Faith Forays

How I Became a Reformed Homophobe

I used to hate gay people, for no other reason than they were gay. If you’d asked me, I would’ve told you, “No way, I don’t hate anyone! I don’t hate gay people. I just hate their sin.” I would have mentioned the three gay people I knew and called them my friends, offering this as proof against what I saw as an accusation against my character. I didn’t think I was intolerant. I believed that someone who was gay was just choosing to live a life in rebellion to the natural order of things. I didn’t think they were evil. I just thought they were wrong, and that I was the only one who knew what right was supposed to be. I believed that right was what I knew, and wrong was what they were. I think a lot of times, hatred is caused by fear. In my case, this was exactly the issue. I was afraid of anyone who fit the category of “homosexual,” because I was raised to be afraid of anything that was outside of the strict parameters of my versions of right and wrong.

There are a lot of reasons why someone can feel this way. In my case, I was raised in a very conservative church environment. Towards my high school years, things got even stricter with a change of leadership, and I was taught that AIDs was God’s punishment for gay people, that anyone who claimed to have been born gay was lying, and that possibly, demon possession was responsible for it. I know, I know. It sounds laughable to list those things. What person with the capacity to reason believes that, just because someone in an authority position tells them that? But the truth is, there’s a lot of people who believe it because someone else told it to them. It wasn’t just my small church, with its angry preacher. There’s a lot of places that teach this.

I don’t want to excuse my words or actions from the time when I believed this. I just want to explain where I came from, and how I got to where I am now. I was homeschooled, which means my parents controlled every influence over my mind and my upbringing. It was intended that their beliefs would automatically become mine. The idea behind homeschooling, in the circle I came from, was that “The World” was evil and out to corrupt us, and the only way to prevent that was to raise kids in a sheltered version of reality. My only social exposure was in environments my parents had selected for us due to compatibility of beliefs. And if I had to do something with non-Christian kids, such as soccer teams, my parents would coach so that I would still have their guidance. This led to an upbringing in which thinking outside of the box was discouraged, and even punished, and where every single belief I was taught was sacrosant. There were no other religions – there was no other way or interpretation or compass of right or wrong. Everyone one else was gravely mistaken, and also, they were all going to hell. Any questions or thoughts I had to the contrary were systematically crushed. This became increasingly difficult for my parents to manage once circumstances changed and they could no longer to afford to keep me at home, and I entered public school at the age of fourteen.

In high school, when a friend of mine said to me in class, “You know I’m gay, right?” I said, “No, I didn’t know that,” and smiled. Internally, though, I was freaking out. I knew many gay people, by that point – but this was the first time I’d become friends with someone with no preconceived idea of what their sexuality meant. They were just my friend, someone who made me laugh, and I was shocked to discover that here I’d befriended someone who was gay without even knowing it. They were supposed to morally decayed, soulless, dark and evil. This friend was none of those things. They had a shining heart and a wonderful smile, and with that revelation, they began to shatter everything I’d ever been taught to believe in about what it means to be gay.

I was raised to believe that a gay person was something other than myself – something different and slightly less human. And when I was confronted with the reality of a person who I got to know as just that – a person, before I knew they were gay – it shook my belief about the inherent wrongness of loving the same gender. In the years afterwards, I had several close friends come out as gay. Their stories were filled with recounting years of hating themselves because they went to my church, and they had been taught the same things I had about what it was to be gay. They’d heard the pastor preach that to be gay meant that God hated you  – that being gay was the worst sin of all. And when my friends came out, they told me how long they’d tried to change, how they’d wanted to die because they knew they couldn’t.

They were the bravest people I knew. They faced a lot of people saying a lot of terrible things about them. They lost friends, they were disowned by family members, and that was when I realized – this wasn’t a choice. No one would make this choice if they had any other means of going about their life. And when I watched my friends form lasting, supportive relationships, I realized that it wasn’t about being right or being wrong. It was about being happy.

