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…

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.

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.

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?

*                                *                                *                                *                                *

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.