Photo by Derek Blanks
As told to writer Michelle Burford in the April 2012 issue of EBONY.
Thirty-one year old blogger Darian Aaron, author of When Love Takes Over: A Celebration of SGL Couples of Color, says he knew he was gay in elementary school. During his teen years, a serendipitous meeting led him to an experience that clarified his faith-and put him on a path toward his deepest connection with God yet.
I was raised in a Southern Baptist church just outside of Montgomery, Ala.,the kind of congregation that worshipped with traditional hymns. I definitely considered myself a Christian-both then, and even after I came out.
I knew I was gay around age 7, the year I had a crush on a boy who sat behind me in school. Even as I felt the attraction, I knew I couldn't talk about it. In my Bible Belt community, I'd heard plenty of anti-homosexual stories, and I didn't know anyone who was openly gay. If I had mentioned my attraction, I would have been shunned. My feelings were also at odds with what I was taught as a Christian: Being gay is a sin. Whenever I heard that message, I questioned it, because something in my core told me it wasn't true.
At 16, I told my mother and sister that I was gay. We seldom talked about it after that revelation because it was an uncomfortable topic. That same year, I came to a crossroad in my spiritual journey. A music minister from a church in Montgomery visited our congregation; when I heard him play a contemporary style of Christian music on the organ, it made me crave a closer connection with God. So I asked him about his church. After a visit, I discovered that it was progressive and a place that seemed to welcome gay people. After a couple of years of alternating between my home church and this new one, I became a member of the Montgomery church. Attending my new church was like having a weight lifted off my chest. I was free to commune with God as a whole human being. I could bring all of who I was to the altar and really worship Him. The whole experience deepened my relationship with Christ.
Over time, it became clear to me that religion and following every word of the Bible to the letter wouldn't be my gateway to a deeper understanding of who God is. I'd only get that through prayer and spiritual communion with Him.
That means that I'm in a good place with God, and rather than living by dogma, I choose to live by spirit. I've seen how vile Christians can be towards gays, and that's not who Jesus was. We are the very people that Christ would have walked alongside.
In 2005, I finally came out to my father, and when I did, he said he'd always known I was gay. I'd waited so long to tell him because I feared how he would view me as a man, as his son. I was also afraid that he'd reject me in a world that's already hostile toward Black men. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded: My dad and family have been amazing.
Spirituality shouldn't hurt. When we go to church to worship God as gay Christians, we shouldn't walk away feeling bruised and battered. My path has shown me a great alternative: church communities that welcome and even celebrate same-gender loving people.