Reneging on My Six… Maybe

A while back, I wrote I was a counter-phobic, sexual six. If you’re not an enneagram nerd like myself, no, I’m not having sex with six people.

In short, a sexual six is scared and presents courageous to prove to themself and others they’re able to beat anything.

I promise I’m getting to sappy, personal stuff like I normally do in a moment. But first I need a witty lead-in to reveal myself.

When I first heard of the enneagram, it was in passing by my friend, Taylor, like five years ago, before it was actually cool. He shared how a friend told him about it, and how it’s all about your deepest fears and wounds.

That got my attention, for reasons that’ll make more sense if you’re ARE an enneagram nerd like myself.

He shared how he was a two and how he loved to get love in return. He then shared how the test was a big deal for his friend because it revealed a deep secret: he believed he was inherently flawed and wanted to be rescued.

I was halfway paying attention, mainly because I can be selfish, and I didn’t really see how this was about me (sorry, Taylor). But when he talked about his friend, I remember thinking, “Other people feel like that too?”

His friend is a four.

Ever since I could remember, I’ve wanted to be rescued.

I’d run away to the end of the street when I was spanked, wishing someone would drive by and take me away. I’d walk the fence at school, hoping someone would see me and come to me. In middle school, we’d craft foam swords and fight each other. I was always the captured prince needing to be rescued. One time my friends even put me in a dog kennel as my prison. It felt oddly safe and right, as fucked up as that sounds.

By high school, I learned that wanting to be rescued as a guy wasn’t cool or manly, at least, that’s what Eldridge said. “Every man desires a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.”

… uh… question: what if we want to be rescued? Never mind. I’m gonna sit back down.

Over the years, I stuffed down my desire to be rescued. I acted strong and independent. I’d sit on the side of the school, looking out at the other boys, hoping one would come talk to me and rescue me from my pain and loneliness. But if anyone asked if I was okay, I’d get angry and say I was fine. After all, boys don’t need to be rescued. I’m supposed to be doing the teaching. I’m supposed to be tough and strong, not needing anyone or caring about anything. An emotionless rock.

Or so I thought.

I’m not sure when I made the promise to myself or at what point I decided to go about this all differently, but somewhere along the way, I started moving towards things I feared to look like I could do more than handle myself. I could take on anything.

I signed up to do a missionary training program where you get kidnapped and have to kill a goat and get fake murdered. But that school got shut down (I wonder why), so I went to the next best thing: a Christian leadership academy built around the methodology of the military, equipped with its own hell week. We prided ourselves in “beating our body and making it our slave,” (yes, that’s a Bible verse) and “doing all things through Christ who strengthens me” (especially the hard stuff). After that, I ran a ministry by myself for three years, not having any clue what I was doing, but I was capable and the Lord would provide. Right? I flew across the world to Haiti and Germany and India with no friends or family, to show I could do the hard things. When that was done, I hitchhiked through Europe just because the idea terrified me.

Anything I could do to prove to myself that I didn’t need anyone to rescue me, I could save myself, I did.

But lying here with a fever, unable to sleep, feeling helpless, that yearning to be rescued crawls to the surface.

In spite of all my endeavors to look strong and independent and prove I didn’t need anyone, this thing in my chest, this thing latched to my bones, this thing to be saved by someone else screams to be heard.

Through all the years, the thing I wanted more than anything in the world was for someone to not be fooled by all the bullshit I hide behind, all the fake courage, and to see the scared little boy that just wanted to be rescued. The boy who believes he’s irreparably broken and unworthy of anything except standing in the mud as it rains, alone. And yet, in spite of the belief that they’re not good enough, a yearning for someone to see me, take me in, and keep me warm.

I know this doesn’t sound manly. I know this looks weak. And that’s what probably scares me the most: I don’t want to show this piece of me because it feels so scary, so vulnerable. So much so that even as I’m typing these words, I’m thinking of people reaching out to me or calling me on it, and me pretending like it was just some emotional, midnight blog post. They shouldn’t think anything of it. Because if they do, I’ll feel infinitely exposed, and in the past, when I’ve been exposed, I’ve been hurt. I’ve been called too much or too sensitive, and eventually pushed away.

Lying here with a fever, unable to sleep, feeling my helplessness and wanting someone to rescue me, I feel guilty. Guilty that I don’t turn to God and say, “You know what? You’ve saved me! You’ve rescued me from all my fears! Hallelujah!” (Insert hand wave and stopping foot.)

But lying here with a fever, unable to sleep, feeling my helplessness and wanting someone to rescue me, I hear God prompting me when I push down these truths. “Nope. Don’t hide that. Not from me. I see it. Say it. Say all of it. Every word that you’d rather me not know, every emotion that feels like betrayal, g it to me. Let me hear it.”

The fact is: He did save me. But that doesn’t change how I feel. That doesn’t change how much I’d rather a human rescue me, than Him. It doesn’t change the fact that it meant the world when I walked outside to “be alone” and a man came outside looking for me. It felt like a long-withheld inhale. It doesn’t change the fact that when I was in pain and reeling last week and yelling at a friend in a bar, trying to defend myself and stand my ground, that what I really wanted was someone to step between us and defend me.

That means so much. That matters so much.

When my friends know something was likely hard or they call me on my bullshit, I feel seen and known and like I matter. When my family says, “Oh! That makes sense!” in relation to my sexuality and the struggle I have as a gay Christian man, I feel known.

And that’s what I ultimately want: to be known, past my façade.

I try to be authentic, but I put it out there with this, “Yeah that’s me! Deal with it!” (as most fours do). I don’t present myself with a naked heart, laid bare and exposed to the world because that is risky. That’s scary as hell. Because what if someone attacks you and your vulnerability? Or worse, they don’t even see it and acknowledge it?

But how is someone supposed to be rescued if no one knows they need help?

I think what I’m learning, again and again, is that, in spite of me not feeling it, it’s in my vulnerability that God can prove Himself rescuer, and in doing so, make me genuinely strong.

That doesn’t change the fact that I desperately want a partner that can see past my bullshit, who can actually see me, who can be strong for me when I desperately yearn to be weak.

But even writing that here is vulnerability, and I’ve learned that that’s where God can work.

Final thing, and then I’ll shut up. I am CONVINCED that things would have been different if Adam and Eve would have stepped forward from their hiding when God called for them. But they hid. They covered their nakedness, their vulnerability.

God is the “I Am.” How is He supposed to step into communion, to show up as the “I Am” when we’re hiding.

He yearns for us to say, “Here I Am,” when He asks, “Where are you?”

Right here. In the wake of the consequences of my decisions. In the wake of me not trusting Your word. In the place where I believed a lie over Truth. This is where I am. Right here. Here I am.

It’s a millennia later, and He’s still asking the same question, and He’s looking for people who will remember we are made in His likeness.

The Great I Am asks us to align with who He is and say, “Here I Am.”

