“I lived 30 years alone”: A Christian lesbian grandmother tells her story

110x324Here is a letter I got in response to the call I put out on my blog awhile back asking for the personal testimony of gay Christians:

I am a 72-year-old Christian mother and grandmother. I had a wonderful career as a teacher for every age, from pre-school through college. I served as a member of our church council, as a Sunday school teacher, as a Vacation Bible School superintendent, and I have been on mission trips to every continent. My hobbies are studying, reading, travel, genealogy, gardening, and dogs.

I am a lesbian. For most of my life, I hid that part of who I am, deeply in denial. I did not choose to be a lesbian, but I did choose to deny that part of myself, in the belief that I had to choose if I wanted to follow Christ. From the time I was seven years old, I wanted, most of all, to follow Jesus. As a young teen, I wanted to be a pastor, but I learned that “girls couldn’t do that.” I got married because that was what was expected of me, and I tried for fifteen years to make that marriage work.

Then—out of the blue!—I fell deeply in love with a woman with whom I worked in ministry at our church. The day came when we spoke to each other about our feelings. As we shared our hearts together, we learned that we both had felt something of these forbidden feelings since childhood, and had kept them hidden. But we felt so perfect together; and we began to believe that God had brought us to the place we were.

Oh! Then we were found out! We were threatened with losing our children (my four children, and her son). Our children were told that we were filled with evil spirits, that we were an abomination to God. We were counseled in ways that filled us with fear and shame. We were convinced that we had to choose God and our children, and give up our love for each other.

With broken hearts, we went our separate ways. We began to try to restore our children’s trust, along with our relationship with God and with our church. We moved to different towns so that we couldn’t see each other.

For the next thirty years I lived alone. I was never fully successful in restoring my children’s love after what they went through, but I was able to develop a good career, and to serve in Christian ministries in my church. As a single Christian woman, I was free to do volunteer work, travel, and work on genealogy. Although my heart ached for the loss of my children’s love, I was able to go on, trusting and loving God, and continuing to hope that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

For all of my adult life I spent New Year’s Day in prayer, seeking God’s direction for the coming year. Each year I ended the day with a strong impression of someone for whom to pray, and some special need for ministry. I would write it in my Bible, and at the end of the year, I could see how God had worked.

But on New Year’s Day four years ago, after a long day of fasting and prayer, I sensed God’s message: “This time it’s not about someone else. It’s about you. You need to be honest with yourself about who you really are.”

And I knew it was time to do something I had ignored and denied for thirty years. I walked over to my computer and Googled “Gay Christian,” not knowing what, if anything, would appear.

And suddenly the pages opened up. I read for hours, learning about better Bible translations, learning about organizations for welcoming gay and lesbian Christians. With tears of joy and relief I learned that I didn’t have to hide that part of who I am anymore. I could admit to God, and to myself, without condemnation, that I am a lesbian. A huge burden was lifted from me.

I had no intention of changing anything of my outward life or relationships. I was single and content. But I decided to tell my children, and they made the decision to remove me from their lives and from the lives of my grandchildren. They continue to believe that being gay or lesbian is a terrible sin, and that they must protect their children from me.

Now, little by little, I am beginning to realize that I need to “come out” as a lesbian Christian. While I have lost my family, I have found a church that is welcoming. I am still not out to most of my neigh- bors and friends. But I am beginning to understand that coming out as a Christian lesbian may be a new way to love and serve others. And I continue to hope and pray that someday my family will be restored to me.

R.W., Seattle, Washington

This woman’s story, titled “I lived alone 30 years,” is one of twenty-seven stories from gay Christians that I collected, edited, and included in my book UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question. The titles of the other letters are:

“I did not want to exist anymore”

“Is my pretense worth it?”

“An aching loneliness”

“A better world if I was dead”

“I was in unsafe territory”

“My son and I aren’t welcomed”

“I was scared”

“I lived in terror”

“I am torn”

“I was the worst of the worst”

“Lying and hiding”

“The fallout was horrific”

“Deep pain and rejection”

“Years of feeling lost”

“Desperate to not be gay”

“I destroyed my parents’ dreams”

“My life fell apart”

“I hit bottom”

“On Sundays I’m alone”

“I’m an abomination”

“It would be all over for me”

“I begged God”

“I attempted suicide”

“They publicly prayed for my death”

“The Church hated me”

“Angry and ashamed”

Each of these letters is more affecting than the last. Taken all together they’ll tear your heart out. I’ve watched four different people read the letters while I was standing there. One of them was a pastor. Each of them cried.

