echo ''; Skip to main content

Christians say the church is a family, but what happens when part of that family comes out as gay? Stories about wrestling with traditional faith and nontraditional sexuality.



#9: Where the Gospel Meets LGBTQ

Note: The Love Thy Neighborhood podcast is made for the ear, and not the eye. We would encourage you to listen to the audio for the full emotional emphasis of this episode. The following transcription may contain errors. Please refer to the audio before quoting any content from this episode. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Hey, we have some exciting news for you. If you have ever considered being a donor to this podcast, now is the time. Up through the end of the year, we have an anonymous donor who will donate up to $45,000 in matching funds. That means that every dollar that you donate to this podcast will be automatically doubled. So, please head over to our website, Your gift will be doubled all the way to the end of the year. Help us make a difference.

RACHEL SZABO: This episode contains mature content that may not be suitable for young listeners. Listener discretion is advised.

JESSE EUBANKS: Some names in today’s story have been changed to protect identity.


JESSE EUBANKS: When you think about growing up in church, like what are some of the things that come to mind, some of the memories?

RACHEL SZABO: Oh man, Bible drills and singing in kids choir and camp, youth camp, went to youth camp every single year. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So, do you think that you had any LGBTQ folks in your church?


JESSE EUBANKS: You don’t think there was a single LGBTQ person within any of that?

RACHEL SZABO: No, we didn’t have any LGBTQ folks.

JESSE EUBANKS: Did you know that actually 3.8% of the population identifies as gay or lesbian? That means that if you go to a church of 300 people that at least nine of those people are going to be gay or lesbian. 

RACHEL SZABO: But nobody in our church ever talked about it. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, just because they didn’t talk about it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t there. So while you’re thinking of choir and camp and Bible drills, for some folks that are gay growing up in church, their story actually ends up like this one. 

MATT: I was laid sort of in a crucifix fashion on the floor face-up. A lot of anointing oil. And they prayed for hours…


JESSE EUBANKS: You’re listening to the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. I’m Jesse Eubanks.

RACHEL SZABO: And I’m Rachel Szabo. Every episode we hear stories of social justice and Christian community.

JESSE EUBANKS: Today’s episode is where the gospel meets the LGBTQ community. We’re following the stories of two different people living with same-sex attraction and how their churches’ response changed their life — for better or for worse.

RACHEL SZABO: And we do want to note that though the episode is called LGBTQ, which covers a lot of different topics — today’s stories are only going to focus on the topic of same-sex attraction. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Welcome to our corner of the urban universe.


JESSE EUBANKS: So in 1999, 35% of Americans said that they favored same-sex marriage. And today, that number is 60%. So in less than 20 years, that means that the number of Americans in favor of same-sex marriage has almost doubled. 

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah, and you would think, ‘Oh, those are the people that are outside the church. Surely Christians don’t favor same-sex marriage.’ But actually the stats show that that’s not true either. So a study from the Barna Group showed that within the last 10 years the number of practicing Christians who are in favor of LGBTQ rights went up 10 points. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And understandably this is a tough issue. There’s a lot of debate over how Christians should respond to this. What’s right? What’s not right? What’s sin? What is not sin? And you’re going to especially see this gap widen according to age. Older Christians — they’re less favorable towards same-sex marriage, while millennials are increasingly becoming more and more in favor of same-sex marriage. So this is really — this is an important cultural moment for us as Christians. We have to come to some kind of terms with how are we going to respond to those that are in our society and in our churches that would identify as LGBTQ. 

RACHEL SZABO: And I know, like even personally for me, this is a really hard topic because on the one hand we don’t want to discriminate against LGBTQ folks, y’know. But on the other hand I also have a biblical conviction of, you know, marriage is between a man and a woman and I wanna stand on that conviction. So I get stuck in this spot of like ‘Well how do I show love to the LGBTQ folks while also not compromising what I believe the Bible says?’

JESSE EUBANKS: Well the good news is this, is that we’re not the first people to encounter this exact problem, this problem of how do we balance empathy and truth. And Jesus himself faced this very dilemma.