Here I am, God. All of me. Especially the icky, fucked up parts. The scared parts. The irreparably broken parts. The parts begging to be rescued.

Here I am. Save me.

Purpose and the Politician

I spent a few days in Texas. For those of you who don’t know, I went to a Christian leadership school called Teen Mania’s Honor Academy. Acquire the Fire and all that Jazz. In spite of the trauma that was our education, or rather because of it, I came out of there with some amazing friends and memories—one of whom was getting married. Thus the trip to Dallas, Texas.

But as I’m sitting there, watching my beautiful friend get married, surrounded by our old friends from school, I wonder, “Who will be at my wedding? Would any of these people come?”

The thought sent me to the car where I pounded back two hard ciders where a crazy man was walking the center of the street yelling at passerby’s, and I pretended to be talking to someone on my phone because the anxiety of friendless weddings was overshadowed the the anxiety of the stranger man coming at me for not giving him a cider. **Reads back over previous sentence, wondering if that’s actually a complete sentence, and pats back for one long-ass sentence.**

No one really talks about the cost of being gay these days. Which is great! Because there are happier things. There’s gay prom and lesbian marriages and trans-visibility day and surrogate mothers and adopted children.

We’ve come a long way… but it’s still hard.

It’s ended friendships; it’s parentless weddings; it’s no babies that you and your partner create; it’s reaching for your partner’s hand in public and wondering if people care, and it’s getting kicked out of churches and evangelical spaces, spaces you found a lot of purpose and belonging and passion…

I watched the Politician tonight. If you haven’t watched it, do it. It’s a stroke of genius. But as I’m watching, the main character, Payton Hobart, is depressed and hopeless while playing the piano in a local bar and it’s because he lost access to his passion. To deal with the loss, he killed any hope of returning to the very thing that gave him life: politics.

I’m not political. At least not like Payton. I’m not sure if anyone is as political as Payton. But to steal one of those annoying pages from those middle school grammar books: Payton is to politics as Brandon is to ministry.

Stressing to sell out an event. Staying up till four to set up a stadium. Kneeling in the snow as a fake Jesus in a skit you’ve done for the 200th time. Praying with a stranger. Holding a dying woman’s hand. Laughing and spooning friends you met three months ago, but you’d call them family. Talking with a kid over coffee about Jesus. Leading a congregation in worship.

All of it. I miss it.

When I came out, I felt as though I was disqualified from all of it. It was as though I was sacrificing all of these things related to ministry and family and friends for the sake of love, which is why I felt like my relationship needed to be perfect. If it wasn’t, why was I giving all of this up?

Watching Payton Hobart come alive while debating politics made me miss the things that make me come alive, the things I feel so disqualified from.

“My people perish for lack of vision.” It’s a verse… somewhere in the Bible. I could go look it up, but I’d rather keep writing.

I feel that. I feel a perishing or squandering in myself that yearns to wake up and feel and know it’s worth living, to know it’s doing something only it can do, a sense of purpose and destiny. I miss destiny. I miss believing every word and movement had intention, a kiss of the eternal, and not something passing and wasteful. I miss that.

I yearn for a kiss of destiny, to burn again.

How does one get fire back when life has thrown snow and rain on not only the embers but the wood and coal? How do we rekindle the flame?

I miss that Brandon. I want him back.

No Man’s Land

In Lady Montague’a “Turkish Embassy Letters” she describes a people group in South Eastern Europe, during the Ottoman Empire. They existed between Islamic nations and Christian nations. Out of fear, they kept both holy days, refusing to work on both Friday’s and Sunday’s.

I resonate with that—binding yourself to fear so intimately you live in two worlds instead of one, two realities instead of one, caught at a crossroad, committed to nothing, becoming a citizen to this space between countries: no man’s land.

———————

I’ve been depressed lately. About four weeks to be exact.

I’m not positive of the catalyst. What I do know is that I’ve been paralyzed by fear, watching as much Netflix as possible, so I can just not feel for the next x amount of episodes. (I’ve nearly watched all of Grace and Frankie, and finding a new show is really hard!)

The amount of nights committed to ice cream and television is abhorrent. I need to get homework done.

But it’s hard to live. If I’m being honest. It’s hard to live when it feels like an elephant is stepping on your chest. Makes it hard to breathe.

I came out 3.5 years ago, and if I’m honest, it hasn’t “gotten easier.” It’s gotten harder.

Being gay isn’t easy. There are some days I wish I never came out. Not because I want to hide the truth but because it doesn’t feel true most days.

Most days I deal with imposter syndrome, like someone gave me a script I’m not familiar with and I’m fumbling through the lines. I don’t get being gay. It doesn’t fit, like an oversized, hand-me-down sweater.

I can’t do the drag shows or the hyper sexuality or the open relationships or the club scene or the death after thirty or the gym-ing or the kinks or the sex on the first date or the need to be fashionable and interesting.

I don’t like any of it. It doesn’t fit.

But then I attend an old church and they feel like clothes that shrunk in the wash.

The with-every-head-bowed-and-every-eye-closed faith that doesn’t amount to anything, the come-Lord-Jesus-come’s when He said He’ll never leave us nor forsake us, the mini-money sermon before the plate passes, the every-one-is-welcome-but-not-really, the bless-you’s and shake-the-hand-of-the-person-next-to-you. I can’t take any more of it.

It’s like when I came out of the closet I looked behind the curtain of church and all the churches feel fake, the Bible feels like a weapon, and Christians feel like vacuum salesmen who are selling a product they don’t believe in but they’re terrified of not making their quota.

But I get it.

I’m terrified of Hell. I’m terrified of wasting my life. I’m terrified of being gay. I’m terrified of marrying a woman. I’m terrified of marrying a man. I’m terrified of being a father. I’m terrified of doing anything or believing anything.

I’m paralyzed.

So what do I do? I honor both days. I don’t do anything on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

I’m exhausted. Like feel-it-in-my-bones exhausted. Like God-please-take-me-home exhausted.

In my cult school down in Texas, we did an activity where staff members pretended to be a hostile government while we students were persecuted Christians. The role-playing led to my friends being thrown in jail (a camp shower house). I was supposed to rush the door, but a man with an automatic paint-ball gun stood between me and the door. Instead of rushing him, smacking his gun away, and freeing my friends like some Christian McGiver, I slunk away.

That moment haunts me. It haunts me because it reminds me of what’s happening again and again: I’m to scared to throw myself at either country: gay or Christian, and you best believe people will tell you can’t have dual citizenship. Both countries are separated by a big Trump wall and missiles pointed at each other, just waiting for any excuse to jump on the other.

The two identities i carry within me are at war with each other, not just externally in the world around me, but inside me as well, and I don’t fit into either of them anymore, and I’m scared as hell in this no-man’s land.

