Breaking the Silence

From the moment I began to acknowledge my connection to women, many of my Christian friends began to immediately critique my spiritual standing.  The conclusions always jumped to my lack of self-control, some failure of mine to “respond to the Holy Spirit” or that I was willfully sinful, headstrong and purposed to throw out my concern for pleasing God. The thought of my spiritual mentors and evangelical friends always ended with the conclusion that something was horribly wrong with me.

I wish that I could say that I was surprised by these reactions, but I was not. On more than one occasion I was “admonished” privately for the mere appearance of being gay (I don’t really like to wear high heels!) Despite years of celibacy and years of ignoring any sense of my own sexual identity, I was still being cautioned. The message to me was very clear: being gay was not an option for a “true” Christian.

It took many years of fearing to ask the difficult questions, but eventually I discovered that my sexual orientation was not the sole determining factor in my journey of faith. I began to investigate how other people of faith approached the issue. I discovered that there were actually well respected theologians,  supporting denominations, and members of clergy that had been facing up to this reality for decades. What was even more amazing to me was that there were actually gay Christians out there…REALLY!

In 2010, I publicly disclosed that I was in a same-sex relationship. Under heavy scrutiny, I maintained that I still considered myself a person of faith. I received terrible emails and letters. I was deleted from thousands of iPods and dropped from Christian retailers and radio stations. Although a painful experience, I was aware that this scenario was on the horizon. But what I didn’t expect was how my inbox began to fill up with stories from other people just like me.  I was not alone. I was not the only person in the world that was being silenced by their very own faith community.

For a while, I could not be convinced that I had anything to offer this conversation. I considered it a stalemate at best. Frankly, I was more than ready to wash my hands of the whole “church thing”. But then I started to notice something incredibly powerful; simply by being honest about my sexual orientation, a door had opened that encouraged others to speak of their personal stories. Over the last couple of years I have met thousands of LGBT people who have less than pleasant narratives of their religious experiences. I have met many who have not yet known the joy of affirmation and support of a caring faith community. They continue to sacrifice their own spirit in response to the shame they have been convinced they must endure. All of this because some religious folks insist that God would have it no other way.

Much to my surprise, however, I have also witnessed many people who have found healing and hope. They share their deeply moving journeys of spiritual odyssey, limitless love and abiding faith. I have seen that sexual orientation and gender identity is not the lens through which faith can be fully qualified. I have not learned this alone, but by the journeys, experiences and courage of others who dared share their stories with me.

Last year, after many requests, I began to directly engage the faith community by telling my story. Today, I speak candidly of my experience as a gay person of faith through an event I call Inside Out Faith. After experiencing rejection and criticism, I have had to overcome my own prejudices toward the church. I share how I reclaimed my faith experience, owned my sexual orientation and how these two qualities in me co-exist. But I recognize that my story is just the starting point for a much more complicated tale.  For many churches that I go to, it will be the first time they have said, as a faith community, that they will openly stand in support of LGBT people. Some of the pastors I meet are openly supportive of their gay congregants for the first time without threat of losing their position. For the first time in decades, many LGBT people of faith are walking back into the sanctuaries with hope rather than fear. I, for one, am happy and grateful to be one of them.


    • BillTears come to my eyes each time I hear about a gay bashing, and they wfoled in abundance upon the death of Matthew Shepard’s horrible death, but I agree with bill (Guillermo3) that your well-intended but basically silly stunt trivialized the subject and produced mostly laughs instead of the thoughtful expressions of concern that are appropriate to the subject.And, while emotionally I want those sick perpetrators of hate crimes to be punished over and above the usual consequences of their actions, intellectually I know that assault is assault in any context and the effort to punish a person for hating or being stupid is to invite a world in which the thought police might one day target me for hating the perpetrators of hate crimes.

  1. I am so glad I found your blog. I have been so touched by your music since I was 13. I am 27 now. I have not really gotten to hear about your childhood or how old you were when you began realizing you were attracted to girls? I would be so appreciative if you would share if you find the time.

    Love – Alison

    • Peter from MinneapolisDavey, just when I think you can’t do anything to srusripe me, you do. I have been VERY lucky in my life without violence against me but it hurts me so to read about people I don’t even know who are attacked and even killed. A part of me dies.I saw the library had a book by Matthew Shepard’s mother and I (even though I still cry at the end of Willy Wonka) wanted to read it. Another documentary ( Dear, Jesse about Jesse Helms) had 2 minutes of an interview with 2 students. One of them was Matthew alive and well. (It’s on YouTube.) After reading the book only Matthew could go to a conservative collage and find himself a boyfriend!I wanted to know about his LIFE. I was a bit amazed that the library had the book under Criminology not sexuality. I read it. I cried (many times!). I bought it.Every year people at my old church hold a service for transgender people who have been killed by hate crimes. EVERY YEAR! When will it stop. The killing, the bullying, the Bible thumping and GLBTQ people are easy targets.I wrote about students standing up to bullies in a fiction 10 years ago! How many more people have to suffer and even die before people wake and smell the coffee? Maybe that’s it. They are too busy smelling the coffee. More Latte, please and talking on their cell phones to notice the world around them! (Sorry, tantrum!)Everyone needs to feel safe and protected.

