Hoo boy, if that isn’t a hard question then I don’t know what is! In one of our YOBcasts, Ryan raised the question of how much “internalized homophobia” has played a role in our choice of sexual ethics. This definitely got me thinking.

“Side A” folks (those with a gay-affirming theology) who are critical of YOB and other “Side B” organizations (those holding a traditional belief on sexuality) will often say we are in denial of our true selves, full of self-hatred, and it’s all because of our internalized homophobia that we choose to live this way.

Well . . . are they right? This question has made me pause for self-reflection as I reanalyze my beliefs.

They are right, but only in a sense.

As I’ve blogged before, I used to have an extremely homophobic attitude. My high school environment was very anti-gay. The phrases “that’s so gay” and “dude, you’re such a fag” were tossed around like crazy amongst the other boys. I must’ve heard those words and insults at least 500 times a day, and it rubbed off on me somewhat.

Let’s also face facts here: I grew up in a (relatively) conservative household in a thoroughly middle-class, white, suburban environment. My parents often expressed disgust about homosexuals and homosexuality in general.

I grew up in the height of the modern American culture wars of the early 2000’s. It was a time of absolutes: liberal versus conservative, pro-gay versus anti-gay with no in-betweens.

I bought into this socio-political toxicity and wanted to crusade against the gays because they were going against what the Bible said. Never mind those feelings I felt within myself.

Nowadays when I listen to the very conservative Christian crowd’s ungracious attacks against the Christian “Side B” movement and the LGBTQ community, it hauntingly reminds me of my ugly attitudes from the past.

Are my current views on the traditional sexual ethic and how I live out my sexuality purely a response to my socio-political upbringing and nothing more?

I’ve read more and more hard stories about mistreatment and abuse against LGBTQ people from many fellow Christians, the damage they’ve caused, even amongst people in this “Side B” crowd. Thankfully, I’m not someone who has experienced such prejudice, but I was really shocked to hear these stories.

It can often make one feel like he’s on the wrong side of history.

So, all this said, do I live the way I live purely because of the way I was raised? Do I still harbor any internalized homophobia of myself and others? Is that why I’m “Side B”? Is this all coming from a place of pious self-righteousness?

I’ve studied the arguments for both “Side A” and “Side B” theologies. I have listened to arguments by Matthew Vines and Justin Lee, contrasting their thoughts with those from Greg Coles and Preston Sprinkle, and I remain convinced of the Bible’s forbidding homosexual sex.

Do I write this to encourage people to question being “Side B”? Not exactly. But one should make sure he’s living this way for the right reasons. With this culture war surrounding LGBTQ issues, many Christians have taken harsh stands against gay-affirming theology for the sake of being a good conservative rather than actual Christian convictions.

Sometimes I feel “Side B” folks take similar stands.

Having said that, I’ve heard some refreshing backstories from other “Side B” folks. Some come from rather liberal backgrounds, and their parents wouldn’t mind if they embraced a “Side A” theology — yet they stick to their “Side B” convictions.

A good majority of “Side B” folks come from conservative backgrounds, yes, some of those coming from ultra-conservative, even abusive backgrounds. Enough to send anyone scurrying to the “Side A” world as quickly as possible — yet they also stick with “Side B.”

I’ve also seen people argue for “Side A” purely from liberal convictions — the exact opposite of conservatives in many ironic ways.

Here’s the most important thing for Christians across the board when it comes to LGBTQ issues: take all the toxic, socio-political culture war baggage, crumple it into a ball, and toss it out the window. Frankly, it dehumanizes everyone involved.

Conservatives want to lump all gay or SSA (same-sex attracted) Christians into the “liberal gay agenda” while liberals will call out people with conservative views as “homophobic hatemongers.”

People’s individual stories and feelings seem to have no place amid these arguments.

As for feeling like being on the wrong side of history, yes, the church has unquestionably handled this homosexuality issue very poorly. Yes, much abuse has resulted.

As Christians who believe homosexual sex is unbiblical, are we on the wrong side of history? While I believe the Bible’s forbidding of homosexual sex is a truth, it is a truth that has been abused.

But just because a truth has been abused, doesn’t mean it’s any less true. It wouldn’t be the first time Christians have horribly abused truths we still hold true today.

Yes, we still believe adultery is a sin, but burning people at the stake for adultery wasn’t exactly the best way to go about it in medieval times, was it?