I just want to be comfortable in my own skin, to know and believe who I am, who God is, and be unapologetic about it. But I can’t find a mirror or God, so I’m a bit fucked at the moment. So I’ll watch this really cool movie where a nerd falls in love with Arya with cancer, because I would rather feel that than feel this unresolved mess of confusion that is my life.

Netflix: your next episode starts in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

How Can I be Gay and Christian — A Look into My Methodology

In recent news, there’s been a convergence of two major groups: Christians and the LGBTQ+ population, two groups that are normally at odds with one another. These animosities are beginning to reach a boiling point as more and more entities are choosing to create space for both identities, challenging the conception that they are incongruent.

An openly gay Christian man is hoping to become the Democratic party’s presidential candidate for 2020; a gay Christian dating app is hitting the market this year; and some Methodist churches are fighting against a recent vote within their denomination, a vote which labels homosexuality as a sin.

As I share these stories, I know there are individuals and communities alike who are angry. The reason I know this is because I’ve experienced it. As I came out as a gay Christian, friends threatened hell, parents left the room, and strangers blasted me about how I’m not actually a Christian. Even with the launch of this post, comments have soared on social media with people arguing vehemently their point and how they’re right.

When Mayor Pete Buttigieg, an openly gay Christian man, announced his intention to run for president, crowds screamed “Sodom and Gomorrah,” and major Christian figures like Franklin Graham demanded his repentance. Side note: why hasn’t Graham demanded repentance from other presidential candidates for fraud, embezzlement, infidelity, lying, or pride? I digress.

It’s as if the words “queer” and “Christian” are combustible, but instead of a chemical reaction, there’s an explosion of emotion and opinion.

But why? Why the knee-jerk anger, especially from a people whom Jesus said are supposed to be known by their love? Why is it that I’ve seen multiple YouTube videos of Christian parents throwing out their gay children, while I’ve never seen a Christian parent throw a coming out party for their child? Why is it that, according to San Francisco State University’s Family Acceptance Project, highly religious homes are far more likely to kick their kid out for being gay than non-religious parents?

One reason: the Bible, more specifically, how Christians relate to the Bible.

I was defined by being an Evangelical Christian. That identity permeated every moment of my life. At a very young age, I remember coloring in the pews as my dad played the drums and my mom led the Children’s Ministry.  As I grew up, I started volunteering with children and youth at a very early age. I was at church at least three times a week. But I was just getting warmed up. Following my high school graduation, I attended a Christian leadership academy, became a youth pastor, served as a missionary in Europe, and led worship at multiple churches. All of my immediate friends and family were and are Christian. But when those closest to me were confronted with my existence as a gay, Christian man, the majority felt torn, torn between obeying a book or loving me.

“Brandon, I’m trying to love you and your brother,” my mother said through tears, months after my younger brother came out, “but I’m caught between obeying the Bible or loving my son. It’s so hard!”

Without this book, my mom would have no problem loving her sons. Without this book, my friends would not be apprehensive about standing with me on my wedding day. Without this book, people wouldn’t feel pulled in two directions, unable to decide, and scared to form an opinion.

What does this mean? Is the Bible a bunch of garbage written by European men to manipulate and control the populace? Some would argue this opinion. But that is not what I am arguing.

As I said above, I’m a gay Christian man, and many would challenge my existence, claiming those two identities cannot cohabitate one body. But my argument is that they can. My argument is that Christians have been relating to the Bible poorly and that there is a relationship we can have to scripture that allows mothers to love their kids and sanctions peers to stand by their gay friend’s side as they declare their vows. And just as many of my opponents would start with scripture, asking me, “But what about Sodom and Gomorrah? What about the two verses in Leviticus? What about Romans one?” (As if they are the first person to introduce me to these scriptures, which I’ve been aware of for the majority of my life because they directly affect me.) That’s where I would like to start — scripture.

There are six verses in the Bible concerning homosexuality. Six. For comparison, according to Blue Letter Bible, there are 16 passages on divorce, 62 verses about pride, and 111 verses concerning money.

For those of us who are gay and Christian, we call these six passages, the “clobber” passages because most Christians use these verses to clobber us. Regarding these verses, many publications and organizations, such as The Reformation Project, QCF, Unclobbered, God and the Gay Christian, Torn, Bible Gender Sexuality, Changing Our Minds (to list a few), all talk about how these verses are contextual and are actually not talking about homosexuality how we think of it today. They are either talking about idol worship that included using boys for prostitution, pedophilia, or a lack of hospitality to the foreigner. They were not talking about loving, committed gay relationships.

But people would argue, “You can’t read into this. You have to take the Bible for face value. It says what it says.” If that is the case, women should be silent in church (I Corinthians 14:34). If that is the case, we should not allow divorce on any grounds but infidelity (Matthew 19:9). If that is the case, we shouldn’t have tattoos (Leviticus 19:28), we shouldn’t eat meat with blood in it (Acts 15:20), we should yield to corrupt government (Romans 13:1-7), and we should cut off body parts when they cause us to sin (Matthew 5:29).

My list could continue for far more than a paragraph, but I think you get it. What’s my point? My point is that we contextualize all the time.

How is it fair to contextualize certain parts of the Bible and then not others? We have to look at what was applicable for ancient Israel or the early church and translate it for those of us who live in a modern world. Scripture cannot stay locked in a cultural vacuum, and I’m not just saying this because it benefits me. I’m saying it because it’s exactly what the early church did in Acts.

In Acts 15, there’s massive dissension concerning Gentiles (non-Jews) who are being baptized. Many are saying that they should be circumcised and follow the Jewish law in its entirety, a list of over 600 commandments, including two of our “clobber” verses about homosexuality.

In the end, it is determined by the 12 apostles that the Gentiles shouldn’t be forced to obey the law. They scrap it altogether. Instead, they gave them four rules: don’t eat meat offered to idols, don’t consume blood, abstain from sexual immorality, and don’t eat meat that was strangled.

In one meeting, the whole law is ruled inappropriate to a different culture and new instructions are given to non-Jews. Why? Who gave the apostles the right to change the rules?

Jesus.

“Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,” Matthew 16:19.

So where’s the law? Should we just scrap all forms of morality under the grace of Jesus Christ?

No. Instead, Jesus gave us a new law. Well, two, actually.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments,” John 13:34.

Not some of the law. All of it.

The apostles gave instructions that would help the Gentile believers serve God, to help them obey the first law. They did this from a place of love, obeying the second law. They were obeying the teachings of Christ.

In spite of the six verses in the Bible about homosexuality, Jesus doesn’t mention homosexuality once during his time on Earth. Instead, he talks about love — about loving your God, about loving your neighbor, and about people knowing you’re one of his disciples because of your love.

Can we say that this is true? Do people call Christians “the most loving people”? Are we known by this today? No, instead we’re known as judgmental and ignorant and hypocritical, picketing queer political candidates and abortion clinics.