This isn’t to say that I changed overnight. It took me years of examination, of confronting my belief system, of challenging myself when I was uncomfortable. I didn’t go from being afraid of what was different than me to championing equality in one weekend. It was hard, and relearning my inbred reactions to it was hard. But as I’ve said before, I firmly believe that once someone you love comes out as gay (or lesbian, or bisexual, or transgender), that’s the moment that changes everything. Because then you have to face a choice – holding on to a belief system of hatred towards the other, or embracing that which makes you uncomfortable in order to be able to support someone’s right to love and be loved.

  • Dena Marie Stewart

    I first started reading this because I thought it said “How I Became a Reformed HEMOGLOBE” and I was slightly confused and wanted to find out just how that happened. However, once I was properly informed of the correct subject matter, I was even more interested. I was raised in an environment not too far off from your own and I’m constantly facing the conundrum of what to believe on the idea. It was very refreshing to hear a story similar to mine with an outcome like I’ve reached. To me the bottom line is love. Above all the smut we come across telling us precisely where our moral compass should point, love is what needs to be emphasized. And if we’re going to throw the world’s greatest teacher in here for a second, Jesus loved beyond all else. That’s it.

    • Mary Grace Thornton

      I love what you said! Other than the Story of Sodom and Gomorah, I don’t know where people gather the ideology of God ever hating gays. He wiped out the city because it was full of all sins. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice to wipe out the Old Testament, hence the NEW TESTAMENT, and he taught love and nothing else. Thank you for your understanding :)

    • Yury D Medlin-delaPortilla

      Lol I wonder what kind of comments a “how i became a reformed hemoglobe” would get

  • Mary Grace Thornton

    A lot more people should read this article because they,like myself, can relate. I was brought up thinking homosexuality is a a sin of lust and they have a special place in hell. I never fully understood growing up as to why they are evil. I am a Christian yes, and I believe God is LOVE not HATE. God hates ALL SINS not the sinners. I apologize to those that have been ridiculed for their lifestyle and who they are. True Christians understand your struggle because once upon a time, Christians were persecuted as well. I praise those that step out and become comfortable in your own skin. Christianity’s greatest lesson for me is to love. Love your neighbors and do good work. Never does it say hate your neighbors because they live completely different lives than you do. FEAR is what causes hate and I pray daily that people will accept others for who they are because God does not make mistakes!

  • Sarah Elizabeth Mason

    First of all, that “church” you went to sounds more like a cult. Second of all, I am a born again Christian and have never been to a church that says AIDS is God’s punishment of sin or that homosexuals were Satan Spawn going to hell. I’ve been taught to love everyone equally and leave the judging to The Lord. So are you saying you turned away from your faith because you listened to some crazy cult leader disguised as a preacher? That’s sad. You should read the Bible and see if Jesus says anything about treating certain people “less than” because of their lifestyles. I’ll save you the trouble, he doesn’t. Oh and he wasn’t white and he hung out with prostitutes too..,Southern Baptists hate those facts.

    • Hetty Chang

      I totally did not read this article the way you did. Did she say she turned away from her faith? Or criticize Christianity as a whole? All I read was that she was raised in a particular religious/cultural framework and that while that explained her initial view on homosexuality, she has since changed. And then explained how and why her heart and thinking has changed. This wasn’t an article criticizing religion from what I could see. The defensive tone of your response is so odd and misplaced.

      • Sarah Elizabeth Mason

        She also never said she still believed in Jesus or his teachings. And my comments weren’t negative. They were sympathetic toward someone who only saw one face of Christianity growing up, and I find that sad. If you can name one negative thing I said about her personally, please tell me, because I would apologize. You are further proving that the world doesn’t want Christians to have an opinion or a voice. You attack people that show the smallest deviation from someone else’s viewpoint. I never called her names or put down her character. I simply stated that not all Christians act or believe like that.

