Gay Christian Counseling: Reconciling Two Worlds Within

Text on Image: Stay as You Are.
Collage of Images: Same-Sex Couple with their faces touching, people looking off into the distance, hand holding, hands in an artistic pose.

No matter where you place yourself on the LGBTQ spectrum, if you also identify as a Christian, my guess is that you have probably had some difficulty reconciling your faith with your sexuality/gender identity. While there are some gay Christians who have been completely spared from that dilemma, most have not. If you or someone you care about identifies as LGBTQ and Christian there absolutely is hope for making peace with both of these identities- but where do you begin?

First Things First: Reparative Therapy is Dangerous

Reparative/Conversion Therapy is the attempt, on behalf of a counselor, to help a client change their sexual orientation or gender identity. The damage of this therapy is so profound that it has been deemed unethical by the American Psychological Association and has been made illegal in many states. For more information on this practice, read: The Lies and Dangers of Reparative Therapy.

Find a Counselor Who Will Respect Both Worlds

Counseling can be an excellent resource (if I do say so myself) for hashing-out your faith beliefs and your sexuality/gender identity. I recommend finding someone who will respect you as an LGBTQ Christian. Find a counselor who will encourage you as you find your own path on this journey. This is a very personal endeavor and you should never feel pressured to sacrifice your faith or your sexual orientation/gender identity. Consider finding someone who is relatively familiar with Christianity and knowledgable of the unique issues that come with being LGBTQ.

Research

You will hear a lot and I mean A LOT of opinions on what it means to be LGBTQ and Christian. I recommend starting with some basic research about gender and sexuality. This may help to solidify your beliefs about what is choice and what is not. Here are some helpful resources:

How Science is Helping Us Understand Gender

Gender vs. Sex: What is the Difference

Transgender Brains Are More Like Their Desired Gender from an Early Age

The Science of Sexual Orientation

Connect

You are not alone on this journey. It is so important that you connect with people who are in the same boat as you. Thanks to the internet, you can find so many great communities to join. Depending on where you live, you may also find some churches who will accept all of who you are. Here are some resources to consider:

GayChurch.org: A database that allows you to search for churches in your area. Want to know the difference between a “welcoming” church and an “affirming” one? Read: The Difference Between a Welcoming Church and an Affirming One is Huge.

Q Christian Fellowship “Join thousands of others around the world in our private, password-protected discussion forum.”

Don’t Give Up

You deserve to live an authentic life. Being a Christian and LGBTQ comes with challenges. Lucky for you, research shows that the LGBTQ community is one of the most resilient. You are strong enough to get through this but you don’t have to do it alone. Connect with others. Reach-out for help. Here are some stories that you might find inspiring:

Blue Babies Pink Logo
A Southern Coming-Out Story in 44 episodes.
Image of Book Cover for TORN: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate
Torn by Justin Lee
Book Cover of "A Christian Lesbian Journey" by Darlene Bogle
A Christian Lesbian Journey by Darlene Bogle

I hope you find these resources to be helpful!

Take Care,

Signature: Jaclyn
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When Your Partner Resents Your Growth

image from Summit Point

“I’m afraid if I change, my family won’t grow with me.” – KG

Hello Everyone!

Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter. Today I want to talk about something that came-up in a group that I am facilitating. The group was created to help women create self-loving habits around food and exercise. We’re about three weeks in and some are hitting road blocks.

One group member courageously shared that what holds her back is realizing that the changes she wants to make could leave her isolated from her family. It wasn’t long after that many others in the group resonated with her experience.

I’d like to speak to this dynamic that is so common in relationships. I call it, the, “Now I see Me” phenomenon. The truth of relationships is that they often reveal our inner lives, the good, the bad, and sometimes the very ugly. Friends, family, coworkers, partners, kids… ALL will bring-up unresolved issues within us. So when someone does something offensive and we find ourselves reacting in a way that is disproportionate to the ‘crime,’ we need to start digging deeper. We need to stop and intentionally search within ourselves for the cause of such a reaction.

“I know that what I was doing was the right thing for me but for some reason, it was like my wife couldn’t stand it.” – LD

Now that will take time, work, and possibly therapy for you to uncover what’s really going on. That’s hard enough as it is. But what do we do when we’re not the one having the disproportionate reaction? Let’s go back to the concept of, “Now I see Me.”

For the sake of clarity, we’ll discuss through the lens of an adult romantic relationship. When your partner is resentful of you for positive changes that you want to make in your life, there’s a good chance that it is due to fear.

Let’s say that you and your partner make a regular habit of drinking to the point of blacking-out every Friday night. It’s been fun sometimes, but horrible at other times. You’ve decided that the horrible times outweigh the good times. There’s something in you that has been whispering, “This is not healthy.” So, you tell your partner you’re not going to do that anymore.

Now your partner’s behavior has been challenged. What was once a joint activity, will now be a solo one. They start to question for a split second if what they are doing is wrong too… Oh shit, now I see ME. This is terrifying. You see, whether it’s drinking, or overeating or whatever, that behavior was serving a purpose. Most likely, the behavior was allowing you both to escape or hide from an emotion or truth that is uncomfortable. Most people aren’t aware of this but when their behavior is challenged, some very intense emotions rise-up. Fear is incredibly powerful.

“My boyfriend and I had huge issues when I started changing my eating and exercise habits. He said he was afraid I’d think I was too good for him.” – LM

“Now I see Me,” is saying now I see my brokenness. And now they could be terrified that you’re going to see it too. They may fear that you will come to a place where you think you’re better than them and leave. Remember how I just said that fear is incredibly powerful? Well, for humans, an intrinsically social species, fear of being alone is the probably among the worst and being LEFT leaves a particularly deep wound.