Is this love? Or have we done what early enemies of the church did — reimplementing the law out of fear?

As a gay Christian, I know I can exist and hold to my faith because, one, there are contexts to the verses we use to batter LGBTQ+ people that need to be considered, and two, Jesus’s commandment to me was not to be straight. His commandment to me was to love my God and to love people, that’s exactly what I intend to do.

Epilogue – Colorado Springs, CO

And now is the part where I say, “I returned home! My journies enlightened me. I’ve been changed.”

If only…

Life has been rough since coming back. I would love to say that all the travels and people transformed me. In the moment, it did. Hope was birthed. Love re-kindled. It was as though life was emerging from the ashes. But then I came back to Colorado to stare at the charred mess I made. A mess of lives, mine and those I love. It choked the hope out of me like the weeds in Jesus’s parable.

Upon returning home, it took me less than two hours to find a bathhouse. It took less than a week to find a man on Grindr. It took less than a month to forget I even traveled.

It’s true that traveling gave me hope. It’s true that my heart softened. But now that soft heart could feel. And it was feeling a lot.

Loneliness. Hopelessness. Aimlessness. All the nesses covered in remorse. Where was God in all this?

My life revolved around my ex for so long, it’s like my life is now revolving around a black hole. The absence of him carries an immeasurable weight that makes it unbearable most days.

The only way of explaining how I felt was like treading water. I’m not sure where to go. Where’s land? But this feeling wasn’t new. I felt like this before my ex.

In 2012, I left for Berlin to join a missions organization. I was eager to be discipled. I had been in leadership since the age of fourteen. I was ready to have someone teach me, to see God move, to be a part of something important. Instead, I was asked to produce a show while suffering emotional abuse at the hands of a leader committing an affair with one of the students. And on top of that, I was paying to be there. It’s like I’m a masochist!

If that wasn’t enough, I felt so alone. Not only was I not being led by someone, I had a peer completely abandon me for no reason whatsoever. But the abandonment was greater than people. I felt abandoned by God.

One day, while in Mumbai, I prayed for a woman missing a led. I helplessly watched as the woman wept. “Why won’t God give me my leg back?” I didn’t have answers. Maybe God wasn’t there. But I needed him, and so did my family. My brother was hospitalized from a major car accident. We all needed God. Where was He? Was He even there? Was He ever there?

As a kid, I prayed that someone would find me when I was molested for five straight years by an older boy. I was never discovered.

As a teenager, I prayed that God would make me straight. That he would change me. I’m still attracted to men.

As an adult man, I prayed I would have other men show me the way. I have yet to find a mentor, though I’ve joined two discipleship schools.

Disappointment after disappointment overshadowed me, communicating one message: I was on my own. I needed to figure out life for myself. No one was coming to save me.

And on that plane home, I began the treading.

Find a career. Figure out a future. Find love. Don’t be alone.

I downloaded Grindr; I met a man who came to my rescue, and I began the first relationship I ever had with a man… and I was petrified.

It was a late night in March. We had reconnected after three months. I had broken up with him due to fear of hell, but we had eventually navigated friendship. He had started dating another guy, and I really wanted him to see that someone was going to stick around no matter what, even if he would never date me. I wanted him to see he was worth it.

But then we’re sitting in the car and he kisses me. I pull back. “I can’t do this. I don’t know where I’ve landed on sexuality and God. I don’t want to hurt you again.”

But then a promise was given. “If you were to tell me tomorrow we need to be friends, I’m okay with that. I love how you wrestle things out with God. It’s one of the biggest reasons I’m attracted to you. I just want to be as close to you as I can.”

My heart soared. The invitation for someone to walk this journey out with me was everything. For so long, I had been walking this road alone. Now someone wanted to walk with me? Take a risk on me? How could I say no?

But I should have.

The result was a relationship that hurt people, and a fallout that wrecked us both.

If I could go back in time and yell at my younger self to say, “No! Stay friends. Don’t date. Stay strong. It’ll cost you everything and you’ll lose the person you love,” I would. At least then I would still have this person I care about in my life. Instead, my friends get to keep him. They get to benefit from my investment. And that hurts. I sacrificed so much but came up empty.

Moving out of my parents. Coming out to the world. Losing friends and ministry opportunities. Getting into a house I couldn’t afford. Changing my behavior to match my partners.

It was all for nothing.

That feeling of bankruptcy rings fiercely most days. I feel like a stepping stool. Everyone else benefited from this relationship but me. Everyone else got a meal while I got the bill. And that’s really hard to live with at times.

And the treading continues. I know I should trust God, but it’s hard.

The truth is, I tried to invite God back into my life. To trust Him again. I wanted Him to be a part of my life, especially the part that mattered the most–my romantic life.

So I invited God into my relationship. I analyzed verses, went to conferences, emailed all the experts. I was realizing that maybe a gay relationship was okay. That God could be at the center. The result was wanting to set boundaries around sex.

My boyfriend and I met on Grindr. Grindr isn’t really a good platform to set expectations of showing restraint regarding sex. And why show restraint? When you believe you’ve crossed the worst line, what were the lines before? What’s a small line like pre-marital sex in comparison to being a damned abomination?

You no longer have boundaries. They’ve all been broken already.

But here I was learning that maybe I can have a relationship with a man and have God at the center. And if I wanted to invite God into my relationship, it means He gets to speak into my sex life. It means He gets to say, “Wait.”

In hopes of ending this struggle between God and my relationship, I invited Him in, and I believe God told me to stop having sex. After all, we weren’t married. We weren’t even engaged. We had no commitment to one another. But our bodies were binding to each other. Don’t believe me? Try sleeping without the person you love for a few nights. Your body literally aches.

So with terror, I dared to trust. I held my breath and told my boyfriend that we couldn’t have sex. I held my breath, hoping everything would be okay. But it wasn’t.

He said wondered if our relationship was worth it. That I had hurt him too much. That this was too much. In the end, he wanted to break up. He wanted to salvage a friendship.

I was broken. I was hurt. Here I was trying to trust, and I was hurting the person that I loved. The last thing I wanted was to hurt this man. In that moment of pain, I was reminded of that premonition. “You will hurt this man.” I couldn’t afford to hurt him more.

I ended up agreeing with him. We should try and salvage a friendship. And when he changed his mind (as we had both done our two-year relationship), I said no. I refused to hurt him again. And since that day, I’ve worn this badge of martyrdom, as if I’d done something noble.

“Brandon,” my friend yelled at me. “Quit playing the victim card. You chose this.”

I chose this.

And when my day-to-day consists of hooking up with strangers, of weeping because of an HIV scare, of losing friends, of inflicting more pain, I think to myself, “Why the fuck did I do this? Why did I choose this?”

I doubt myself often and carry remorse and regret everywhere I go. I was selfish, and it hurt a lot of people. When I see their faces, I wish I could take back so much.

