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Coming Out Conservative

I finally faced the fact that, despite my efforts, I was a gay Christian

Accept the lesser of something genuine as opposed to the abundance of something fictitious.

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Joel Brizzee // Courtesy of the author

It was beyond confusing to grow up as a closeted gay man in the far left bastion of Eugene, Ore. while also raised in what would be described as a far right faith tradition. The amount of masks that had to be worn each day depending on my setting was enough to create all sorts of pathologies by the time I reached puberty. In a 24-hour period it was quite normal for me to be raising hands in worship at church, to sitting in a classroom nodding along to teachers spouting off proto-woke tropes, to then feign interest at home when asked by my dad or brother if I found a certain woman on television attractive. 

The fact of the matter is I found the youth group pastor attractive. While essentially fundamentalist in nature, I quite enjoyed the two churches I grew up in. The Bible was taught as literal. Secular music and movies were frowned upon. Dating was looked at as tool to find a spouse. Women were the submissive ones in a marital relationship. Men were to be the sole providers. Boys were to be boys and girls, girls. In my first church, the women wore head coverings while addressing the community. Only men were in roles of leadership. The faith aspect of my life was almost as conservative as it comes.  

I was one of those kids that looked forward to Sunday school, youth group, Bible studies and worship services. I participated in exegetical Bible studies by the age of eight. Starting at 13, I read various theology books, biblical commentaries and concordances for enjoyment. I loved tasking myself with considering the nature of God, the state of man, and the bridge between the two. I loved it so much I ended up going to two different Bible colleges and getting my degree in Religious Studies with a focus in trinitarian theology. 

In school, while I begrudgingly listened to my teachers indoctrinate the classroom by implying that big government was the solution to societies’ various problems, that Republicans were the historically racist party, that F.D.R. and L.B.J. were the greatest presidents in American history, and that truth was subjective (unless it was progressive), I often found enjoyment in asking questions I knew would bother the teacher. I was the kid that wore a Bush/Cheney shirt to school in 2004, smiling ear to ear while my classmates and teachers were slumped through the halls the day after the election. 

I chuckle today as I watch the country fight over issues of critical race theory being taught in schools, or how the progressives control education, as if it’s something new. Growing up in Eugene, I’ve known this has been happening since at least the early 90s. As young as seven, I was taught that evolution was not a theory but fact and was told at age 11 to put my Bible away during free reading hour because it could be offensive to other students.

Christianity was a racist, bigoted, chauvinistic belief system and religion at large was pitied as the fables of a bygone era. Eugene, being a small city, is often forgotten when people describe the ethos of the West Coast. These people forget that Eugene is far more liberal than Portland or Seattle and was woke long before that term entered the mainstream.  

My home life was not exactly ideal either. It was an upper middle class family plagued by addiction, alcoholism, teen pregnancy, death, workaholism, neglect, and obfuscation. My family today is better, albeit bruised.

While I would love tell a story of a boy who perfectly navigated these settings unscathed and rose above it all, that is not my story. Drugs, alcohol, a girlfriend to hide my sexual predilections, and never showing my true self in every setting of my life was my path. At home, I tried to be the golden child. At church, an über Christian. At school, the guy everyone would smoke a bowl with during free periods. I had various groups of friends for different activities, always trying to hide whatever version of myself I needed to and always hiding the gay part to everyone. 

At 23, I finally came out as gay. I was attending a conservative Bible college in Portland, Ore. I knew I had to leave if I was going to be with other men. I had signed a contract with the school that I would not participate in such activities. So, I left. There was no drama in my departure. Some of my teachers were sad to see me go, pleading with me to finish my studies before I ventured off into the gay life. They were not against my orientation, just the behavior. I never felt hated by them for being gay and I look back at those times in that school as some of the greatest of my life.

The school even invited me back a few years later when the Portland city council tried to get the school’s Title IX status revoked for being “anti-gay.” I ventured up to Portland and told a bunch of woke progressives that this Christian college was the best education I ever received, was a blessing to the community, and that they never discriminated against me for being gay. The city council glared at me the entire time as I dismantled their attempt to destroy a small, private Christian university. In the end, my argument proved formidable, and the university still exists today. 

The time between coming out almost a decade ago to today can be described as a period of deep alcoholism followed by painstaking recovery. The various false identities I created over the years came entirely undone as I finally faced the fact that, despite my efforts, I was a gay Christian. The reparative therapy I performed on myself for the previous decade resulted in a failed and abusive experiment that produced fear, agony, and confusion. While my family accepted the revelation of my sexuality with surprising ease, the church I spent most of my life devoted to all but vanished overnight. The only real support system I thought I had evaporated. For a long time I often wondered if I traded it all in for my boyfriend at the time, and for years to come I resented him for it. God received a hefty dose of bile from me, as well.