        • Yury D Medlin-delaPortilla

          I read your comment too and it does sound very judgmental and condescending, probably you didn’t mean it that way, hey, sometimes shit happens!
          But the more you reply to comments the more crazy pants you sound, and I’m sure you are not like that at all.

    • Shelby Thomas

      What’s she’s describing is my exact upbringing, and there are many, many people like us in the US. No reason to act rude toward something we couldn’t really control. If anything, we should be praising the writer for questioning everything despite all she was raised to think and coming out of the “dark cloud” that is this particular way of thinking. Like Hetty said, I didn’t see anything about questioning religion in general, rather what she was taught within the church she was raised.

      • Sarah Elizabeth Mason

        I don’t see anything rude about my comment. It’s sounds like you’re being emotional about a comment that was opinion based. That’s why our country is awesome. I didn’t cause her of choosing to be in a cult, I was merely pointing out that true Christians don’t think like that and people who call themselves Christians who do think like that aren’t practicing what Jesus taught…point blank.

        • Shelby Thomas

          As Angela has also said in this thread, I guess everyone who read your original comment misinterpreted your tone. What you said did seem rude and catty, but with all of your defensive comments I guess now that was not your intention. Saying “first of all, that ‘church’ you went to sounds more like a cult,” sounds a lot like accusing someone of being in a cult, but again, semantics. Actually, if you take the definition of a cult (“a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object”), most religions would be considered cults, some are just more widely accepted. Of course, I think you were using another connotation (“a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister”), which for the third time, semantics.

          The thing about the last part of your comment bothers me though, because you claim to be practicing “true” Christianity. Who is to say what kind of Christianity is right and what is wrong? People practice what they were taught, what feels right for them, and what is right for their family. Just because someone believes something different than you doesn’t mean they have not accepted Jesus into their heart and will one day go to heaven. This is in the context of the thousands of beliefs Christians have, not just about homosexuals. There are hundreds, if not thousands of different denominations and sects of Christianity and I don’t think anyone can claim to be practicing “true” Christianity, but rather what they believe about the Bible, church, and God.

        • Kristine Gabster

          The thing about the typed word is that you cannot tell the tone of “voice” in which the comment was written. While your first post could have been, and seemingly was, misconstrued, it was good of you to clarify. Now people who read it will understand where you are coming from. You are spot on in your explanation. There are indeed a lot of “Christians” (think KKK – they say they are Christian – ew) who do not walk in the ways of Christ. Jesus gave us two commandments. First was to love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. The second was to, “love your neighbor as yourself.” So many people forget that one. While I hope Becca has found a church home where she is comfortable with their practices and beliefs, hers is not my journey. I too was deeply hurt by someone of authority in the church and left the church for years. Now I have found a loving church home. I was lucky! :)

    • Angela Shirley

      In that case, the whole Southern Baptist church is a cult. That is exactly what I heard about being gay growing up. It’s been toned down a BIT, but just a few weeks ago (after DOMA was struck down) our pastor said that anyone who claims to have been born gay was lying. That (along with being told that if I’m not a literalist, I worship a false God) was one of the last straws for me. I don’t go to that church anymore. I’m glad that wasn’t your church experience, Sarah, but it is true for a lot of us. It’s not something she’s lying about to make Christianity look bad. Some churches do act this way.

      • Sarah Elizabeth Mason

        Did I say anywhere in my comment that she was lying? I love when people twist words. I was merely pointing out that not all Christians were like the ones she came across because it sounds like she only got one type of theological doctrine growing up. People are so quick to jump down Christians throats. How about you show some of that love you claim Christians are lacking toward everyone, to those same people. Practice what you preach, otherwise it’s just talk.

