- Vaughan: Before answering that question, I have to ask what exactly is meant by ‘coming out’. In our culture the expression is usually understood to refer to the public embracing of a gay identity, which is certainly not what I have done. From a biblical perspective, our identity is defined by our humanity, created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27a), our gender, as male and female (Genesis 1:27b) and, if we are Christians, above all our relationship with God through Christ (Galatians 3:26-29). Our homosexual attractions may certainly have a significant impact on our experience of life, but they don't define us or determine the kind of lives we should live. For that reason, I prefer to use language such as ‘being more open with others’, rather than ‘coming out’. I certainly think that such openness can be very helpful, but it needs to be carefully thought through.
Ed: What are the advantages of being more open?
- Vaughan: Shame, embarrassment and fear of the reaction mean that believers tend to be especially reticent about admitting to a struggle in this particular area. That only adds to the sense of isolation they feel, which is likely to increase the temptation and make godliness even harder. But we are not meant to face such challenges on our own. Many of us have found that in this, and lots of other difficulties and temptations, greater openness has led to the loving support and encouragement of others, which has made a huge difference. This need not, and should not, be a battle people experience alone.
Ed: What are the dangers of greater openness?
- Vaughan: Even if we don't define ourselves as gay, there is always a danger that others will do so and relate to us accordingly. Depending on the person, that could mean, for example, homophobic prejudice, on the one hand, or pressure to embrace a sinful lifestyle, on the other. We need wisdom, therefore, as we consider who we might speak to and how they might react.
Ed: How open should we be?
- Vaughan: That is very much a personal decision which will depend on our own situation and sense of what is right. Some of us have chosen to speak publicly so that believers with a similar struggle can know that they are not alone, and to make it easier for them to feel more able to speak to others in their churches. That certainly doesn't mean we feel that everyone should do something similar. It is wisest to start with a small number of people, to which you can always add, rather than an announcement to the world on a Facebook page, for example, which can't easily be undone.
Ed: Who should we speak to first?
- Vaughan: Speaking to someone about your sexuality for the first time is likely to be very hard, so choose someone you can trust and who makes you feel safe. That could be your parents, a close friend or a pastor at church.