10 Ways to Become the Poster Child for Gay Christian Celibacy

I’ve had the opportunity to meet other LGBT+ Christians with very different walks of life and within many kinds of Christian traditions. Most of the folks I interact with are more theologically progressive than I am and are understandably skeptical of someone who strives for celibacy within a conservative tradition. Sometimes I receive remarks that the only reason I’m celibate and hold to traditional sexual ethics is because it keeps me in good graces with conservative straight people. 

As someone who rarely has positive interactions with conservative Christians when I share my story, this particular assumption didn’t resonate with me. The more I thought about it, though, it made sense when I looked beyond my individual narrative and reflected on the macro LGBT narrative in conservative Christian discourse. What are the popular stories within conservative churches when framing the topic of sexuality? The lived experience of traditional sexual ethics typically relies on testimonies of cisgender men and women who “struggle” against their sexuality with very specific requirements for their vocation to be seen as holy or faithful. 

My progressive friends aren’t thinking of my LGBT+ friends who wear gender non-conforming clothes, proudly paint their nails, or attend PRIDE marches every year; and yet, my friends hold to a traditional view of marriage and sexuality. These are some of the queerest folks I know but their stories of faithfulness to traditional theology will never be amplified in their respective culture religious communities. 

Here’s a list of ten requirements for gender and sexual minorities if they want to be given a platform in the conservative church: 

1. Avoid terms like gay, bi, queer, etc.

Your non-straight sexual orientation should always be referred to as “same-sex attraction”. Because the three-letter word “gay” indicates making your sexuality the totality of your identity, then clearly the three-letter abbreviation of SSA does not! If you use LGBT+ language, then you will look too liberal for the theological gatekeepers for your voice to recommended as authoritative. You might get away with using it if you frame yourself as similar to someone calling themselves an “alcoholic” and naming their sin; or maybe as a missiological vocabulary to reach lost souls. 

2. Frame your sexuality as purely a struggle.

Your sexuality might be a thorn in your flesh, stumbling block, cross, or temptation, but it certainly can’t be a blessing. Do not talk about your queerness as a connection to a beautiful subculture or community. Anything associated with your sexuality besides suffering will result in people assuming that you are playing “identity politics” or “creating an identity based on sinful inclinations”. For most conservative folks, they see queerness through a lens of sexual sin and not a relation to beauty in this world or in other people. 

3. Add a qualifier of hope to your “persistent same-sex attractions”.

Make it abundantly clear that even though it’s not required to become straight, you pray that God will heal you of your gayness in the future. There might be a way to get around this one; you could at least lament your attractions like Paul’s thorn in his flesh. You will need many justifications for why you do not trust God enough to let go of your broken sexuality (as if gay orientations are the only kinds of broken sexualities). 

4. Do not enter into celibate partnerships or vowed friendships with other people of the same sex.

This is definitely a dealbreaker. Your credibility on this topic will be utterly comprised if you are living celibacy in a community of two. If you are partnered and celibate, you will have virtually no platform in conservative spaces, even traditional LGBT+ Christian spaces.  If you are not in one of these partnerships, you may be able to say positive things about them on occasion as long as you add warnings that they are “risky” and not for most LGBT+ people. In addition to this, your conception of “family” should be strictly reduced to  the straight nuclear family; no concept of queer family allowed. 

5. Do not use your cisgender voice to support trans folks.

Discussing trans experiences will have you immediately written off as a social justice liberal with no theological credibility. As sloppy as the Church is at helping sexual minorities, it’s nothing compared to the lack of education on gender minorities. You will look like you’ve gone off the deep end if you suggest using preferred pronouns or calling a trans person by their new name. 

6. You’re allowed to talk about singleness but talk about marriage more.

The Church is improving on discussing the role of singles in the local church. Gay celibates are sometimes welcome to share the hardships of singleness (it’s better than partnerships at least) but they must realize these problems could be solved through a mixed- orientation marriage (marrying someone of the opposite sex). If you say God is not calling you to marriage, you may be accused of not trusting God. 

7. You must conform to a narrow view of gender.

Your clothing choices, tone, and gestures can’t be “too gay” if you want to share your experience as a sexual minority. If you’re a gay man who likes makeup and feminine clothing and says “Yaaas” while sipping your iced coffee, then no platform for you! You will be given direction on “biblical manhood” with a list of rules that are ironically absent from the Bible. 

