Is it worth reconciling my Family’s Religion with my LGBTQ+ Identity?

Matthew's Place
Nov 9 · 4 min read

by Judy Bokao

Sexuality and religion can be fundamental parts of many of our daily lives. In most cases, religion has influenced our ideas of sexuality and what is considered the ‘’correct’’ way to express our sexuality. For many LGBTQ+ individuals, it can be difficult to navigate their religion when it seems their religion is actively against them. Can we reconcile the two?

The inner struggle between religion and sexuality among the LGBTQ+ community is something real and very hard to deal with. Many religious denominations generally oppose LGBTQ+ identities and have taken different actions to display their disapproval of the community. Some quietly discourage homosexuality, while others explicitly forbid same-sex practices and actively oppose the social acceptance of homosexuality. In most cases, religious fundamentalism go hand in hand with anti-homosexual biases. Homosexuality has become a divisive issue in many religious communities as some groups are calling for the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community. It is also a difficult thing especially to those who were raised in a religious setting. They find it hard to properly balance both aspects of their lives. They find themselves asking questions and trying to find a common ground where they can still be religious and queer at the same time.

Most of the time, it feels like the two cannot peacefully coexist and it forces LGBTQ+ individuals to live in fear and shame because they have been taught from an early age that their sexual orientation is a serious sin. It has been deeply pummeled led into their minds that they don’t deserve to be members of their respective religion. There have been cases where LGBTQ+ individuals have decided not to come out because they are afraid of how the faith community would react. Faith can be damaging when it comes to self-acceptance and can bring about negative attitudes and thoughts.

As a young girl who has been raised orthodox Christian, it is a struggle I go through everyday . My parents made sure I spent a lot of time in church during the holidays. It was a family affair that everyone was expected to participate in. For a long time, I felt like I was betraying my religion because of my identity and I hated myself for it. My teenage years were particularly tough. I was feeling things that I had been told were wrong and I had no one to talk to. I had the worst internalized homophobia during these years. I felt like I didn’t belong and going to church felt like torture. I simply went because I was too scared to say otherwise to my parents. It wasn’t like I could openly talk to them about why I didn’t want to go. On rare occasions, I managed to skip church, but I felt more guilty. I questioned so many things about religion, I was scared of my own feelings and over time. I simply mastered the art of suppressing my shame. I remember when I entered high-school, I tried my best to deny any attraction I had to girls, but it was challenging given that I was in an all-girl’s high school.

I thought if I fight the feelings long enough, then they might go away because God would change me. I prayed on it as I had been taught to do in church. The preacher always said that if you pray earnestly and desperately, then God would come through. Most of the nights I cried silently on my pillow with an intense battle raging in me. I wondered whether it was because I didn’t have enough faith or I was just beyond saving.

I tried so hard to control my emotions and deny who I was for a long time, hoping for deliverance. I think back now and I am sad that I wasted so much time fighting myself instead of learning to love myself. All this time, the church had said I was an abomination and I had been so ashamed to accept myself.

It wasn’t until I went to university that I actually began the journey of self-acceptance and self-love. I stopped letting my church influence my feelings and I focused on being free and loving myself. It was a good thing. ,I went to a university miles from home. For the first time, I met other people who were struggling with the same and their perspective truly broadened my thinking. I realized that I can’t keep living my life in fear of not living up to the teachings of the church and my parent’s expectations.

I had to relearn that religion should be a source of comfort and not suffering. It didn’t necessarily put a stop to my struggle, but it really helped to give me peace. It is still an ongoing journey, but I am sure many LGBTQ+ individuals are going through the same. There is no easy fix when the religion we grew up in has indoctrinated us to feel ashamed of who we are. This is still a very sensitive topic, but I think it would be helpful if the LGBTQ+ community could talk openly about their internal struggles with religion, so that we can all move forward.

About the Author:

Judy Bokao is 20 years old and was born in Ethiopia but relocated to Nairobi two years ago. She is passionate about everyone having equal rights and is also big on conservation and speaking up for our planet. Judy loves reading and photography and is just a free-spirited young lady trying to grow into a woman her mom can be proud of.

Matthew’s Place

Matthew’s Place is by and for LGBTQ+ youth and a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation l #EraseHate

Matthew's Place

Written by

MatthewsPlace.com is a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation| Words by & for LGBTQ+ youth | #EraseHate | Want to submit? Email patrick@matthewshepard.org

Matthew’s Place

Matthew’s Place is by and for LGBTQ+ youth and a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation l #EraseHate