Why I Don’t Identify as a Gay Christian – And Why Perhaps You Shouldn’t Either

In the spring of 2000, I was about to graduate from college at New England Conservatory. After becoming a Christian just a year earlier, I became involved with a Christian group on our campus. I was seriously considering applying to do an internship with the larger national organization.

Until I looked at the application.

As part of the application, the applicant was asked to identify his or her sexual orientation. I remember there being at least 2 choices, if not more:

– Heterosexual

– Homosexual

I remember sitting there, just staring at the application. If I applied, which one would I choose? I was only 2 months out of what would be my last lesbian relationship. I certainly didn’t feel heterosexual. I knew I didn’t want to be homosexual, but that’s how most of the world would describe me.

I put down the paper and walked away.*

I entered into my 1st lesbian relationship at age 15 in 1990. For reference, that’s 7 years before Ellen DeGeneres came out. The small NH town in which I explored my sexuality was not a friendly or safe one. I was horribly bullied, routinely threatened and called derogatory names.

I fought hard to become comfortable with my sexuality, which I believed was as fixed and innate as my heterosexual peers.

Today, 18 1/2 years into my walk with Jesus, my perspective has changed a bit. The only thing that I know for sure is innate in me is my propensity to sin and to wander from God’s best for me. One of the only fixed things about me is that longing in my heart to know God and be known by Him, as well as the need to connect deeply with other humans.

People ask me how I identify myself, in terms of my sexuality. I do not identify as gay (or as straight, for that matter). I still experience same-sex attraction. I sometimes experience opposite-sex attraction.

I mostly just identify as Brenna 🙂

The reason I believe the “gay Christian” label, while permissible, is not beneficial (2 Corinthians 10:23) is because words matter. The labels we use and the words we choose to describe ourselves can be a container for power – in one direction or another.

More than ever before in my life and my ministry work, I have recently seen how careless words or even well-thought-out labels can become strongholds. “Speculations” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) that make sense to our line of reasoning can actually end up enslaving us to faulty logic. While I can understand the reasons some believers have in using the gay Christian label, I don’t believe it to be wise or necessary.

Here’s what Hope for Wholeness has to say about the “Gay Christian” label (and I agree):

At Hope for Wholeness, we each identify as Christian, an adopted child of God. No other term can describe or compare to one’s identity in Christ Jesus other than what is stated in the Word of God. Christ is my all in all, the one and only. No other description can identify me.

We live in a society that loves labels. Why? Because we all want somewhere to belong. As believers in and followers of Jesus Christ, we belong to the body of Christ. We are adopted children of the Most High God. The Creator of the Universe called us by name and said, “You are Mine.” This is where our identity must rest.

What are your thoughts on the gay Christian label? 

Another helpful post on this topic

*I am not at all faulting the campus ministry for asking the question about sexuality. It’s an important question. I’m using this example to refer to my state of mind and my own struggles with identity.

Monday Morning Meditation: What’s in a Name? Part 2

Friday, I shared the first half of my story. I’m sharing the second half as the Monday Morning Meditation.

I had just become a Christian. In one sense, I felt hope, but at the same time, the labels were still haunting me. Even though at the time I could not voice what was going on, I continued to spiral out of control with my eating and relationships. I was so desperate for love that I entered into a relationship with an 18 year old woman with a drug problem (I was 24 at the time). After 3 months, this woman (having been raised in a Christian home) said to me, “Listen – the Bible says you must either be hot or cold – one or the other, but not both. You can’t be a Christian and be gay.” And with that, she ended our relationship.

I threw up my arms saying, “Fine, God! I don’t want to live like this. Please take this away from me.” In many ways, He did. My attraction to women greatly lessened, but the circumstances of my life that led me in the direction of lesbianism had not changed. I felt unsure, but desperate for God.

