As our team planned for Equip’s 2018 “Why Come Out?” event, I was reminded that I’d never come out. Most of my friends and family know. If you didn’t know, you’ve probably guessed as much—most straight people don’t care this much about making the Church a better place for gay people. I don’t think everyone has to share their story publicly, but it makes sense for me. Check out my story below, and watch the recording of “Why Come Out?” here.
In 6th grade, I realized I was gay*, and I swore I would never let anyone know who I really was.
I was ASHAMED
I grew up hearing that being gay was bad, dirty, and disgusting. When a gay person came on TV or was seen in public, people commented how gross gay marriage was and how godless gay people were. If the topic ever came up in church, it was a simple statement that God was against homosexuality. It’s no surprise that I thought I was bad, dirty, and disgusting. I believed I must have done something wrong to deserve this.
So I tried to make a deal with God. I promised Him that I would read my Bible every day for six months if He would make me straight. I held up my end of the bargain, but God didn’t. I promised I would obey my parents without fail. No change. I stopped playing video games. Still gay. Time and time again I begged God to heal me if being gay wasn’t how I was supposed to be, and time and time again change didn’t seem to be His will.
I remember watching the show Next on MTV the first time a gay man was the contestant. I savored every bittersweet image, because while part of me reached out to the screen saying “He is like me,” the other said “You are disgusting.” I remember reading any book for school where two guys had a close friendship—A Separate Peace, The Chocolate Wars, The Chosen—wanting for them to be gay and to lose myself in the story. And my shame persisted.
I was AFRAID
In middle school I played leading roles in both of our theater productions, but in high school I quickly realized that the same people in the theater club where also in our Gay-Straight Alliance. I could not risk anyone suspecting that I was gay. No more theater for Pieter.
Gay marriage was a particularly contentious topic during the 2008 election, so naturally, our government class played out the same divisive conversations found on CNN. Unintentionally fulfilling stereotypes, I was one of the most ardent opponents of gay marriage—thinking that perhaps that would throw people off my trail. I remember a female classmate turning around in her chair to berate me for being a bigot. Then she said with omniscience, “I bet you’re secretly gay, and one day you’re going to come out. You’re just so homophobic because you don’t want anyone to know who you are.” I was terrified.
I am most ashamed of these moments where my fear of being outed and disgust of my homosexuality turned to homophobia that hurt others. I’m haunted by a scene from high school cross country. Derek was the only openly gay guy in our school and he was on the team. As we waited at the starting line for a race to begin, everyone paired up for partner stretching. But one by one as Derek asked the other guys to help him stretch, he was turned away with, “No. Gross! I don’t want to touch you and I don’t want you touching me!” Then he got to me and I (sheepishly) refused. I dished out the same pain I had spent so many tears and prayers trying to soothe.
But I wanted to be KNOWN
One night during sophomore year of high school, I lay on my bed listening to Come to Jesus by Chris Rice on repeat. I didn’t know if I could trust anyone, but I couldn’t handle being alone and ashamed anymore. I finally mustered the courage, walked downstairs, and told my parents. They didn’t know how to help me any more than I did, but it was still a great relief: I wasn’t all alone with my secret anymore.
Sometimes telling my story led to great pain, and other times it was a pathway for deep beauty. Toward the end of high school I shared my story with my youth pastor. One night during a youth conference weekend, our youth pastor gave a devotion about shame and encouraged each of us to talk to an adult leader about our deepest secret. But when I shared my deepest secret, he was silent. After a string of meaningless Christian cliches, he sent me away.
Throughout college, I devoted myself to a campus ministry. I followed every instruction of my mentor, led Bible studies, represented the organization to the university, and planned recruitment efforts. I was given every reason to believe I could join the campus ministry staff after college if I desired. And then without warning, I was told not to apply to go on staff with that campus ministry or at any university. The only explanation given: we don’t know what to do with you and your attractions.