  2. Jennifer, this is beautiful! You are so blunt, and sincere, while being well spoken, and it’s A-MAZING! 😉 I have been attracted to other women since I was 7 years old! It took MANY years to even figure out what that meant. In Jr. High I was introduced to Christianity, but harbored these same-sex attractions. It was your music that just spoke to me and kept me on the path…even though I ALSO secretly fantasized about you lol. I used to cry and pray to be straight, and I was disgusted with myself for a long time. Religion was black and white. Eventually I gave up on God altogether. My reasoning, which I am surprised I have not heard anyone else use, was that God would not create some of his children to be sinners no matter what. He created you and me…but he also created hermaphrodites. What do they do, go to hell no matter what? Are they not ALSO created in His image? If anything, I feel this is God’s way of saying it is not a sin. I have won class debates over this issue for that reason lol. I love stumping those on the other side of the argument. There are also many animals that can either change gender if need be to mate, or there is also the whip tail lizard…I suggest you look that one up for yourself. There are no male whip tail lizards. One female lizard will rub itself on another female lizard, and the bottom lizard will then produce eggs, genetic clones of herself! God created them too! Over these past years I have felt more like an atheist than a Christian; however, I have always felt that spiritual sense. I have refused my spiritual side like I used to refuse my lesbian side. It was not until this past week when I burned your CD’s for a Christian coworker that I decided to Google you again. I wanted new music from you for YEARS, and I hoped you would come out, but I gave up checking right before you finally came back! I am cursed with HORRIBLE timing. I want to thank you, because I finally feel that religion does not HAVE to be black and white. I CAN be spiritual and gay. THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! Please perform in California. I will drive HOURS to see you again. You could sing the alphabet for all I care, just bring the guitar, and get your ass back to Cali! 😉

    • Michelle,My wrestling laelty has been more with church than with God! Long story. My husband, on the other hand, just told me the other day, “God is jerking me around.” Though it troubled me, his words also filled me with wonder because just three years ago he was an unbeliever. soo…I guess wrestling is good in my eyes. :)BTW…your boys are gorgeous. I have a not-so-little redhead (he just turned 13) myself and have quite a weakness for them. Blessings!

  3. I followed your very same path, almost exactly the same. I was in the middle of a relationship with a pastor’s daughter. It lasted nearly 5 years. We were such JK groupies. And when you stopped makin’ music, I wondered what was up…it was around the same time my relationship ended, as well. She said she was not gay and really, it was about not being able to come to terms with who she was based on what her father was. And I also began to search for why I was different and what was “wrong” with me. AND I left my faith behind because it was forcing me to not be who I really was. That made me sad. Your music was my only connection to my faith through the years. It’s what kept me sane and held me up. Cuz I knew…you and I were very much alike. We were just tryin’ to make our own path in this world, in spite of the world wanting us to just stay out of the way. THANK YOU for bein’ you. For bein’ an example of true faith and love; for keepin’ the music alive and for sharin’ your message of hope.

    • I so appreciate your words in the Journal Star today. The oienpng up of yourself and your faith for all the world (well, all of Lincoln) to see. I think I find myself unwavering in some areas and wrestling in others. It used to bother me…the wrestling. And then I would remember that story about Jacob and how he would not back down against GOD (of all people) until he got what he wanted. And in the end, Jacob came away with a new name and (quite literally) a new way of walking. And so I just keep limping along on my journey of unwavering faith in a God who welcomes my wrestling and questioning mind.

  4. Your courage and love are beyond inspiring Jennifer…they’re life-giving and healing.
    May the grace and courage you have lived and shared be multiplied back to you a hundred-fold.
    I wonder if, in the conversation, we have room to include those who are polyamorous and Christian as well… ?
    Welcome hearing thoughts…

  5. I listened to your music all throughout high school. There were not many contemporary Christian artists that I liked, so telling you that I LOVED your music, your sound and your message is a huge compliment! In fact, I often could not keep myself from singing (actually, making a joyful noise) in my car while your CDs were playing! 🙂 Now, I’m in my thirties and I am a priest. Believe it or not, I’ve used the lyrics of your song “Faithful to Me” to illustrate a point in one of my sermons. It makes my heart incredibly glad to know that you are still a person of faith despite all of the naysayers. Becoming the person God truly means for you to be is difficult and you have done with poise and grace. Thank you for sharing your story and for letting other LGBT Christians know that they too are children of God who are worthy of love. Blessings!

  6. Dear Jen

    I am a Christian and a straight male. I have, over the last couple of years, been convinced of my calling to support my LGBT friends. I only want tobaffirm you and comend you. Your music has always deeply impacted me. Your life does even more so now. God bless you in faith, life, love, and connectedness. So many support you and stand with you.


  7. The Bible – you either take all or none. It’s not multiple choice. Love the sinner, hate the sin. I love you, but am saddened. I will pray for you, but I do not support your endeavors.

  8. Dear Jennifer

    I am – using Tim’s words – a Christian (evangelical) and a straight male. I am so thankful you didn’t “wash your hands of the whole church thing” until now. I want to encourage you and bless you in who you are as a person (and that includes your sexual orientation, not more or less than that) and what you do. There is new land in sight, also here in Europe. I am studying theology and work as a youth pastor in an evangelical church. I am changing my mind in this matter, since I am grappling intensely with the bible (due to my studies) and since I get to know more and more LGBT people (christians and non-christians) who absolutely don’t fit in all the clichés (to whom christians are often so fixated on), one of them my best friend who told me about his homosexuality 2 years ago.
    God loves you, and the freedom he has in mind for you is not in denying who you are.

    Manuel, from Switzerland

  9. I am not gay however I think nothing wrong of it. I was in the christian cult for years and it taught me to be judgemental. They uses fear and shame to trap me. One day I realized that Jesus real name is Yeshua. I figured that if they lied to me about that what else in the bibles a lie. I’m a firm believer in God but stay away from organized religion of any kind because ive allowed myself to be controlled far to long and am enjoying my newfound freedom apart from the cult. Thanks for sharing Jennifer. I’ve always liked your music 🙂

  10. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Your Kansas album has been a lifeline through many ups and downs of life for the last decade or so and when I read your coming out story I think it did more than anything else to get me off the “bystander” section in this “culture war.” I support you and am so proud of you!

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