I didn’t know that support groups existed when I was struggling. I opened up to my Christian friends about my struggle and asked for accountability. The labels were still haunting me. I found a Christian counselor who helped me to deal with my same-sex attraction, as well as my eating disorder, depression and self-injury. Romans 12:2 (NLT) says, “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” The labels served as a constant reminder that I truly needed my entire thought life to be transformed. It wasn’t that I had moments of feeling worthless and unlovable; in the core of my being, I was sure it was true. My counselor helped me to recognize these faulty names I had allowed to attach to me and showed me how to make them line up with what God’s Word has to say about me (2 Corinthians 10:5).

My counselor also helped me to see that I had attached all sorts of labels and names to God, most of them not true or accurate: unreachable, unloving, distant, unconcerned with my life and struggles, nit-picky, only interested in my failures, punitive, impatient, and constantly angry.

So I wrestled with God. In all honesty, I suppose, it was more like I wrestled and He waited patiently for me to realize that He is who He says He is and He will do what He has said He will do. In the Gospel of John, chapter 6, Jesus gave the disciples a particularly difficult command. Rather than trusting Jesus, quite a few of the disciples decided to stop following Him. When Jesus asked the Twelve if they would leave too, Peter responded, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God.” That’s how I felt. In the midst of all the questions and doubts, I already knew that I had tasted and seen that the Lord is indeed good.

A few months after surrendering my sexuality to God, I met a man through the campus ministry we both attended. Roy & I continued to be friends for 5 months, at which time we began dating. It wasn’t always an easy relationship. The grip the names had on me was loosening – but it was very slow and painful.

When we first became friends, I was drawn to his strong faith, his free spirit and love for life. I can see that my lack of physical attraction to men in general was due in part to my fear of men and the lies my mother had instilled in me. As I learned more about Roy, as I grew to trust him, and as I recognized that he wouldn’t hurt me, my natural physical attraction was allowed to surface without fear.

Roy & I have been married for 9.5 years and have two beautiful sons. Marriage is not a cure for homosexuality, or even a guarantee of happiness, but simply another part of God’s healing process in my life. I thank God that I came to a point where in my heart of hearts, I felt I had no choice but to embrace Christ and all that He required of me. But what I got in return for my obedience and hard work is an amazing godly man who loves me, unconditionally, like no woman ever did.

I also have allowed God to give me new names. Rather than feeling unlovable at my core, I know that my Father calls me beloved, cherished, in fact – His favorite. Rather than being ashamed of who I am and who I was, God calls me precious, beautiful, redeemed – He has born my shame. He calls me worth knowing, worth loving and worth creating. I am mighty in Him, delightful, created in my Father’s image and strong when I am weak. And in those moments when I feel abandoned, I remember there is nowhere I can go to flee from God’s presence, and when I feel rejected, I know I will never have to feel the rejection that my Savior felt as He hung from that cross. And my mother was right: I have been rescued from hell – not only eternally, but today, God has given me abundant life and a true freedom I never thought possible.

Isaiah 62 says “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. Nations will see your vindication, all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah,your land Beulah; for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married.”

What names have you allowed to speak death to you? Do you feel stuck & helpless today as you try shed false labels?

If you are feeling hopeless, I just want to again point you to Romans 8:24 and this time, include verse 25: “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Today, I choose to embrace my new names, letting go of the labels I wore for so many years. They no longer fit, as God is making me a new creation. I choose to trust God in the process; He has yet to let me down.

Freedom Friday: What’s in a Name? Part 1

A Christian speaker recently reminded me that words are a container for power. The book of Proverbs says “reckless words pierce like a sword”, “the words of the wicked lie in wait for blood”, and “when words are many, sin is not absent”. In the Bible, words & names are very important. Throughout my life, I allowed people and circumstances to label me, name me, and define who I am.

I was born prematurely in May of 1975. I was given a 50% chance of survival and rode in an ambulance to a hospital 50 miles away since the hospital where I was born did not have premie facilities. I was born without a name. My parents didn’t know if I would be male or female, and certainly weren’t expecting my arrival almost 2 months early. I spent the next two months, isolated in an incubator. During those years, premature babies were not touched or held. I was so sick that they ran out of places to stick needles, and had to have my head shaved for more needle ports. The names I picked up were: abandoned, rejected, unloved, shameful, worthy of pain – as good as dead.

