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.

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #17: “Please Don’t Say You Need Me” by Jan Silvious

I finished my 17th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.


Please Don’t Say You Need Me: Biblical Answers for Codependency by Jan Silvious

Please Don’t Say You Need Me was mentioned in the back of a little booklet entitled Emotional Dependency, another resource I was reviewing for the ministry. Since emotional dependency and codependency are common struggle in the people I work with, I figured this book would be worth reviewing.

I’m so glad I read it! This was another book that I dog-eared like crazy. It’s truly a powerhouse of wisdom. It covers the roots and symptoms of codependency, as well as how codependency manifests itself in different types of relationships, including friendship, marriage, parent-child, and even in the workplace. It also has a chapter on how to maintain healthy relationships once you have recognized these patterns in yourself. The author does a wonderful job of weaving biblical truth into this struggle and healing from it.

If you have struggled with codependency or work with people who do, this book is for you.
My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:
           

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #15: “Destiny Bridge” by Frank Worthen

I finished my 15th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

Destiny Bridge by Frank Worthen

This book is the story of Frank Worthen, written in his own words. Frank Worthen is considered one of the founders of the “ex-gay” movement, after living as a gay man for 25 years. This was another book that I read over the course of a weekend.

It’s compelling, disheartening, shocking, and encouraging. Don’t let the back cover of the book dissuade you. I didn’t find it a particularly inviting synopsis of what was going to be described in the book. In fact, if it weren’t for the recommendation of a friend, I might not have read it. But I’m so glad I did!

It’s certainly a compelling story of how a young man was led by his spiritual authority directly into sin. More importantly, it’s a story of a loving, persistent God who spared no expense in calling Frank Worthen back to Himself. It’s a story of a man who, out of his small steps of obedience, impacted thousands of lives in the name of Jesus Christ.

What a great book. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the topic of same-sex attraction.

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:
           

Here I am again, at Ridgecrest

This is my 4th time at Ridgecrest Christian Conference Center.

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Exodus International rotated the location for its annual Freedom conferences. Every 3rd year, it was held on the east coast, here at Ridgecrest.

In 2005, I came here to attend my 2nd Exodus conference (my 1st was in California in 2004 – I attended alone). This was my first conference as a leader, as I had been the director of Alive in Christ almost a year at this point. Roy and several others from the ministry attended. Because Jerry Falwell spoke that year, there was tons of media attention, and I spoke on television for the 1st time about my same-sex attraction.

I don’t remember much about the interview, except they showed a close-up of my wedding ring, and I was wearing a purple shirt.

We returned in 2008, this time with a 11-month old Bear in tow (my older son’s nickname). I had the privilege of sharing my testimony from the main stage and teaching a workshop entitled “Learning to Walk in Freedom” (sound familiar?). I think I also participated in the forums on youth ministry.

Back again in 2011, Bear was almost 4, and we now had JJ tagging along at 1 1/2. We stopped at my dad’s on the way. It was there I found out that apart from a miraculous touch from God’s own hand, my father would die from cancer.

I again had the opportunity to speak, telling the women this time about “Learning to Walk in Freedom.” It was an amazing conference. I felt as if Exodus had truly been refined by fire, and the gold was truly shining through (many others agreed).

In 2012, I flew out to Minnesota by myself, having been invited to participate in the conference on various ways. It was the best Exodus conference I had been a part of, even more so than 2011.

At the 2013 Exodus conference (which I did not attend), it was announced that Exodus would close.

Recently, Alive in Christ joined a new network, Hope for Wholeness. I spoke at their conference this past fall, and now here I am, at Ridgecrest once again, to speak and participate in the Hope Rising conference presented by Hope for Wholeness.

We arrived yesterday, a day early, because the drive was long, and I wanted to get everyone settled. I am 5 1/2 months pregnant, and didn’t want to be too tired for the events.

I’m used to arriving when the buzz of activity is already in full swing. I find myself here with mixed emotion.

So much history in these hills.

As I process all the emotions that are represented here at Ridgecrest, I choose to focus on the excitement I feel at what lies ahead. I’m thrilled with the connections I’ve made in the Hope for Wholeness network, and am humbled to be part of this new work.

God is still holy. His Word still reigns and is to be obeyed.

God is still loving and good and just and faithful.

God is still able.

ridgecrest

Brenna Kate Simonds on the Pure Passion TV Show

In April of 2012, I had the opportunity to share my story of same-sex attraction with the crew of the TV show, Pure Passion. It aired this past Saturday, July 6th, and you can watch it here*:

Brenna Simonds – Choosing Christ Over Homosexual Confusion from Pure Passion on Vimeo.

Perhaps you found my site through watching this show. If so, welcome!

I mention in the interview a book entitled Learning to Walk in Freedom that we studied at Alive in Christ. This book will be available by the end of summer. Check back for updates!

Here are some other articles that might be helpful to you:
Do I Still Struggle With Same-Sex Attraction? 
Living a Healthily Transparent Life 
Feelings: Dictator or Indicator? 
“Talitha koum!” Expelling the Laughers 

And my most popular blog post of all time:
You Have Not Because You Ask Not

*I just discovered the network aired the wrong episode Saturday. Well, welcome anyway! People are finding it somehow 🙂

Freedom Friday: Hang on His Every Word, Chicken Edition

Is anyone else grieved over the Chick-Fil-A hub-bub?

