If you’re anywhere inside the evangelical world, gay and Christian are rarely found in the same sentence.
A few months ago, Jen Hatmaker posted on Instagram about this blog she was obsessed with. It was a series of blogs written by Brett Trapp, a (now grown) pastor’s kid from the south. It’s his coming out journey – and a close look inside his relationship with Jesus.
The blog is his life’s story.
An honest, raw, humbling story.
I read his blog and was captivated. With tears streaming down my face, my heart understood a bit of what many inside our churches, youth groups, Bible studies and communities go through.
ALL THE TIME.
Their pain is there.
It’s just rarely seen.
The “gay” topic inside of church tends to spark a lot of fear. It’s either not talked about, or if it is a line is quickly drawn – with both sides holding firmly to their convictions and both adamantly opposed to the alternate point of view.
He goes onto say,
A bridge is an exchange of ideas…where we come and have dialogue without the fear of being judged for our personal ideology. A bridge is a span where two fixed points that would never connect would have an ability to meet over objects that would normally keep them from meeting.
I’m inviting you to meet me on a bridge.
One where we may have different view-points (and that’s okay!), but one where we can come together, open our ears to listen and open our hearts to a conversation.
This is not a blog to ignite personal viewpoints on what we believe is right or wrong. Dear God, we have enough of that everywhere else. This blog is an invitation to meet a person – a real person – who you would otherwise not have a chance to meet.
So, pull up a chair, grab a drink. I invite you to sit in on the conversation. Meet my new friend, Brett Trapp.
Hi Brett! Thank you for taking the time to let me interview you! Tell me a little about your upbringing…
Hey Anna! I grew up in a little river town called Florence, Alabama. It’s fairly small (about 40,000 residents). My dad was a Southern Baptist pastor of a pretty big church and my mom was a teacher when I was younger. I have two older brothers, Brady & Brian. We had a very lovely family not unlike other conservative Christian families in the 90s. Lots of love.
We weren’t perfect, but I feel like I hit the lottery with the family I got.
What was it like being a pastor’s kid?
I actually really loved it. Most PK’s don’t…but I did. It was kind of like being a mini-celebrity which is silly to say, but it’s true in a small southern town. I went to church three times a week—Sunday morning/night as well as Wednesday nights. I participated in all the extra programs—Bible drill, youth group, mission trips, etc. Aside from the spiritual aspect, I think church attendance in incredibly developmental for kids. You’re learning communication, character development, and eventually leadership (mostly in high school).
I also think my parents did a good job of shielding us from church drama. Every church has it, but I really struggle to remember anything about it which means they kept it from me. I loved being a preacher’s kid, and I loved the people I went to church with.
What was your first encounter with Jesus like?
Well, like most church kids, I knew all about religion growing up, but it took a while for me to finally meet Jesus for myself. It happened at a charismatic, Assemblies of God revival in Pensacola, Florida, around 1997. I was a sophomore in high school. I went to the revival with my family and had never seen anything like it–worshipping, dancing, shouting. But in that environment, I became aware that’d I’d done wrong and needed Jesus. I told the full story in Episode 6 of Blue Babies Pink.
Did you date girls and what was it like?
Well I certainly tried! Went on a few dates in middle school (got my first kiss), but didn’t really date at all in high school. I went to a small, conservative Christian school (less than 100 kids total). The book I Kissed Dating Goodbye had just come out so it was very en vogue to not date. It was a sign of your piety. I just had no emotional or physical desire to date girls, so I sorta hid behind that book and everyone thought I was super-spiritual because I didn’t date.
In college, I went on a few dates but they were so painfully awkward, I can’t even describe it. Going on a date with a girl when you’re gay feels like someone pushing you onto a stage in front of a big crowd and asking you to give a speech in Chinese when you don’t know a single word in Mandarin. Being asked to manufacture something you don’t have is an awkward and helpless feeling. I feel really bad that those girls had to put up with me back then.
When did you realize you were attracted to guys?
Well I always kinda sensed it, but it didn’t start out as a purely sexual thing. When I was in middle school, it kinda just felt like an intense envy. In high school I think I was able to just shut it down by staying really busy. But it was the summer after I graduated when I went to work at these youth camps down in Florida. There was a guy there—probably in his 20s—who I was undeniably attracted to. Seeing him around all week was torture and there was no joy in it. It was pure fear, because that was the first time I had to admit that this thing was real…my worst fear (of being gay) was coming true and I couldn’t stop it. (FYI: I wrote about that camp guy in Episode 10.)
What were you taught in church about homosexuality?
