Here’s a letter I recently received:
I spent sixteen years as a fundamental evangelical Christian, trying to get God to fix me. I studied theology and Biblical counseling for three years in the hopes of discovering what I was doing wrong that was keeping God from answering my prayers to make me straight. I struggled with the guilt of same-sex attraction every day, and had no way of turning it off.
I was so despondent over my situation that I felt suicidal. I knew what was in store for me if I came out, but I was really at the point where I was either going to be a gay woman, or a dead woman. Thinking about my two beautiful children, I knew that they would prefer a gay mom. So I did what I had to do. I just had no idea how bad it would get before it started to get better.
I came out to my fundamental evangelical husband almost four years ago. Initially, he was loving and kind. However, the church knew something was wrong–and when he told them what it was, I never had another civil conversation with him. He came home from a meeting with the pastors, and announced that the church was starting “Biblical discipline proceedings” (construed from Matthew 18) against me, and that the elders of the church would be contacting me.
The elders came to meet with me at my dad’s house to confirm that I was a lesbian, although I had not been unfaithful to my husband, or had any lesbian relationships during our marriage. They called me an apostate: one who knows the truth, but who then chooses to turn away from God and reject Him.
I told them that I loved God, and did not reject Him. They believe in predestination, so I argued that if I was chosen by God, then being a lesbian wouldn’t keep me from heaven—and that if God didn’t choose me I was going to hell anyway, so I might as well be happy in this life. They told me that I was going to hell, and left. Before exiting, they asked my husband to be sure that our two children were in worship service on the Sunday a few weeks later when they were having the Lord’s Supper.
In that public worship service, they announced my “sin” to the congregation, and invited everyone to contact me to let me know how they felt about my sin. The congregation was told they were not allowed to speak to me about anything other than my sin.
I praise God that my children did not make it to that service, as my dad took my kids up to his cabin for the day (where my ex was not able to locate them). After the service I received angry letters telling me that I was hell-bound–including one from a twelve-year-old friend of my daughter. I got a visit from one woman who came by my house to speak to me about how I was grieving Jesus. She became emotional and lashed out, punching me in the face and bloodying my nose. I also praise God for sparing my daughter that sight.
My ex’s church helped him to hire a “Christian” lawyer to help him hide our assets. I had to borrow $2,000 from my father to hire my own lawyer. This man took my case, then never met with me until the day before my hearing. I didn’t even know that I was allowed to have witnesses. The judge of our case was appointed by the governor of Georgia, who happened to be a Sunday School teacher at the same mega-church my ex’s lawyer attended—where Johnny Hunt, then President of the Southern Baptist Convention, was pastor.
And it was an election year.
I didn’t have a prayer in my rural Georgia county.
I lost my home, rental properties, custody of my kids, my dog, and everything else I had ever worked for. The judge ordered me to leave with only my eight-year-old car and my clothes, until such time as the ex and I worked out an agreement.
For the next two years my ex continued to argue with me over everything, so that I would go broke just negotiating, and give up everything to him.Before, I had been a home-schooling mom: I was a foster mom, hospice volunteer, church librarian, and I helped my ex with his house-flipping business. Now I had no home, no money, no education, no church, and no place to live.
All of the shunning and mistreatment of this “Biblical discipline” was intended to show me the Christian fellowship I was going to be missing out on. However, I was highly resolved not to go back to a life of lies and misery. My church had to “disfellowship” me off of their roster. In another public worship service, they prayed for the death of my sin, including my physical death. Yes, they asked God to kill me if it meant that I would not bring reproach upon the name of Jesus Christ. It was the lowest point of my life. Even my own mom and her evangelical family cut me out of the family. They refused to speak to me, and my mom said to me that she “hated” what I had become (a lesbian), and that I was a “despicable human being.” I went to live with my Grandma, the woman to whom I was closer than anyone else in the world. She had been sick; we soon found out she had leukemia, and was given six to eight weeks to live. She made it almost three months. When she died, I thought I was going to join her. My heart was almost totally broken.
A few months after my grandma died, during my first Christmas without her, my mom’s family had their usual Christmas gathering, to which I was not invited. They did, however, invite my ex to bring our children. My mom even took my ex and our children on a cruise. It was their way of punishing me for “choosing” my “lifestyle.” My ex enrolled our children in a Christian school, where I was not allowed to take any part in their education; if I attempted to, I was told, the children would be expelled from the school. When I went to their school activities I was shunned and usually left sitting alone, a wide circle of empty chairs around me, as if I had a contagious disease. It was humiliating to be in a room filled with people I had once loved and ministered to, who now wouldn’t sit in the same row of seats with me.
Knowing that I was now walking in truth for the first time in my life allowed me to hold my head high. At times, it was a bitter pill to swallow, but in the end, it showed me how it feels to be judged, and I thank God for that lesson. God never gives you more than you can handle, and what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger. My God has supplied all my needs according to His riches in glory. I have struggled like never before to make a new life for myself. I recently earned my associate degree in Marketing Management (with a 3.95 GPA, thank you very much), and am now at Southern Poly getting my BA in Professional Communications. I just finished an internship for my local ABC affiliate, working as a segment producer on a local TV-show about non-profits. My college, so far, has cost me nothing: I’ve won three scholarships. I get side work cleaning houses, working as a professional organizer, and freelance writing for Atlanta’s premiere LGBT bi-weekly newspaper, The Georgia Voice. (I even had a cover story with country singer Chely Wright last year!) I am madly in love with my wife, Melissa. We found a pastor who was willing to marry us; although we are not now legally wed, we wanted to make that commitment to each other, and to God.
I love Jesus. I love His teachings. I am passionate about reconnecting LGBT people with God, and I hope to be able to earn a living at being an activist, speaker, and motivator in this line. Either way, God has restored to me everything that was lost, and more. How can I be bitter or complain when I now have the life that I always dreamed of? — S.H., Atlanta, Georgia
This is one of the letters included in UNFAIR: Why the “Christian” View of Gays Doesn’t Work. (NookBook edition here. Print edition forthcoming.)