Mailbag is an occasional Q&A of your inquiries regarding faith, sexuality, and relationship from an LGBT perspective. We aren't theologians or counselors, but we're walking the same path as many of you and will do our best to answer the questions you have. You can submit your own question here.
I'm a pastor's kid, gay, but in the closet to the majority of people in my life. My dad is a fundamentalist pastor, and he has told me in subtle ways since I came out to him that I will be cut off from the family if I ever act on my gayness, start a relationship, or even just come out of the closet. I struggled a lot emotionally growing up. I literally believed being gay was the grossest sin possible when I was a kid. This did horrible things to the way I think about God and myself. I'm getting over it now. The problem is now I really want a boyfriend and I'm really nervous about leaving my family. I'm 20 and on my second year of college. When I come out it will scandalize the church and my dad says he will have to quit his job. How do I prepare for this? I think I'm gonna come out after college.
I'm glad to hear the healing process has begun for you and that you're starting to see that God loves you as He made you. Waiting until an appropriate time to come out is wise. The stress that those conversations will bring could have an adverse effect on your studies, and that could have bigger consequences in the long run. Waiting until you're in a safe and stable place—financially, emotionally, and spiritually—will help you weather the storm.
This, of course, doesn't mean you have to lock yourself up in your dorm room in the meantime. Seek friends, and a faith community that can nurture you and love you as you are. If you have siblings, cousins, or other family members who you think can be supportive without stirring the waters with your parents, confide in them. Don't be in a rush to date, but if you do, be clear with the guy from the outset that you need to be discreet (on social media, for example). If you fall in love, it will suck to not be able to shout it from every rooftop, but sadly this is still the reality for many young gay people, and it's better to deal with it with patience and intentionality than rashness and hubris.
When the time comes, don't let unjustified guilt burden you. You’re not responsible for your father's job, and it's unfair of anyone to ask you to hide and suppress your feelings for their sake. That's called emotional manipulation. For now, try to keep the conversation open to at least a small degree. It will take them time to process all of this. Bring it up every now and then, and maybe suggest that they talk to other Christian parents of gay people (there are Facebook groups and other resources for them out there).
My partner and I have been together for nine years and we are only now starting to talk about marriage seriously. My question is, since we're both guys, who should propose? I've been thinking of doing it myself but am stuck wondering whether he's thinking the same. Also, we already wear rings, so what would I propose with? Any suggestions would be helpful.
Dear Proposal Puzzle,
Do it!!! One of you has to, and since you're asking us, I say it should be you.
I actually think this is one of the refreshing aspects about being a gay couple—there are no set expectations for who should do what. As long as you've discussed the future together, and you know you're on the same page, who pops the question first doesn't really matter. Beat him to the punch. If it turns out that he was also planning something special, all the sweeter.
I proposed to David, but we had talked about it enough that I was confident of his answer. It was a beautiful moment that we’ll always treasure. We will exchange rings at the wedding, but the idea of an engagement ring for a guy felt awkward to me, so I didn't even think of buying him one. Neither one of us cares much for jewelry, but I did like the idea of having some kind of token to symbolize our season of betrothal and a greater degree of commitment than just dating. I bought two cross pendants and had them engraved with each other's initials (there's a picture on the homepage). I've been wearing the one that has his initial, and he the one that has mine. These pendants symbolize our faith, and the fact that by agreeing to marry we have agreed to help carry each other's cross, bearing each other's burdens. Feel free to borrow this idea of "engagement crosses" if you like it, or think of some other token that is unique and meaningful to the two of you!
Follow us on Twitter: @daveandtino