I am a 27-year-old gay man who only recently came out. I was married for a few years and that was just to shut my family up. My problem is that my dad is a minister and I was raised in the church from childhood on. I used to play the organ every Sunday (no pun intended).
I have found a wonderful boyfriend and am discovering what real love and sexual connection is all about. I can’t let go of the idea that God hates me now and that I am now a disappointment to Him. When I have an orgasm with my boyfriend, I feel incredible guilt and shame, like I’m “dirty”. Can you help me?
Confused child of God
Thanks for your letter and your honesty. I appreciate your dilemna. It brings up some fundamental questions: Does God love everyone, or is Her/His love conditional? Is it true, as Pastor Charles Lanier of Unity Fellowship Church used to say, “God has no respect of person. God is love and love is for everyone”? Or is it true that “God hates fags” as those religious extremists so tastefully point out every year at Pride. If your childhood concept of God is a punishing one, why hold onto it as an openly gay man?
Easier said than done. Luckily, you don’t have to tackle this alone. Metropolitan Community Church (Clairemont), Unity Fellowship Church (Hillcrest), Universal Spirit Center (Hillcrest) and the Unitarian Universalist Churches (Hillcrest and Solana Beach) are some of the San Diego churches who welcome LGBT members with open arms. You might call one of these churches and ask to have a talk with the minister/pastor. Get spiritual support from someone who knows what she/he is talking about. Don’t listen to ignorant religious extremists as you explore how to be a joyfully gay child of God. Go to people who have scholarly knowledge (of the Bible, Koran, etc.) and learn from them. In addition to churches themselves, there are LGBT groups like “Dignity” for gay Catholics. For more resources, look in Gay San Diego, call The Center or use Google.
How do you keep your faith and drop the guilt? I strongly recommend the book “Coming Out Spiritually” by the brilliant Christian de la Huerta. De la Huerta is the founder of Q-Spirit (www.qspirit.org), an international network of LGBT people of spirituality.
In his book, de la Huerta explores spiritual roles/archetypes that LGBT people have often assumed and continue to enact today, e.g., creator of beauty, consciousness scout, mediator, shaman and healer. The book may open your eyes to the many possibilities that we as LGBT people have for spiritual happiness.
Consider the Men’s Coming Out Group at The Center. You’ll likely find that you are not the only newly out gay man to experience the guilt of a God who allegedly hates you now because you’re a happy, loving homosexual.
Don’t do this alone: you’ve had 27 years of anti-gay conditioning. It will probably take you a while to “de-program” yourself of your internalized homophobia. Talk with your boyfriend and supportive friends, read up on queer spirituality, and consider connecting with a spiritual/church community whose fellowship will be a loving and nurturing one.
While I am not an overtly religious person, I am a gay man whose connection with God is important to me. My own experience is that being gay, lesbian, transgendered or bisexual is a GIFT from God…a blessing, a privilege and an honor. I don’t think God gives these gifts out haphazardly.
My experience is that She/He bestows these gifts on souls that are ready to take them on and use them in this lifetime. The awareness, intelligence, sensitivity and strength that are born of being gay, lesbian, transgendered or bisexual are not known by most heterosexual folk…we have special gifts, and like any gifts , they come with obligations and responsibilities.
I believe we are here to TEACH heterosexual folks about love, tolerance, kindness, forgiveness and unconditional positive regard. To quote gay literary icon Paul Monette:
“Gay and lesbian people who have fought through their self-hatred and their self-recriminations have a capacity for empathy that is glorious and a capacity to find laughter in things that is like praising God. There is a kind of flagrant joy about us that goes very deep and is not available to most people.”
You might consider brief psychotherapy to help you with the guilt you experience after orgasm. Cognitive therapy could be useful in replacing the guilt-based thoughts with neutral or supportive thoughts…the logic here being that guilt is an emotion caused by distorted thinking (i.e., “God must hate me because I’m having an orgasm with another man.”)
If you can change the thoughts you’re having during sex to something like “God loves me and I love my boyfriend” or “Loving my man is an expression of God’s love for me”, your guilt over orgasming is likely to dissipate fairly quickly.
Does all this sound like too much work? I encourage you to flip it and see it differently: integrating your happy new life as a gay man with your previous religious conditioning can be seen as a troubling burden, or as an amazing adventure. Because there are so few guidelines for living our lives as queer children of God, we get to make it up as we go along.
Churches and organizations can be helpful, but, ultimately, it’s an individual decision how you choose to live your life: spiritually, sexually, etc. The possibilities are infinite…may you enjoy the journey.