Included in UNFAIR are sixteen of my best/most influential essays on the matter of Christians and LGBT people—including Taking God at His Word: The Bible and Homosexuality, which you can read here.

I’m not posting this just to hawk a book of mine. But I am proud of UNFAIR, which is the culmination of six years’ worth of  my work on this issue. I’m proud of what UNFAIR is; I’m proud of what it’s done; I’m proud of its painstakingly designed cover and interior pages. (Thanks to designer Dan Wilkinson for the love he showed this book.)

But what I am easily most proud of is knowing that with UNFAIR I have something that I or anyone else can give to any person who is wondering what, finally, is the right—the most moral, the most honest, the most manifestly and provably biblical—position that a Christian should take on the LGBT question. It’s a real pleasure for me to know that there’s no way on earth I could make a better argument than this book for why the Christian church and all of its members needs to renounce the idea that God condemns homosexuality, and embrace the truth that God cares no more about a person’s sexual orientation than God cares about the color of a person’s hair or eyes.

That’s why you work: so that you can have something that you can … use. And UNFAIR, for me, on this issue, is that something.

(I just now saw that Amazon has the paperback edition of UNFAIR on sale, down from its usual $12.99 to $11.25. I have no idea why such Amazon sales occur, nor when they might end. You can also buy UNFAIR directly from me, autographed and inscribed according to your directions: scroll down a bit on this page for the order form. It’s also available in both Kindle and Nook editions. If you purchased as a Kindle book the first edition of UNFAIR [UNFAIR: Why the “Christian” View of Gays Doesn’t Work], go to your Manage My Kindle, where you will find waiting for you a free update for the new edition.)

Thanks for reading/buying/caring/sharing. Together, this community has made a difference in this crucial matter. And we’re not done yet; I’m now involved with a very exciting project, which I’m looking forward to telling you more about. Stay tuned.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Elizabeth

    I received mine a few weeks ago. Thanks John (and Dan. The design is a knock out.)

  • Jill


  • PS

    You know… I exclude my mother from my life and do not let her around my family because, well, she’s evil. When I say evil, I mean someone who enjoyed sucking any light out of my soul in any way she could. She *smiled* at my pain (be it inflicted by her or others), found any joy I experienced to be a threat unless she could monopolize on it. She had this beady-eyed, piercing stare when she was determined to get her way that scared me even as an adult.

    That is the kind of “mother” who does not deserve her children’s or grandchildren’s company. That is no longer a mother but an egg donor under whom her offspring must suffer until they can legally, financially, and psychologically cut themselves free.

    Oh, and BTW, for whatever it’s worth, she’s straight. So if someone reading this believes orientation dictates if you can be a decent person, sorry to burst your bubble.

    The woman who wrote this letter sounds like she is a decent and loving person. Of course that’s only based on ONE letter and I don’t know her, but I’d certainly like to believe I have a correct first impression of her.

    If I could, I’d trade in the model I got for her any day so I could have a real Mom, and my kids could have a grandmother who adores her family equally instead of playing favorites and pitting everyone against each other using lies and manipulation like my mother did with her family. I’m sorry her own kids threw away everything they knew about her instead of looking at the big picture and remembering who helped them turn into the people they turned out to be.

    Maybe some day they’ll grow up.

  • charles

    such a powerful post John…. we as people should be shamed to know that is a part of our history and present… and no I havent forgot about my other posting- it will be up soon!

  • Just read this via a Facebook post and it makes me sad and sick at heart. What is the matter with her family?? I am not lesbian but have many friends who are and attend a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship that welcomes everyone as do several Christian congregations in this area. I cannot even begin to imagine living ones entire life with such a struggle even though I know many do. Glad you wrote this book.

  • metta

    I hope that her family has grown and learned to love their mother since this was first written.

  • Marie Bat’el

    Jesus is crying.

  • Mindi Palmer Fried

    Me too. Totally heartbreaking.

  • Anne Evans

    Oh my goodness. So, so sad.

  • Chris Bock

    She found her strength through personal tragedy and shared. Truly inspirational.

  • Kaitlyn Murray

    That is so sad. I, personally, believe that there is nothing to be condemned about homosexuality. I know it isn’t for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong for everyone else as well. Everyone has their own opinion about this touchy issue, and everyone is entitled to it. But I think no matter what your stance on homosexuality, there is nothing, NOTHING that is so harmful about it that you should tear apart families. It’s truly tragic…

  • William George Cook

    The fruits of that woman are great and the fruits of that church’s actions are rotten indeed. Who is doing right with God?