So in the Gospel of John chapter eight, Jesus is teaching at the temple and in the middle of his teaching some Pharisees barge in with a woman. And they tell Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.’

RACHEL SZABO: Now God’s Word had a law for what to do with people who were caught in the act of adultery and that was to stone them. And so why are these Pharisees bringing this woman to Jesus? Because Jesus had a reputation — he was kind to sinners.

JESSE EUBANKS: And so the Pharisees, they’re like asking Jesus, ‘What do you say we should do with this woman?’ And essentially they have Jesus cornered. If Jesus ignores the Law of God, then they can confirm that he is not God’s Son.

RACHEL SZABO: But if Jesus upholds the law, then they can confirm that Jesus doesn’t really love people and that he’s just a fake. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And this, this is how it is in our churches. We tend to lean one way or the other. We either feel like we have to choose to emphasize truth or we have to choose that we’re gonna emphasize empathy. 

Okay, so we both have stories today. And my story kind of emphasizes truth a little bit more, and I think your story kind of emphasizes empathy a little bit more. I don’t know, who should go first?

RACHEL SZABO: Uh, you wanna go first?

JESSE EUBANKS: Why don’t you go first? 

RACHEL SZABO: I’ll go first. Okay, so at the beginning of this episode, we heard from a guy named Matt. And Matt’s church, they were a church that emphasized truth.

MATT: I grew up in the church, and I grew up in a charismatic tradition. Y’know, I was told from a very early age, not directly but from the pulpit, that the only thing for gay people, y’know, was to change and that the Lord, via the Holy Spirit, gives sort of that miraculous change.

RACHEL SZABO: So basically in Matt’s church, if you were part of the church and you thought that you were gay, then the thing that you needed to do was to pray and ask God to fix you. And for Matt, that was very important. Because Matt — he actually identified as gay.

MATT: I knew from a very early age that I was gay.

RACHEL SZABO: And so he would pray and ask God to fix him.

MATT: I remember praying, ‘God, if you don’t make me straight, just don’t let me wake up tomorrow. If you aren’t going to make me straight, fine. Just don’t let me live.’

RACHEL SZABO: But it seemed like God wasn’t hearing his prayers because every day Matt would still wake up and he was still gay. And so Matt started to feel kind of ashamed of himself. He didn’t really know what to do. So in a moment of desperation one Sunday, Matt’s at church and he decides that he’s going to ask the church leaders if they’ll pray for him.

MATT: There was one moment where I had asked for prayer because I felt like I might like guys. 

RACHEL SZABO: And so after Matt asked the leaders to pray for him, what followed was a privatized deliverance service, or as Matt likes to call it, a charismatic exorcism.

MATT: It involved between five and six grown adults. Mostly men, um, a lot of anointing oil, and I was laid sort of in a crucifix fashion on the floor, face up. And, um, Bibles were placed on my chest, on my open hands, and on my feet. And they prayed for hours. 

RACHEL SZABO: So the church leaders conducted this private deliverance service, and they actually ended up conducting that with Matt more than one time. So during youth group on Sundays, they would call Matt into this private room and they would pray over him during youth group and then they would send him back out. But it never really worked because each time Matt came away no different.

MATT: It was actually a repressed memory for a long time just because I felt that what I was ultimately was evil based on what the church told me.

RACHEL SZABO: And Matt concluded that if what he was was evil, then the church and these Christian men who kept praying for him, they were not to be trusted and they were not safe.  

MATT: That was when I knew for myself that it was not safe for me to be in any way out in that environment and straight Christian men are my arch nemesis. 

RACHEL SZABO: And so from that point on Matt decided he was gonna keep his sexuality hidden.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, which totally makes sense. I mean, I can understand why somebody that has, y’know, these desires and these urges that are clearly from the pulpit and from the community around them, they’re being told that these are evil and that you shouldn’t be feeling this way. Well it makes total sense why they would hide that. And so we’ll come back to your story. Let me kick mine off. So my story is actually about a girl named Diana. And unlike Matt, Diana actually didn’t consider herself same-sex attracted from an early age. But she did consider the possibility once her best friend came to her and made a confession.

