Those gay teens in your church? I was one of them.
I didn’t really know it yet—I didn’t identify as gay—but I was attracted to women. I felt an increasing intrigue towards them, while boys were... kind of gross. I had five brothers (and seven sisters), so I grew up fighting with the boys, playing GI Joes with the boys, longing to be included with the boys.
I dated guys a bit. One of my boyfriends seemed like the male version of me: he was the other youth group superstar. When we secretly caught each other’s eye in the prayer circle, we silently agreed dating the other superstar made sense. That was an interesting few months.
Nobody suspected me. I hardly suspected myself. Whenever I felt the draw towards women, I squashed it down. That’s a sin. Not just a sin, but the worst-worst sin, I believed.
When I share my testimony, this is usually the part where I fast-forward to my secret same-sex relationship in college. I was attending a Christian university, facilitating small groups, and leading worship at the same church where my dad was a pastor. I wished I could tell someone, but I didn’t know who I could trust. Every time I heard church people say, “Those gay people,” their voices dripping with vitriol, or every time they elbowed me after making a gay joke, I threw up an invisible wall of distrust between us. I will never be open with them, I promised myself. Staying in the church is harder than leaving.
I often continue the story to a scene post-college where I wrestled between two choices: kill myself or come out as a lesbian atheist. I talk about how a wise person taught me these “solutions” were not the answers I was searching for. There was a third way I didn’t know was possible, and it was to sink my whole self into the truth of the gospel: “You are broken. You are beloved. But so is everyone. You can live in the tension with hope.”
Today, though, I do not want to fast-forward through high school. Instead, I want to push pause right at the moment I was first wrestling with my sexuality, and ask High School Laurie: What do you wish your church knew about you? What do you wish they would do for you?
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