Mohawk Baby Brenna

My mother is an alcoholic and when she drank, she would recount those days, saying‚ “You were bought from hell.” What she was trying to express to me was the trauma of my birth and the extreme circumstances I was rescued out of. What I heard, from my already broken filter, was: inconvenient, bothersome, a burden.

As a child, I even remember being hyper-focused on the lyrics to the songs my parents listened to. I’d zero in on themes of abandonment, and I carried those feelings of fear and shame into adulthood. I heard: be on your guard, you will be rejected and alone.

During my youth, my family attended liberal churches, serving on various committees and singing in choirs. I always believed in God, but it had little effect on my daily life. My mother continued to drink, ranting at me about the evils of men, what a bad child I was, and continually favoring my sister. What I heard: I was not worth protecting, the castaway, again a burden.

I began experimenting sexually with girls at a young age. This continued until, as a high school freshman, I found myself in a physical relationship with my best friend. I also developed an eating disorder and a struggle with self-injury. About a week into my high school relationship, I secretly looked up “homosexuality” in a health book. The book said that if you had attractions for someone of the same gender, then you were gay. I remember thinking, “There it is, in black and white. I am a homosexual.” I already felt: unlovable, out of control, too much and now a dyke.

The summer after my high school graduation, I was asked if I was interested in going to church with someone I met in a coffee shop. The church was quick to tell me that homosexuality was a sin that would condemn me to hell. Every night I would cry myself to sleep, praying, “God, change me! Why did you make me gay if that means I have to go to hell? Is it true that You want me to be forever separated from You?” The church I was attending did not share the hope for change that the gospel offers to those struggling with same-sex attraction. Their stance was change first: then God will accept you. In my mind, I had asked God to change me, and He hadn’t. And so I embraced my lesbian identity, all the while the labels were being reinforced: rejected, abandoned, unheard, miniscule, unlovable – even by God.

After three and a half years together, my first girlfriend and I broke up. I then met an older married woman, dropped out of college and moved across the country to live with her and her husband. She and I had a mock wedding ceremony and from then on, she introduced me as her “wife.” I lived with this couple for close to two and a half years. During this time, I was repeatedly taken advantage of by a man in my life. The names kept coming: worthless, voiceless, ashamed, only good for one thing – sex.

My “wife” and I eventually decided it would best for me to continue my schooling, so I moved to Boston to attend a prestigious music school, the same school from which my “wife” had graduated. Though I was in an environment where my sexuality was affirmed, I was far from happy. My relationship with my “wife” continued to crumble until it ended 10 months after I moved. My eating disorder spiraled out of control. I was afraid & alone.

Christians seemed to pop into my life to share with and pray for me. They never took it upon themselves to point out my sinfulness or say that I should not be a lesbian. They just pointed me to Jesus. Like everyone else, I was a sinner in need of Jesus in my life. My sexual choices were only one of many indications of this need.

Things continued to worsen. I knew that I needed help with my eating disorder, or I was going to die, but I felt I had tried everything and nothing worked. A friend in recovery suggested I try to pray. I thought, “That’s the one thing I haven’t tried!”―so I started praying.

Around this time, a friend gave me a music CD by a passionate Christian artist. One night while listening, the words of a song gripped my heart. I felt all alone, and my heart was so hard. The voice sang of a friend who was always there, with every tear cried, a friend who would give everything for him. That friend was Jesus – the son of God, who died on the cross to take away my sin, my pain, the false labels and to declare my worth. In the midst of that song, I cried out to God saying, “I want what he has!” God, in His great mercy, met me on that day in January of 1999. I felt: hopeful.

But the names did not disappear. I felt doomed to carry the labels forever. I knew logically that Jesus called me by name for a reason: freedom. At that time, I chose to hold on to hope that He had more for me.

I know many will likely connect deeply with my testimony. Your own names & labels may have been flashing through your mind. I hope you return Monday to read the second part of my testimony and experience, as I did, the truth of Romans 8:24 says, “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what He already has?”