Being Gay In A Bible Belt Congregation

by Heather Bradley

I’ve been in church since I can remember. I was baptized as a baby in the first Pentecostal church that was ever built in America—Keelville Pentecostal Church—in a tiny community in southeastern Kansas. When I was a kid in the early to mid-eighties, our congregation ran somewhere between 60 and 80 people, two-thirds of which were my relatives: grandparents, aunts, uncles. and cousins.

The church was two miles away from our house in another little village town in southeastern Kansas.

Growing up, my older cousins used to tease one of our other cousins, telling him he was gay because he’d rather play Barbies and dress up with our female cousin than go four-wheeling or fishing with all the boys. My cousin and I just traded out places—I’d go fishing and four-wheeling, while he stayed home and played dolls.

Honestly, I’d rather have been bored than to have to play with Barbies and fake make-up.

It’s a strange thing to grow up and remember childhood. When you’re a kid going through it, it seems so much different than when you’re an adult looking back. My cousins were so mean—now, looking back, I wish I would have stood up for him more.

With that said, I wasn’t really exposed to gay people as a kid. Not because my parents kept me hidden from the outside world (though growing up in a community as small as ours sometimes made it feel otherwise), but there just weren’t gay people around where we lived. They were mostly hillbillies, farmers, and the occasional hillbilly farmer.

I remember even as a young girl, around the age of 6 or 7, trying to understand why I thought girls were cuter than the boys that all the other girls fawned over. It wasn’t about sex—I wasn’t old enough to understand any of that. It was about this connection I had with girls that went beyond any connection I’d ever had with any boy.

When I finally got to puberty, I started really dealing with my attraction to women.

I was old enough for the hormones to kick in, have an understanding about sex, and how the whole thing worked. I had crushes on boys, but never really imagined being with anyone. I was more interested in playing music and basketball than I was any boy. I think my wanting to be with someone had more to do with the fact that my friends had boyfriends than it did my actually wanting a boyfriend.

In the middle to late part of my 20’s, I really started struggling with being gay. I was tired of being alone, but too scared to be with someone who I was genuinely attracted to. So I began studying the Bible and praying fervently about the place in my life I had found myself. I knew that I would wind up with a girl, I just didn’t know quite how I was going to get that out in the open.

I wound up meeting a girl who stole my heart. I absolutely fell deeply in love with her and we dated for a few months, but it just wasn’t time for us to be together. On the very night that I was to have a date with another girl, one of my ex boyfriends found me on Facebook and wanted a second chance.

So I set up a date with him—I knew that was going to be a breaking point. I’d either move past my attraction to women and live a “straight” life, or I’d absolutely 110% for sure know that I was meant to be with a woman. We dated for about 8 months, but one day I woke up wondering how I got there and why I was still there.

I was still in love with this woman who I’d met a year previously, and no amount of dating a boy was going to erase that.

So I ended it and got back with her. I’m happy to report that we have been together over three years now and are engaged. Thank God for the Holy Spirit, for His answering my prayers and for the courage to finally be who I was born to be.

Being gay in such a conservative part of the country is never easy. It’s especially hard when your family is full of gay-bashing bigots. But anything can be dealt with—so many kids think that killing themselves because they’d rather die than be gay is the only option they have, but nothing could be further from the truth. Will it be an easy life? Definitely not. But there are a lot of people going through the same things that aren’t so far away from you.

Reach out, do some research, and you will be able to find these people. Don’t let people tell you that God hates you or that you’re going to go to Hell because you can’t be gay and a Christian.

I think that being a Christian and being gay, although really hard sometimes, has been wonderful.

We open our hearts to love people without condition because that’s what we strive for from people for so long. We yearn to be loved regardless of who we love. We long to be accepted regardless of who we are attracted to. In turn, not only can we love as Christ loved, but we have a better understanding of what it means to be on the receiving end of that unconditional love.

I never understand how Christians can be so blind to what unconditional love means. Did Jesus just hang out with people from the temple? Did he turn away those that were outside the temple gates living in the hedges outside of society? No.

In fact, the Bible commands us in Luke to go into the highways and the hedges and bring the outcasts in to feast with us. One of my favorite verses is Luke 14:11, which is part of this parable. It says, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

It is our jobs as Christians to show love and acceptance to everyone, regardless of where they come from or what they’ve done.

Christ pushed no one away and neither should we. The sooner we start to love and accept those that are different from us, the sooner we will actually be able to show people the greatness of unconditional love and acceptance.

Originally published on All of Me; Image via Paul Adams

Comments (12)


Good article. I visited
Good article. I visited Keelville in the late 80’s. Christ loves all, and accepts all into His kingdom.


Oh wow – so you know what I
Oh wow – so you know what I mean when I say Keelville is a small church lol Where are you from if you don’t mind me asking?


I love these words. They line
I love these words. They line up so closely to my own path and I know to a lot of gay Christian’s path also. I may never be accepted my former “church folk” or “church friends” for who I am, but I am so blessed to be living a authentic life that God created me to live.

Pat Specht

Thank you for sharing your
Thank you for sharing your story. My best friend struggles with being gay in a Christian conservation community. Thank you for being so open. My prayers are with you and your partner.

Darren Theoret

thanks for sharing. You can
thanks for sharing. You can see my similar story here

George M Melby, Pastor

My heart is warmed by your
My heart is warmed by your story. Thank God the church is changing, slowly but effectively. Blessings, peace, and joy to you and your partner.
GMMelby, Pastor/Chaplain (Ret.).

Laura Nikolovska

thank you so much for sharing
thank you so much for sharing your story, I especially liked the comment “I never understand how Christians can be so blind to what unconditional love means ” Sadly, so true.


Wow… I love it when I read
Wow… I love it when I read something and know the place they’re talking about! I grew up in Coffeyville; my grandparents grew up in Chetopa, and one of my great-grandmothers is buried at Keelville. Thanks for sharing your story.


Oh man, Sharla! That’s nuts!
Oh man, Sharla! That’s nuts! I actually grew up in Melrose – which – if you know where Chetopa is, chances are you know where Melrose is haha. That’s crazy though – small world, right?


I have been having some
I have been having some serious faith issues lately and I have to say that, though I have heat many stories like this, for some reason this one hit me right where I needed it. I have been avoiding churches like the plague lately because I am bi but this article really makes me feel better about being bi and Christian at the same time. Thank you for writing this you may have just saved a soul through this article.


Thank you for sharing your
Thank you for sharing your story! There are so many lgbtq people who have been shut out and tormented by the church that is supposed to love them… it breaks my heart. They generally end up turning away from God or committing suicide. The more we share our positive stories, the more people who are living a lie will gain the strength and courage to live authentic life, and hopefully, the more churches will come around to the truth and stop persecuting the lgbtq community that truly wish to have a relationship with God.

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