My name is Erin. I’m part of the Lumbee and Waccamaw Siouan tribes of North Carolina. I’m what some would call an extroverted introvert. I love One Direction, Weird Al Yankovic, James Baldwin, and Dolly Parton, all equally. When I’m not listening to podcasts, logging films on Letterbox, serving at church, buying/selling secondhand clothing, singing karaoke, or solo traveling, I work at two educational nonprofits. I am an aspiring counselor, higher-ed student, and stand-up comedian. Not all at the same time though. If you’re ever in Charlotte, come get a drink with me!
Growing up, I always felt like I was pretending to be something I wasn’t in order to fit in best, and I was pretty good at it. As an only child, I had a vivid imagination, make-believing common themes of mystery-solving and holding out hope that somewhere out there, I had siblings.
When I imagined God, I thought of him as a distant being, someone looking down from an unreachable window at congregations gathering on Sundays. The approval of God, adults, and peers were at the forefront of my mind, but like God’s leering from that window, approval felt so far away. Like many others attending youth groups in America’s Bible Belt, I thought I was a Christian based on the activities I didn’t partake in, the words I didn’t use, and what was deemed “holy.”
In addition to those things, I happily donned a purity ring, prayed against abortion, and regularly watched YouTube videos from ex-gay ministries. I covered my shoulders at all times, especially when on stage at church for any reason, and I was drawn toward the idea of not dating until you were “really sure” that you were ready for marriage.
I eventually learned that being a good church kid was not the same as having a relationship with Jesus. I was shown by a mentor at the time what it looked like to follow Jesus, apart from my legalistic structure growing up in the church.
God wasn’t just peering down at me; his Spirit came to dwell with me forever. I inherited a family I’d always imagined as a child felt unattainable. I felt love and purpose in a way I hadn’t before. God softened my heart toward marginalized people, a reality which has only grown since then.
Despite this growth, marginalized groups were still implicitly or explicitly exempt from serving in the kingdom of God. Years went by, and I studied at a small historically Baptist university. Somehow I found myself regularly interacting with the LGBTQ+ community, whether Christian or not, despite their rarity in our school’s student population.
I chalked up these interactions to my feeling compassion toward sexual minorities and not much else. After all, women are socialized to have deep relationships with other women; additionally, it was and is more acceptable for women to dress in a more androgynous manner, especially when purity culture was obsessively telling young women to cover their bodies. I’d been doing since puberty.
My actions and dress did not raise red flags in my community. Within this purity framework it was easier to hide not only my body, but also my sexual identity — hide it even from myself. While I’d had several people come out to me, I didn’t find a sexuality in myself to question — there wasn’t much of an option to do so, and I’d had enough crushes on boys not to see the need.
I continued leading Bible studies and guarding my brothers’ hearts. For reasons unexplored then, I felt that I would end up with someone to whom I was not attracted; that dating wasn’t something to be particularly interested in. This way of self-preservation was naively mistaken for piety, which thrilled the inner child in me who longed to be perfect.
After a significantly hurtful breakup, I questioned my own sexuality for the first time, even if for a blip in time before getting back to work. While almost my entire existence as a woman was sexualized, I still had no space to think of myself as a sexual being.
I continued to do inner work in other areas and did a spectacular job hiding behind a door I kept closed.
I had dinner with a friend one day, and out of nowhere he mentioned something about Your Other Brothers. We had never discussed issues of sexuality together, and regardless of his intention, God was working. He suggested I check out YOB’s podcast on the way home, and I did, and I got hooked.
I had only previously been exposed to the extreme spectrum of ex-gay and all-affirming convictions. It felt great to engage with a perspective like “theirs,” one adhering to orthodox Christian belief while also being honest about their sexual identity.
Looking back, I now laugh at the irony. Taking into account my upbringing and personality, I had an inclination toward authenticity. I especially craved it from other believers.
YOB’s podcast, representative of a community, is where I found some of the most transparent, brave, and vulnerable conversations — definitely, safe to say, the boldest conversations I’d heard from Christian men.
I was drawn toward the themes of denying self, balancing life in a broken world while acknowledging the beauty of it, and the emphasis on friendship and chosen family.
I continued listening to YOB’s podcast from that night forward, but then last year its content shifted from something I consumed on an empathetic level to a more personal one. Last summer produced several moments of self-discovery and self-advocacy. While I craved authenticity from the outside, I finally felt like I could acknowledge it from behind the door where I was hiding.