  • Happy Lee Del Canto Sabag

    My heart aches for these people. 🙁

  • Daneen Akers

    Just incredibly sad! As a mother, it really tears me up that her kids were taught that the best, most Christian, thing was to exclude her from their lives and the lives of their children! As an advocate for LGBT inclusion in religious spaces, it just confirms why this work is so important.

  • Rebecca Miller

    This makes me both deeply saddened and incredibly hopeful at the same time.

  • Caroline Lyons de Freitas

    That is absolutely heartbreaking. I’m so glad she decided to be herself and found a spiritual home.

  • Cindy York Pursley

    She is still their mother. What about loving your neighbor? I pity her kids and what they missed.

  • Tammy O Yow

    As a christian lesbian RW is already serving the purpose before her…her story touches me big time. I thought while reading it that she knew all about me…..I can relate to so much of her story and appreciate her sharing.

  • Christy Caine

    When I first read this story in John’s book, I cried and wanted to meet this woman. So many families without mothers and grandmothers…I wanted to adopt her and for her to adopt my family.

  • Wow. Her story refutes every preemptive argument I’ve heard Pastors make to keep struggling gay Christians from embracing “the lifestyle”. I lost all of my friends at age 27 and strained family relationships that remain to this day. I can’t imagine losing everyone that late in life. She’s more brave than any Christian I know and has a heart purer than gold. God is good. I don’t understand His/Her timing but I am sure her story will save lives. She has more credibility than most pastors (put together) on this issue. I will pray for her continuing peace and bravery.

  • Cindy

    R.W. from Seattle: I apologize for the ignorant among us. I hope you know that there are many people out there who do not judge you for being born who you are. And rest assured that one day you will be restored to your family. If not before, it will happen when someone gives birth to a beautiful, perfect little boy or girl who grows up to discover that they are gay. God help us to love one another.

  • I grew up with the same kind of mother, and she wasn’t even an egg donor. I am learning to pity her, and I am learning the kind of hell her parents put her through in order to turn out the way she did. Also I’m damn happy and relieved that I don’t have any of those genes!

    Anyway, add me to the list of those who would love to be adopted by the lady who wrote this letter. 🙂

    Also I hope that someday she can either be reunited with her love, or find some other lady that makes her heart sing and stand up and be proud of who she is.

  • Elizabeth

    Girl crush 4evah.

  • Matt

    As a newly (and informally) adopted son, I can’t imagine actually choosing to reject family. It’s just too precious to throw away. It continues to amaze me how entitled people pretend to be. How much they take things for granted. I hope so much that this woman finds a partner and lives out the rest of her life in happiness, far away from her four epically ungrateful children.

  • Daisy Blom

    R.W. Of Seatle, As a 48 year old single lesbian christian mother who is in the “closet” for most of the reasons you’ve mentioned, your story touched me so deeply!! I would love to be a substitute “daughter” as I do believe you can offer much!! Stay blessed en John, thanx for such eye-opening and encouraging posts!

  • Sophia

    When people have beliefs that become more important than the humans around them, priorities are not in order. Any belief which causes you to hate, dismiss or exclude people, is a belief that must be challenged. People come first, in all their messy ways that challenge our belief sets.

    This story reminds me of when I was at Wheaton college and my friend got pregnant. I was very upset because she wasn’t supposed to be having sex. I quoted verses at her. I reminded her that if she had followed god’s commands, she wouldn’t now be paying for her sins. She quit talking to me for a while. And during that year of silence, I thought a lot about how she was making me choose – between her and what I believed. In the end, I chose my friend. And my faith shifted to an understanding that god didn’t call us to be right – to get the dogma right. He called us to love.

  • so powerful – the work you have done and continue to do is so necessary and so life-changing – thank you

  • Wow, oh, wow. Such a tear jerker. I’m so sorry people can be such jerks. I’m tired of a world that judges people who fail to live to a subscribed lifestyle.

  • She’s an inspiration.

  • Mindy

    I remember reading this the first time and weeping. I remember wondering how on earth someone could be so blinded to God’s love that they would deprive their children of their grandmother’s love because some pastor told them lies about who she was. I remember wondering – as a mom, I get wanting to protect my children – how on earth they thought she would harm them, and how they could be so out-of-touch with all of the information about being LGBT that is out here – to not have at least considered how horribly wrong they are.

