On deconstructing, coming out, and reconstructing

Kelsie McWilliams
23 min readOct 7, 2021

Content warning: evangelicalism; discussions of homophobia, sexism, purity culture, PTSD, and domestic violence

I’m bisexual.

These are words I never expected to say (or write) publicly, yet here I am.

I’m grateful to be surrounded by people who are not threatened by these words. But I also recognize the weight of them — and the weight that has been lifted from my shoulders by sharing them.

My journey has been long and complicated. It is unique yet not uncommon. It is also mine and mine alone. This disclosure does not invite a slew of inappropriate and invasive questions. I don’t owe anyone information or explanations or reassurances.

For a long time, I had no desire to share this information with anyone. I was afraid that it would complicate my relationship with my religious friends and family who still believe that being gay is a sin.

But like so many others, the pandemic forced me to reconcile with myself, to figure out who I am when everything else is stripped away: Who am I? And am I proud of who I am?

In answering this question, I acknowledged that I want to be authentic, and for me, coming out felt necessary to living a purposeful life that could have a positive impact on the world.

I’ve gone back and forth on whether to come out to my broader social circle. In a lot of ways, it feels like I am unnecessarily complicating things. I’ve also realized that coming out might help to challenge existing norms about what bisexuality can look like. But most importantly, the freedom and belongingness I feel when I’m with the people who love and support me is something I want to experience with as many people as I can.

While I have questioned my sexuality for some time, my history as an evangelical had always made it clear that faith and homosexuality were mutually exclusive, that there was no way to be queer and belong in the evangelical church.

To this day, I am still coming to terms with the grasp that this deliberate, persistent, and toxic conditioning had on my life and how it shaped my journey in ways I did not expect. My internalized homophobia took many years to recognize and will likely require many more to entirely unravel. And as much as I wish I could disentangle them, my faith journey and my sexuality are intertwined. I cannot talk about coming out without talking about how deconstruction and reconstruction helped me get here.

I’ve structured this post around my own personal clobber verses — the verses that were used to break me down and rebuild me in the image of the evangelical church, not the image of God.

So this is my story — messy and snarky and wordy and true.

Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

It is a strange thing to go through life believing that everyone you encounter, including yourself, is fundamentally evil.

Evangelicalism taught me that human beings were wicked, sinful, and absolutely worthless without faith and the love of God. I was often reminded that when God looks at me, all he sees is sin. Believing in Jesus was the only way I could be tolerable to God. He was unable, or perhaps unwilling, to look at me.

Because I was fundamentally evil, I couldn’t trust my heart. As a child, when I learned to trust in God with all my heart, I followed instructions. And when I learned everything works together for good for those who believe in God, I wholeheartedly agreed. So when I learned not to trust my heart, I obeyed.

The consequences of this conditioning were far-reaching: I couldn’t trust myself. But as an adult, it was my heart that showed me the inconsistency, hypocrisy, and cruelty of the conditioning that had shaped my entire life.

In evangelicalism, there’s a tension between your heart and God’s will. You cannot trust your heart because it is wicked and of the world. Instead, I was supposed to read the bible and pray. If I wasn’t sure what to do, I could ask my pastor, my teachers, my parents, or other believers for advice. Because evangelicalism assumes the heart is untrustworthy, feelings and desires are often explained away as misleading in lieu of spiritual certainty that can be gleaned from the bible or the church.

This mindset requires the locus of morality within evangelicalism to shift. Your own internal compass can’t be trusted, so you have to turn to an external source to determine whether something is right. The bible fills this gap as a Christian’s instruction manual for life, a measuring stick by which you can assess the holiness or wisdom of a specific choice.

To better understand what this means in practice, it’s important to know that evangelicalism privileges a literalist, fundamentalist interpretation of the bible as the infallible word of God. Though the text was written by people, it is still perfect because it was inspired by God. You can consider the context in which the bible was written, especially books that clearly fall into certain genres like poetry or allegory, insofar as you still accept the literal nature of the bible. The framework of biblical literalism essentially requires that the bible itself — or rather, the most recent preferred version of the English translation — be insulated from criticism.