But here’s one of the main reasons why I’m “Side B”: I LOVE IT.

No question, being “Side B” still has its struggles: like the anxieties of fitting in with society and some sense of loss about not having a “normal” American family.

But these past three years in the “Side B” world have been the happiest of my life.

I love my brothers; they are my best friends and my family. I am no longer alone and isolated like I once was, and I know I won’t have to face life’s hardships alone in my future. I have let go of my feelings of self-hatred and embraced God’s love through my brothers.

What a beautiful feeling that is. God has truly led me to his promises in this life.

I’m not just living this way because I feel spiritually obligated or socio-politically pressured against my will. I have no regrets about living a “Side B” life.

And besides, why would someone want to settle with intimacy with one man for the rest of his life when I can share intimate (albeit platonic) connection with dozens of other men living the same life as me? I can live without sex, but I know I will wither and die without intimacy (not to mention a healthy helping of snuggles).

I know this is not the case with everyone. I have met some men who have a hard time grappling with a life without sex, so I can’t call this the be-all, end-all case for going “Side B” (oh, if only it were though).

Still, I don’t think living a happy “Side B” life is impossible for everyone.

I have seen God provide such amazing blessings for me and others. What a thrilling adventure it’s been, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

And I haven’t gone crazy and tried to burn any sexy gypsy dudes at the stake, which is always a plus.

Have you experienced internalized homophobia? Do you feel merely obligated to live out a “Side B” life, or do you feel passion to live under this traditional sexual ethic? What’s the hardest part — and the best part — about being “Side B”?

About the Author

  • I never struggled with accepting my sexuality. My biggest wrestling was trying to figure out what was going on with me and having a word for that. That didn’t happen until I was in high school yet there was much shrapnel left from the friendships I tried to have with other guys. I never had hatred towards myself for my sexuality and never tried to “pray the gay away”. I’m too much of an empath to hate other people when deep down inside I deal with the same thing. Having been Side A for a period of my life and being in a relationship as well, the Holy Spirit worked with me to show me that it just wasn’t the life God had for me. I lacked any peace in life. It all eventually came crashing down. Side B gives me peace even though it can be hard and painful. The hardest thing about Side B for me would be navigating the discussion with the people around me. It has to be navigated to find community and support. Having been hurt by the church in the past and running away from it to pursue a Side A life, most of the time I choose not to risk a friendship to be honest and vulnerable about my sexuality. It has been wonderful to build community with other men who understand my wrestlings and to continue to encourage each other in Side B living.

    • Thanks, brother, for sharing some of your journey. It is appreciated and we can learn from each other. I’ve always been “Side B” and have found navigating hasn’t been easy. I trust we can encourage each other here…we all need that.

    • Stories like yours definitely give me a lot of hope Josh! There are indeed folks who have become Side B after becoming so jaded with being involved in the Side A world. Also interesting from your perspective since you sort of went unquestioningly went Side A without any issues of being forced into any conservative conversion therapy or anything. Yeah navigating the discussion with other Side B people can be hard since we tend to be an emotional and sensitive bunch. Its a challenge but we’re working through it. I’m so glad you’ve found such a great and supportive community you can share your story with Josh. Its been a blessing to be apart of it. Love you lots brother!

  • I love this. I think I have had to come to terms with and have had to discern between internalized homophobia and what I truly believe in. One is fear, and the other is faith and love.
    I resonate with the feeling of being “in the middle.” It drives me up a wall when I’m lumped in with assumed groupings.
    I do not believe my perspectives and my current choices arose out of homophobia. I’ve prayed about the traditional view of marriage and family and although i’m open to companionship with a man, I still feel like I’d be Side B.
    Some of the most powerful realizations for me have come when I realize that God loves me no matter what…even if I lived a “gay lifestyle.” Feeling that unconditional love make me want to stay as close to Him as possible, and that is through keeping my covenants with Him and seeking to find intimacy in ways that are in harmony with His commandments.

    • So well said Alex! Yeah being in the middle and caught in the crosshairs of the culture war is tough. I’ve seen so many conservatives think that just because I’m not trying to make myself straight then I get lumped into the “liberal gay agenda.” And liberals would want to lump me into the “repairative therapy light” camp. People really need to let go of these socio political notions. I will confess that a lot of internalized homophobia did sort of point me in this direction of Side B which has often made me wonder if I truly am doing the right thing. But through some honest pray and self analyzing I feel I have come to the right place. But yes, its important to know that God loves us know matter what and we are to love ourselves as he loves us.