DIANA: We were hanging out, and she’s like, ‘Actually, I’ve found myself attracted to you, as more than just a friend.’ This is the first time that someone’s shown interest in me in that way, in more than a friend way. I just remember thinking, ‘Maybe I do like her more than just a friend. Maybe I do.’ 

JESSE EUBANKS: So here’s the catch though, is that Diana was actually a pastor’s kid. And so she was very clearly aware of what her church believed about this.

DIANA: Very similar to when people get like excommunicated. Like that was kind of the vibe, like once you’re out, once people know about this, you’re cut off, you’re excommunicated from community, from church, your friends, oftentimes even your family. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And so Diana finds herself at this crossroads. Her church tells her that homosexuality is bad, but this girl is the only one who’s shown any sort of romantic interest in Diana. Like in her entire life, this girl is the first one who’s ever shown interest in her. And folks in the LGBTQ community, they’re like any other human being. They wanna be loved and they wanna be valued, and that’s a really powerful influence. And so after a night of thinking it over, Diana makes a decision. Why not give it a try?

DIANA: Um, so we started dating, and nobody knew. 

RACHEL SZABO: Okay, so I wanna pause you for just a second, Jesse. Because it seems like Matt would agree that he was born same-sex attracted, like that, he’s just born that way, he can’t do anything about it. Whereas Diana, maybe hers is a little more cultural, circumstantial, like she wasn’t born that way, but experiences in her life made her that way. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, I’m glad you brought that up. So let’s talk about that for a second. 

Okay, so there’s this commonly held belief that folks are born gay. So in this way the gay rights movement has been able to equate themselves with the civil rights movement. And so in the same way that somebody is born with the racial identity that they’re born with, other folks are born with the sexual identity that they’re born with. But here’s the case — science is always changing and today the argument that gay people are born that way, it’s actually no longer seen as quite that simple. So there was this article that came out last June in USA Today that basically was disrupting this “born this way” narrative, and it was coming from a publication that clearly had no conservative agenda. It was just saying the science, the latest research, is saying you are born that way, in terms of you are born sexual in some capacity and you might even have a propensity, but to say that it’s a hundred percent determined by DNA would be overly simplistic. It’s not any one thing. It’s a million different things.

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah, as human beings we’re incredibly complex. And to try and boil our sexuality down to one component or another is to take away the complexity of the human existence. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, to try to oversimplify things is really not to do justice to how we’ve been made. So let’s get back to Diana’s story. So she dates her girlfriend for almost a year without anybody knowing about it. So they keep the whole thing a total secret. And actually from Diana’s perspective, it’s going pretty well. And in fact Diana starts to think that maybe her church has got it completely wrong.

DIANA: And so I start thinking, ‘Maybe I can do this Christian thing, and I can be married to a girl. Like maybe that’s okay.’ And my girlfriend and I would talk about, ‘Oh, this community is so closed-minded, they don’t understand us.’

JESSE EUBANKS: But like all secrets, eventually things get found out. And for Diana and Matt, it was no different. 

MATT: He asked me — he said, ‘Do you identify as homosexual?’

JESSE EUBANKS: We’ll be right back.


JESSE EUBANKS: You’re listening to the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. I’m Jesse Eubanks.

RACHEL SZABO: And I’m Rachel Szabo. Today’s episode is where the gospel meets LGBTQ.

JESSE EUBANKS: We’re following the stories of Matt and Diana, who are both same-sex attracted and both keeping their sexuality hidden. So Diana’s dating a girl in secret, and it’s going fairly well. Unfortunately, one of her friends decides to play matchmaker and tries to set Diana up — with a guy. 

DIANA: This entire year, she had just been pushing guys on me. ‘Oh I think you would be so good with this guy. Oh I think you should date this guy. You should go get coffee, you should go have lunch, you should go have dinner, you guys should hang out, you’d be great. Oh they’re so cute.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m just not attracted to men.’

JESSE EUBANKS: Diana keeps trying to skirt around the issue, but her friend doesn’t understand why she’s not the least bit interested in any of the guys she’s suggesting. So in a moment of exasperation, Diana tells her friend. 