It was like a light bulb that just went off. As if my mind had finally given me permission to see more of myself as a whole person. Not a perfect person, but a more complete one.
My years of an affinity and magnetism to queer people began to click. My guardedness toward dating in high school and college, and my discomfort with femininity seemed to make more sense, too.
I decided to take a step out the door before my self-preservation could potentially be the source of my self-destruction. I ended up coming out to my then-boyfriend, close friends, roommates, and parents about my attraction to men and women.
I set forth on a new journey with only Your Other Brothers as a resource. Even the name of the podcast felt more real to me after being honest with myself and others: they made up some of the siblings I’d inherited when I became part of the family of God. Without the relationship between me and my sweet brothers from college, I wonder at what point I would have come to this place and under what circumstances.
I cannot help but think this timing of discovering YOB could have potentially saved my life. Your Other Brothers has not just taught me about vulnerability, the family of God, and denying self to follow Jesus; I also feel that my years of wrestling with self-acceptance and self-love as a queer woman don’t feel quite as looming when I see my other brothers struggle with each other.
Your Other Brothers has taught me very practically that we are meant to struggle with each other.
I’ve been able to engage with other believers and other Side B resources, but I still see an area that is lacking. After the YOBcast episode on Second Adolescence last year, my time spent “lurking” in this community turned to action.
Through a mutual friend, Tom and I connected in person, and I shared with him a majority of what I’ve just written here. My desire to connect and share my story won over the fear of sharing too much or being too much. With Tom I felt as though I were speaking with an old friend after the years spent listening to him speak and give the promise at the end of each show:
Remember: you are not alone. Even the sparrow finds a home.
Because of my personal values and convictions, I desire to help others find a place to feel safe and loved through partnership with Your Other Brothers. I’ve been in the process of hearing from other women who have also benefited greatly from YOB, and my hope is that with the help of a dedicated few perhaps we can pioneer a new community for women? Those who also wish to live in light of a traditional sexual ethic, united by Christ.
I feel humbled yet confident to make a move toward creating such a space that doesn’t yet exist, alongside my fellow sparrows. This community is for those who aren’t coming perfectly, but coming joyfully as part of the family of God.
Everyone welcome Erin as our first female blogger! Leave a comment below or shoot us an email — contact[at]yourotherbrothers[dot]com — if you’re a woman interested in participating in the ongoing discussion of a Your Other Sisters community. If you are a woman reading, how have you been impacted by YOB’s blog, podcast, and community?
Thank you, Erin, for sharing! Thank you for your story, your courage, your faith, your character, and most important, we are THANKFUL FOR YOU! Abundant Blessings as you continue onward … you have found a family in Your Other Brothers (as well as Sisters-in-the-Lord, I am certain). 🙂
Thanks, Troy! Happy to be here.
I’m so excited.
So excited to finally see your story and its capacity to impact so many in this community!
Erin, thank you so much for bravely stepping ‘out’ to see how God might gather more of his sparrows together. I’ve never commented on a blog before, but your willingness to move towards this unknown, scary thing inspired me to do just that. Maybe someday I’ll feel free to post as myself. Until then, know that YOB and YOS are in my prayers and have my support.
Interesting and enjoyable read. And btw: Lumbees are awesome! Welcome.
So excited to see what’s to come of this!
Hi, Erin. It was good to read of your growth in faith and self-understanding. I’m really pleased that finding YOB has had such a positive impact on your life and that a YOS community may emerge. I’ll be praying for that project to bear fruit in the coming months.
There are so many things I could say about your story, but the part I could definitely relate to was the purity culture. For many years I was a member of the church pastored by Josh Harris, “Mr. Purity Culture” himself!
I was dealing with attraction to other men and I understood that God Himself had commanded me in scripture not to have sex with guys. After attempting to date a woman for 6 months under our church’s rules, I began to realize that I just did not want sex with a woman. That meant I would probably never marry. Of course, that woman and I stopped dating and I sought out close non-sexual friendships with men.
Because casual dating was strongly discouraged at our church, it was normal for all guys, straight or not, to go years without dating a girl. Single guys would hug each other, have deep conversations, and even be roommates together as a normal part of the church culture. It was the perfect hiding place for a guy like me! I built several strong friendships that have lasted many years since.
Purity culture certainly had issues, but it was not all bad!
Thank you, Marshall. Good to hear a little bit of your story.