8. Do not speak positively about your non-celibate, progressive LGBT+ siblings.

If you call your LGBT+ friends fellow believers who disagree on a nuanced issue, that crosses a line of fellowship. You must frame yourself as the obedient Christian and them as disobedient sinners who only care about the desires of the flesh. Any hint of extending grace on this complex theological topic will raise eyebrows, following with accusations that you are watering down the Gospel or relativizing morality. You must reject any kind of statement that would suggest your friends in same-sex relationships have anything to teach you in becoming more like Christ. 

9. Do not attempt to exercise any spiritual wisdom as a lay celibate.

You can’t rebuke or correct homophobia for fear of being labeled an insubordinate. You can’t disciple anyone. You can rarely serve in leadership if you’re out of the closet. The default assumption is that you cannot possibly have any insight to offer people on this issue because you’re biased (as if straight people who have been conditioned to dehumanize and despise gay people are any less biased). 

10. Don’t hang out with a lot of LGBT+ folks.

If you spend significant amounts of time with non-straight Christians, there will be concerns that you are isolating yourself from church and community, as if you’re in a queer bubble. Although surprisingly, you won’t hear anyone complaining about a straight bubble when most people hang out exclusively with heterosexuals. There’s also a hidden assumption that gay people are not part of the Body of Christ with their own gifts to minister to others. It’s imperative for you to stop hanging out with “stumbling blocks” and start spending time with actual Christians. 

I understand that progressive Christians possess a narrative that is a tougher sell; that God blesses same-sex sexual relationships as marriages. But the idea that my story is one the scores points is simply false. My story rarely goes well when I share it with conservative Christians even after telling them I accept and follow the Church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality. When straight Christians respond positively, it’s a rare surprise. Usually at best, Christian friends say nothing; at worst they gossip or say dehumanizing things. 

I see myself in a position where I deeply know and love many LGBT+ Christians with a wide array of perspectives. I can easily point to acquaintances in diverging camps and say, “Yep, those two would click as good friends easily” and yet, they’ll never meet because of this ideological wedge. We assume based on the answers to the questions “What is marriage?” and “In what context is sexual activity pleasing to God?” that we know all the elements of someone’s story, worldview and their perception of us. I’m just as guilty of this and I want to do better. 

If you’re a progressive Christian, sit with my rule guide above and ask yourself if your imagination of celibacy is broad enough to accurately level a statement like, “Anthony’s narrative is just his way of appeasing conservatives”. 

If you’re a celibate LGBT+ Christian, take my rule guide and throw it in the trash.  

Celibate Gay Couples Understand Marriage Better Than You

A consistent criticism to vowed friendship and celibate partnership is that these unions “imitate marriage”, which for the traditional Christian, is an institution reserved for one man and one woman. These critics argue that since same-sex relationships resemble heterosexual marriage in significant ways such as sharing a home, finances, or lifelong commitment, they become same-sex marriages in functionality. 

I find this view genuinely puzzling. In attempting to criticize LGBT+ people as unorthodox, conservative Christians reveal their own unorthodox definitions of marriage. 

Historically, the Church has interpreted the Scriptural passages on marriage in order to define it as a one-flesh union of husband and wife ordered toward the procreation of children. According to this view, marriage enables husband and wife to act as co-creators with God to bring forth new life in sexual complementarity, modeling the love between Christ and his Church. 

Conservative Christians in recent years have criticized progressive definitions of marriage that include same-sex relationships. Marriage can’t be defined as two people who love one other, conservatives argue, since friends can also love one another. Friends or siblings can live together, share finances, and commit to one another, but it doesn’t make them married. Celibate LGBT+ Christians typically agree with conservatives on this point if they hold to a traditional sexual ethic. Yet, in a different conversation on celibate partnerships, conservatives seemingly walk it back.

It’s almost like the celibate LGBT+ Christian hears two contradictory conclusions articulated from the same faction of people in two different theological contexts. 

In a debate about gay marriage the conversation might go something like this: 

Progressive: Two people of the same sex who love one another should be able to get married. 