DIANA: And I was like, ‘Hey, I’m actually dating a girl.’ She immediately started weeping, very upset.

JESSE EUBANKS: And her friend is crying so hard she can’t even talk. And Diana stands there awkwardly, unsure of what to do. This was not the reaction she was expecting. And eventually her friend calms down enough to speak.

DIANA: And when she finally could get words out, what she said was ‘I would rather you have told me that you murdered somebody than that.’ 

RACHEL SZABO: Well shoot. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Dude, I mean listen to that reaction. Like…

RACHEL SZABO: That’s harsh. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, I mean this is the exact kind of stuff why people don’t wanna come out to Christians and why they don’t feel accepted by Christians. I mean in the church, we have this incredibly long history of abusing the LGBTQ community. I used to live outside of San Francisco, and while I was there, all the time I would see Christians out with signs that said ‘Homosexuals are going to hell. God hates fags.’ And within our own churches, I mean I can think of my youth pastor — who was a great guy, but he would make gay jokes from stage during sermons that were seen as acceptable. 

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah, historically just a lot of poor, unthoughtful responses, which is how Diana’s friend responded. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So it reminds me of this quote by C.S. Lewis where he says we attack this vice not because it’s the worst but because it is by adult standards the most disreputable and unmentionable. 

So the next day, Diana’s friend comes back to her and apologizes to her for her words telling her that she wished she had been a murderer instead of a lesbian. And her friend feels so guilty that she just kinda doesn’t want to talk about any of it anymore, which further reinforced for Diana her idea that she might be able to have it both ways — be a Christian and one day marry a girl.

RACHEL SZABO: Okay, so can I jump back to Matt’s story? Because actually when Matt ended up coming out, his story went a little differently. So Matt graduated college, and then after college he decided that he wanted to go to seminary. But of course he knew that at seminary he was not going to talk about his same-sex attraction.

MATT: Vehemently went back into the closet with absolute vigor. Just jumped into the closet into the very back and slammed the door and barred it shut. 

RACHEL SZABO: However, the same year that Matt went to seminary, it was also the year of the Obergefell case. And so Jesse, are you familiar with the Obergefell case?

JESSE EUBANKS: So actually I’m not. So, what can you tell me about it?

RACHEL SZABO: So the Obergefell case was sort of the catalyst that brought about the eventual Supreme Court decision to allow same-sex marriage.

MATT: So that was sort of all abuzz on campus, and I guess I had been asking the wrong kinds of questions to my, y’know, my fellow students and they put two and two together.

RACHEL SZABO: And at the time the seminary actually didn’t allow enrollment for anyone who identified as gay, regardless of the circumstances, if they were celibate or if they were not celibate. If you identified as gay, you were not allowed to attend the seminary. Well, some of Matt’s classmates get kind of suspicious about Matt’s behavior, and they go to the Dean of Students and they say ‘We think that Matt might actually be homosexual.’ And the very next day, Matt gets called into the Dean of Students’ office.

MATT: And we sat down and he asked me — he said, ‘Do you identify as homosexual?’

RACHEL SZABO: Now if Matt says yes, he’ll immediately be expelled and his life plans will be completely altered. But if Matt says no, he’s gonna spend the rest of his time at seminary under constant suspicion and scrutiny. So, Matt looks the dean in the eyes and he answers his question — ‘Yes.’

MATT: I was dissociated from the seminary, which means that I was expelled. 

RACHEL SZABO: Matt hadn’t been welcomed at his church growing up. Now he was not welcomed at seminary. And so Matt is just exhausted. Where can Matt go that he can finally just be accepted? And Matt found his acceptance at a gay club. 

MATT: I was working at a club here in Louisville, a drag bar. And I was really into that because I found a place where I didn’t have to think, I didn’t have to act, I didn’t have to police my mannerisms or the tonality of my voice. I could just go and be Matt. I could just be me. So I loved, loved the club scene. 

RACHEL SZABO: Matt felt at home in this drag club. He, actually himself, started dressing in drag and he started learning tips from the other drag queens that were working there. 