In my practice, have seen couples with this dynamic- when one is ready to explore and grow and the other is digging their heels in the ground. This is actually very normal. We’re talking about two separate individuals, each on their own life journey. To expect us to always be in the same place at the same time is unrealistic. However, it is not acceptable or healthy for one to demand that the other not grow. It also isn’t healthy for one to want to change but not to do so out of fear of the other’s reaction.

So what do you do?? 

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Spotting Red Flags in Your Kid and What to Do About Them

Photo cred: divorce-matters.com

I get more questions about child development than any other psychological phenomenon and I’m not surprised. When I became a mom I was floored by how much there is to know, how many “experts” can contradict each other, and how common sense seemed to have no place in many parenting situations. Shouldn’t there be some kind of owner’s manual that comes with your new kid? Maybe the reason why we don’t have one is because much of parenting is viewed subjectively. Meaning, we base what is right and what is wrong on our personal values (or our parents’ personal values… or our in-laws’ personal values… or the values of the well-meaning yet intrusive elderly man at the grocery store), not on hard based facts. This is why, in my opinion, things get way harder than they need to be. Basing parenting decisions on objective information such as brain development, would make everything a whole lot easier for everyone.

First, let’s start with what is normal behavior and what is not. 

But before that, let’s get you in the right head space:

While even the word “normal” can be subjective, let’s not get too caught-up on it. Falling outside the normal range isn’t necessarily bad, it just means that there is important information to be taken into account. So shake-off any fears about what not being normal might mean. If your child does fall outside of the normal range, they need you to be ready to handle it and you definitely can. It’s ok to be scared at first, be honest about it, but don’t let yourself dwell. There are so many resources available and as long as you’re willing to ask for the help you may need, you’ll handle this like a champ.

Now, on to the red flags.

  1. A Dramatic Change in Personality or Behavior

Was your child once shy and introspective and is now chatty and needing to be around others constantly? Or maybe they were quite friendly and now want to be by themselves the majority of the time. Do they suddenly display violent behaviors or explosive anger? Or maybe your once potty trained 5 or 6 year old is now bed wetting.

Any time we as therapists hear a report of a dramatic change in behavior (that can’t be accounted for by medication, illness, or life event), we assess for abuse. If you are concerned after reading this, please don’t hesitate to talk to your child and have them assessed by a mental health professional.

When a behavior change is probably due normal development:

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If You’re Wondering How You Can Be a Better Parent to Your Kids, Just Ask Them.

Photo by Joshua Keller Photography

Yesterday my four-year-old son came to me and said, “Mom, how else could you have said that to me?” Implying that I could have used a kinder tone. (I may have been a little bitchy about asking him to put away his fishing rod, again.)

He’s also been known to say things like, “Look in my eyes please” and “Mom, you’re not being very nice.” So weird, because I, of course, ALWAYS look him in the eye since ask him to look me in the eyes when I’m speaking to him. I’m also ALWAYS kind. ALWAYS.

So why don’t I flip the flip out on my smart-mouthing kid when he says these things? Because he’s being the exact kind of “smart” we want more than anything. The kind of smart that’s more likely to help him succeed in life than any other kind. I’m talking about emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence includes the ability to ask for your needs or desires to be met. Lack of emotional intelligence generates a life of frustrating relationships and perpetual loneliness. We expect others to read our minds and guess our needs. Newsflash: this is a recipe for disaster.

Sometimes my partner and I flat-out ask our kid how we can be better parents to him. And you know what? He has very simple, but very helpful answers. Yes, it hurts to hear sometimes. It requires some hard core humility and also grace for ourselves.

When he tells us how we can better, we accept his feedback the same way we want him to accept feedback. We thank him for his thoughts, we validate his feelings, we share that we would like to improve, and we don’t get defensive. We model that feedback is good. It’s not scary, it’s not so powerful that we can’t survive it. We want him to be able to handle criticism well so we have to do the same.

We also acknowledge that sometimes in our culture, we have a double-standard for our expectations of children’s behavior versus our expectations of adult behavior. For example, we may angrily scold our child for being unkind to their sibling every time they do it. But let’s be real, are you ALWAYS sweet and gentle when you speak to others? Do you ALWAYS say “please?” Be real.

We can’t expect our kids to be perfect all of the time. We’re not. So when we can admit our own imperfection, we can also help our child to see that we need grace sometimes too. Otherwise, we seem just a teensy bit (actually, VERY) hypocritical. It’s an impossible standard we hold over them. We inadvertently teach them that they must be the epitome of politeness in front of adults but as soon as they’re out of our sight, they can be unkind to their peers or those smaller than them.

So how do we help kids to handle feedback positively, speak their needs and not be jerks to other kids behind our backs?

We must model who we want our kids to be, ask them how we can do better, and when we fall short, we have to own it.

You got this,

 

 

 

PS Hey! Did you know that I’ll be practicing therapy again soon? Unless you’re my mom (Hi Mom!) you probably didn’t. Let’s get you in the know! Sign-up for my monthly newsletters over in the right hand column and then you’ll get great relationship tools like this one and you’ll also receive updates about my practice and other upcoming events. I also appreciate feedback (obv) and would love your requests for relationship tools. Send them to jaclyn@jaclynsnyder.com.  Thanks for reading!

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