Thankfully, most responded to my story with love and compassion. During my sophomore year of college after a gay brother was kicked out of our Christian fraternity, I took the scary step of sharing my story with the entire fraternity. I needed straight brothers to know how to better love people like me, and I needed gay brothers to know that they weren’t alone. My fear of being shunned turned to joyful surprise as brother after brother lined up to give me a hug and opened their phone to schedule a meal to get to know me better. These men embodied Christ for me better than a church ever has.
To be CLEAR
I have always held historic Christian beliefs about how God invites me to steward my sexuality—that God calls all people to celibacy or Christian marriage with someone of the opposite sex. But there have been plenty of bumps along the way. There have been plenty of times when, out of my loneliness and isolation, I reached out for something—anything—to make me feel again or stop feeling. And while I’ve taken responsibility for my actions, I’ve come to see that the source of that problem lies more outside than within. The Church isn’t a place where single people can find deep love in friendship. The Church isn’t a place where celibate people can find family. My vocation of celibacy isn’t valued. The rich theology of celibacy is Scripture isn’t taught. There aren’t clear pathways for my thriving. Straight Christians don’t know how to love gay people well. The Church doesn’t prepare our parents or pastors to minister to us. No one knows how to care for me.
This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. Gay kids shouldn’t have to worry whether their friends or family will still love them when they come out. We shouldn’t have to come out to see who will really love us. I shouldn’t have to write this post.
Now I’m GRATEFUL (well, most days)
I am grateful for the LGBT+ people before me that endured more suffering than I will ever know so that I can come out without fearing I will be kicked to death, gunned down in the name of Jesus, decapitated, slammed into the wall by my parents, bludgeoned to death with a bottle, beaten with baseball bats, pummeled with a pipe wrench, punched to death, attacked by a bus driver, shot and burned, trailed and murdered, or massacred in a mass shooting.
I’ve had many great straight friends over the years who have loved me well. Thanks Christian, Kyle, Stephen, and Chase, just to name a few (sorry for outing y’all as heteros).
Most of all, I am grateful for the purpose and meaning God has given me through my sexuality. Because I am gay, I’ve become thoroughly convinced that God loves LGBT+ people and wants so fiercely for the Church to actually offer those best things He hopes we would take hold of. I’m daily grateful that I get to be a part of teaching the Church how to make that a reality. I can’t imagine how I would have come to know God’s love for me, all people, and in particular those on the margins, if I weren’t gay.
I hope you’re as lucky as me to have something in your life that forces you to see God’s love for those who are different.
Your church can host “Why Come Out?” to help Christians respond compassionately to coming out and gay pride.
*What do I mean when I use the word gay? Phenomenologically, it is merely the most common word to describe my experience of being attracted to other men. Culturally, I identify as gay as a way of identifying with other gay Christians stewarding their sexualities according to a historic Christian sexual ethic. I feel particularly connected to this family within the body of Christ who have endured the same challenges as me and understand me in a way others won’t. It is through my love for these people and ministry to them that my faith deepens.
GOD bless you Pieter. Very powerful testimony. I will keep.you in my prayers. Connection..I went to H S with your father
Thank you so much for the encouragement. Small world!
I feel such a love for Gay people. I meet many who are excellent human beings. As a minister, I’m conflicted about having to let them know that if they’re engaging in same-sex activity and see nothing wrong with it and have no intention of changing, then their participation in ministry or in leadership positions will not be possible in our church. How do I love and include and yet adhere to orthodox Christian teaching on same-sex activity? I just can’t see a way for this discussion to be a "feel good" situation….I need a language to make my deliver a pastoral one.
Great question Tim. I think you’re right, until stewarding one’s sexuality according to a traditional sexual ethic bears undeniably good fruit in the lives of gay people, few gay people will be willing to take up that cross, so to speak. The onus is on the Church to become a place where gay people can thrive–with reasonable effort–according to a traditional sexual ethic. Let’s talk more over email about how your church can do this!