Conservative: Marriage isn’t defined by two people loving one another or living together. If two friends loved one another and lived together, would you consider them married?

But in a separate conversation about celibate partnerships, the dialogue goes like this: 

Partnered LGBT+ person: My best friend and I are committed to living out our vocation to celibacy as a team with shared resources, finances, love, and commitment. 

Conservative: That’s not biblical because it’s two people imitating marriage with shared living and commitment. 

So which is it? It seems like the definition of marriage becomes a moving target. Was Ruth guilty of “imitating marriage” when she told Naomi, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”? (Ruth 1:16)

Just because two vocations resemble one another in specific ways, doesn’t mean one is imitating the other. A Christian might observe a prayer and fasting rule, but that doesn’t make them a monk, even though a large part of monasticism includes praying and fasting. Similarly, just because two celibate gay people have love and shared life in common with married couples, it doesn’t make them married. 

Culturally, marriage is boiled down to romance, doing life with your “best friend”, and sharing finances. We shouldn’t be surprised when Christians think celibate partnerships “imitate marriage” based on this revisionist understanding. 

LGBT+ Christians with a traditional sexual ethic are usually more conservative than their theological gatekeepers. When the Church is struggling with the brokenness of heterosexuality in divorce, pornography, and fornication, it’s rather surprising when people are refocusing their rebukes toward gay people striving for chaste companionship, even describing their vocations as sinful. 

I don’t think people who are opposed to celibate partnerships are consciously trying to water down their theology. I do, however, contend that they have internalized cultural assumptions about marriage, and have prioritized these assumptions over historical Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality. When someone claims gay people are imitating marriage by entering into a partnership or vowed friendship, what they’re really saying is straight, married people have the monopoly on love, commitment, and shared life. The narrative of Ruth and Naomi, the Eastern Christian tradition of brother-making, and the liturgical friendship rites of the Western church prove this notion false. 

We exhibit an impoverished view of love when we attempt to find sin where there isn’t. It isn’t wrong or contrary to God’s design to prioritize specific human beings of the same sex in our daily lives. 

No, the celibate partnered Christian isn’t imitating marriage; you just misunderstand it. 

My Same-Sex Partnership Isn’t Exclusive

A criticism often thrown at partnered LGBT+ people is that they too-closely resemble the exclusivity designed for marriage. Their argument, if true, would mean celibate partnerships are just another code word for gay marriages, and should therefore be rejected by the Church. But if we tease this argument out, we will find it has some problems. 

Almost every time I hear this objection, it’s from someone who has spent very little time with LGBT+ people who are committed to these types of relationships. In our experience, pastors and lay people who morally object to our partnership have spent zero time with us; they might only see Kyle and me at church together or look at our Facebook photos. Most of our critics do not know any celibate partnerships apart from us. So we find the exclusivity objection surprising, given that they have spent so little time getting to know us. 

Kyle and I have had the privilege of meeting other LGBT+ friends in non-sexual relationships. Far from being exclusive, inward, and sexless marriages, these partnerships are the best examples we know of Christian inclusivity. People who don’t view their relationship through the prism of marriage are enabled to love others more deeply and more intentionally without sexual jealousy. In our experience, people in these relationships are far more likely to engage in platonic physical touch or healthy emotional intimacy with someone else besides their partner. This is so important to combat against loneliness and resentment. 

I’ve seen this manifest itself in specific ways with Kyle. 

This past weekend we participated in the Revoice conference in St. Louis; a conference dedicated to empowering LGBT+ Christians who adhere to a traditional sexual ethic. Almost every waking minute was spent with other people. Some of these people are individuals who Kyle and I love very deeply. We are currently seeking God’s guidance in how we can be more committed and more present in their lives. Since Kyle and I aren’t married, we have the freedom to readily make others a part of our chosen family. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity that Christ is calling us to – to have deep, abiding spiritual kinship with other believers. Christ elevated obedience to him as the basis for kinship, not biological relation. 

Kyle and I know we can’t possibly meet every single need the other has. For example, both of us have Christ as our foundation, but we have different modes of spirituality. As an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I don’t always have the vocabulary or experience to relate to Kyle’s evangelical tradition. I love the fact that he has friends, family, and mentors that are better suited to guide him in his walk with Christ in certain areas of spirituality. 