How did I become this selfish? I didn’t use to be. But if I didn’t have hope in a God taking care of me, who would? I had to take care of myself.

Pain gives birth to cynicism. Cynicism gives birth to loneliness. Loneliness gives birth to selfishness. Selfishness gives birth to pain.

And the cycle continues. A cycle every human has been trapped in since the dawn of time.

“Eye for an eye!” till the whole world is blind. That has been the truth for my world.

So what do we do with all of this? What do we do with selfishness and cynicism? Better question: what do I do with my selfishness and cynicism? I can’t fix the world. It’s not my job. But I can fix myself. And I knew that the root was my cynicism. But where did this root come from? The answer came at a place I never wanted to be–a men’s retreat. As a circle of middle-aged men stared at me, I was reminded of where this all began.

I was six. I was in the church attic. I was being molested by an older boy.

Where was God? Why didn’t He stop it? Why did this happen?

The men surrounding me dared me to answer that question for myself.

I stammered over words, trying to appease them.

“Why did Jesus have to die? He was always with me. He’ll redeem this.”

I stopped myself with a thought. How could You possibly redeem this?

“Because now you see people.”

I broke down. I wept in front of complete strangers. Male complete strangers! The worst kind! But I couldn’t help it. God really had redeemed my pain. They weren’t just trite words.

God does not cause pain. That’s the result of the world we’ve fucked up and the selfishness we carry out of pain. God doesn’t need our help with making the world blind. We’re capable of doing that all on our own. But we do need His help to believe that we can have an eye gouged out and “turn the other cheek”. Not because we’re weak, and we simply yield to adversity. But because we believe we have a God that will take care of us, break the cycle, and take horror and turn it into beauty. After all, isn’t that the cross? In the wounds that Jesus forever carries, he carries hope forever. Life came from his death. Maybe life could come from the pain I endured. Maybe God could redeem all the pain I caused.

So now I tell you, the reader, that since my travels and since that retreat I’m all better. All is well. I trust God, and I’m on a new path.

Nope! Still treading.

Just a few days after the retreat, I slept with complete strangers! The pain continues. The cynicism continues. The selfishness continues. And I continue to hurt people, perpetuating the cycle. How do I escape this?

I’m really scared God won’t look after the desires of my heart. Especially when my heart still desires a man’s strength, pursuit, and love. What if he doesn’t satisfy my heart? What if I’m fucked, destined to try and figure this out on my own? Destined to tread water forever? I panic. But then a calm voice speaks. The same calm voice that showed me I see people because of my pain.

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart?”

Honestly, that verse scares me. Will He? Will He actually? But then I’m reminded of years before being a missionary, years where I put God first, and He did satisfy my heart. And what I’m doing now sure isn’t working. What do I have to lose?

In spite of my pain, I’ve seen too much of His faithfulness, regardless of the pain. So as scary as it sounds, I dare to trust, as intrepid as it may be. That trust may break tomorrow. But so did all the cool people in the Bible.

Abraham ran to Egypt and knocked up a slave girl. David killed a man and took his wife. Israel made deals with the devil.

And yet God calls them all His.

I don’t think God is asking for perfection, just a little bit of trust. And it may break. But here in this moment, if only for a few minutes, can I trust?

“Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel! Again you will take up your tambourines and go forth in dancing.”

With everything that is in me, I desperately hope that God can make something of this rubble. That He’ll restore. That He’ll fix what I broke. That’ll He’ll heal myself and others.

Redeem this God. You redeemed so much already. Redeem this too.

Part 8. Phoenix, AZ

Arizona. How many times have I mentioned I hate deserts on this blog? And yet, I keep ending up in them. I will say this, there is something actually magical about a desert (can’t believe I said that). It strips you of any self-resilience. Strength doesn’t matter. Money can’t buy you anything. You’re stripped to nothing but you. Laid bare.

Maybe that’s why I keep ending up in deserts in spite of my complete disdain for them.

I think Jesus knew how apprehensive I was about this leg of the trip (I mean, He is God and all that) because the week I picked to come out to Phoenix, Dura had to work a lot. And that isn’t a stab a Dura. You’ll see where this ends up. It’s a stab at me. I think Jesus knew I was in a delicate space. Shit. I’m still in a delicate space. But needless to say, I think God created some space for me to just exist in Phoenix, to calm my nerves. And that calm came from a man I had yet to meet.

Because Dura was working three 24-hour shifts, her husband Josh picked me up. I had never met the guy. But we would be spending a large amount of time together, and I’m really thankful for it.

Josh is like the Yin to Dura’s Yang (or vice versa, I’m not going to pretend to be a master of Taoism; I’m having a hard enough time with my own faith at the moment). While Dura is this ball of bright fiery passion, Josh is like water. He’s soothing and calm. He can still be passionate, but it manifests differently. Like a powerful river. But he moves and bends with the people he’s with. He’s definitely a peacemaker at heart, and I was really grateful for it.

Since I barely knew the guy, and he’s now married to one of my good friends, I asked all the questions.

How did you guys meet? What are your passions? Where do you see yourself and Dura in five years? You know, all the superficial, easygoing questions you ask when you first meet someone. Didn’t want to overwhelm the guy…

But it literally didn’t phase him. He answered every question with such an assured calmness.

“We met through mutual friends.” “We both did the World Race.” “We want to help people in crisis, so we’re both becoming EMT’s.”

There is an ease that Josh produces to those around him. The result was calm mornings over coffee, relaxed evenings watching fireworks, and easygoing afternoons climbing rock walls.

Through the fury of questions, I can’t help but see God in Josh and Dura’s love story. They truly are perfect for each other. Like a dynamic duo. They have shared passion and vision, but go about it in such different ways because of their personalities. They yield to each other because they’re yielded to God and have purpose in everything they do. And it’s not just in their marriage, but how they live that you can see God active and moving.

Dura and Josh shared stories where God told them to do something, and they just went for it. You know those people that talk of their dreams and what they want to do and it stops there? That’s not Josh and Dura. They dream and go. It’s so inspiring.

One time Dura felt like God was saying to go to Jordan. She didn’t have money or contacts, but she trusted. Once there, she met people and started hitchhiking into Israel. Why? Because, again, she felt like that was what God was calling her to do. She simply trusted a voice within.

This inner voice has led them around the world three times between the two them, a nine-month Europe backpacking trip on their honeymoon, management of an island resort, and back to the desert to become EMT’s. There’s so much adventure and purpose in this trust.

While being with them, I was reminded of my past. A past where I did the same thing, and I missed it.

When I lived in Berlin, I would walk the streets, asking God, “Where next?” With a calm trust, I would end up in the coolest cafés. Like, hidden-in-a-canal-surrounded-by-water-gardens cool cafés. I’d talk to strangers on the streets, asking God what to say. Next thing I know, the stranger is crying, asking how I knew those secret places of their heart. Or when a girl was dying of leukemia, I heard a scripture reference. Turns out it’s about bones. I read it to the girl, prayed, and she was miraculously healed.