  • Because legislative pro-LBGT iniciatives on the educational field (“gender ideology”), Cultural war had been stablished in the Brazilian society some years ago…Despite my personal struggle with SSA, and suffering with a messy homoerotic and adulterine friendship, I have worked to avoid such demands in my town…
    Now I understand that important issues must be safeguarded even through cultural approaches, but it is not enough to assure (christian) love to the people…
    Pope Francis has taught us to make a correct distinction: to care the person doesn’t mean to advocate a specific agenda (cf. Amorim laetitia).
    Your post made me remind it… Thank you, Eugene…

    • Yeah I defiantly agree! There is that unfortunate social idea that if you love and care for someone that is doing something socially taboo then it means you’re endorsing it which of course is nonsense.

  • I love this post all the way around. I had no idea until recently that there was such a thing as “side A” or “Side B”, or any other side foe that matter. I know I’ve lived with internal homophobia for years, and sometimes still do to an extent. When I see a couple holding hands or anything like that, I still kind of cringe. Why? Who knows. Partly because I feel what they are doing in bionically wrong, and partly because I wish I could have a relationship like that period. Not necessarily with another guy, but with someone. And I wholly embrace the Side B lifestyle because I don’t want to do what the world is constantly screaming at you to do. I want to stand out and set apart like we are called to do. And living without sex is possible, but not fun. Being 34 and single I can attest to that fact and it’s not easy. One good thing I will say is that I have found a group of close friends that I can be open and honest with and that has been more rewarding than anything else.

    • Thank you Chris! Yeah I had no idea about Side A or Side B for the longest time either and I wish I had. I know the feeling, in the midst of the craziness of the labels debate going on sometimes I still can’t help but slightly cringe at the “gay” word simply because it is residue left over from it being considered an insulting word from back in the my high school days. I am definitely trying to shed all of those notions and look at the issue from God’s perspective and learning more through other people’s stories. And at the same time I don’t want to do what society is screaming at me to do either. In the right ear its “you need to pray to Jesus to make yourself straight!” And in the left ear its “you need to be true to yourself and get a boyfriend!” And I’m like “what if I don’t want to do either of those?”

  • Wow, I actually agree with everything you’ve said.
    This article is perfect for sharing with unbelievers

    • What do you mean actually agree? Haha! But yeah thank you, I like the idea of my blogs being accessible to many people and not just preaching to the choir of just Side B people.

  • Absolutely. Thank you for putting so many of my feelings into words. Honored to be one of your many brothers, Eugene.

  • I can absolutely trace elements of my journey, especially early on, when I took the Side B route by default out of an extremely homophobic outlook. Externally and internally. I know this is a common story in our community, too. Thanks for giving voice to it, Eugene. It’s good to be able to process these things, not only from early in my journey but how it still bleeds into today.

    • I’m glad you resonate, Tom! Yeah I get haunted by the fact that I went this way out of default because I still harbored a lot of strong homophobic feelings. It makes me feel like I acted rashly and did the wrong thing but I think I probably did do the right thing but for the wrong reason. But yeah, its very important to process these things and talk about them. We have to know ourselves.

  • Hi Eugene,
    Thanks for sharing your story and experience with us! As someone who is more on the bisexual spectrum, I’ve struggled with feeling like part of my sexuality (i.e. my attraction to men) is less God honoring while simultaneously elevating my attraction to women. I think I experience internalized homophobia when I make lusting after a man a “worse sin” (in my mind) then lusting after a woman. I have to remind myself that lust of any kind is sinful regardless of the gender and that Christ has called me into holiness.
    I think too, I fear sharing my story with people in the church and in the LGBT+ community because I’m uncertain how they will respond.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your perspective on things! Its unusual to hear that from the bisexual point of view. I remember I met one bi guy loooong time ago who said he could never live with himself being attracted to men and I’m like “dude… you still have attractions to women! You can have a more normal life.” But yeah it was a similar lesson I learned too, lust of any kind is sinful. Homosexual lust certainly is not better or worse than a straight guy lusting after a woman. Such an important thing to learn.
      I hope you can find a place in your church or the gay world to share your story. Either way, you can most definitely share it here! We are more than welcome to hear your story brother, because it matters and you are safe with us.

