I'm not normally one to blog, but today I felt compelled to write.
Vicky Beeching is a Christian theologian, journalist and musician. For years she's been one of the most prominent commentators on Christianity in the media.
Yesterday, she came out as a lesbian in an interview with the Independent. The read almost brought me to tears. Her story is a harrowing yet inspirational one to so many Christians, who for years have suffered in silence grappling with their sexuality.
Thanks to her courage, thousands across the world have gone public with their own sexuality, others feel at peace in their struggles and critics have had their outlook on the debate transformed. It's the start of what many hope will finally see a welcoming and warming attitude to LGBT Christians, the like of which we've seen grow towards LGBT people in secular society.
On the back of this, I've made the decision to finally step out in full.
I am gay and I am Christian, and to most people, that's okay.
Most of my non-Christian friends know this. Some had known for months or years before I told them. I felt like I could tell them, they'd understand. And they did.
The support my friends have shown and continue to show is truly incredible. I couldn't have asked for more. To them I'm no different, the banter, the friendships are the same. I recently came out to my family and again they have shown such love and understanding. If you'd had told me that would happen four years ago I'd have laughed it off, its been a revelation and something I'm extremely grateful to have.
But the problem I've faced is telling Christians. In theory this should be fine: you go on classic theology and teaching to "love your neighbour as yourself", feed the hungry, care for those in need. The list goes on.
In reality there have been times where the teachings I've heard have felt like a condemnation. You're then entrapped in a cycle of sleepless nights, sodden guilt, shame and isolation. I'll be honest and say there's times where its broken me. For years I couldn't even comprehend having feelings for someone else for the sheer shame it supposedly brought to my faith.
I resonate a lot with what Vicky says. You pray for hours, think through time and time again. Why me? Why do I feel this way? When a preacher is telling you that your feelings are from Satan, how do you react to that?
This struggle is one you can't bear to face in public, but you're full well in knowledge that the God you believe in knows all of it. Its something I've battled with for the past seven years, but now I feel at peace.
I am who I am, and I've decided to embrace it. I've been too busy with life to even bat an eyelid over it. Ninety-nine percent of who you are doesn't change by coming out. It's a preference, it doesn't control you and you have authority over it.
I don't want to draw attention to myself - its not in my nature and if I had my way I'd just hide and pretend that nothing was different. However, like so many others I reached a point of no return. I couldn't stay silent.
I've come to the conclusion that if God hadn't wanted me to be gay, he'd have stopped it. I wouldn't have had the amazing opportunities, fun times, improved confidence and self-esteem and the fantastic memories, particularly in these past three years in Nottingham at university.
Yes many will continue to argue that the Bible says this and that about homosexuals, but it also says far ridiculous commands, rituals and exercises which, in today's society, would be seen as extreme.
I 100% feel that God loves me, backs the person I am and who I want to be in the future. Yes there are challenges, but for the first time in most of my life the fear that controlled my emotions is the lowest its ever been.
To me Christians should be looking to the example of our non-believing friends, who certainly in the UK have, in majority, embraced and accepted gay people.
LGBT Christians are just as much believers as straight people. Its about time that the negative comments, historical angst and condemnatory preaching that LGBT Christians have had to endure be left behind- don't force it on us, the discussion spectrum is far wider than ever before.
I was scared to come out. I'm still worried as to how people, particularly my Christian friends, may react to this, but I fully intend to carry on as normal. If you're reading this as a Christian friend of mine, I hope that I have not upset you with this, and that instead we can chat or agree to disagree. But if you feel so strongly as to not then are you welcome to feel that way.
I realise that some people may want to message me, call me, ask me why. Go ahead, I'd welcome any discussions. You can email me at email@example.com or tweet me @jfreeman_93.
Thank you Vicky Beeching and to many others- without your courage I wouldn't have had the will to step out. Hopefully, we'll be living in the world where such a thing is no longer such a big talking point.
If you're reading this and you believe you're gay, and you have a faith, do not feel ashamed. Life's for living, embrace who you are. The acceptance is growing, and one day, at last, it won't be such a big talking point.
This post originally appeared on Jonny's personal blog.
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