There was this faith and reckless trust I had with Jesus that led me to crazy places, meeting amazing people.

But something happened. Well, actually a lot happened.

  • My head pastor caught in adultery
  • A Bible school closed down due to embezzlement
  • A mission school wringing me dry for ego
  • The mission leader having an affair with a student

And this is the part where all the Christians say, “But Brandon, those are people. They’re not perfect. God didn’t do those things.” True. But I got beef with Jesus too.

When I served as a missionary, I prayed for a woman with a missing leg. I was believing for a miracle. I asked her to stand up out of her chair, thinking of the stories of Jesus. Instead of a miracle, I got a sobbing woman, begging God for her leg. “Why won’t He give me my leg back?”

I didn’t know.

The questions came, “Does God care or hear me? Hear her? Why didn’t that work? Jesus said it would work. Did I do something wrong? Is He even there?”

Remember those cool walks I went on? Well, there was this one time I listened to that small voice and ended up in the middle of nowhere.

The questions came, “Is this made up in my head? Does God really speak? Is He even real? Or is this just my imagination?”

At the end of my mission school, I hitchhiked, hoping to see God provide for me. The result was sleeping on the streets of Geneva. My friend and I had asked a church to take us in for the event. They said they couldn’t do that. I got drunk that night, screaming to my friend, “Some hands and feet of Jesus they are!”

I was not in a good place. But wait! There’s more!

“Brandon, we didn’t want to tell you because we didn’t want to ruin your trip. But you’ll eventually see it on social media. Nathan (my brother) had a seizure and crashed into a car. It was bad. A piece of his bone was in the street. But we’re praying and believing God for a miracle. We don’t want you to worry. Everything is going to be okay.”

But everything wasn’t okay, and I was worried. Nathan didn’t get a miracle. And to top it off, the next leg of my journey was to Lyon, where a friend from Bible college awaited me. She had de-converted, becoming an agnostic. The time was spent drinking and talking about how my faith was all in my head and most “healings” are just due to the power of belief.

Maybe this was all in my head. Maybe this is all fake.

By the time I boarded a plane to help my family with my brother, I was having an existential crisis. I didn’t know what I believed, what was true, who I could trust, and what I was supposed to do. I was breaking inside. But my family was falling apart too.

So what did I do? I buried my fears, hurts, and pain, taking on the responsibility of saving my family. I thought it was a burden I was putting on myself when my mom pulled me aside with tears in her eyes and said, “Brandon, save this family. You’re the only one that can.”

Since that moment, I haven’t been the same. I’ve felt like I was completely alone, fighting to make it through life. I wanted to believe I wasn’t alone, that God was for me, but everything said the contrary.

There’s a moment that describes my internal world perfectly.

We were standing in Nathan’s hospital room. People from the church had come to anoint him with oil and pray over him. As they began to pray, I stepped out of the room. Not because I thought it was garbage, but because all the verses on unbelief inhibiting healing blared in my head. I was believing and unbelieving all at once.

“Most cynics are really crushed romantics: they’ve been hurt, they’re sensitive, and their cynicism is a shell that’s protecting this tiny, dear part in them that’s still alive.” – Jeff Bridges.

Who I am today is incredibly cynical. I criticize worship songs, showing how they don’t exhibit true theology. I revolt flashy churches, calling them hypocritical, money-making business. I hide from prophets, fearing to be seen.

But underneath it all is a hopeless romantic wanting to believe again, to tear down the walls of cynicism to trust again.

And here I was, trapped in a desert, once again, with two people who were daring to trust God, to take a risk with that quiet voice, and I missed it. I missed the adventure, the life, the love, and destiny these two people displayed with such humility and grace. They weren’t pompous. They weren’t assuming. They were living the life they felt led to live, and it stained everything they touched with divinity.

The yearning was so fierce, I was at risk of burning. Shit, I was burning. Burning with a desire to see what was lost be found, to recover the broken and missing places in my shattered heart.

But how? How do I relinquish my cynicism when I’m so scared those tiny pieces of me could be swept away? Like doubting to protect what little belief I had left.

By the time Dura and I got time together, the apprehension had given way to desperation. I couldn’t keep living the way I was.

But instead of coming in like a passionate flame, Dura showed me patience. She asked questions. We rode bikes together in the late cool hours (cool meaning 90 degrees instead of 115). She invited me into her life and shared intimate secrets, as you would with a dear friend.

When the strike came, I was open and vulnerable. She’d jumped over my walls. Or maybe, I opened the gate, hoping someone would sneak in.

“Brandon,” Dura was sitting across the breakfast table from me. “While you were cooking in the kitchen, I saw a vision of you standing with your wife. She was petite and had dark brown hair. She was laughing at all your jokes. She understood you completely and cherished you.”

If I had not spent time with Dallas and Ariel, experiencing an unconditional love, if I had not spent time with Leah and Zay, witnessing a miracle, if I had not ridden on a boat with Becca and Jordan, exposed by direct questions, if I had not crashed on Emily and Christopher’s couch, delighting in their love, if I had not written this run-on sentence, I think I would have lashed out at Dura. I would have asked, “Why not a husband?! Why not a dear friend?! Why does it have to be a wife?!”

But something had happened to me. Something had changed by the time I came back to the desert.

A hopeful desperation.

And when Dura said those words, I didn’t get angry. I yearned for what she saw.

When you tune an instrument to other instruments, you play the notes together, adjusting till a wobble in the notes subsides. When the instruments are in tune, there’s a reverberation that lets you know, “this is right.”

I felt that when Dura shared her vision, and I was reminded of another time someone’s words rang true. It came from the least likely of places–my last boyfriend.

“Brandon,” We were lying next to each other. It was one of our final nights before he moved to Arizona. We decided from the beginning that we would break up once he left. Feeling a lot, neither of us talked much. We both knew what was ahead and knew how much this would hurt us. But he broke the silence. “We’re going to be okay. We both need this. I need to figure some things with Jesus, and you need to figure out if you’re gay or not convinced.”

Of all the people in the world to say those words, it was him. And when he did, my heart reverberated.

Now am I saying I’m straight. Yeah, no. I’m attracted to guys and dating a man offered a lot of things I’ve never experienced with a woman. I don’t think a straight person would say that.

But am I gay? If my own boyfriend was doubting, maybe there was something there. And maybe there was something in what Dura was seeing. Maybe there was something in me that had been clawing in desperation to survive on its own when there was something more beautiful on the other side of cynicism. Something that required trust.

I’m not saying that my story is right. I’m not saying that others are wrong. And I’m not saying that another narrative doesn’t require trust.

I think each of us with the burden of belonging to the LGBTQ rainbow all have our own journey to walk, navigating these queer questions, finding personal answers. But regardless of answers, I think all of our journies start with trust. Trust that God sees you and has a unique story for you. But I think mine looks a bit like Abraham.