For me, I’m a theological nerd who loves liturgy and church history. While Kyle does enjoy learning from me, I have friends who are better suited to spend hours with me nerding out over theological debates. 

We definitely reject the term “exclusivity” as helpful for describing celibate same-sex partnerships. Marriage is exclusive in terms of sexual fidelity, raising children, and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. We understand husbands and wives are called to reflect the love of Christ and his Church. This isn’t the kind of exclusivity celibate partnerships imagine when they enter this way of life. In fact, we don’t really relate to the concept at all. 

Some say that if you do something with your partner but don’t do it with others, then that’s exclusivity; it’s wrong because it’s reserved for marriage. I don’t actually see Scriptural support for this idea, which is significant, but it also falls apart practically. If I’m only comfortable sharing an area of my life with one friend, why must I tell it to everyone? If I find a good fit to be someone’s roommate, why must I be open to living with everyone else too? If Christ let John rest his head on his breast, then why not let the eleven other apostles do the same? There’s not a concrete principle to follow to avoid so-called exclusivity. 

When we ask our critics in what concrete ways are we sinning, the answer is far too often ambiguous. It’s only met with vague charges and “nice” spiritual gaslighting. We have literally heard statements such as, “Well, I can’t really explain why, but you know what you’re doing is wrong, right?” No, we don’t. What we hear is that we make them uncomfortable because we’re so queer, and that their feelings are more important than our commitment. 

A friend of mine in one of these relationships has a much better word: Priority. Christians called to the path of celibacy manifest the Kingdom of God through radical hospitality and inclusion. Those of us called to celibacy as a pair build one another up in order to love and serve our neighbor far more extensively. Our partnerships shouldn’t be seen as inward-focused or self-serving. As a team, we can combine prayer, finances, and social support to steward our gifts for the Body of Christ. 

Priority is a necessary, healthy concept. We prioritize people all the time. It would be impossible to commit to every person the same. Even Christ had particular endearment for his friend Lazarus, for whom he wept. You’re going to have traditions with family and friends, but not acquaintances. You are going to call one person over another if you get news of a serious illness. In my own life, I financially support a friend through college, something I wouldn’t do for just anyone; I do that for family. 

Human beings need priority. When I say Kyle is my priority, I do not mean he exclusively meets all of my spiritual, physical, and emotional needs. I do not mean he is the only one I am called to love.; rather, I mean that he is my partner, my best friend, and my advisor. I mean that if he became sick or unemployed, I’d stick my neck out for him in ways I can’t do for everyone. I mean that together, we can encourage and hold one another accountable to invite others to share in the table of Christ’s fellowship. 

That’s priority, and it’s hardly exclusive. 

Are Celibate Gay Christians Prohibited From Same-Sex Romance?

A question Kyle and I receive often is, “Do you consider yourselves to be in a romantic relationship?” As two Christian men who uphold a traditional ethic on sex and marriage (Side B), people are surprised when our answer is yes.

Let me explain. Side B is the belief that the covenant of marriage is a union of one man and one woman, and sexual intercourse is reserved for that union alone. Both Kyle and I come from Christian traditions that teach this ethic. As members of these churches, we are obedient to this doctrine. 

Many Side B Christians share their experience in blogs and testimonies of “being forbidden from romantic relationships with people of the same sex”. But I honestly don’t think they are forbidden from romantic relationships ,at least depending on what they mean by romantic. There are a few reasons why I find the term “romance” unhelpful as it relates to sexual ethics. 

1. Romance is too ambiguous of a concept

I’ve yet to hear a good working definition of what constitutes a romantic action or relationship. Is holding hands romantic? What about pouring a glass of champagne for your friend or partner?

I know romance when I see it; I’m just unsure of how to define it. When Kyle takes me out to dinner and sits in the booth beside me, it’s a romantic gesture; there’s special affection between us in our shared experience. But I have affections that are reserved for other friends too that wouldn’t be considered immoral.

It seems romance requires social and cultural context. I don’t see a relevant Scriptural passage for the Christian that prohibits romantic gestures between two people of the same sex, especially because friends engage in these gestures all the time. For example, if kissing is romantic, then David and Jonathan in the Old Testament must have been a gay couple. 

