Loving God, Loving Myself
For Pride Month, we asked members of our Springtide Ambassadors Program (SAP) who identify as LGBTQ+ to reflect upon: “How does your identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community affect your religious belief or spirituality? Are the two intertwined for you? If they’re not, tell why your faith identity and your sexuality and/or gender exist separately for you.” In this post, SAP member Mia talks about her early struggles balancing her religious and sexual identities and the path toward embracing her authentic self.
I grew up in a Christian community my entire life and was fairly strong in my faith until around middle school when I started to realize that I had feelings for girls. This created a lot of inner conflict for me as I was told by all the Christian mentors in my life that being gay was a sin.
I spent many years going back and forth in my head — one day I’d question if my faith was real and the next I would try to convince myself that I was straight. I felt an overwhelming urge to please everyone in my life. I had so many queer friends that I didn’t want to disappoint by hiding myself, but I also had so many Christian mentors I didn’t want to disappoint by being gay. The hardest part for me wasn’t the adults in my life expressing their opinions but the comments of my peers.
As Christians my own age and camp counselors only a few years older disagreed with who I was, it felt as if there was no right answer. I settled into a hatred of myself for years. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be normal, why I had all these issues and no one else did, and why I felt so alone all the time.
The turning point in how I viewed my sexuality came when my first girlfriend broke up with me. She had made me feel bad about the people that I wasn’t “out” to and just tore me down a lot. Once I was out of that relationship I started to become my true self in every way and was a lot happier overall. As I got older I came to realize that I was normal, I wasn’t alone, and I certainly wasn’t the only one experiencing this pain. I came to realize that I can be gay and strong in my faith, that having a girlfriend doesn’t make God love me any less, and that my sexuality didn’t make me any less valuable as a part of my church community.
My faith and sexuality are as intertwined as they could be in my mind — they affect each other so strongly. Beyond all the pain I felt in the past, I truly believe that they each help me grow within the other. Being gay makes me a more loving and compassionate Christian, and being a Christian allows me to relate to youth in the same position I once was.
I’ve still had members of the LGBTQ community make fun of me for being a Christian, and some Christians still hate me for being gay. But I have learned that it comes from their own insecurities and it is not an accurate reflection of my character or value. As I’ve grown I strive to be a mentor for youth in the same position that I was, helping them come to terms with who they are and understanding that they are no less valuable because of it. Through experiences like being a Springtide Ambassador, I am able to do this and create a more loving and accepting community in the places I go.