In the pantheon of really bad sins, it was pretty much the worst. In the 90s in the American South the really bad teenage sins—going from slightly terrible to completely and utterly terrible—were:
- Hetero pre-marital sex
- Dating someone of another race
- Getting pregnant out of wedlock (girls only. Guys seem to get off the hook on this one)
- Being gay
I’d rank those differently now, but back then, pretty much the last thing you’d want your kid to be is gay. Most southern mamas would rather their kid have a drug problem than be gay. That’s tough to admit, but most people who grew up then know it’s true.
So needless to say, I was well-aware of how the culture viewed it. What made (and still makes) the gay thing so bad is you have different sub-cultures that condemn it. American sub-culture in general didn’t like it. Masculine sub-culture didn’t like it. Southern sub-culture didn’t like it. And pretty much all religious institutions REALLY didn’t like it.
My dad was the pastor of our church, and I don’t remember him ranting about it, but it was definitely brought up by others and in the “literature” distributed from the Southern Baptist Convention. My Christian high school taught against it pretty loudly as well.
I learned early on that homosexuality was THE WORST, and when I realized that that awful thing was inextricably interwoven into my physiology, I was terrified. I “went into the closet” in my mind and swore I’d never tell anyone.
Did you attempt to fast/pray your “struggle” away?
Oh 100%. Every single day, basically. That was the obsession of my youth—high school, college, and even a little bit after. I believed that it was just like any other sin and with enough prayer, fasting, laying on of hands, casting out of demons, I could overcome it. I thought it could be sanctified into non-existence with enough prayer and persistence.
Did you feel lonely and if so, how did you cope?
Oh yes! I can’t even describe how lonely I felt over the years. In my early 20’s, I committed to a life of singleness/celibacy, because that’s what I thought God demanded of me. When you read Blue Babies Pink, loneliness is one of the most common themes—me watching everyone else “grow up” and grow into marriage, kids, etc.—and me feeling left behind and “stuck” in singleness. In my mid 20s I could ignore it. In my late 20’s it wrecked me. And in my 30s it exploded into full-blown anxiety. One of the more popular/sad episodes I wrote was Episode 24 called “Lonely Practice” in which I tell how I would literally practice being lonely in hopes that it would get easier. Bottom line though: Humans are made for love and companionship and no matter how many times I told myself I didn’t need it, the worse it got.
When did you embrace being gay?
Well this is tricky to answer because I don’t love the word “embrace.” It makes it sound like there was a moment where I donned a rainbow speedo, picked up my rainbow flag, and stormed the streets of Atlanta in an unbridled fit of gay pride, lol.
I’ll say this: Sometime in my mid-20s I accepted the reality that my body was same-sex attracted and, based off my research, that was unlikely to change. That’s not a statement of support for the “gay lifestyle,” it’s simply a declaration of personal biology. It’s like a brunette who desperately dyes her hair blonde every day, and then one day wakes up and says, “I’m just a brunette. It is what it is. And I’m okay with that.” *trashes hair dye*
What was the reaction of your friends and family when you came out?
Really great, actually. The vast majority of my community was (and is) conservative Christian people. The gay issue is so taboo, I was really fearful that some/all of them might reject me. The reality was though, it never happened. Of course, some of them were shocked (and some totally were NOT shocked, haha). But all my family and my close friends have been so kind and loving through this. Not all of them agree with me theologically, but that doesn’t stop them from loving me or me from loving them. We’ve learned to love each other in spite of great disagreement. This is something I wish our culture could learn.
Tell me about your first date with a guy?
Haha. You have to read Blue Babies Pink for that story. 😉
As a Christian, what would you tell others who have friends/family who are gay?
Your first and only job is to love that person. Whether they are same-sex attracted and are committed to celibacy or if they are just beginning to date or if they have been in the “gay scene” for a decade, it doesn’t matter. ALL THAT MATTERS IS THAT YOU LOVE THEM. Of course, there may come a time to talk theology, behavior, etc., but if you start there, your influence is wasted. I recommend loving your gay friend/family member as intensely as you can for as long as you can before that stuff comes up. Then, if they are okay with it, ask them questions. Let them tell you what their experience has been like. Ask them about the journey, the fear, the loneliness, etc. Everyone’s story is so different.
You must understand that gay people who’ve grown up in the church feel fundamentally unlovable. Many of us are shackled with more shame than you can imagine. “But they need to know where I stand on this!” No. They don’t. Every gay person in America knows the churches will only push us away. Take a LOOOOOONG season of loving and listening, and over time, you will earn the right to talk further. But start, continue, and finish with love.
To read Brett’s full story, go to Blue Babies Pink.