I grew up in the Christian Church— both figuratively and literally. My mom worked in a church, so I spent my formative years in Vacation Bible School and Catechism classes. As I grew up, even though I knew the Christian Church was against homosexuality, I personally never agreed with this. I never was shy about supporting queer people. I told myself I wasn’t gay, but I supported a person’s right to love whomever they wanted. And then suddenly, I found myself at 13 years old with a huge crush on a girl.
Coming out led to a lot of realizations and self-examination; a big part of this was looking at my relationship to my faith. There were a lot of factors that led to me separating myself from my church and my faith. And while I do know that there are many Christians who do support queer people; my experience has led me to believe that the institution of the Christian Church is homophobic, and I don’t want to be a part of that institution.
But unlearning something that was instilled in you for 16 years is hard work. Being a queer person coming from a Christian background is, to put it simply, confusing. I’ll have moments where I feel that internalized homophobia, and although I know where it comes from, it’s not easy to forget it. And when the pastor during the service talks about gay people, a second will pass and I’ll realize that he’s talking about me.
One thing I heard often was the phrase “Hate the sin, not the sinner.” This was told to me to convey the idea that gay people weren’t bad, but being gay was.
This concept never made sense to me. But more importantly, it instilled in me that the people who were saying it still thought that I was doing something wrong. While they thought this ideology explained why they actually weren’t homophobic, they actually were still being homophobic. And when the people saying this were close to me, it made it all the harder to come out.
Part of the holiday season, for me and for a lot of people, is going to the Christmas Eve church service with my family. Especially now, this means a lot of self-reflection on my past experiences with the Christian Church and my faith. I’ve also recently interacted with Christians who assured me that the Christian Church wasn’t homophobic, all while ignoring my own experiences of homophobia within the Church.
I do believe that there are Christians who aren’t homophobic, and there areChristians who do amazing work to support queer people. But I also believe there are many Christians still who continue to ignore and perpetuate homophobia within the Christian Church, all while preaching acceptance. People need to acknowledge homophobia within the institution, and they need to listen to queer people within the Christian Church. While I am not a practicing Christian anymore, one thing I was always taught in my faith was to love your neighbor. Shouldn’t this include all our neighbors, including our queer neighbors?