it brought so much freedom, healing and hope. I would like to thank them.

As Christian men, our favorite “small group” conversation is about this “M Word.” Masturbation is really awkward to say as a “good Christian boy,” so we come up with code words—“riding the bike,” “choking the chicken,” “going on a date with Jane Hancock.” The list is endless, and we, Christian guys, make it our life’s goal to “defeat this awful sin.” For something we talk about a lot, you would think that the Bible does too. But in fact, the Bible does not talk about it… at all. Literally there is not one single verse on masturbation. For something we put a lot of effort and attention into, there seems to be a lack of attention on it from God. It could be He cares a lot more about other things, the things He did talk a lot about like love, servitude, money, marriage, evangelism. Just a thought.

In chapter two I briefly mentioned conditioning. This speaks of how your actions dictate your brain’s hormonal arousal. Basically, “If you masturbate to bridges, you’ll be aroused by bridges.” If you have continually trained your hormones to be aroused by the same gender, no matter how hard you “wish away those feelings,” your hormones are going to start firing when you see “dem bridges.”

We are a whole person. In Christianity we like to only talk about the spiritual, and maybe venture into the emotional. It is time to invite Jesus into not only your “spiritual,” “mental” or “emotional life, but also your physical life. Instead of praying all the time, why not exercise or eat right? “Oh no, those are physical things. They don’t matter to Jesus.” Beg to differ. He is interested in all of you, including your hormones.

I do not know what that looks like to you. I am not necessarily advocating masturbating to straight porn to change your “gay thoughts.” I am just saying you should ask God how He would like to transform those areas of your life.

Multiple times, while Jesus was on the earth, He healed people. Broken legs. Blind eyes. Leprosy. Sometimes, Jesus simply spoke a word and the healing came. Other times, Jesus said, “Get up!” or he put mud in eye balls. What I am trying to say is, faith without action is not really faith. Sometimes God in His love asks us to take a leap, and actually do something. Ask Him what “steps of faith” He has in store for you.

 

To those who have not had to wrestle with same-gender attractions, but desire to make a change…

Stop agreeing with the Devil. He is the accuser; He is the liar. Stop joining his chorus of mockery.

When you see a guy who flips his wrists or wears too many colors, believe truth about him—he is heterosexual, he is altogether manly. If you see a woman with a low voice and a short haircut, believe the truth about her—she is the straightest of the strait.

This homosexual witch-hunt needs to end, and it is completely disarmed if we all simply begin to give people the benefit of the doubt. Do not even wonder if they “struggle with their gender,” especially with our ridiculous “Christianese.” “Oh, you can just tell that she wrestles with her identity.” “Oh that guy? Yeah, he has a father wound for sure.” “You can tell they need some ‘healing.’”

Stop it! Do not even suspect that someone has same-gender attraction. As said before, homophobia is destroying so many lives. Through it, people have been ostracized and labeled falsely. It actually is an engine of depriving love of people who need it most.

Guys, enough of the strategic urinal positioning, the labeling of everything “feminine” as “gay” and “queer,” the endless amounts of time in the mirror to ensure you do not look like your trying too hard, because that would be “gay.” The endless testosterone competitions are destroying people. If you got the massive biceps, the deep voice or the “hot” girlfriend—the list of supercilious qualifications of masculinity, you feel great and accomplished. But what about the guy who falls short? As we have these purposeless competitions, the “losers” feel like they do not belong, that they are not as manly as you are, that they are lesser of a man.

It is time to celebrate the “other side of the coin” concerning femininity and masculinity. Stop viewing determined, tough women as masculine, therefore a “lesser woman.” Do not consider a sensitive, artistic guy a 65% man. Rejoice in the gender diversity; believe everyone around you is straight, because they really are.

But what if a friend of yours does tell you they have same-gender attractions? What if your son or daughter comes to you in confidence with a “dark confession?” How do you respond?

The number one thing you can do to help bring healing to their soul is to not overreact. Say you love them, that you are there for them, and for crying out loud hug them. Let them know that you are honored they felt safe enough around you to tell. After that, tell them they are a manly dude, a “sexy lady.” Speak into who they truly are. Call the woman or man out of them. But also let them know that they are not alone. You can even share this blog with them. One of the biggest reliefs to someone having same-gender attractions is to talk to someone who can relate, but it is also healthy to talk to someone who does not relate. They need you. They need to know they belong to their gender. They need to know you approve of them. Do not run away.

If you are both of the consensus that homosexuality is a sin, remind them that it is just as “sinful” as lying cheating. Remind them it is not the “worst of the worst sin.” Then remind them that regardless, it is all taken care of in Jesus.

When living in a dormitory setting, set in the ridiculously humid and hot state of Texas, we had communal showers. Every night, there was this “man’s man” that would look over at me while I brushed my teeth. “Brandon, you are a beautiful man of God.” As ridiculously as that sounds, it spoke volumes to my heart.

Another time, while working on a draft of this book, I shared with a good friend my story with same-gender attraction. “Really?” He responded. “You’re one of the manliest men I know.” Again, the healing elixir flowed.

