Here’s the second of a two-part guest post from Alex Tylee on her experience of being a gay Christian. Alex – thanks so much for your wisdom and openness.
Q. As a Christian experiencing same sex attraction, where can I go for help and support?
A. True Freedom Trust is a really helpful Christian charity that exists to support Christians experiencing same sex attraction. They accept you as you are – it’s not a ‘healing’ ministry – and seek to support you in living as a Christian who experiences those feelings but chooses not to physically act on them. They will put you in touch with others in the same position which is helpful for a lot of people as it can be a lonely old path to tread. There are support groups in many areas of the country, and trained Voluntary Workers who can meet with or contact you to talk things through and help decide on the best support for you. There’s also an annual conference which takes place over a weekend, and is a chance to eat and worship with others who are facing the same battles. There’s something wonderfully liberating about sitting down next to a stranger for lunch at a conference and knowing that their weakness is much like yours and so neither of you have to pretend. You can find out more about True Freedom Trust at www.truefreedomtrust.co.uk
Q. If you’re a parent, how can you respond most lovingly to your child telling you they’re gay?
A. What a painful thing for any parent to have to hear. It’s no parent’s dream to have a gay child, whatever your beliefs about it. It’s also no child’s dream to have to say that to a parent. By the time they’ve got to the point of telling you, it’s likely they’ve already been through the process of grieving those dreams that you will now have to start to grieve. I would want to say to parents, recognise that this was an incredibly hard thing for them to tell you. Your child is afraid that they are risking your relationship with them and that you might love them less for it. Make it super, super clear that you love them just as much! That message is more important than anything you could say. Don’t be afraid that it will mean that they will be more likely to think they can act on their feelings. It’s that old paradox: it’s grace that makes us choose what’s right, not condemnation. Grace also loves when the other doesn’t choose what’s right. Be prepared to do it in either situation, and keep loving, no matter what they choose.
True Freedom Trust also offers support for parents of gay offspring so it may help to know you’re not alone in all the complex things you’re feeling.
Q. Would you advise treating say early teens differently from adults? (Wary of being patronising, but also that some same sex crushes aren’t always permanent)
A. I’ve heard of a really helpful website that addresses this balance well: www.freetobeme.com. At the time of writing the website is down for maintenance so I hope that’s only temporary. I’m told it’s non-condemnatory, but also introduces the idea that not every feeling has to be acted on. This is helpful because it’s common to swing one way or the other: either by condemning the young person for what they are feeling, and perhaps not taking it seriously by saying they’ll grow out of it; or at the other end of the spectrum, being wholly and unquestioningly positive which makes it harder to consider the Christian point of view. In general I’d advise against calling anything a phase to a young person. However long something lasts, it’s very real to them in that moment so respond to them with compassion in that moment. I can remember how infuriated I felt as a teenager when I was told that various things were phases! They may well have been but there was nothing more likely to make me dig my heals in and do it more!
Q. Is it worth churches setting up say support groups – or does this compound the issues by making them into separate struggles?
A As I mentioned before, True Freedom Trust has its own support groups, which obviously do by definition separate it out as a separate struggle. There is a valid argument against this, in that it can lead to perhaps too much of a focus on the issue and ghettoise it a bit. Personally, I think that the positives of mutual support, a level of accountability and a place to take off the masks, outweigh this.
If there were groups within churches, my guess is that these groups would be pretty small unless it was quite a big church. An alternative idea is that maybe there could be groups where it’s encouraged that such things are talked about within the context of others talking about similar but different problems. So a group where sexual struggles in general are discussed for example. It’s not something I’ve ever done within a church context, so maybe readers would have a better idea than me about what’s worked, what hasn’t and why.
Alex’s book is called Walking with Gay Friends and you can get it here.
“There is no way to describe this book other than brilliant. .necessary reading if you’ve got gay friends, and essential reading if you haven’t. Buy three, read one and pass the rest on.” Dr Justin Thacker, Head of Theology, Evangelical Alliance.
Image source: thenakedpastor.com