The guy was old. His wife was old. They shouldn’t be producing kids. But they had a promise that they would. But when Abraham took things into his own hands, when he believed he was alone and had to figure this out on his own, he knocked up a slave girl.

Maybe this was the promise God spoke about! Maybe he messed up! It wasn’t meant to be Sarah! It was meant to be Hagar!

But God sent off Hagar and the child into the desert. He would not share the glory with Abraham. This was His miracle to conjure up. He didn’t want it to be manmade.

I think for a long time now, I’ve been trying to survive with things manmade of my own making. And in the process, I’ve hurt a lot of people, specifically those I love most. I wish I trusted. I wish I didn’t hide behind my walls of cynicism to preserve a broken faith. And for all the pain I’ve caused you, I’m so sorry. I wish I could take it back. I wish I could have loved you better. I’m sorry.

For my sake and those my life touches, I desperately hope I will learn to trust again, to invite God back into my life, to obey what He says. Not because I’m a slave like Hagar. God called Abraham a friend. Not a servant. And in Christ, I’m called a son who He cares about infinitely. I don’t know what the future holds. But I can’t keep treading water, drowning in my own strength. If only for pure desperation, something needs to change, something needs to give, and I think that something is faith.

To all those I who opened their house and hearts to me over the last few weeks, thank you. The little faith I have is due to you, due to your trust, and I’m eternally thankful.

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.

A Criticism of Gay Culture by a Gay Man

Mark and I sat at a high top, drinking beer out of tiny glasses. The place charged by the ounce. We thought it was the greatest thing ever. We could try all the beers, only drinking a little. But there was a problem—they charged by ounce! The bill ended up being a whole lot larger for a lot of tiny tasters. But we weren’t here for the beer. We were here to talk about being gay. Come to think of it, that might have actually been the problem. You can’t tackle that topic over one beer, let alone some tiny beers.

Mark had found my blog and reached out to me, wanting to share his story and get advice on coming out.

Mark and I weren’t exactly friends, but we were always in the same circles. In other words, we didn’t know how to interact with one another over our tiny beers.

Mark’s eyes searched, dancing around, looking for a hook. And like the obnoxious, sarcastic person I am, with a flare for the dramatic, I poked at the intensity with directness.

“So you wanna come out, huh?”

While I let words splatter out of my mouth, Mark is not like that. He’s methodical. Thus, the searching eyes. Even with a yes-or-no question, Mark took his time. He sat, eyes searching for the right words as he nodded gently. “Yeah… I think I do.” His eyes finally met mine.

“Well, welcome to the worst sub-culture in existence!” I threw back the last of my beer for dramatic effect, then slammed down my tiny cup.


Now before we jump into reading an article where a gay man criticizes the culture he finds himself in, let me outline what this is and is not:

It is not ammo for straight, non-affirming people. You don’t get to use this to say, “See! I knew those homos were x, y, or z.” I could very easily write an article criticizing straight culture. Every culture has its criticisms. None of us are exempt. But like all issues within a culture, they’re systemic. They are not isolated, and have roots in culture at large. That’s what this article hopes to address.

Second off, this article is uncomfortable. You will be confronted with stories that might be hard to hear. But in spite of the awkward ruffled rainbow feathers, please read to the end or stop reading now. I’m gonna need a non-verbal commitment that I will never hear or have any accountability for before reading on. Good? Cool.

Here we go.

Five years leading up to this moment with Mark, I tiptoed around the realm of gay culture. Being honest about my story had allowed me to look at it and test the waters here or there. But I really didn’t jump in headlong till I started dating a man for the first time and posted a coming out video on Facebook two years ago.

Overnight, tons of friends and strangers reached out to me, thanking me for my video. My stuttering, stumbling, unedited feed somehow gave strength to strangers and friends to come out or begin the conversation. Like Mark.

I was so excited and honored, thinking I was doing something revolutionary, when in reality, more heroic individuals had paved the way.

But something had happened in the timespan of posting that Facebook video to meeting with Mark over tiny beers. I was fed up with the gay culture, and I wasn’t the only one.


“Don’t end up with a dude, Zach. They’re all terrible!” Matt blurts out, as Zach and I sit on the couch, drinking martinis. Matt and Zach are roommates, gay (well sort of), and not partners. In fact, they’ve never had sex with each other. Not once. A fact that every gay man has raised their eyes to, as if to say, “Yeah… right…” As if to say, “Gay men can’t be just friends. They’ll eventually sleep with each other.”

“I’m serious, Zach. All men are terrible! You’re better off with a woman.” Matt is on his third martini and is getting more and more vocal and more and more slap happy. Literally. I have red marks on my thighs to prove it.

Zach has been exploring the sexual rainbow for a few months, trampling all over the spectrum. He’s been with men, women, young, old, ugly, sexy. It doesn’t matter who it is, Zach just wants to have sex. However, Zach and Matt had just gotten back from Denver where Zach had a terrible encounter with a group of gay men.

“I genuinely thought gay men were different. I thought I could be myself and be accepted, but these guys were assholes!”

“What Zach is trying to say,” Matt elaborates, “is that he pissed these gay men off because he said, ‘All gay men are easy’, and they tore in to him!” Matt slaps Zach in between each word for emphasis, then giggles to himself.

“What? It’s true!” Zach says. “It’s a whole lot easier to get in a guy’s pants than a girl’s.”

“You think that’s true, Matt?” I pipe up from the other end of the couch.

“Most homosexual men I meet are trying to become sexual as quickly as possible. Even with my ex, we had sex on the second date. I thought that was going a bit fast, but he didn’t.”

Honestly, Matt had a point. With my ex-boyfriend, we had sex on the second date too. And outside of dating, I could get a hook up with a guy a whole lot faster than with a girl.

This past summer, I visited a friend in Oakland. I had recently broken up with my boyfriend and I just wanted meaningless sex. So what did I do? I do what every gay man does when he wants booty as quickly as possible. I downloaded Grindr.

The following are actual profiles on Grindr that I copied the other day:

Looking for now. Looking4Hung. Let’s play RN. Horny. F***MyHole.

What the profile names on Grindr lack in creativity, they make up for in blatant candor.

Within two minutes of downloading the app, I had a boy and apartment at my disposal. And that’s truly what it was—disposal. Both men using each other to get something out of the other. It’s not a night of passion. It’s a transaction. A fact that has made it hard to even consider having a loving relationship with another man.


“What about gay marriages?” I’m back with Matt, attempting to eat ice cream while I drive, and I’m failing miserably at it. White and brown seep down my arm and onto the steering wheel, as Matt gracefully laps his ice cream with a napkin on his lap. He’s a lot better at this than I am.

“I’m cynical of gay relationships.” Matt says.

“Why?”