I was often reminded that Jesus is the word of God made flesh and that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Therefore, I had to live my life believing that absolutely everything about the bible — written by many different authors in a completely different time and culture from my own — was just as relevant to me as it was to every other person in history. But as Rachel Held Evans asks in her book Inspired, “What business do I have describing as ‘inerrant’ and ‘infallible’ a text that presumes a flat and stationary earth, takes slavery for granted, and presupposes patriarchal norms like polygamy?”

In my apologetics lessons (meaning how to argue in defense of your faith) growing up, this perspective was often decried as “cultural relativism.” But the bible is like any other text — its message is inherently constrained by the time and manner in which it was written. This fact does not implicitly negate the spiritual wisdom the bible has to offer.

When I had reservations or concerns about what the bible said, I had to assume that I was the problem, not the bible. My doubts and questions were the result of “unresolved sin” in my life or my “rebellious, sinful nature.” I needed to pray more or read the bible more or talk with others to understand why I was wrong and why God is so mysterious.To belong in evangelicalism, I had to filter my entire life through the lens of biblical literalism because I couldn’t trust myself. Every thought, every feeling, every desire, every ambition had to be cross-checked against the bible. This was the only way to ensure that I was living my life in a way that was pleasing to God.

So because the small-mindedness of evangelicalism stipulates that the bible’s worth and usefulness is predicated upon its literal application, the impact and consequences of bad theology go unchecked. The word of God, filtered through the mouths of human beings, goes unquestioned.

Though it’s heresy to criticize or reject certain problematic aspects of the bible, it’s acceptable, righteous even, for pastors and church leaders to point to the same verses over and over again as justification for excluding gay people from the church. Spiritual leaders rebrand abusive and hateful messages about queer people as truth and love. After all, they are simply following what the bible says, which is what any good Christian would do, freeing them of the responsibility for the consequences of such teachings.

In sermons and bible studies, queer people are demonized, portrayed as pariahs and object lessons instead of living, breathing humans with souls and dreams and desires. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is wielded to draw some kind of artificial line between a queer person and their gayness, to show that love is conditional and that inclusion in the faith is dependent on one’s willingness to conform.

Away from the pulpit, evangelical leaders position themselves as therapists, when they have no relevant qualifications or experience, and give questionable and unsound advice that puts gay and trans people in harm’s way. In the church, queer people are expected to undergo conversion therapy, divorce their same-sex partner, de-transition to their biological sex, or simply remain celibate for their entire lives in order to be “right with God.” And so, evangelicals call it “love” when they disown and abandon their gay and trans children, refuse to attend the gay weddings of their friends and family, and equate homosexuality with pedophilia.

Such harmful doctrine causes the most vulnerable people in the church to believe that they are fundamentally at odds with God’s love simply because of who they love. To achieve some sense of belonging, queer evangelicals are left to choose between authenticity and acceptance, to sacrifice wholeness for compliance, to be tolerated instead of free.

When I chose to listen to what my heart was telling me, it was clear that the hatred, pain, and devastation caused by evangelicalism’s culture wars against LGBTQ+ rights are diametrically opposed to the loving God that evangelicalism claims to worship. My attendance at non-affirming churches was condoning the dehumanization and marginalization of queer people. Yet when I questioned the implications and consequences of this doctrine, my fellow evangelicals said that I was wrong, not the church and certainly not the bible. I was criticized for being “soft on sin” and having “too much empathy.” I was accused of being brainwashed and led astray by my college instructors. I was admonished for heading down the wrong path.

So if I couldn’t question or criticize the bible, I would question my role and participation in evangelicalism instead.

If evangelicalism requires me to follow a god who is small and petty, who cares more about genitals and gender roles than actual people, then I want no part of it. I refuse to idolize the doctrine of biblical literalism by valuing the bible more than the lives and well-being of queer people. Any version of Christianity that requires me to participate in the marginalization of the vulnerable is wrong. We absolutely must question and critique the bible when it is used as justification for abuse, like it very much has been against the LGBTQ+ community. It is not heresy to question theology that leaves a trail of brokenness and suffering in its wake.