MATT: And actually drag was my career goal. It was my career goal to move to Los Angeles and be a drag queen.

JESSE EUBANKS: So I’m listening to both of these stories and I’m thinking about —  Diana received, y’know, her friend just didn’t know how to talk about it so her friend became tolerant but via silence. And then I’m thinking about Matt, where Matt’s surrounded by folks that believe that they’re offering him the truth, but there’s like no empathy at all for him. And so you’ve got this empathy/truth scale that’s just swinging back and forth wildly without any kind of balance in the center of it. 

Okay, so let’s leave Matt at the drag bar for a second and let’s move over to Diana’s story. So after Diana came out to her friend, her life kinda took this turn where the picturesque relationship that she was in really started falling apart. So one day she gets a call from her girlfriend, and her girlfriend has a confession to make. While Diana’s been at college, her girlfriend has actually been seeing somebody else on the side, another girl. 

DIANA: The girl’s like from out of town, like she doesn’t even really live there. Um, so anyway, she’s like ‘It’s been going on for a little bit.’ It wasn’t just like, ‘Oh, this was a one night or a weekend or whatever.’ It was like, ‘It’s been a consistent, like going on for a little bit thing. But I wanted to call and tell you I’m really sorry. You’re the one for me. I wanna be with you. I don’t know why I keep doing this.’ So I’m really upset.

JESSE EUBANKS: And the reason why Diana’s upset is the same reason that any of us would be upset, which is that we have dreams and we have hopes for our future, and she had dreams with her girlfriend. The plan was basically that she was gonna finish up school in the next year and then she and her girlfriend were going to move to Massachusetts, which was the only state where same-sex marriage was legal at the time. So there’s only two months left in the school year, and then Diana and her girlfriend were no longer going to have to live in secret. 

DIANA: We’re just gonna be in this like utopia of people that accept anything. That was exciting to me.

JESSE EUBANKS: So Diana goes home on break, and they decide that even Diana’s girlfriend had been unfaithful to her, they decide to stay together. 

DIANA: Okay, we only have to make it, y’know, like two more months and then we’re moving. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And so at that one point, the clock starts ticking down. Less than two months to go. So there’s only one problem with her plan, that while she was at home, she was with her family and her family were Christians and her mom kept inviting her to church over and over again. And Diana did not want to go. She didn’t want to go because she was scared that people would find out about her girlfriend. She was scared that if people really knew the truth, that they were gonna reject her. And so she was just trying to avoid it. Well, eventually, after her mom asking her so many times, Diana just can’t come up with any more good reasons not to go, and so to appease her mom, she says that she’ll go with her to church.

DIANA: So I went, and that evening they had a sermon about Jonah. And they were talking — you know, I hadn’t been really paying attention — and the pastor just paused, he set down his Bible, and he looked up, took a deep breath, and he was like, ‘Guys, I just feel like I need to say this. I need to tell you that homosexuality is wrong.’ And then he paused again, he picked up his Bible, and he goes, ‘Okay,’ and then he continued with what he was saying. And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! What?’ 

JESSE EUBANKS: So the reason that this surprised her so much is that, as I said before, like Diana had not told anybody. So nobody in her hometown, nobody in her church, nobody in her family, they had no clue about Diana’s sexual orientation. So Diana’s sitting there, and this pastor’s just said this to her about homosexuality being a sin. And it is just like ringing in her ears, like she cannot hear anything else the rest of the sermon. So the service ends and she gets up and she is trying to make her way towards the door to get out of there. And then this guy comes up to her.

DIANA: And he stops me and he’s crying and he’s like, ‘I just feel like I need to tell you, like there’s something better for you, like you don’t have to live this way. There’s something better.’ And that’s all he said.

JESSE EUBANKS: And so here’s Diana. She has this entire life planned out ahead of her and she goes to this one church service with her mom and in a matter of minutes she can just feel all of her dreams starting to crumble and fall apart. She’s sitting there and she’s thinking about the fact that she loves her girlfriend, she wants to spend the rest of her life with her girlfriend, but she also cannot escape the fact that she in the depths of her heart believes that what they’re saying is the truth, and she has to do something about that.