“I am very suspicious of any homosexual, male couple because I feel like they are all open.” Matt goes on to talk about his good friend on the East Coast. He had been married for three years, but had recently solicited Matt for sex. Turns out their marriage was open.

“What the hell? All gay men have open relationships! Does anyone believe in sanctity anymore?!”

Why was Matt so upset about this? Why was I upset with him? I think it’s because we are all holding our breath, hoping someone will be different, that someone will give us hope of something to look forward to, but we keep getting let down. In my years of coming out and stepping into the gay culture, I have yet to meet a gay couple that hasn’t been open at one point or another.

“Do you have any gay role models, Matt?”

“Gay role models??? I feel like that’s an oxymoron.” Matt crunches down on the last bit of his cone and slaps his hands together to get rid of the crumbs. Matt then shares there isn’t a single gay man he looks up to and how he views most gay men as “damaged goods.”

Many of my gay friends and gay strangers alike have used this exact phrase on multiple occasions—”damaged goods”. It’s always said so matter of fact, as if it’s some reality we just learn to live with.

In fact, one time, while sitting in a hot tub, at a local bath house, a man went at length, talking about how broken and repressed other gay men are. We’re literally in a bath house, soliciting random strangers for anonymous sex in a building with cameras and metal doors to make sure people don’t know we’re here, and this guy is criticizing how broken and repressed everyone else is in Colorado Springs?

We’re self-destructive, calling out deficiencies in each other, eating our own, all the while contributing to the problem.

Where in the world does this come from? The answer would come so casually, I almost missed it.


The first gay club I ever went to was with my now ex-boyfriend. In an attempt to “act straight”, we found the straightest thing we could do in a fog filled, laser light, go-go dancing warehouse—we played pool and drank beer.

As we attempted to look like we knew what we were doing, a gang of lesbians watched us. And it was a gang. Like a pride of lionesses, I felt at any second, they’d pounce on the two gay boys and show us how it’s done. After all, all lesbians know how to play pool.

But after I realized I hated pool and that I’m terrible at it, I started people watching. I was so perplexed by this new environment.

Stranger danced on stranger. Bartenders served shot after shot in nothing but thongs. Thunderous bass shook us all to the bone.

By all counts, this should be a happy place. Alcohol. Music. Dancing. But everyone was so somber.

“What’s wrong?” I had stared too long. My boyfriend had noticed and spoke up.

“Everyone just seems so sad.”

My boyfriend followed my gaze. “Well, when you put a ton of people that have experienced so much trauma all together, you’re bound to be sad.” He drank his very “straight” beer and went back to pool as if the thought was so obvious. But it wasn’t so obvious. It was profound!

Yes, LGBTQ individuals have been given the right of marriage. But decades of hiding in the closet doesn’t go away overnight. The fear and anxiety of being attracted to the same sex doesn’t magically disappear with legislation. The very fact that my boyfriend had to play pool and drink beer to not look “too gay” is evidence enough. In fact, the day he met my parents, the first words out of his mouth were, “I’m gay, but I’m not a faggot.”

The repression continues. The closet continues.

Michael Hobbes wrote a powerful line in his essay on gay loneliness that summarizes this thought. “Whether we recognize it or not, our bodies bring the closet with us into adulthood.” He goes on to share that even though we’re experiencing more liberties as gay men than ever before, more and more gay men are finding themselves utterly alone.

And it’s so true. I feel it. My friends feel it.

The repression that was our ally as a child is now is our enemy. And what happens when a people are repressed for too long? What happens when a piece of you has been shoved into a corner for years? What happens to a child that will not be heard?

The child screams.

And just like a child, I think our sexuality is screaming. It’s demanding to be heard, and the only way we know how to get that sobbing piece of us to shut up is to appease it with sex.


“Where do you think this comes from, Matthew?”

“An entire minority group has not been allowed to express themselves, and then suddenly being able to express their pent up sexual identity… I think we’re still feeling the reverberations of that.”

I agree with my friend. We are still feeling the reverberations of it.

It wasn’t too long ago that I watched Love, Simon alone at Tinseltown. While the rest of the viewers congregated to the left side of the theater, I sat on the right. I had a feeling this was gonna be a rough one, and I did not want some randos staring at the sobbing mess holding himself in fetal position. I was right. Except the fetal position part. Like I said, I have a flair for the dramatic.

As Simon’s mom began talking with him about how she’s felt like he’s been holding his breath, I literally had the hardest time breathing. I heaved for air, desperate for that kind of conversation. For someone to mirror my pain, for someone to see I was hurting, and for someone to give me permission to be. To not make it such a big deal and to reaffirm their love for me, specifically at that critical age. It would have been so freeing to just date a guy in high school, for it to not be a big deal, and see if I even wanted that type of relationship.

But instead, I had to navigate these turbulent waters in secret and shame, like sailing a pitch black ocean in a raging typhoon. Years wasted on porn. Countless conversations with strangers. Endless nights littered with tears. All the while, the tension and pressure in my chest continued to rise. These “releases” weren’t releases at all. They ultimately increased the heat, causing my confusion and attractions to boil over.

I am now 28, and I can feel more confused and pent up than any of my younger years. Some days I genuinely wanna be with a woman. Then on others, I’m downloading Grindr, my repression exploding like a shaken Coke can.

A lot of nights I wonder, if I was priveleged a story like Simon’s, what would my story have looked like? Would the curiosity be appeased and being with a woman be my actual desire? Would a healthy gay relationship seem possible? Would I have dreamed dreams rather than nightmares?

Regardless of outcome, I truly believe I wouldn’t live with this pressure incubating in my chest. I would have thought through what I actually wanted, without this surmounting hormonal tension billowing inside me.

It’s for that reason I scream for this fight—not for myself, but for the little Simon’s and little Mark’s and little Matthew’s suffering in silence, locked in an air-tight closet, desperate to breathe.

We’ve got to destroy the closet or it’ll haunt us forever. We have to make it okay and safe for our little ones to ask questions without fear, so they won’t seek refuge in the shameful darkness. If we don’t change this narrative, if boys and girls and intersex individuals continue to find solace in the nooks and crannies of the world that ultimately isolate themselves, how will they find help? How will they know they’re not alone? How will they learn to trust? They’ll ultimately carry that shame of the closet in their bones far beyond their teenage years. Their youth will haunt their adulthood. The screams of their adolescence, of our adolescence, will echo, climaxing into a corrosive crescendo—a sexual rage screaming to be seen, screaming to be heard.

That’s what I see on the dance floor with my then boyfriend. That’s what I see in the Grindr profiles on my phone. That’s what I see in me as I wrestle and rage against myself.

For the love of millions of young ones, let’s burn the closet down. Let’s make it okay for our children to step into the light. Let’s make it okay for them to “breathe the free air again.” To “exhale” as Simon’s mother put it. Then, maybe then, in the light of love, life can grow.