Without a clear working definition, I’m afraid prohibiting “romantic” relationships will only cause LGBT+ Christians to sever emotional intimacy from people of the same sex for fear of it turning into sin. 

2. Romantic doesn’t equal sexual 

This seems obvious to me. If we thought all romance was sexual, then Christians should force all unmarried heterosexual couples to be completely aromantic until marriage, lest they be flirting with sin. 

It doesn’t take a theologian to see a boyfriend buying his girlfriend a rose for Valentine’s Day as a romantic gesture but not a sexual one. It’s easy to sexualize every action between LGBT+ people because we aren’t acknowledging orientation as multi-faceted and complex; we only see queer people as walking sex drives. 

I’m thankful for Kyle taking me out on dates, placing his hand on my knee when I’m upset, or verbalizing compassionate affirmation without worrying that it’s the made-up sin of romanticism. 

3. Connecting romance to sex erases the experience of asexual people

This is a point I don’t have personal experience with, but we can take some wisdom from it. If sex and romance are inherently interconnected, then we risk marginalizing asexual (ace) people, many of whom have romantic relationships but not sexual ones. It’s possible for non-ace people to have romantic non-sexual relationships too, since gay people aren’t sexually attracted to every member of the same sex, or even desire a sexual relationship. 

In my experience, a virtue of the LGBT+ community is its commitment to platonic physical affection. I hold hands and cuddle with close friends I trust, but most Americans would see that as inherently romantic. 

4. Romance isn’t a necessary theological condition for marriage

This might surprise our contemporary culture, but I don’t think marriage has to be romantic in order to be a valid sacrament. If aromantic people are called to marriage, then  we should support them. Aromantic people can be capable spouses and parents. Certainly, not all examples of marriage in the Bible were romantic relationships. 

In my Orthodox tradition, marriage is the one-flesh union of husband and wife. Spouses manifest the Kingdom of God by supporting one another’s path to Heaven and raising in the faith any children that were conceived. Marriage reflects the intimacy of Christ and his Church in a physical, sacramental way. Adding romance as a necessary condition is extrabiblical.

Put it this way: In criticizing same-sex partnerships as “quasi-marriages” because they’re romantic, you may be just as guilty of revising the definition of marriage as progressives. Marriage isn’t about romance or shared living space, it’s a coming together of two spouses as “one flesh”. 

So what does this all mean?

My conclusion is that I find the whole idea of romance unhelpful as it relates to the morality of LGBT+relationships. Romance is a real, yet socially constructed concept. I know romance when I see it, even if I can’t always define it. 

For Side B Christians and their allies, I would recommend leaving the word “romance” out of your definition of marriage and clarify what you think is sexually permissible or impermissible in human relationships. Otherwise LGBT+ Christians may  waste time and anxiety worrying about sin that simply isn’t there. 

This is personal to us. Kyle and I have had friends and even clergy profess judgment  for our relationship because it was “too romantic”. This was done without taking the time to explore the dynamic of our relationship or providing an explanation for how our “romance” dishonors God. LGBT+ people should have the freedom to pursue holy same-sex love without having to struggle to articulate theological nuances every time they discuss people they are pursuing intentional friendships with. Even I struggle with this, and I love theology!

Are all celibate partnerships romantic? No. Is mine? Possibly, but I don’t always know exactly what that means. I know Kyle and I have many sins to work through as a celibate gay couple. . . but this isn’t one one of them. 

Why won’t you pray away the gay?

I’ve encountered well-meaning Christians who ask why I don’t pray for God to make me straight, as unlikely as it is. After all, if God can do anything, shouldn’t I pray that he will provide me with new desires? 

While I agree that we should pray for the grace to resist temptation, this is not a prayer I will be adding to my prayer rule for multiple reasons.

  1. Not all aspects of my gayness are broken. 

My orientation encompasses far more than a desire for another man’s genitals. This is really easy for us to understand when it’s a straight Christian talking. Think about a man who sees a good-looking woman walk into a coffee shop he’s sitting in. He thinks to himself, “Wow, she is beautiful.” It doesn’t mean he is lusting or that he’s viewing her as a sexual object. Or take the example of a husband talking about how beautiful his wife is. If you immediately think he is talking about his sex life, then you probably need to get your mind out of the gutter! 