And so, it is not queer people who must change in order to belong in the church. It is evangelicalism that must repent of its own hypocrisy. It is evangelicalism that idolizes the bible by weaponizing it in service of the subjugation and marginalization of queer people. It is evangelicalism that lies by calling hatred and intolerance love and by calling love an abomination. It is evangelicalism that sins against God by prioritizing dogma and doctrine over the lives of queer people.

Yet even years after I left the church, when I believed that I had “de-conditioned” myself on the surface in that I unequivocally loved, accepted, and supported the gay people in my life, I still failed to recognize my own queerness.

1 Corinthians 6:18–20

18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

In the summer heat, I sat in my car under the shade of a towering ash tree and rested my head on the window.

My muscles were tense and knotted. I tried massage and dry needling, trigger point injections and steroids, acupuncture and chiropractic appointments, meditation and breathing exercises. I couldn’t relax my muscles, and I didn’t know why. Until that moment in a doctor’s office, when I realized the pain of my spiritual conditioning and the pain in my body were one in the same.

For many years, I was in denial at just how harmful the messages were. But as I look back, the indoctrination was relentless: In class, in youth group, on Sundays, in the books I read and the media I consumed, it was the same message, over and over again. It was drilled into me by James Dobson, Joshua Harris, John and Stasi Eldridge, Elisabeth Elliot, Shaunti Feldhan, Stephen Arterburn, and Shannon Ethridge and reinforced by the adults in my life:

Think about sex all day long — but not like that:

“Think about what you’re wearing. Remember, modest is hottest. Make sure the holes in your jeans aren’t too revealing, that your cleavage isn’t showing, that your skirt isn’t too short, and that your bra straps are covered. Men are visual and they can’t control themselves. They’ll remember every sexually stimulating thing they ever see. It’s your responsibility not to give them anything to lust over.

Porn is everywhere. It’s on tv and the internet, in magazines and commercials, at the mall and at the gym. Women who wear sports bras and yoga pants, women in strapless dresses and halter tops, women modeling bikinis or lingerie. It’s all pornographic.

Premarital sex is bad and evil. Your hormones are raging and you have to pretend like they don’t exist. Sexual sin is the worst kind of sin because you’re sinning against your own body. Before marriage, don’t touch anyone. You probably shouldn’t even date or kiss. Once you lose your virginity, you are tainted, ruined, irrevocably damaged to your future husband.

After marriage and with your husband, sex is healthy and holy. Keep your husband interested. Give him any kind of sex any time he wants it. He’s entitled to it — the bible says so. Even if you don’t want to, if you’re not in the mood, if you’re uncomfortable, or if you’re in pain. It’s a sin to deny your husband sex, so go and be a good wife.

Submit to your husband. Your input is valuable and all, but you don’t have the final say on anything. It’s your husband’s job to lead you. If he’s a good, god-fearing husband, he’ll listen to you. In return, he’ll be expected to die if and when needed. Totally fair tradeoff. So if he wants to buy a hot tub and you don’t think that’s a fiscally responsible decision, that’s too bad. You’re getting the damn hot tub.

So your husband cheated on you. Did you give him enough sex like you’re supposed to? Did you quit your job and stay home and have babies like you’re supposed to? Did you let yourself go? Maybe you’re just not as young, as thin, as sexy as you used to be. That’s probably why. Forgive him and try again.

So your husband abuses you. Well, that’s not ideal. But maybe you’re not as submissive or as quiet or as helpful as you should be. Maybe you’re not satisfying his needs or giving him enough sexual release. Keep trying to make your marriage work. I know it might be scary and that he has access to guns. Try couples therapy with the pastor, who has no training in therapy but really knows his bible. Your husband will probably apologize and repent, so it’s your job to forgive and move on. God really hates divorce. Especially if there are kids in the picture. You don’t want your kids to grow up without their father, do you?”