        • Angela Shirley

          Sarah, I’m truly sorry if I put words in your mouth. Based on the tone of your comment, I got the impression that you thought the author was being disingenuous, and in fact seemed mad at her for it. Saying “So are you saying you turned away from your faith because you listened to some crazy cult leader disguised as a preacher?” seemed to imply that she was misrepresenting her experience as one of mainstream Christianity, when she had actually (knowingly) been involved in a cult. My interpretation seemed reinforced by this bit: “That’s sad. You should read the Bible and see if Jesus says anything about treating certain people “less than” because of their lifestyles. I’ll save you the trouble, he doesn’t.” It seems to imply that she hasn’t read the Bible and maybe that she is so bent on defaming Christianity that she wouldn’t anyway. Now that you’ve explained, I realize that is not what you intended. But I was afraid the author would read it that way, and I sought to defend her from what seemed like an accusation. I’m sorry if in seeking to protect her feelings, I hurt yours, instead.

          Might I ask what denomination your church is? As I mentioned earlier, I’m looking for a new church, and one that loves everyone equally and leaves the judging to the Lord sounds like one I’d like to go to!

    • Becca Rose

      Hi Sarah,
      Yes, I was raised in a cult. I was a child, whose parents were very strict and controlling. I didn’t have a choice or any other option to perceive the world differently. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the concept of spiritual abuse, but that’s definitely something I went through. I found your comment to be abrasive and hurtful, as well as your follow-up comments to those who came to my defense. I’m really sorry that your reaction was to blame me for the abuse I suffered, and to think that you can cast aspersions on my current personal spiritual life. That being said, thank you for reading and for sharing your opinion.

    • Philip K. Benbow

      Sarah, I’m curious as to what your opinions are regarding the verses of the bible (in Leviticus, for example) about homosexuality. Do you believe being gay is a sin? If you do, do you believe that gay marriage should be legal?
      I ask you this because most self-professed “Born again Christians” tell me they do think it’s a sin, and gay marriage should be illegal, which contradicts your point about letting God do the judging.
      So you are either in the minority among Born-again Christians by believing gay marriage should be legal regardless of it’s status as a sin, or you don’t believe it is a sin despite what your holy book preaches. My point is that for you to insinuate someone else isn’t a true Christian because their beliefs don’t fall inline with mainstream Christianity–or rather your perception of what it is to be Christian–is rather hypocritical considering many of the same points could be made about yours.

  • Shelby Thomas

    Are we the same person? This is like my exact same story. Thank you for posting this! So important to understand that the people who are hateful toward homosexuals are also on a journey.

  • Brooke Buchanan

    I love this story. I am a Christian as well, and I shudder when I hear about Christians teaching te things you described at the beginning of this post. It’s terrible. I’m a Southern Baptist (mind you I love dancing more than almost anything, so don’t make too many inferences!) and people like Westboro Baptist Church make me just as sick as other evil – men who kidnap young girls, murderers, all the extremes.

    The one thing I disagree with (or maybe just want to expound upon) is where you mention your belief about “the inherent wrongness of loving the same gender” being shaken. My personal journey has has led me to a place where I believe that homosexuality is, indeed, a sin. However, I don’t believe it to be any worse than my own pride, selfishness, lying, etc. It’s simply a little more “visible” to other people, a little more tangible. So, sadly, this makes people think it is somehow worse – or the worst, as you mentioned. This makes me sad. My uncle was gay, and one of the kindest, most wonderful and loving people I’ve ever known – perhaps this, along with my parents and the good fortune of being a part of churches that share my belief, prevented me from falling into the trap of demonizing homosexuality. As some have already mentioned – there are tons of churches and other places that teach this hatred of gay people.

    I cant tell from the article if you turned from hatred for gay people or if you turned from Christianity as a whole. I recommend finding a place now that teaches to love ALL people – God is love, and my task as a Christian is to show that love through my life, and spread the Word and glory of God with others. Sin is sin. Some people disagree on whether homosexuality is a sin – I believe it is, but a person’s sin does not define them. I hope not anyway, because otherwise I have no hope!