It’s the same for my gay orientation. I can find a man beautiful and spiritually life-giving. I can love other men and develop physical and emotional intimacy through deep, abiding friendship. I may be attracted to another man, even in virtue of his maleness, because maleness is an inherently good component of God’s creation. Not every aspect of attraction between two men or two women is sexual. The folks at Spiritual Friendship have done a good job at pointing out that when we reduce same-sex attraction to mere genital desire, then our view of humanity is far more Freudian than Christian. 

A traditional sexual ethic as taught in communions like the Roman Catholic Church, would see same-sex attraction as “disordered” or “fallen” *inso-far as it relates to the desire for sexual intercourse with other people of the same-sex*. But attraction is more comprehensive than that. The aspects I mentioned earlier of beauty and connection are the central part of my orientation and how it affects my life, not male genitalia. 

  1. Heterosexuality isn’t the same as holiness 

Setting aside the gifts of deep same-sex love I have uniquely experienced as a gay Christian, heterosexuality wouldn’t change much about my life anyway. Being straight doesn’t seem to help believers stop lusting, watch porn, or fornicating with the opposite sex. Jesus requires that every human being looks at another person as a fellow image-bearer; He doesn’t require we develop sexual feelings for the opposite sex. 

We should never look at another person as an instrument designed for sexual pleasure. Yet, it’s abundantly evident that heterosexuality is not the method the Holy Spirit uses in enabling believers to achieve the fruit of self-control. 

Straight people don’t really have to spell out this stuff, making precise theological distinctions on what is a fallen or holy desire like I’m doing now. Straight orientations are considered the default. As an aside, it’s quite frustrating l even have to do this, because not all of us are theologians. 

Do gay people have broken sexualities? Yes! But so does everyone else.  The Church should reconsider asking LGBT+ people to pray for things they aren’t asking of straight people, especially when it’s not a requirement for holiness. 

Being gay isn’t my central identity. Yet, it’s undoubtedly had an impact on nearly every aspect of my life. If I was straight, I wouldn’t be me. When you desire for me to be straight; the implication is that I’m so profoundly broken and incapable of holiness as a gay man. 

  1. It’s the wrong prayer 

I would love to see Christians corporately and individually praying for repentance for the mistreatment of LGBT+ people. I would love for believers to digest the work of gay theologians from whom they can gain wisdom. I hope and long for a Church that sees love as something every Christian is called to, not just straight married folks. We should lament when church leaders ignore the unique needs of LGBT+ people in order to fully participate in the Kingdom of God because they think the Church would be better off 100% heterosexual. 

I don’t view my gayness as a disability, but let me give you an analogy: A woman in a wheelchair has no way to access your church because there’s no ramp through the entrance. Is your response to tell the woman she needs to pray that God let’s her walk again? After all, disability is a result of a fallen world, you might say. Of course not. Your church should accommodate her need by building her a ramp. 

Could God make me straight? I suppose He could, just like He could supernaturally allow the disabled woman to walk. Yet the most pressing prayer for the Church is loving people as they are and ensuring every vocation outside of marriage is cherished. 

Celibacy as a Pair

In my previous relationships with women, there was always excitement from friends and acquaintances when my Facebook status changed from “Single” to “In a Relationship”. Last week, my relationship status did the same change, except this time it was “In a Relationship” with a man.

I met another guy, Kyle, in a “Side B” (traditional sexual ethic) LGBT Christian group, became friends, and realized there was mutual attraction. While we were certainly friends, there was mutual attraction and desire to orient our lives toward Christ together. This prompted several people to reach out to us, wondering if we’ve decided to abandon our traditional sexual ethic and eventually settle into a same-sex marriage.

We haven’t. Kyle and I are in the early stages of discerning a celibate partnership.

Since I’ve blogged and spoken rather publicly on my vocation to celibacy, I think it’s a fair question. Here are a few questions I’ve encountered. I hope these answers provide some clarity.

Has your view changed on celibacy or sexual ethics?

No. If you know me pretty well, you’ve probably heard me vocalize support for celibate same-sex partnerships in the last three years. Kyle and I both believe God is calling us to live our celibate vocations as a couple. We both hold to the definition of marriage set forth by our individual Christian traditions (Mine Orthodox; his non-denominational Protestant).