If I wasn’t learning these expectations in school or at church, they were reinforced in the Christian media I consumed in my free time. Books and music and magazines for Christian girls told me what to wear, what to eat, what to say, and what to think. In this messaging, I was reduced to a sexual object, whose only value was my sexual purity, beauty, fertility, and ability to conform to “biblical womanhood.”

As a woman, I was simultaneously the crown of creation, God’s finest handiwork, a biological masterpiece, yet I was mocked, belittled, and marginalized for being a woman. Having emotions made me weak and unreliable and hysterical; having boobs made me a temptress and a stumbling block; having opinions made me rebellious and uncontrollable. I was always too loud, too ugly, too fat, too something.

Years and years of these messages made one thing crystal clear: I had no control over my own body.

As Linda Kay Klein writes, “Evangelical Christianity’s sexual purity movement is traumatizing many young girls and maturing women haunted by sexual and gender-based anxiety, fear, and physical experiences that sometimes mimic the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.” In her book Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free, Klein documents how young girls and women engrossed in the purity movement experience panic attacks, paranoia, and nightmares: “We went to war with ourselves, our own bodies, and our own sexual natures, all under the strict commandment of the church.”

Klein also references Dr. Shelley Uram, as featured in the work of Dr. Brené Brown: “…The brain does not differentiate between overt or big trauma and covert or small, quiet trauma — it just registers the event as a ‘threat we can’t control.’” It took many hours of therapy for me to recognize that the repetitive, shaming messages I learned day in and day out throughout my childhood were “small, quiet traumas.”

It felt wrong to call these experiences traumatic, as though they didn’t meet certain criteria or weren’t harmful enough. But purity culture stole my self-confidence, self-worth, vulnerability, and agency, only to fill the void with shame. It was traumatic.

I learned to repress my sexuality before I even learned what my sexuality was — and heterosexuality was my only option. My body was a problem, not a temple. It was an instrument designed for the pleasures and uses of others. It was a gift for my husband, a tool for producing children, a vessel for worshiping God. But it was not my own.

I was afraid of my own power, my sexual appeal, and my capacity to seduce, to tempt, to lead astray, to stumble my brothers in Christ. I was ashamed of being feminine, not being feminine enough, having shoulders, being too tall to wear short shorts, not being small and delicate and petite. I hated my body because it was a vehicle for sin and an inconvenient residence for my mind and heart. My own body was a weapon used against me; it was a weapon I could wield against others; and it was a battlefront where I fought back against sexual immorality. So I never bothered to understand my body, to listen to it or take care of it. I treated it like an afterthought.

When I was 17, my partner and I started dating, and even then, I was already saddled with the burden of protecting his eyes, heart, and mind from lusting after women, myself included. If he cast a passing glance at another woman, it meant that I had to do better. I expended inordinate amounts of mental and emotional energy monitoring the clothing of every woman we passed by. Occasionally, I would spend a few extra seconds sizing up a woman’s potential as an object of lust. Purity culture taught me to objectify other women the way it had objectified me. I wasn’t a person anymore. Women weren’t people anymore. They were hazards in the form of disembodied cleavage or over-enunciated curves.

In learning that neither my emotions nor my body could be trusted, I detached myself. I burned up with guilt and anger, shame and fear, insecurity and self-loathing, anxiety and depression. But I pretended like those feelings didn’t exist. I didn’t want to notice them or acknowledge them. Admitting that I had emotions would be proving them right — it would prove that I was a woman.

I resigned myself to a godly life, one that eventually required giving up control over my body, relationships, and future. I was simply a satellite orbiting a man’s world. My worth was contingent upon my proximity to a man. Being a godly woman meant that I had to conform my life to the parameters of “biblical womanhood”: submission, silence, and sex on demand (after marriage, of course).

The years of toxic theology and spiritual abuse permeated every aspect of my being. It ate away at my heart and mind and soul. But I didn’t realize that it wreaked havoc on my body as well.

“The imprints of traumatic experiences are organized not as coherent logical narratives but in fragmented sensory and emotional traces: images, sounds, and physical sensations,” Dr. Bessel van der Kolk writes in The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. It was only when I accepted the trauma of purity culture that I was able to understand the impact it had on both my mind and body.