Agape love flows freely from the heart of God. It truly heals and restores. We are not God. We are humans, and faithful to our nature, we fail often. However, we are called “to be God’s hands and feet,” to “be His ambassadors of reconciliation.” Although our love is not perfect, although it does not compare to that of the Holy One, we can give people a foretaste of Heaven, we can reflect, if but dimly, the light of the Son.

 

To the institution called to be God’s hospital, not the ballroom of perfectly painted faces…

It is time to be real. It is time to be honest. None of us are perfect, and it might be good for the congregation to know that we are all equally human… especially the pastor.

In the church, due to our ludicrous moral scale, we have resurrected the ancient order of priests—men devoted to holiness and the things of God. This is foolishness. The man on the pulpit is just as human as you are. Why do we lift them on high moral pedestals, only to fall from devastating heights? It creates a rift in the transcendent family, allowing us mere congregants to behave as absurdly as we want, while expecting perfection from the man not sitting in a pew.

We need to all be honest, and we need to talk about the taboo things. I am not saying the “homo” word needs to be uttered in every nursery classroom. But sex needs to be talked about in a positive light, starting in middle school. The church wants to produce “heterosexual” boys and girls, then teaches them that sex is bad, and to avoid the opposite sex. No wonder lots of kids struggle with same-gender attraction in the church; they have been trained to despise the opposite sex.

Not talking about the “s” word will not make hormones disappear. They are going to talk about sex. Would you like them to talk about it in church, with someone who is all to infatuated with the subject, or worse, force them to experiment with themselves and other peers because they are clueless yet curious about their bodies?

We also need to talk about homosexuality in the church. If same-gender attraction is never addressed as a “normal” sin, kids growing up in the church who struggle with it feel completely isolated and alone. In their minds, they are the only ones, and no one will understand. But when homosexuality is thrown into any other list of sins, just like the Bible does (a lot of times we list these verses on homosexuality when “debating” with someone, but we forget that in the same sentence it references liars, fornicators, immoral, gluttons, prideful, murderers… it is all the same), then homosexuality is just another form of depravity, equally bad as the any other sin.

We have to destroy the lie that homosexuality is the worst sin. It will destroy the lives of those who wrestle with attractions to the same sex.

Above all, the church needs to be restored to its original purpose—a hospital for the broken. If we will make Christ’s number one commandment, “to love as he loved,” I believe people will have faith in her, the church, once again.

When I came back from the mission field, I was so disillusioned with the church. While lying under a willow tree of Geneva, I confessed to my friend, “I’m tired of the posers.” I have heard enough sermons for a lifetime; I have sung enough songs for eternity. What I want more than anything is love that does, authenticity and proof of Christ’s power.

I would rather go to a church that the man on stage is a babbling idiot, but opens his home to anyone in need, than the most eloquent of philosophers. I would rather travel with a vagabond who trusts Jesus daily for his food and water, than a plush pastor, whose number one concern for Sunday is how good he looks in his three-piece suit or his graphic tee. I would rather study the Bible with a man whose life has transformed and whose prayers are answered, than any learned scholar.

But more than “proof in the pudding,” I am simply tired of everyone pretending to be perfect. The painted faces, dancing the dirge of religious rhetoric is repulsive. The brokenness is what gives us hope, not the morally upright.

The most glorious characters of scripture are David and Peter—two characters notorious for messing up big time. One was a murderer and adulterer, while the other abandoned Jesus in his hour of need. It was not their zeal that mesmerized us, it was not their scholarly advice, it was their failure and restoration that gave us hope.

Let us be honest with ourselves and with others and stop pretending. Let us take of the masks and live true lives, understanding that we have not “arrived.” We are all trying to figure this out one step at a time.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:36 ESV)

Do we believe it? Then let us prove it.

 

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So, where does this leave us?

I have come to all I need to say, and yet I feel there yet needs to be more. Maybe there does…

I think that one thing that has continued to come forth through this book is where am I in all of this? In fact a student, who I used to pastor, texted me a somewhat sobering question, “Brandon, does this mean you are coming out?”

If coming out means coming out of shame, of being honest with myself and others? Then yes. I am coming out.

But if coming out means confessing I am a homosexual, then no. I am not “coming out.” Well then what am I? In the words of a dear friend of mine, “I’m human.” Period.

In this life I just hope to love. I know that is simple and maybe cliché, but I have found that the number one thing that has transformed my life is love. I want to do that.

You may ask, “What was I hoping to accomplish with this blog, book, thing?”

For me, this book was a line in the sand. For too long, I have wrestled and fought about this whole issue of “homosexuality,” and I felt shame about sharing me full “testimony,” of being honest with myself and where I came from.

“For we will overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.”

Less than a month ago God walked me through a deep revelation—I need to be thankful for every portion of my life, for every piece of my story, the good and the bad because it has made me who I am today. Whether wrong was done to me or someone lavished a love unknown, whether I made stupid decisions in the heat of “passion” or I chose to trust God, whether I got mad or happy, it all has made me who I am today, and for that I am thankful.

If my story, if this book, has helped just one person to understand that they are not alone, that they are not forgotten, that they are loved, then I guess I fulfilled all I was trying to accomplish in this book. The end.