So Diana stumbles out of the church and she goes to her car and she closes the door and she sits in her car and she just sobs. She starts the car and she drives — straight to her girlfriend’s house. Stay with us.


JESSE EUBANKS: You’re listening to the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. I’m Jesse Eubanks.

RACHEL SZABO: And I’m Rachel Szabo. Today’s story — where the gospel meets LGBTQ.

JESSE EUBANKS: We’ve been following the story of Diana. Diana identified as a lesbian and had been dating her girlfriend for a couple of years. They had plans to move to Massachusetts, where at the time was the only state that had legalized same-sex marriage. And right as they were about to enact those plans, Diana had suddenly been confronted with biblical truth.

DIANA: And for those people to tell me that disrupted what I had worked very hard to achieve — Jesus plus my own version of sexuality. I had concocted my own idea of what the gospel could be. And in my mind, I had convinced myself that that was okay and that God was cool with it. So, these people telling me there’s better, and I thought this was the better. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So after sitting in her car and crying for 30 minutes, Diana finally starts the car. She speeds to her girlfriend’s house. She has to decide what she’s gonna do with these two truths — the truth that she loves her girlfriend and the truth that maybe this isn’t what God wanted for her. So what does she do once she gets there?

DIANA: ‘I can’t do this anymore. I’m done.’

JESSE EUBANKS: She breaks up with her. She calls everything off. There will be no Massachusetts, and it’s time for their lives to part. 

RACHEL SZABO: So what happened after that? Was like Diana suddenly attracted to men? Like how did it…

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, I don’t think that it happened like that. Like she didn’t wake up one day and was like, ‘Hey, men. Like, where you been all my life? Like I somehow missed like half the population on this planet.’ Like, I don’t think it worked like that. I mean in fact the truth is that Diana was so ashamed of her past life and her relationship with her girlfriend that she vowed she was just never gonna talk about it again.

DIANA: You know, this was something almost like the feeling of like ‘I’m gonna take this to the grave with me. No one’s gonna know.’

JESSE EUBANKS: The only problem was that she then signed up to be a part of Love Thy Neighborhood. So Diana moved to Louisville and she moved into a small household with a half-dozen other ladies. And the very first night that they’re all together, some of these ladies propose a “get-to-know-you” activity.

DIANA: And a couple of the girls said ‘Let’s all share our life stories so we can get to know each other really well. I think that’d be a great idea.’ And I was like ‘Oh no.’ And I was wrestling with — am I going to tell them? 

JESSE EUBANKS: You know, ‘Do I need to keep this part of my life hidden forever? Is this just a part of my life and a part of my story that I need to put in a chest and throw away the key and never give anybody access to ever again?’ Well Diana’s here’s to build community, and a part of community is simply to let folks in. So as Diana is telling her story, she finally gets to the part about her girlfriend. 

DIANA: I did end up sharing with the ladies just about my struggles and hardships in that area and dating this female and having some same-sex attraction. 

RACHEL SZABO: And so how did these ladies respond to her?

DIANA: Y’know, I was instantly met with ‘Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I was encouraged by your story. You’re so brave. I’m so glad you shared that.’ And then, after a couple minutes, the girl that had gone before me said ‘Hold on.’ And I was like ‘Oh no. Here it comes. Uh-oh.’ And she said ‘I need to share some things that I didn’t share with you guys before.’ And so she ended up sharing, y’know, for her what were some deep, dark, shameful sides of her past.

JESSE EUBANKS: We cannot believe truly that we are loved unless we also truly believe that we’re known. The extent to which we’re known also determines the extent to which we could be loved. So for Diana, for her taking this huge risk where she’s stepping out and she’s sharing these parts of her story that are embarrassing and shameful and that they loved her so well in response, Diana’s suddenly found herself healing and being transformed in ways that she never could’ve predicted.

DIANA: That’s the first time in my life that I truly felt like people knew who I was, they truly knew me. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And what Diana could not have known in that moment was that this small action actually brought them together in such a way that it solidified their friendships for years to come.

