From Homophobe to Straight Ally – Part 3

Posted on March 24, 2009

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From Homophobe to Straight Ally – Part 3

BY Hugh Hollowell

This is the third post in a four part series in which Hugh Hollowell shares his journey from homophobe to straight ally. We will publish one part of his story each week, so you may want to subscribe to our RSS feed so you don’t miss anything.

Her name was Heidi*. She had brown curly hair and dimples deep enough to fall into. We were  inseparable.  There were long talks that went late into the night, with topics ranging from  politics (we disagreed, but agreeably) to the classes we were taking, to our hometowns (she was from urban Montana, I was from rural Mississippi). All our friends knew we were perfect for each other. I was 19 years old and in love for the first time.

All our friends may have known we were perfect for each other but I had a hard time convincing Heidi. While we would go out to eat Chinese and go for long walks and spend hours in conversation, it was all very chaste and distant. I wanted more. I was smitten and there was no turning back. I wanted to marry Heidi and live happily ever after and have blue-eyed dimply babies.

I pushed and I pressured (yes, it was stupid, but I was 19). I brought gifts. I went all out. One day, she asked me if I wanted to go to the museum with her.  I took this as a positive sign.

We are walking through the galleries, looking at various artists, commenting on our likes and dislikes. I reach out to take her hand. She pulls away.

“We need to talk,” she says.

Over the next 10 minutes, she would tell me that she was gay. Or at least, she thought she was, and she needed the space to be able to work that out, and our being together was not going to give her that space.

I was crushed. Not only had I lost the girl, she was gay! I felt angry. I felt embarrassed. I felt betrayed. The rest of that day I remember nothing. I was in a daze and this was something I couldn’t share with anyone.

While I wasn’t being very “Christian” in those days, I still believed. And everything I believed and had ever been taught told me she was bound for hell. I was so mad – at her, at myself (is this my fault?), at God (what kind of cruel joke is this?).

Looking back, I realize now that every emotion I felt then – how I felt, how I was embarrassed, how I got dumped –  was about me and my insecurities. It was not about her at all. But I could not see that.

Over time, I came to accept that even if we could not be together, she was still my friend. Over time we would become even better friends. But I felt guilty for being her friend, because I “knew” that God was angry and upset with me.  I thought I was supposed to try and convert her or something, but all I knew was she was my friend and the best person I knew, and any God who would send her to hell I wanted nothing to do with. I was quickly on my way to losing my faith. I wanted to believe. I wanted to love God, but if I had to choose between a God I could not see and Heidi whom I could, Heidi was going to win.

This was in those distant years before the Internet made information so readily available. Nowadays, I could probably do a Google search and find a forum for “Christians who love gay people” (maybe not…) and be fine, but in those days, I took my struggling faith to a Christian bookstore. I would go there often, browsing titles, looking for some hope amid my despair. Most of the time, there was no hope to be found. And then, one day I saw it… 20 Hot Potatoes Christians are Afraid to Touch, by Tony Campolo.

Right there in chapter 9 (Does Christianity Have Any Good News For Homosexuals?) was the message that saved my faith. For the first time I heard someone say that even if homosexuality was a sin, it was no worse than any other sin, and if we could still love a liar or someone who cheats on their taxes, we ought to be able to love a homosexual. Of course! Tony also introduced me to the principle of asking myself “How would Jesus handle this?” Try as I might, I could not imagine Jesus calling anyone a faggot.

I can still remember where I was standing when I read those lines. I can still remember how happy I was, feeling that I now had a choice other than to feel like I was sneaking around on God.  I knew then that God loved Heidi just like he loved me. And I could love God again.

It would be years before I could truly reflect that love – old habits die hard. But I was moving that way, and while at this point I still thought homosexual actions were sin, I now knew them to be no worse than the action of lying, or the action of adultery. I prayed for the gays I knew, I wanted them to quit sinning, but now I knew they were loved. It restored my faith in God, who is, we are told, love itself.

The rest of the story: After some struggles and some time apart, Heidi and I are still friends. She has been with the same partner for years, and they seem very happy together. And she still has the deepest dimples I have ever seen.

*Actually, her name was not Heidi. I have changed her name to protect her privacy.
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hugh-hollowell1Hugh Hollowell is a writer, speaker and urban minister in Raleigh, NC. He is the founder of Love Wins Ministries, an organization that seeks to demonstrate the love of Jesus to all those society would leave behind.

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