Do you see your relationship as a marriage?

We do not. Neither of us belong to a Christian tradition that blesses same-sex relationships as marriages and we do not see our church memberships changing. Even if both of us believed in a progressive sexual ethic, we wouldn’t see our relationship as a marriage. Sharing life together in love, intimacy, commitment, and trust is not exclusive to marriage.

Aren’t you opening yourself up to sexual temptation and sin?

Every human relationship contains sin, sexual or non-sexual. Of course we will sin against one another in some way, though I’m not sure that it will be sexual. Marriages open up the possibility of divorce and adultery, but it’s not a good reason to avoid marriage all together. Celibate partnerships have their own risks, but with good spiritual direction, boundaries, and communication they can be successful like any other relationship.

Aren’t you setting yourselves up for sadness and resentment trying to get as close to the line (marriage and sex) as possible?

We find this question quite odd. First, it assumes that our relationship is built on sexual attraction to one another, but that’s not why I find Kyle to be an attractive man and vice-versa. I’m attracted to the man that Kyle is, and that includes his passion for celibacy. Second, it assumes that every person needs or wants marriage or sex. Marriage is not the only valid way to live. We aren’t attempting to imitate marriage or a sexual relationship, because that is not the kind of life we feel called to. We are in a relationship precisely because Kyle makes me a better celibate and I make him a better celibate.  Both of us spend very little time fretting over line-drawing. When someone is asking “How much can I get away with before it becomes a sin?” then we know they are asking the wrong question.

You might not be having sex, but you are causing scandal. Using terms like partner, boyfriend, couple, and relationship give people the wrong idea.

It doesn’t bother or surprise me when people initially think Kyle and I are having sex. Most same-sex relationships are sexual. My issue is that this assumption isn’t applied consistently. Data from the National Survey of Family Growth stated that in 2002, 77% of Americans had sex by age 20, and of that percent, 75% had premarital sex. Public health reports in 2007 indicated this trend was only rising. Over 90% of people are heterosexual, so keeping this data in mind, aren’t non-married straight couples “causing scandal” when they publicly announce that they are in an exclusive, committed relationship? Shouldn’t we assume all straight couples are committing sexual sin until proven otherwise? My answer to this question is another question: Why are you thinking about what your Christian brother or sister may or may not be doing with their genitals?

If you two aren’t having sex, then aren’t you just friends? If you two choose to do life together eventually, then aren’t you just super close roommates?

First, we resent the phrase “just friends”. Friendship is a holy, beautiful vocation and is placed on the back-burner far too often in contemporary society. Second, Kyle and I are close friends. But the word “friend” doesn’t describe all the dynamics of our relationship. We are still in the early stages as a couple, but if we continue our relationship long-term, then our lives will look in such a way that goes beyond the common understanding of friendship. We would live together, share finances, write each other into our wills, care for one another if we become sick or unemployed, and call ourselves a chosen family. We are partners in ministry, along with being friends.

Did you come up with the idea of celibate partnerships on your own?

Many people who hear about our relationship have never heard of celibate partnerships before. That is understandable. LGBTQ people are already a minority. LGBTQ Christians, an even smaller demographic. LGBTQ Christians pursuing celibacy? Much smaller. LGBTQ Christians in celibate partnerships? Yeah, I know, it seems like you’re more likely to see a unicorn. But in our case, we both personally know several same-sex celibate couples, who belong to Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant traditions. Some of these couples started out as sexual relationships and others didn’t. We are excited to learn from these couples and receive their feedback.

Are you saying this type of relationship is best for all LGBTQ people?

Absolutely not. Celibate partnerships are not the right vocation for everyone, just as marriage isn’t the right vocation for everyone.

Aren’t you two just stirring the pot? Why do you have to be public about your relationship?

This is probably the most hurtful question. We both think hiding our relationship implies we are doing something wrong. Relationships, romantic or otherwise, should be public because they invite celebration, joy, accountability, transparency, and support. Yes, some people find our relationship unnerving. That doesn’t mean it’s our responsibility to be quiet. Even deeper, both of us desire our relationship to be a Christian testament to holy same-sex love. This is a reality the Church must reckon with, whether She wants to or not. In the coming decades, same-sex couples and their families are going to convert to denominations with traditional teachings on marriage and sexuality. Is the Church really going to say these couples and their children must be broken up in order to live holy lives? Lord, have mercy; I hope not.