I shed light on my addiction because it is rampant in the gay community. Whether conservative, liberal, religious, or atheist, gay men particularly have a far higher propensity to succumb to alcoholism and drug addiction. According to the American Addictions Center, homosexuals are more than twice as likely to suffer from alcoholism or drug addiction than their heterosexual counterparts. My struggle with alcohol is statistically so common it borders on the mundane. I was a helpless drunk who made toxic almost every relationship I had while destroying my own body, mind, and spirit. It was what Alcoholics Anonymous, the program that saved my life, refers to as pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. During this period faith, politics, and my role in the world were lost in the bottom of bottles and nothing much mattered at all.

Then by some turn of fate, sobriety came crashing down upon me three weeks after Donald Trump was elected in 2016. This Nov. 27, God willing, I will celebrate five years of continued sobriety. As I write this in a coffee shop in Eugene, I’m befuddled by this miracle. Nothing drastic occurred, just a beautiful moment of clarity where my extinguished faith was given a spark of new life. The painstaking recovery that followed not only led me back to a faith forgotten but resolved my belief in conservative principles. 

In recovery I was told I had to take responsibility for my own actions, regardless of the fact I was suffering from a disease. The actions I took while using were of my own volition and it was between me and my higher power whether I was going to get sober, stay sober, and actually be a human being that benefited society around me. It was not up to any community or government body to lift me out of the reality I created for myself. I had to lay in the bed I made and it was not anyone’s fault but my own. 

My horrific decisions were not to be blamed on the faith community that deserted me. My lifestyle of licentious behavior was not the fault of a society that stigmatized me or even a religion that had some choice passages that spoke ill of people like me. In a true spirit of conservatism and personal responsibility, I was forced to be honest with myself and radically own my life.

I was struck by the irony that so many people with whom I was in recovery, mostly other gay men, were a bunch of raving leftists. While I do not wish to speak ill of anyone attempting to straighten out their life, I always found it humorous that a recovery program so steeped in Christian morals, personal responsibility, and traditional values seemed lost on my fellow recoverees who constantly bemoaned Trump during their shares and complained how society had done them wrong. My recovery was never characterized as being the victim of life’s circumstances–something I hear almost exclusively from those on the left side of politics. 

The left has created the assumption that once someone comes out of the closet, that means their entire worldview must radically change and fit into a specific box. They fail to understand that being gay did not ever negate my faith in Jesus or my conservative political dispositions. As if me kissing a beautiful man has anything to do with my desire for low taxes or limited government. Heck, exercising my Second Amendment rights with another gay man can be a form of foreplay. 

The assertion that truth is subjective, feelings matter more than facts, or that white people are inherently racist is as ludicrous as it is offensive. And that’s all the left currently offers. I tried to be a Democrat, in the early years of sobriety, but I found it far too miserable and self-effacing. I was raised around these people and they’re as joyless as they always were. Constant victims of their own creation, taking no responsibility for their circumstance while constantly blaming various orange men as the bane of their existence. It’s exhausting. 

This past year, finally feeling comfortable as a gay Christian, I went public with my Trump support. My Democrat friends and some family members stopped talking to me. I was memed by the left, dragged on Twitter, and called a self-hating, racist, faggot thousands of times by gay leftists. Yet amid it all, I found a group of people I never realized existed: gay Republicans. What I found with this community was everything both my past churches and friend groups lacked: genuine acceptance. I don’t agree with all these Homocons, as we call ourselves, all the time. Some of them are not my favorite people in the world. Yet all of them take me exactly as I am. After 33 years my journey of finding a community that would simply let Joel be Joel finally presented itself. I have experienced more compassion, grace, love, and friendship from this group than any other I’ve been a part of. If being a Trump supporting, limited government pushing, low tax loving, strong border backing, gun toting, Republican makes me a self-hating faggot, so be it. 

I am beyond grateful for the community I’ve found. I share my story because hundreds of gay men have made their way into my DMs asking for advice on how to come out as conservative, expressing fear of losing everyone in their life. 

My advice: Accept the lesser of something genuine as opposed to the abundance of something fictitious. You are not alone. Consider the question posed by Herman Hesse in his classic novel Demian, and do not cower away from answering it:

“I wanted only to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?”

Joel Brizzee covers Hollywood for the California Globe. He is a former financial services director and lives in Eugene, Ore. He graduated from the University of Oregon as a Religious Studies major with an emphasis in Christian theology.

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