  • Jaime Hammer

    This is a beautiful, powerful, honest article! I didn’t grow up in an extremely religious family – we went to church when I was young, and then we started only going on holidays.. But I do know that with most things (religion, society, authority, etc) people don’t question. Many people are taught not to question authority figures in any way, not to think critically, and to do so is considered deviant. But we need to always question. Everything, every day. If we don’t question and think critically then we become robots, only doing and believing what we’re told.
    I think it’s so amazing that you broke away from that cycle and learned about this firsthand so you could choose what to believe, rather than having your beliefs chosen for you.

  • Pamela Rodriguez

    I admire people like you, who eventually go against everything they know for what they discover as the truth: we are all just people trying to be happy. My aunt went through the same process but it was a lot more forced onto her because it was one of her daughters coming out. She decided not to stop loving her, no matter what.

    You should be proud of yourself :) thank you for sharing this

  • Kelly Deane

    As a woman who happens to be lesbian, thank you for your honesty. I am curious to know if you’ve had any sort of conversation about this with your parents since your thoughts have taken such a turn. It would be interesting to know how they reacted to your new belief system regarding this. Thank you again and keep writing!

    • Becca Rose

      Hi Kelly, thanks for commenting! Let’s just say my parents did not react well to my change of beliefs. At all. Very, very, very badly. But I’ve made my peace with that.

      • Yury D Medlin-delaPortilla

        Ok,…was I the only one who pictured the SNL
        ” church lady” waving a judging finger while reading Sarah’s comment??

  • Jamie Consolo

    This is beautiful truth. Thanks for sharing! I was raised in a conservative environment as well (not to the deg. of yours), but I remember struggling with peers who had homophobic as well as racist views. Even before I understood all that was behind it, my bullshit meter went off.
    I moved to California at 19 for college and found myself in the culturally diverse. And I have to say getting out of the judgement filled small town I grew up in felt so freeing. I see with love just as I did as a kid, but now I’m around other people who do too! <3

  • Aaron Jo Smith

    nice article, nice to see people are abandoning homophobic dogma and realising that gays are just people like everyone else. homosexual activity is observed in over 2000 species whereas homophobia is only observed in one, ours, yet people claim homosexuality is wrong and immoral based on some books written thousands of years ago. it’s about time more people pull themselves out of the dark ages.

  • Ivan Remtoula

    Hi Becca! Thanks for writing this very nice article. I enjoyed reading it.
    Keep writing, I love your style!
    Be safe :-)

  • Tiffani Douglas

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Becca. Although my religious upbringing wasn’t nearly as negative as yours, I also carried ignorance and homophobia around my whole life without realizing it. It’s been so hard for me now to separate what is truth from what I simply want to believe, but your story has inspired me to keep pursuing truth when it comes to this issue.

  • Kristine Gabster

    Becca, I appreciate what you have to say a great deal. I was born in the deep south, and I was one of those oddball kids who liked most other kids (unless they were mean). I am so proud of my folks, who were born and raised in the deep south. We used to have a 2 gay couples along with a smattering of gay singles, in our church. Church membership fell and now only the women remain (they got married a couple years ago and have a young daughter – woot woot!). My mom and dad, 86 & 89, respectively, have dropped saying, “They seem so nice,” when these women are mentioned. They stopped saying it because the KNOW they are nice, kind, good people, and they are loving mothers. They have also stopped saying, “I don’t agree with their lifestyle, but…” before they mention a quality they like about them. Around the dinner table at their place once, I asked them the best possible question – a question I’ve posed to several people, “When did you decide to be straight?” They received the question very well, especially considering their age, generation and background. There is always hope.

  • Kazmyn Ortiz

    It saddens me when I hear stories about chirches that spread lies about the bible. No where does God say he hates Gays. No where is it called the worst sin. This kind of horrible twistin of the word enevitably makes front page news and gives all Christians a bad name. Truth is TONs of churches are not like this.. In my life I have never heard a sermon about Homosexuality. Its been mentioned in the reading of a verse, but NEVER the center piece. I hope Christians who only spread whats actually in the Bible start opening their mouths more and reestablish a truer reputation.

