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.
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?