RACHEL SZABO: Speaking of that, let me finish the rest of Matt’s story for you. So the last time we left Matt, he was a drag queen at the club — and remember, Matt’s always lived a double life, so he’s always tried to put on this Christian persona while at the same time trying to live out of his sexual orientation. And so while Matt is doing drag at the club, he also starts attending a new church. But the people at this church — they start treating Matt differently than he’s ever been treated before. 

MATT: There’s one guy in particular that has completely really sort of changed the game. 

RACHEL SZABO: And that guy is a guy named Dave Owens.

DAVE OWENS: And what I have not always done well is listening and understanding. I would lead with talking and declaring. And while God can certainly use that, I felt like God was inviting me to a different approach with Matt. 

RACHEL SZABO: And unlike all the other Christians that Matt had experienced, who only wanted to respond with arguing and telling Matt the truth and what’s right, Dave actually started taking another approach. 

DAVE OWENS: Honestly, it was a lot of asking questions, listening, learning his story. And so he, he would come in in the early days and lob some bombs. ‘This is what I feel about this issue.’ And almost waiting for me to respond how he’s used to Christians responding, which is anger, argument, aggression, and what we might say is just truth.

MATT: I was just so damaged that I constantly tried to pick fights and tried to get them to say something to where I could victimize myself based on what they said because that’s all I knew how to do. I had to make sure that these people hated me.

DAVE OWENS: And so when I wouldn’t respond always and I would just keep asking questions or keep listening, I’m not sure he always knew what to do with that in the early days. 

MATT: He doesn’t fear me. He doesn’t see me as an argument to be won. He doesn’t see me as a case study to be discussed but then put away and put on a shelf.

RACHEL SZABO: Now at this point Matt is still spending a lot of his time at the club and spending a lot of time doing drag, but Matt now also starts to spend a lot of time just hanging out with Dave.

DAVE OWENS: ‘Come with us to church’… ‘Sit with us’… ‘Come enjoy meals at our house afterwards’… ‘Come to our house and just hang with me after my kids go down’… ‘I gotta run an errand, why don’t you come with me?’… ‘Hey, I’m going out of town for a quick trip. Why don’t you just take a drive with me and we’ll talk?’ That began what has almost been a three-year friendship of just bringing him into our normal life rhythms.

RACHEL SZABO: And it’s not always the rosy friendship, y’know, they do have conversations where Dave does start arguing with Matt and Matt starts arguing back and they just end the conversation extremely frustrated at the other person.

DAVE OWENS: And he was filled with all these questions — ‘How is God going to redeem the feelings in my heart or the struggles that I’m having or heal the past? How is he going to provide for me in the future? What will my life look like as a Christian? Can I get married to a man? Can I still do this or this or this?’ And so he’s just coming to this crisis of doubt and faith I feel like in those moments.

RACHEL SZABO: But things really came to a head when one day Matt has this revelation, and here’s Dave to talk about that. 

DAVE OWENS: And I remember that day was a completely ordinary day and I didn’t feel like Matt was quote unquote doing particularly well in his Christian walk, and so it was a day that I don’t even remember praying for Matt, right, I don’t remember thinking about Matt. In that moment, he came and told me about what God did to reveal himself to Matt.

MATT: He used the story of the rich young ruler Mark chapter 10 because I realized in that moment that the Lord was asking him to give up his identity. Literally the only thing that we know about this guy is that he was rich. That’s all we know. And that’s what Jesus was asking him to give up. And he told me, he said, ‘Matt, you’ve never said yes to me. You’ve said yes to church. You’ve said yes to seminary. You’ve said yes to the club and to drag. But you’ve never said yes to me.’ He was asking me, ‘Do you trust me to hold your sexuality?’ And I said no for a whole week. And then I said, ‘Jesus, if you, if you mean what you say and if all these Bible verses that I’ve memorized for the past 27 years, if those are real, then okay. I can trust you enough to step into whatever this is that you’re inviting me into.’ 

RACHEL SZABO: And it was in that moment that Matt called Dave and told him that he truly did believe the gospel. Here’s Diana again.