  • Kellie Alise Batko

    Hi Becca Rose,
    Wow this subject is always a fire starter huh?
    I enjoyed it immensely thank you for writing it!
    People are people and I try to love them as they are, your article is a good reminder.
    Go write girl!
    Sending you love and support 😀

  • Nina Celeste Acuestas

    This was a well written article, but it makes me very sad that there are “Christians” out there that claim that God hates gay people. That is definitely not supposed to be the case. Real Christians…the kind that we are SUPPOSED to be are supposed to influence others through showing Jesus’ love through ourselves and our actions. “Love one another”. I also believe that Christians who follow that lifestyle of loving others as themselves should definitely speak out more rather than those who only show hatred and condemnation…

  • Rowan Smart

    Great article! Love your story!

  • Sam Ostergard

    I think the comment section was just as interesting as the actual article!

    I vote we abandon the word “Christian” since it has so many misconceived connotations. How about just Bible followers. I am super encouraged by the rad responses from Bible followers in these posts. I think Shelby dropped a good word about what it means to be a ‘true Christian’ anyways. There are many interpretations of the Bible (some are wrong and not based on scholarly examination, but most are equally supported and just tough subject-matter), and most denominational divergences are based on minuscule doctrines i.e. gifts of the spirit, age of baptism, blah blah blah… Yet they all agree on the IMPORTANT things like Christ paying the sacrifice for the times we screwed up and separated ourselves from a perfect God. Homosexuality is NOT one of the important things.

    I think anyone who truly sees the Bible in its full revelation: Old Testament was designed to show the world what is right and wrong and how impossible it is to be perfect via the Law, New Testament completes the Law by saying ‘hey you see now that perfection is impossible, here is Jesus, now just love God and love others and the law is taken care of; all you have to do is accept the gift and it’s yours.’

    There is a huge difference between Bible followers who believe what they’ve been taught, and Bible followers who have taken it upon themselves to read what the Bible has to say for themselves. Based on Biblical teaching, homosexuals in the church should not be treated any different than a boyfriend and girlfriend having sex outside of marriage. It is no different than any other sexual sin. Speaking of sin; if you don’t follow the Bible, and therefore don’t believe in sin, why the heck should ‘Christians’ be holding you to the moral standard of sin? What I’m saying is, as a Bible believer it is not my job to force my moral code upon anyone! It’s my job to love the crap out of them! If you’re a homosexual and a Bible believer…well that really sucks and it’s going to be a hard personal journey trying to reconcile why/how. I don’t have the answers. I don’t buy the ‘it can’t be wrong if God made me this way’ argument because that doesn’t fit with the character of God: to poo poo on gay sex but design people for it…no where else in the Bible does that fit God’s character. I also don’t believe it was a choice. Just as I am attracted to the opposite sex I believe others are attracted to the same. So in the middle somewhere is a big question mark of why some people are gay and some aren’t and science hasn’t figured it out yet so we’ll just have to wait on that one. In the mean time, I LOVE the gay community and I don’t think it is any Bible Believers job to look down on them or do anything but love them.

    As far as gay marriage goes, I have no idea why ‘Christians’ care so much. Probably because they just believe what they are taught and haven’t ever thought for themselves what it really means to LOVE like Jesus. I do understand the implications that it has legally though. A pastor shouldn’t be forced by the law to perform a gay ceremony (at threat of losing the churches non-profit status) if it violates their conscience. That is the legitimate fear I see. Doesn’t sound like American freedom to me to force someone to violate their ethical code. So I don’t care if homosexuals marry, but I also don’t think that every church should be legally bound to perform the ceremony either.

    Ok, I’ve gone on too long. Bible = Love God, Love People, accept the gift of Christ. Gays = people. Bible = Love Gays.

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