Christmas is getting closer every day, and we had the amazing opportunity to interview our friend Michelle about her experiences as a Christian teen with same gender attractions on Christmas and with family. Here is what she had to share:
Q: First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself.
M: I am 19 years old and in my freshman year of college.
In terms of my faith, I grew up in a Christian home and heard about Jesus at a very young age. As a young kid though, I always pictured God to be distant and so far away. I prayed before meals, tried my best at checking off all of the “Christian boxes,” and made sure to imitate other Christians (instead of Christ). Just a few years ago, though, is when I began pursuing Jesus intimately. He is real, close, and faithful. He doesn’t want your mask, but instead wants your heart and to hear your raw, honest, vulnerable conversations with Him. He is jealous for you.
I experience same-sex attractions and I have known about my attractions for about five years.
Q: Who among your family and friends have you talked to about your sexuality?
M: I have talked to my parents, one of my pastors, and a few of my closest friends about my sexuality.
Q: When you opened up to your parents and friends, how did they initially respond?
M: I am really thankful that they responded so well. They were all very loving and comforting. And my pastor gave me a long hug, and I just knew he was going to be there for me for the long haul and would never leave my side.
Q: Let’s focus in specifically on your family time during the holidays. Even as someone with a traditional sexual ethic who isn’t dating someone of the same gender, how can the holidays be difficult for you?
M: The holidays can be difficult because, in addition to that feeling of loneliness, I also feel like a total outcast. Each family member is sitting close by to their spouses and it is such a loving, affectionate time. It is so easy to feel jealous of and incapable of “fitting in” with the other adults.
Cousins my age are now either in or pursuing relationships, so in a sense, I feel like I’m stuck at the “kid’s table.” And those same cousins you once played with as a child, whom you once found so many similarities with, are now onto the next stage in their life. It’s just simply not the same anymore.
I think what is also so terrifying is that, often, family members think they know everything about you. They think they know who you are, the real you. But you have this secret, this one secret, and you ask yourself, “what if it crushes their dreams?”
Q: Do you have any tips for people who want to help their LGBT+ loved ones feel loved this Christmas?
Use of language is crucial, and I don’t think people realize how powerful their words actually are. During a conversation, is there finger pointing? Are your words degrading and targeting your LGBT+ loved one? Are you angrily saying they are a part of the “gay agenda?” Or are you encouraging and uplifting them? Even the comments you may think are subtle can sting so badly.
If possible, try reading their facial expressions and body posture. They may be feeling very lonely, rejected, and unwanted. Include, involve, and engage in conversation with them. Ask them questions. Let them know they are loved. Accept them.
Hugs can go a long way. I remember when I shared what I’m going through with my pastor, he gave me a hug, and to this day, I still remember how much love I felt right in that moment. I can’t tell you enough how much that hug meant to me.
Q: How can a family member come alongside you when they know there is another family member who may either not understand or even be rejecting?
Let’s say the family member who doesn’t understand says a very hurtful comment at the dinner table, and the LGBT+ loved one becomes very upset and immediately heads to the bathroom. Stand up for that individual. Get up from the table and check on them. Be there for them. Please, give them a hug and comfort them.
If possible, talk to that family member who doesn’t understand, because in doing so, you’re clearly standing up for your LGBT+ loved one and making it known that the awful way they are being treated is not okay. Make it evident that you are there and will always be there for your LGBT+ loved one, no matter how deep the valley is. How far are you going to go? Will you stick with them when the valley gets dark, exhausting, and wearisome? Does your LGBT+ loved one confidently know that you have their back, no matter what?
Check out Micah’s story about Christmas as a homeless gay teen next if you haven’t already.
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