Check out Brady’s story of hurting in the closet, sharing about his sexuality over Christmas, and praying for closeted kids and their parents this Christmas.
My journey to full-time ministry was predictable. I was saved as a freshman in high school, immediately got involved in my youth ministry, and started working as the youth pastor in college. But behind the facade of a passionate honors student eager to serve God and His church was a terrified young man cracking under the overwhelming pressure to preserve this false ideal. In particular, each Christmas season with my church and family marked another year of hiding and painful isolation.
The holidays can be a nightmare for anybody: chaotic shopping trips, family arriving earlier than expected and staying later than desired, trying to cook a perfect meal for Christmas dinner, and hoping everyone loves their gifts can be more than enough to stir up anxiety in anyone’s home. But imagine having to do all that and constantly guard a secret that could drastically change your life if revealed in the wrong light. Sound exhausting? It was for me, even after sharing with my parents that I was a gay celibate Christian.
Hiding for four Christmases
After realizing I was gay, I spent four Christmases in the closet before I came out to my parents. Although I’d shared earlier about my sexuality with most of my close friends, I continued to hide during family gatherings. I was careful not to say anything that might betray my story. To avoid suspicion, I held my tongue when someone blurted out a homophobic statement or slur. I was trapped in a web of lies about who I was. I wanted to enjoy time with my family, but inside I just wanted to be back at college with friends who knew me completely and loved me fully.
Before Christmas break each year, my college friends would have a “Friendsmas” gathering, complete with Secret Santa and homemade food. We laughed and shared how thankful we were for this little group of friends who had become a family. When I walked into my friends’ dorm, the claustrophobia of the closet lifted, and I knew I could be myself without worrying. I could rest in the reality that they knew about my sexuality and they loved me. On one occasion, a best friend told me how thankful he was for my vulnerability. He shared that my honesty had helped him grow in empathy and understanding for LGBT+ people in the Church. By the end of that conversation, we were both crying.
But as I left his embrace and headed home, the wounds of the closet began to ache again. I imagined myself carrying the weight of my world on my shoulders. If my secret escaped, would I crumble under that weight?
I couldn’t take the pain and pressure any longer. Four years of living a double life between school and home led to devastating anxiety and depression. My grades fell along with my mental health. I had to move back home a month before graduation to focus on getting my grades high enough to walk the stage.
Coming out over the holidays
I started therapy, and a few weeks before graduation and Christmas I finally shared with my parents. I felt like I owed them an explanation for what had happened. Their response was neutral. Not thrilled but not grieved. We were all glad I was able to lift that weight from my shoulders and move forward together. My mom was more comfortable with ongoing conversation than my dad. He was raised to believe that identifying as gay was wrong, but he assured me that he still loved me. He didn’t want me to be in pain.
Thanks to my recently obtained diploma, my extended family was more focused on my future career goals than my love life that Christmas. When the inevitable comments about not being married or not having a girlfriend surfaced, I had a newfound confidence to claim my singleness as an opportunity to focus on serving God as the youth pastor at my church. I didn’t say the word gay, but at least I didn’t have to pretend I was attracted to women and search for a wife.
Despite coming out to my parents, I was still worried how extended family would respond. Now that some of my family knew my story, any conversation about the LGBTQ+ community would have extra weight, extra pain. In the past family members joked about gay people with disgust. So when my uncle used the word “faggot” at my first family Christmas out of the closet, I froze.
To my surprise, my mom (who is usually fairly submissive) quickly jumped in to stop my uncle. She played it off as being generally annoyed with him, but her knowing glance to me made clear: You’re my baby. No one hurts my baby like that. I’m on your team now.
Vulnerability enabled ministry
The most beautiful, God-touched moment that year came on Christmas Eve. My cousin is another “black sheep” of our family because of her more progressive perspectives, honesty about her deconstructing faith, a turbulent dating history in high school, and her strained relationship with her parents. When I was completely in the closet, I didn’t feel like I could voice my support for her in family conflict. We had drifted apart.
But after my uncle’s homophobic slur and my mother’s momma-bear-ing, my cousin snuck out to the balcony for a vape break and I followed to get a break from family. We both opened up about how we felt our family wasn’t a safe or healthy environment for our mental health challenges. I came out to her, and she teared up. She said she was honored that I felt comfortable enough to be vulnerable with her. We lingered in the cold and talked about what it really meant to live out the Gospel until we couldn’t feel our faces anymore.
My cousin and I have had several God-touched conversations since that night two years ago, and I’ve seen God working in mysterious ways as she’s slowly but surely found a renewed interest in her faith. If I hadn’t shared with her about my sexuality, I wonder if the ensuing conversations about faith would have been stifled by the closet as well. My fear would have kept me from a 2 Corinthians 5 connection with someone who felt cut off from God. My pain would have blocked the Holy Spirit’s guidance to speak with her.
My first Christmas out of the closet was the beginning of new ministry opportunities: not only was I called to help young people at my church get to know Jesus, but as a gay celibate Christian I could proclaim a message of reconciliation by being visible evidence of God’s grace to those who don’t see anyone like themselves reflected in the Body of Christ.
Advice for closeted teens and parents
Celebrating Christmas in the closet can be an extremely painful experience for LGBT+ people, and as the years add up so do the wounds. My scars are not entirely unique, and as Christmas approaches there are countless LGBT+ people feeling the same crushing weight I carried on my shoulders. To anyone reading this from behind closet doors, I pray that the peace of God would be with you this Christmas and that you will find rest in knowing that He sees you for who you are and loves you more than words could ever define. It took me four Christmases to finally come out of hiding to my parents. I pray you see the opportunity coming out offers to display the redemption, forgiveness, love, and reconciliation as we celebrate our Savior’s humble arrival and joyfully await His glorious return.
To parents who read my story and pray their child never has to endure the same pain, I pray you will start conversation with your kid this Christmas about God’s love and wisdom for gay people. Invite them to share with you if they ever realized same-sex attraction is a part of their story, and show them that you’re safe. Save them from the wounds of the closet.
Check out Equip’s Christmas Parent Conversation Starter for age-appropriate scripts and tips for starting dialogue with your kids this Christmas!