I’m so encouraged by your story. Do you know of any support for SSA Christian males in Orlando, FL?
I’m happy to hear my story has been helpful. I don’t know of any local resources in Orlando, but I know a couple of Side B gay Christians in the area who could be a source of fellowship and accountability. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can try to connect you.
There is a ministry there. ExchangeMinistries. They have a website for more information. Best of Luck!
Thank you so much for your testimony. Your story is the balance we desperately need. Inspite of your struggles and poor responses to your struggles from those in the church, you have rightful rejected the liberal agenda that same gender sexual relationships are permissible and encouraged. God bless in your ministry
I’m glad my story could be an encouragement. Too often we are forced to choose between extremes offered by the Church or society. We are working to help churches become places where gay people can belong and thrive according to a traditional sexual ethic.
Stephanie L Thole
I love this! Wow!
Stephanie L Thole
I am in awe of the Lord! Thank You for sharing your story AND being willing to continue to love and Pursue the Church! Thank You for calling the Church back to love. Ministry and life here on earth is messy. I am praying that you continue to be led by the Lord.
Stephanie, I am so glad to hear that my story was encouraging for you! Thank you for your prayer as well–we need it!
Love this. This was one of the first posts I read (before today I mean).
Aww thank you!
Pieter, your story is a beautiful one that speaks of the Lord’s redemption and of the unique beauty of us each possessing the image of God. Thank you for your bravery and courage to share your story with the world! It’s a beacon of hope to all looking for a glimmer of light
I’m so glad to hear that it was encouraging! God is doing a beautiful work in all of us 🙂
As a 21 year old "ex-lesbian" entirely alone in this painful struggle of faith and feelings…I needed this perspective…thank you.
Of course, because you’re evangelical — you must assume the way you live is the only way to live a Christian life, and the way you interpret the bible must be the only way to interpret the bible. Christian history teaches us this isn’t true.
I’m not sure I would identify myself as an evangelical. More accurately, I would identify as an Anglocatholic. I don’t assume that the way I live is the only way to live or that my personal interpretation of the Bible has any weight. Jesus passed on the authority to teach and interpret his teachings to the Apostles (and then to the orthodox Bishops today who can legitimately claim apostolic succession). A vast majority of those bishops across the world today continue to teach the sexual ethic in Scripture that the Church has taught for 2000 years.
Being gay room both of my marriages it took me 45 years to come out realizing that I fought my gay thoughts for all that time I just couldn’t come to grips that I was homosexual
Should have said ruined
John, I’m sorry to hear about the pain of your story. I hope you’ve found a supportive Christian community!
Hello Pieter, I’m Doug Shoumaker, and I’m an adolescent/child psychologists. I’ve been listening to your TikToks & other social media, and just so thankful for your message. I too have struggled with my sexuality every since I was a little guy. I can relate so much to what you’re saying. I’m also a Christian and have been involved in most every ministry in the church you can imagine. No, I’m not out of the closet nor married. I have chosen to live a celibate Christian lifestyle. I have never had sex or messed around with a guy before. I can totally relate to every video that you’ve posted. Is there anyway that we can talk or communicate. I have so many questions I’d love to ask you and talk about! I hope you respond to me.
Doug, thanks for reaching out and sharing some of your story! I’ll respond over an email soon 🙂
Pieter, wow. Thank you for sharing your story and your wonderful organization. I’m a gay celibate Christian myself and have headed up various ministries/organizations for people dealing with AIDS in NYC & NJ since the early 1990s. One unexpected blessing providing a safe place for gay Christians to serve others while building a community of believers for sexual minorities adhering to orthodox biblical sexual ethics. I’m so glad you and your staff are leading the way to equip the church!
You’re welcome Ron! I’m so glad to hear about the important work you’ve done! If you’d ever like to explore getting involved in Equip, feel free to email us at email@example.com!