I hope this clarifies a lot for many. I’m incredibly excited for both of us as we walk together with Jesus Christ. Please keep us in your prayers; we will do the same for you.

Why Homosexuality is Not My Struggle

In churches that teach a traditional sexual ethic, a common narrative for LGBTQ people is that non-heterosexual sexual orientations are inherently “struggles” akin to other forms of spiritual warfare. In my case, according to this narrative, same-sex attraction is a cross that I must embrace, and it takes the form of constant temptation to have sex with other men. While this language is popular for straight Christians with traditional views on marriage and sexuality, it’s not language that typically resonates with most LGBTQ people, even those of us who accept our church’s teachings prohibiting same-sex sexual activity.

Before I begin to clarify why Struggle Narratives are unhelpful for me and many other sexual minorities, I want to make it clear that there’s plenty of room for gay/same-sex attracted people to use this language for themselves. People have different approaches to their sexualities, and they deserve to be listened to. What I’m saying is that it’s wrong to box people into narratives that don’t fit their experience.

An obvious reason why I reject the Struggle Narrative as a default LGBTQ narrative is that, like everyone else, not every gender or sexual minority constantly thinks about sexual intercourse. We struggle with sins like pride, gluttony, wrath, etc. LGBTQ people are unique individuals, and our sins may or may not include lust.

If someone tells you they are gay, all they have said is which gender they are attracted to. They haven’t told you which people, if any, they are lusting after. It’s like if you were having coffee with your straight friend and she says, “That guy over there is kind of cute!” Does your mind immediately jump to her saying, “I am thinking about having sex with him right now”? If so, I really recommend healthier ways of pondering beauty and attraction.

I avoid discussing my gayness as a “struggle with same-sex attraction” because I would likely be just as unchaste if I were straight. It’s very rare that I meet a straight person who has not looked at pornography. I hardly ever meet opposite-sex couples who abstain from every kind of sexual activity before marriage. I have failed to meet a straight Christian who has not lusted or desired sex before marriage. These types of desires and behaviors are a result of the Fall of Adam, yet we don’t hear anyone frame these sins as part of the “struggle against heterosexuality”.

When traditional churches fail to distinguish between gay orientation and a specific desire for intercourse with the same sex, it leaves gender and sexual minorities with ambiguous shame. Rather than proclaiming a robust, historical sexual ethic in which non-married people are called to manifest God’s Kingdom in their celibacy and possess an inherent capacity to love the same sex intimately, LGBTQ people are hurt wondering why their non-heterosexuality is singled out as a special class of disorder.

We need to remember that Christians are called to be chaste; they’re not called to be heterosexual. If homosexual orientations are disordered because they contain sinful desires, then heterosexual orientations must be disordered as well.

If I were to engage in a type of sex prohibited by Scripture, or lust after another person, this would be sinful because I lack self-control, which is a “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22). It means I have yet to mature in the virtue of chastity. My fallenness is not uniquely due to my gay orientation.

My gay orientation includes plenty of ordered desires such as seeking the companionship of other men, noticing the beauty of other men, a willingness to empathize and serve other sexual minorities, being fulfilled in deep friendship, and yearning for a clear path to access my vocation of celibacy within the context of my Christian tradition. I’m not called to disavow same-sex attraction in my Christian tradition; I’m called to order that attraction into delighting in other men the way God delights.

In my “struggle with homosexuality” there are few obstacles that pop into my head that wouldn’t immediately come to mind for most straight Christians:

  • A struggle to forgive fellow Christians who say disparaging things about LGBTQ people.
  • A struggle to receive empathy and advice in how I can integrate sexuality into my vocation.
  • A struggle to find people willing to listen to my needs as a celibate person without projecting fear or casting judgment.
  • A struggle to find assurances of deep community and friendship in a modern world where people move at the first sight of a better opportunity.
  • A struggle to distinguish a historical sexual ethic from cultural homophobia.

It’s acceptable for people to know life as a sexual minority can be a struggle, but let’s first remember to ask and listen to what those struggles actually are.