6. Coming Out to My Church Team Leader
After moving to London from the Philippines, I’d found community. Two years later, the two communities I’d grown most engaged with were my church small group and my volunteering team.
That small group impacted me in such a huge way: a family-type environment where I could root myself with a foundation of friends I could count on.
We prayed together, ate together, supported each other, and had fun together. I learned a lot from being in a healthy environment with that small group.
Meanwhile, my volunteering team was a stark contrast. We didn’t really share much connection with one another; it was more of a professional work environment than a church community serving God together.
On Sundays, we just went in to serve and then went home afterward. Sometimes we worked from 7AM to 9PM for multiple services, all without even talking to each other or having any sense of sabbath.
An Inclusive Culture’s Influence
With the foundation and stability of good relationships from my small group, I felt able not just to survive the harsh environment of the volunteer team but also bring some light to it — without even realising I was doing so.
I started organising meetups and socials amongst the team members, and I tried introducing people to others who I thought would get along. Within just a couple weeks, the atmosphere changed.
Peter, my volunteer team leader and also church staff, saw what was happening to the team and what I was trying to do. So, he started asking me to help out in a more official capacity, bit by bit.
The team grew not just in numbers but also by the quality of relationships. Peter asked me to become a team leader myself and take charge of the entire team at one of our church locations.
He invited me out for coffee one weekend to discuss the ins and outs of my new role.
Internalized Homophobia Strikes Again
Something came crashing into my mind when Peter asked me to be a team leader at church: a stream of familiar feelings . . . similar to the ones I felt the first time I had to come out.
They were feelings of inadequacy; the line of thinking that I was in a somewhat state of sinfulness that compelled me to confess.
You are a hOe mOe sEggSual! You are not fit to do this! a small but forceful voice whispers in my head.
Six years had passed since the first time I’d come out under the same circumstances. I’d come out to my best friend and small group co-leader, feeling the need to do so because I couldn’t reconcile my feelings, being attracted to guys, while also being a small group leader — as if those things were mutually exclusive.
Six years later, there were still remnants of feeling “less than” — internalized homophobia, as they say these days.
But wasn’t I in a much better place six years later? Wasn’t I a more confident person now? I didn’t expect those old feelings of internalized homophobia to come back.
A Frog in My Throat #EtchoserangPalaka
Peter and I met for coffee that weekend and started having very productive conversations about the future of our team. We talked for a couple hours about upcoming church events, our own socials, and plans to improve the team’s dynamic.
It was going really well with Peter, all the while my heart pumping with that voice again: yA nEed to fEss uP gEi bOi!!!
“Uhhhhhhh. There’s something I need to tell you, though,” I said.
“Yeah? What is it?” he replied.
“Uhhhh. I’m gay. Aaaand I just want to let you know. I don’t know what church policy is regarding this. Buuut yeaaah, I just wanted you to know. And if that means I won’t be able to serve anymore, I just wanted you to tell me straight.”
In another self-sabotaging coming out moment, just ten minutes before our meeting ended, I’d dropped probably the worst bombshell after two hours of productive planning and the expectation to have me on board the whole time.
I don’t remember what exactly happened next. Just that Peter was shooketh and didn’t know what to say at first — which was expected. And he actually didn’t know what church policy was either.
He said he would need to get back to me, and we ended on a good note.
What should we do with the gei boi?
The next week, Peter invited me for dinner at this fancy steak restaurant at the edge of London Bridge.
Why is he inviting you to this fancy place? the voice in my head whispers again. Did he choose a fancy place to compensate for the bad news he’s about to tell you? A gEi boi is about to be excommunicated!!!
The day came, and we chatted and ate. I didn’t want to do any more small talk and went straight (or should I say gay?) to the point.
“Soooooooo,” I said, “what did you think about our conversation last time? About, you know, whether you still wanted me in leadership or not?”
He said he still needed to ask his boss about it. But that his boss also didn’t know what to do. And so one leader would have to ask another would have to ask another.
Did you follow that? Basically, it went three levels up the proverbial ecclesiastical ladder.
I nodded as Peter explained how the whole week had gone behind the church scenes, my mind already rehearsing a dozen bad scenarios for how this would play out — whilst thinking how all those people must be annoyed and disgusted with me.
“We love you, and we know your heart. It would be amazing to have you lead the team in our other location,” Peter said.
It also turned out that Peter had invited me to this restaurant because it was one of his favourite places, and he’d wanted to share it with me to experience as well.
I was relieved.
Have you ever come out to church leadership, and how did it go? Is coming out to a church leader something you hope to do someday?