I’m Matthew. I have a slight southern accent, an addiction to sweet tea, and a smile on my face every time I hear James Taylor sing about “going to Carolina.” The older I get, I find myself resonating more and more with that old “Footprints in the Sand” poem. And I love reflecting and writing about all the whens and the ways God has carried me.

I spent most of my twenties trying my best to be straight. I dated women and watched ESPN and prayed and prayed for the gay to go away. I don’t suppose there was anything wrong with all that.

But at some point I had to acknowledge the reality that God doesn’t always remove challenges. He always works through them, though.

I was 28 years old before I finally “came out” to myself. And though I would like to say that I immediately reached out to a counselor, confided in close friends, and began a prayerful process of acceptance and integration, what I actually did was run as far back into the “closet” as I could possibly go, vowing to stay there and take my gay secret to the grave.

I felt so isolated in my struggle. I didn’t know anyone else who was trying to follow Jesus with same-sex attraction. I had never heard a sermon, or read a book or article about it.

My shame levels were so high. I decided that sexuality was my burden to bear, my baggage to carry, and I was going to do it alone.

Doing it alone kind of worked for a while. Not surprisingly, though, it became very difficult to hide, and the closet grew dark, lonely, and suffocating.

I was surrounded by a loving community of friends, but I wouldn’t let them in.

A Third Way

I always felt like I only had two options with my same-sex attraction: tell no one or tell everyone. Like I had to choose between climbing the tallest building in town wearing only a rainbow Speedo, or pretending to be straight the rest of my life wearing pleated jeans from Kohl’s.

It seems silly now, but in my mind I had to be all in or all out with my sexuality.

But then I heard a pastor make a statement that totally changed my perspective. He said that when you’re struggling, the worst thing you can do is tell no one or tell everyone. This arrested my attention, of course, because he eliminated both of my options.

I had never considered a third way.

This pastor went on to explain the dangers of secrecy and the wisdom of privacy. You will never find healing in secrecy, so you need to talk to someone. But, as with most struggles, there’s really no good reason to involve everyone. Involving everyone has great potential to complicate everything unnecessarily.

His advice was to confide in a few safe people who you know will walk with you toward healing. This seems so simple, but it was a game-changer for me; it was a place I could start.

I began to imagine how it would feel to be honest: to be known and supported in my struggle. I began to consider talking to someone.

And I began to pray for God to show me who that someone could be.

Your Other Brothers

A few months later I parked in front of work after my lunch break to chill for a few minutes, scrolling the socials before going back inside to finish my day. As I browsed the typical political rants and dog adoption posts on my Facebook feed, I stumbled across a post about a “Side B” group of guys called Your Other Brothers.

I had no idea what this YOB community was, but their slogan of “Navigating faith, homosexuality, and masculinity. Together.” caught my attention. I had never read all those words in the same sentence.

That afternoon, I checked out YOB’s social media and website and couldn’t believe it! I read through the blogs and book recommendations, and I found links to the podcast.

Over the following weeks, I binged those podcast episodes. I listened while driving, walking, and brushing my teeth. These guys were openly talking about their faith and sexuality in ways I had never before heard anyone speak. They talked about things I had felt but never understood. And they articulated perspectives I didn’t even realize I had adopted.

These YOB guys weren’t angry gays — the kind who seem mad at everyone else for being so straight. But they also weren’t the sad gays — the kind who live in a perpetual state of shame or lament over their sexuality. They just talked about normal things, about friendship and traveling, about God and culture.

They were honest and vulnerable, smart and secure, and I couldn’t get enough.

The longer I listened to Your Other Brothers, the more I was drawn to them. Their stories were so similar to mine. They felt familiar and safe, and I just knew they would understand me.

So, I sent out a few emails and connected with Eugene and Tom and Ryan. They were all gracious and welcoming, and Ryan even agreed to meet me for brunch one Sunday morning.

I don’t recall much of what I said to Ryan that day. I imagine it was a lot of scattered ramblings. But I do vividly remember how he hugged me and how intently he listened as I did my best to say things to him that I had never before said aloud to anyone.

I felt a range of emotions on my drive back home. I think I felt seen and understood. And maybe I was a little scared and also excited. But mostly, I was grateful.

I knew that God had answered my prayer in a more beautiful way than I could’ve imagined. I knew that I would no longer be alone.

When did you first feel not alone in your struggles with faith and sexuality? How did you find this Your Other Brothers community?

About the Author

  • Thank you for this beautiful post, Matthew. I appreciate getting a glimpse into your story and can relate to so many of the emotions you shared. I love what you said about countering the all or nothing and finding a third way. My default is very much to go toward all or nothing, and yet, the “third” way is typically where the rescue is for me.

    I first started to feel less alone in my struggle with faith and sexuality when I began to allow the part of me that struggled to be seen by a few close others (I’d say this started in the early 2000s, going deeper with a handful of close brothers since 2013). Despite the cultivation of those few close friendships, I had no friends who personally related to my experience of SSA. It was not until I found YOB (referred by my therapist, who learned about YOB from another client) about 4 months ago that I entered a level of feeling seen and known that I had not previously experienced. It’s not perfect, not all or nothing, but so so rich and beautiful. I thank God deeply and regularly for the gift of YOB.

  • In retrospect I probably told too many people at my previous church about my struggle. Just a few trusted people would have been fine. Most understood I guess. I’m at a different church now and I’m thinking most of those people have forgotten about me. YOB is a great place to feel safe. If it weren’t for Marshall I don’t think I would have ever found YOB. I don’t think I would have ever googled anything that would have taken me to YOB.

  • The Catholic Church has a group called Courage that I saw them talking about on TV one time. I looked into that and started to meet people like myself. And when I wound up going to its conference, it was surreal to be in a big group of people that really understood.

    I want to say I found YOB when Tom posted about it in a Facebook group we’re in.

    I like what your pastor said. The Catholic position is similar, in that for most people, telling everyone is not recommended, but that you should have some confidants.

  • Brings a tear to my eye! I always enjoy these stories of how we all found one another in this community. I can still fondly recount how I found the Xanga guys who predated YOB in those late 2000’s. What a game-changer for me and ultimately for YOB down the road. So good to have something from you on our site at long last, dear Matthew. Proud of the steps you’ve taken and the journey you’re weaving! Can’t wait for more stories from you.

  • Hello I’m a 36 year old man I’m gay as well I come from the Conservative Mennonite Background its how I was born nothing wrong with being same sex attraction

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