  • Eugene,
    I was definitely homophobic in my younger years. One of the neatest experiences of recent time has been going back and apologizing to other sexual minorities from high school and getting to share my own story. I’ve received a lot of grace from them and it’s helped me process emotional baggage for myself and them.
    Talking to them about why I married my wife, several have assumed that I am bi-sexual, or that maybe I married my wife to “fix” myself, or that I wasn’t going to be fulfilled in marriage. Those conversations have been interesting and fulfilling, but also occasionally exacerbating.
    While I have explained my marriage and my commitment to walk in celibacy with my attraction to the same sex, I’m still surprised by how often I get propositioned. My one response of, “Bro, I’m married,” elicited a response of, “So am I. And my husband had his boyfriend over last night.” We are both attracted to men, but we have a very different way of approaching life.
    I think your words are a good summary of my own feelings regarding gay sex: “I can live without sex, but I know I will wither and die without intimacy.” I need my brothers walking with me. I need intimacy with other men, gay and straight, emotional and physical in order to feel full. And my wife knows that.
    I don’t feel like I am afraid of my sexuality anymore. Nor of other gay people. I knew my attractions before I got married and so did my wife. She maybe thought that my sexuality would change, but I wasn’t entering into marriage expecting it to. I married her because I love her, and we see each other doing life together. We still do.

  • Thanks for your post. Yes, I have suffered from internalized homophobia. I realized around 5, I was attracted to men rather than women. When puberty hit, my fantasies were about men, not women. I knew to keep my mouth shut. We didn’t have a lot of rules growing up except Thou Shalt Not Disgrace Thy Family which kept me in-line or maybe adept at doing without getting caught. I dated a woman after college. When she broke up with me, I realized I couldn’t put myself or someone else thru that again. I stayed closeted thru the 80’s although people around me knew I was gay. . I was scared of losing my job and worried about my family’s reaction. A high school teacher I knew lost his job after police arrested him at a bar. A gay friend invited me to attend a meeting of the Gay Academic Union when it was starting up at a local university & I refused. Another friend invited me to a religious retreat featuring Malcolm Boyd & I refused out of fear. I made it thru the 80’s without HIV, but looking back, I missed out by letting other people fight homophobia for me. In the late 90’s, I went to a Pride March in Winston-Salem. I was going to wait for the finish but a friend said, “Let’s go!” I started walking in the rain with my umbrella pulled low.
    To be truthful, I relied more on personal experience rather than Paul or Leviticus as a base for my sexual ethics. I’ve lived long enough to see where people’s decisions took them. It always comes back to love God, love your neighbor, love yourself. I didn’t hear sermons about homosexuality growing up & was surprised to hear others say they got anti-gay messages on a regular basis. I know same-sex married couples & couples who’ve been together for years. I’ve witnessed them lovingly care for sick & dying partners. I’ve seen young men fall into bad situations trying to find love on dating web sites. Replying to your post made me realize I have work to do. It’s good to know there are other men on the same road walking together.

    • Thank you Richard! So true, we tend to make our decisions and judgments based on personal experience more than what God says in general don’t we? We think we have it all figured out right? Thank you so much for telling your story, indeed it seems like it was a lot harder to grow up being attracted to men in your era than it ever was for mine. BUT I’m glad to see my blog is inspiring you to action and that you see there are others just like you walking to same road. you are not alone brother.

  • I love your honesty in admitting that you have had some homophobic patterns to unlearn. I think a lot of us do. I hope that our sexual ethics and our community can be directed toward living something beautiful that Jesus has called us to rather than a way of running from something about ourselves that we are icked out by.

    • Thank you Ryan! Yeah, I think just about all of us have struggled with this hence why I wrote it. I’d say a fair amount of Side A people have struggled with this too so it is something not uncommon. I think I’ve learned from all this is that sometimes what you fear most really just wants to be your friend. Jesus has indeed called us to something beautiful even in the midst of our struggles and brokenness/

  • Interesting post Eugene. However I don’t think we should buy the concepts that lgtb agenda throws at us like, Internalize Homophobia. I think is natural to have an adversion to sexual deviations like ssa is. On the other hand understanding the background of hurting people like us, with this condition. To me IH is just a manipulate concept to make us feel there is something wrong if we don’t embrace what is the result of traumatic issues in our lives.

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