DIANA: We’re not offering the better. We’re just saying ‘Stop it, stop it. Bad, bad. Sin, sin.’ We don’t provide the like ‘Come be a part of my family, come over, come do stuff with us.’ And I think that the church, whether intentionally or unintentionally, they uphold heterosexual marriage as “the better.” Marriage is a great thing that the Lord gave us, but it’s not the greatest, so I think we can offer something better. We can offer the family of God.

DAVE OWENS: He was at my house last night. He came by because he borrowed a drill of mine to hang up at his house and I needed it back to make some bunk beds. And yeah, he comes over right in the middle of our family devotional time. We’re doing the Jesse tree. And oh yeah, they run and give him hugs. For 20 minutes, they won’t stop talking, telling him all about their day, all the things that Harper just got for her birthday. Yeah, he’s Uncle Matt.

JESSE EUBANKS: And I think this idea of people need to know that they’re loved before they can receive truth, I think that’s really well illustrated in John chapter eight. So the Pharisees bring this adulterous woman to Jesus and they are all ready to cast the first stone, and what does Jesus say? ‘Well, let him who is without sin cast the first stone at her.’ And of course, they all drop their stones and they go away. And this woman in that moment, she now knows Jesus loves her. And because she knows that Jesus loves her, he then also begins to speak truth to her — ‘Go and sin no more.’ And so in this moment you have this perfect marriage of empathy and truth coming together. And so the question for us as the church is this — Are we willing to do the same thing? Are we willing to be people of both empathy and truth? 

RACHEL SZABO: So Matt has since hung up his drag clothes and he doesn’t work at the club anymore and he’s still working through, y’know, ‘What does it mean for me to be a Christian but also still have same-sex attraction?’

MATT: I’m still gay, but the big thing that really, really has changed is my emotions and my perspective. I look at God and I’m like, ‘What do I do? What am I supposed to feel?’ 

JESSE EUBANKS: Y’know, this isn’t a simple thing. It’s not as simple as somebody being gay or somebody being straight. All of us, we’re fearfully and wonderfully made. We’re complex people. And for both Diana and Matt, it’s not as if they became Christians and suddenly they were 100% straight and always only attracted to their spouse. That’s not the story here. The story is the story of a good and gracious God who endures with us through hard and confusing things, and that in the same way that Dave was willing to endure with Matt and befriend him and journey with him, that is a picture of the Lord that journeys with us.

MATT: I’m also in a space where I’m considering the measure of God’s grace in this. Is God going to be gracious in our wrongness? Is God still gracious to cover us despite that? And I think so. I think so. 


JESSE EUBANKS: To get more resources on this topic or to hear past episodes of this podcast, you can visit our website at


JESSE EUBANKS: Special thank you to our interviewees for this episode — Matt Truett, Dave Owens, and Diana. Don’t forget — head over to our website where your gift will automatically be doubled all the way through the end of the year. Help us out. Help us make more episodes. Thanks to our anonymous donor and their $45,000 matching grant.

RACHEL SZABO: Our senior producer and host is Jesse Eubanks.

JESSE EUBANKS: Our co-host today — Rachel Szabo, who’s also our producer, technical director, and editor.

RACHEL SZABO: Additional editing by Janelle Dawkins.

JESSE EUBANKS: Music for today’s episode comes from Lee Rosevere, Podington Bear, Broke For Free, and Wooden Axle.

RACHEL SZABO: Apply for your social justice internship supported by Christian community by visiting Serve for a summer or a year. Grow in your faith and life skills.

JESSE EUBANKS: Which of these was a neighbor to the man in need? The one who showed mercy. Jesus tells us, ‘Go, and do likewise.’


This podcast is only made possible by generous donors like you!


This episode was produced and mixed by Rachel Szabo. Additional editing by Janelle Dawkins. This episode was written by Rachel Szabo with Jesse Eubanks.

Senior Production by Jesse Eubanks.

Hosted by Jesse Eubanks and Rachel Szabo.

Soundtrack music from Lee Rosevere, Poddington Bear, Broke For Free and Wooden Axle.

Thank you to our interviewees: Matt Truett, Dave Owens and Diana.