How I Left “ExGay” Behind & Found a Spiritual Calling
When I first heard about Folx with Faith, it took me back to a time when I was exiting Bible School.
I had invested five years into ministry. I was working in part-time ministry and was just about to finish up my degree and go into full time ministry. At the time, I was also in my third “conversion therapy” program. I had already started questioning the efficacy of these types of programs. The problem was that I was questioning these things out loud: at school and in the ministry.
Through personal reflection and observations of these programs, I began to realize that they were doing more harm than good. I realized that my sexuality had not changed, and I was confident that it wasn’t going to change.
The impacting of trying to change me
I became almost obsessive in seeking God’s intervention to “not be me” — not a healthy situation. Instead of experiencing “freedom,” as these programs promised, I felt mired in guilt and shame. My relationship with God suffered: I felt overlooked. God “changed” everyone around me, but I was unworthy of divine intervention.
Eventually this led to a breaking point. I genuinely and wholeheartedly tried, doing everything I could do. But the only reason why I was trying was because I I was being told that “it” was wrong. That I was wrong.
However, what if they were wrong?
At the school and in the ministry, my observations and questions were not welcomed. However, the more resistance I received in the ministry, the more questions I had: not only about my queer identity, but about my religious history.
Things just didn’t seem to add up. I began to question leaders in the conversion therapy programs.
At the time, the term “exgay” was a popular. I went to the “exgays” in leadership to ask a simple question. I prefaced it with the common language used by my religion.
“You know that Revelation 21:8 says ‘Liars have their place in the lake of fire,’ so I wouldn’t recommend that you lie to me. Are you gay or have you changed?’”
The answer was universal. “I still struggle with homosexuality.” I could not find a single person within the ministry that had changed, even though the mantra was that “God changes our identity.”
Eventually my questioning and exploration led to my expulsion from the ministry. I was devastated. I had invested my entire life to this path. It was my family, my community and my job. I even lived on the ministry campus. I found myself ousted, feeling as though I had nowhere to turn, no one to help, and nowhere to go.
What happened when I was abandoned to my faith
I drove around Kansas City for a good portion of the day, eventually stopping at a coffee shop. I used my last few dollars to buy a coffee and just sit and stew. Inside me, I felt wild with contradictory emotions.
After while, I found myself just sitting with the question: “What do I do next?” I felt inspired to speak to a man that was sitting on the couch in the shop. I remember thinking, “I don’t believe in You anymore. I don’t know why You are trying to lead me.”
However, I went over and sat down on the couch opposite him. I didn’t say anything to him. He was busy typing away on a laptop.
After about a minute, which felt like hours, he looked up and said hi. He then started to tell me some of his story: “I moved to Kansas City to go to seminary, but they kicked me out for being gay.”
I was floored. “You’re not going to believe this but …” I proceeded to tell him what had just happened to me. He invited me to stay at his home, at least until I found a job and my own place.
Years later, he told me that he didn’t know why he was in the coffee shop that day. He didn’t care for the place, but he had met his minister there the day before. He had told her that he wanted God to send him someone he could help. I happen to show up when he decided to get some work done. He knew that this was a direct response to the conversation he had had the day before.
At the time, I was about as cuddly as a porcupine. However, the queer community surrounded me. They ensured I had what I needed to heal from the traumatic religious experience. I was even invited to speak at a local church multiple times, until my faith journey took a different direction.
One of the things that impacted me the most were the positive faith stories within the queer community. Faith and a queer identity were not an either/or choice.
In fact, in my experience, they seem to be intrinsically linked together. Each one an aspect of a greater piece of art: myself, an expression of Divine Love.
A community called for healing & safety
I invest my time and energy into Folx with Faith because healing within community matters. The queer community surrounded me in a very organic way when I needed it most.
However, I recognize that we can do even better. We can be intentional about providing a healing faith space for queer individuals. This space for healing past wounds might also be associated with celebrating the good within our faith experiences.
Folx with Faith seeks to be intentional about sharing our queer faith journeys with each other. It stems from the intention, “Send me someone that I can help.” By sharing our stories and our lives, we find safety and healing.
The experiences on my own faith journey underscores the essence of Folx with Faith. Our mission, “to create safe spaces to explore and experience spiritual wholeness,” which for me is not just a mission statement; it’s a living, breathing ethos that can guide our actions. My experience is a testament to the need for such spaces – places where questioning, exploring, and even doubting are not just allowed but welcomed.
Our vision at Folx with Faith, to empower queer individuals from all backgrounds to connect with their faith and embrace their authentic selves. I found the true meaning of spiritual fulfillment not in rigid structures, but in the embracing arms of a community that understood and shared my struggles.
We are expressions of Divine Love
This statement speaks to the beauty and diversity within the human family. Our queer identities and faith are intertwined expressions of something greater. It’s a reminder that our community is a mosaic of diverse stories, each unique and part of a larger picture of love and acceptance.
Folx with Faith aims to work towards supporting intentional communities. Everyone involved understands that healing past wounds often associated with our faith journey is as important as celebrating the good within our faith experiences. By sharing our stories, we not only find safety and healing but also empower others to embark on their journeys of self-discovery and spiritual growth.
The support I received from the queer community in my time of need shows how community can foster healing and growth. I am more than a participant in Folx with Faith; my work is a commitment to a journey we all share.
Work that includes building and supporting communities where everyone can find their place, find themselves, like I did.
If you would like to find a LGBTQ+ Spiritual Faith Community near you, visit Our Groups Page.
- About the Author
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James Masters (he/him) is based out of Unity of Springfield, where he supports the community through community service and technology. He is a contributing author for the bestselling anthologies, The Courageous Heart, Enduring Wisdom, & The Grateful Soul.
He is a personal coach focusing on spiritual and relational development. He is also deeply passionate about providing shelter, food, and clothing to the vulnerable population within our local community.
His knowledge of technology and compassion for others is a significant contribution to our community.