I’m not going to tell you what I think about it all so you can stop hoping I will 🙂 I’m not going to tell you if I would have participated in chowing down on some CFA if I had time on Wednesday or if I lived less than an hour away from one.

I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at CFA. The one time I tried to near my dad’s house, it was Sunday and I forgot they were closed.

What I will say is I think we are trying to simplify what is a complex issue. It’s not just about free speech. It’s not just about Cathy wanting to deny someone a “right.” It’s not just about how “of course” Jesus would have never participated in a boycott and what would happen if we took all this time and effort and volunteered at a food pantry instead of eating a chicken sandwich?

I read these challenging and quite relevant verses earlier this week:

“After that, he taught daily in the Temple, but the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the other leaders of the people began planning how to kill him. But they could think of nothing, because all the people hung on every word he said.” Luke 19:47-48

People keep posting on their Facebook and Twitter and whatever means they can about what Jesus would do.

Do we really know Jesus well enough to say that?

When was the last time we hung on Jesus’ every word?

I can’t say I feel as those described in Luke 19 feel when I read the Gospels, which I’ve been working through for several months. I want to. I want to be that desperate for a greater knowledge of my Savior that I hang on His every word.

Have you read through the Gospels lately?

During Jesus’ temptation in the desert, Satan tells Jesus to feed Himself by turning stones into bread (Matthew 4). “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

The words of Jesus invite me to go deeper, to take my faith to new levels, to know Jesus and all He was and is and all He experienced.

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11 (NIV1984)

If I believe that Jesus’ words are the words of life (John 6:68), that He is the One who sets me free (John 8:36), and that I am to be like Him (Philippians 2), then I, like His early followers, need to be hanging on His every word.

As we ponder prominent issues in our world today, let us truly study and consider the words of Jesus. Let us not claim to know definitively how He would react to certain situations. Let us strive to simply know Him and the fullness of all He has for us.

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: Brenna Kate Simonds at Exodus Freedom Conference, on Minnesota Public Radio

I’m at the Exodus Freedom Conference. The theme this year is “Made for More.” As I write this, we’re not even 24 hours in, and I’m already amazed at all God is doing.

On Wednesday afternoon, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Laura Yuen for Minnesota Public Radio.

The interview aired this morning. You can listen to it here, or read the text of the article, which is almost a word-for-word transcript of the story.

I am asked frequently about repression. It seems to be a favorite question for those trying to understand why someone who experiences same-sex attraction would make a daily choice not to act on those feelings.

I think Ethan Martin explained it so succinctly in his Wednesday night testimony (not an exact quote): “Jesus gave up His sexuality for me. He could have been married by age 33, but instead He was dying on a cross.”

This is a theme that has continued to come up at the conference, though I gave my interview prior to the conference start. Sacrifice. Pursuing Jesus above all else. Surrender. Laying down everything for Jesus.

Too often, we focus on what we have to give up and sacrifice to follow Jesus. What about all that we gain?

When I am asked about repression, I try to turn the question around. Jesus gave up everything for me. God spared no expense to restore relationship with me. The things I want to hold on to pale in comparison to what Jesus did and accomplished while hanging from that cross.

It is a privilege to follow Jesus. An absolute honor. Rather than focus on the things I may have had to release to Jesus in order to follow Him, I choose to focus on all the things I’ve gained. Unconditional love, real peace, pure joy, abundant life, and true freedom.

Last week, I mentioned this Freedom Friday would be about owning your choices. I am postponing the writing of that until next week. Thanks for understanding!

Freedom Friday: The God Who Protects



I’ve written a couple of blog posts on the character of God. I’ve also done 2 posts on the theme of “The God Who” (bends & sustains are past favorites) and will continue that today with The God Who Protects.

I wrote in the Monday Morning Meditation this week about the following verse:
“He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”
Psalm 91:4
Before we dive any more into the concept of God as protector, let’s revisit some questions I asked in Monday’s blog post.

What do you wear as armor?

Do you self-protect, or allow God to be your refuge and tower of safety?

I tried to protect myself for much of my life. I thought I could be safe if I were skinny. When that garnered too much attention, I gained 50 pounds. That didn’t work either. Pushing people away with my behavior only left me hurt and desperately lonely.

“The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me.” Psalm 116:6 (NIV1984)

I tried to protect myself by hiding. Hiding my feelings, my fears, my struggles and insecurities. This would eventually backfire, as I’m an external processor and everything I tried to keep in would burst forth like a beach ball held under water.

“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7
(NIV1984)

I continued to try to self-protect while following Jesus. I thought, “I can’t tell anyone about same-sex attraction, the fact that I self-injure, or that I hate myself on a regular basis. I’ll project the image that I have it all together so no one questions me.” This facade is not something that I could maintain healthily for lots of reasons, the bottom line being that God didn’t want me to protect or trust in myself.

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name.” Psalm 91:15 (NLT)

How have you self-protected? Maybe more importantly, why?

Stop and think about your fears. What would happen if you chose to allow God into all areas of your life?


Grab your Bible and look up some of these psalms I’ve quoted. Consider what they have to say about God’s protection. Ask Him to reveal the ways you have tried to protect yourself, and be willing to lay those down. Ask God’s forgiveness for your unwillingness to believe He is able to preserve and protect you, and trust Him to care for you in the area of protection.

“He is my loving ally and my fortress,
My tower of safety, my deliverer.
He stands before me as a shield and I take refuge in Him.” Psalm 144:2

The God who protects.