    Because I am active in the adoption community and also pro-choice, I get a lot of pushback about not following God’s will. If someone winds up pregnant, that is God’s will, they say. God’s will demands that she carry that baby and give that baby to someone who really wants to parent. Even though she doesn’t want to do that, even though she knows staying pregnant is against her better judgment and she has valid, private reasons for wanting to end it. No, it doesn’t matter about her wants or needs. God’s will trumps all, even though her pregnancy is not yet anything close to being a child. OK, so if God’s will determines our physical state, as they say it does, why is it not God’s will when a couple ready to parent finds themselves infertile? Why don’t fundamentalist anti-choicers say, “It’s God’s will. He wants you to find another way to honor Him in your life. Be a foster family, adopt an special needs child, remain childless and become a missionary, etc. etc.” I’ve never once heard any of those things suggested as the necessary outcome. And the expectation that any woman should carry a pregnancy to term against her will so the infertile couple can parent is paramount in the scenario, because the couple wants a healthy (probably white) newborn. Because, gosh, it’s not their fault they are infertile, it’s the way God made them. And why should they be deprived of raising a family just because of a physical difference they didn’t choose??

    Say again??? So the message is that a physiological difference shouldn’t keep them from having what they want? They shouldn’t sacrifice their desire to raise a family and experience the love of a child simply because God made them differently? Hmmmmmm……

    Why, then, can’t that same reasoning be applied to LGBT people? Why, then, do they say “OK, we’ll acknowledge that God made you that way, so that’s OK, as long as you don’t act your feelings,” and say that LGBT people must live without the love of a partner? How can they not see the complete hypocrisy in their arguments, when academic after theologian after scholar has shown that those few Biblical passages that seemingly clobber LGBT-ness, do nothing of the sort, but discuss other cultural issues of the times? What remains the big deal? I really would like to know.

  • Leslie

    I have passionately loved the Lord and followed Him to the best of my frail, human ability all of my life. I lived in hiding about my sexual orientation, even from myself,until I was in my late 20s. At that time, I met and fell deeply in-love with my best friend and could no longer deny what my true orientation was. But, as the daughter of a pastor and biblical researcher, I was raised to believe that being gay made me an abomination before the Lord, even though I had never acted upon any of my lesbian tendencies. I prayed and psychoanalyzed myself intensely, trying to purge myself of my attraction to other women, but nothing I tried worked. I even rushed into a marriage with a man I barely knew, in the belief that committing myself fully to a marriage would supersede any gay feelings I had. I even stopped seeing or speaking to my friend, who I so deeply loved, to protect us both from sin and my terribly abusive and perverse new husband.

    I stayed with my husband, desperately clinging to the hope that staying devoted to my husband would cleanse me of my sinful nature in this matter. But when my husband tried to kill my mother right in front of me, and injured me in the process of my trying to protect her, I no longer had a choice but to leave my marriage. That left me with my final hopes of ridding myself of my lesbian feelings being completely devastated. I felt that God could not look on sin, and therefore could no longer look on me because I was taught that “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” And then there were Jesus’ words about committing a sin in our hearts being equal to having committed the sin in deed. To me, this meant that my every thought, feeling and attraction towards other women made me guilty of committing the sin of homosexuality even when I had never acted on those desires.

    Believing these things, I felt I couldn’t go to God anymore, for anything, because of how full of sin I was, which no level of my desire for repentance could fix, because the thoughts and feelings would not go away. Devoid of all hope and hollowed out by constant pain and sorrow, I became suicidal, thinking perhaps God would forgive my sinful suicide, knowing that I was giving my life up for Him, so that I would no longer continue on as an affront to Him. It felt like I had a 50/50 shot that He would send me to Hell for my suicide, but certain that I would go to Hell for continuing to be irreversibly gay. I looked up suicide methods online, trying to find the quickest, most painless ways to end my life. I couldn’t go to God, but He came to me. As I wept and confessed to Him my helplessly sinful nature, He comforted me and pulled the despair out of me like a poison. Over the next few weeks, God guided me to find scholarly evidence that he did not condemn homosexual people or loving, committed, homosexual relationships between consensual adults. I praise God for not only saving my life and soul, but for also freelng me from the bondage of needless and false guilt about the ways the He created me. Thank you Lord Jesus!