My body learned to associate certain experiences and sensations with the fear, shame, and guilt normalized by both purity culture and evangelicalism at large. Certain words or songs made me feel like I was sinking into a church pew, trying to make myself as invisible as possible. Unwanted advances from men evoked memories of tugging on my shorts and adjusting my shirt, just in case my clothes were too revealing and causing him to stumble. When I walked through the doors of a church, my body felt heavy and my muscles tensed up. I was afraid without knowing I was afraid, and so my body resorted to decades of muscle guarding to protect me, causing stubborn myofascial pain.

Ultimately, my heart knew that I not only wanted more but also deserved more from evangelicalism, yet I ignored it. My mind knew that I had agency and control over my own life, but I locked my doubts away, convinced they were just sinful gut reactions to the undeniable truth. And even though evangelicalism told me that my body was not my own, it was my body that knew I needed protection from evangelicalism.

Ephesians 5:22–25

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.

In coming to terms with my sexuality, I had to reconcile being both bisexual and married. This wasn’t hard because my marriage never fit the mold that evangelicalism had idealized.

Evangelicalism’s vision of marriage revolves around a hierarchy rather than a partnership. Complementarianism — the idea that men and women had different gender roles and should fulfill different but complementary roles in marriage — was treated as one-size-fits-all prescriptive guidance. There was no room for deviance because complementarianism was treated as the biblically sound model for marriage. Men were expected to provide for the family and be the strong, masculine spiritual leader, while women were expected to be nurturing, submissive, and sexually desirable as well as have and raise children.

These narrow expectations of prescriptive evangelical theology are a double-edged sword: On the one hand, the guidelines are strict, with tenuous textual evidence at best. There are, however, plenty of generic ideals outlined in the bible that can be manipulated into biblical mandates. Such biblical mandates are often conveniently advantageous to the church and its leaders. And when you fail to meet the requirements, you are vulnerable.

This lack of textual evidence doesn’t stop evangelicals from using the bible to justify advising women to stay in abusive marriages or get married straight out of high school or stop working to raise children. But this advice keeps women dependent — on a husband, on a church, and on a pastor.

Instead of treating people as individuals, with unique needs and goals, the church holds them to one of two expectations, based solely on their sex, and outlines their responsibilities accordingly. This advice robs women of their agency and their opportunity to create a life for themselves, separate from evangelicalism or their marriage. Such expectations provide a biblical basis for preventing vocal and outspoken women from having an influence over men and for keeping women in their place. For example, in evangelical churches, women are typically not permitted to “hold authority over a man,” meaning they cannot serve in positions where they direct or lead men, and are often relegated to positions in children’s ministry, for example.

Additionally, these expectations pressure women in particular — regardless of whether they have careers, children, or both — to continue giving freely of their emotional labor. Such labor is critical for men and children, churches and communities to thrive, at the expense of women’s own independence, opportunity, and choice.

On the other hand, because such prescriptive gendered expectations are so difficult to fulfill and because they fail to accommodate individual difference, these norms are easily challenged by those who do not fit the mold. I grew up with a single mom, and when I learned about the model of complementarianism in marriage during my junior high and high school years, I was skeptical because I’d already been confronted with its stark limitations. My home life was written off as inferior or broken, as if it could only be made whole by the addition of another parent. And evangelicals felt comfortable telling me so, even after my mom had remarried, because they were “speaking the truth in love,” like there was something I could actually do about it.

Instead of adapting to or incorporating my family experience into evangelical theology, it was yet another instance where the church expected me to fit their mold. Those who felt compelled to “speak the truth in love” to me refused to engage in any sort of critical reflection as to why their narrow expectations didn’t accommodate the reality of my family and my experience — a family that was just as valuable and loving and an experience I had no role in creating. It wasn’t possible that the church’s expectations were wrong; it was my family that was fundamentally out of alignment with God’s will.

Add to this the complications of determining whether a divorce is biblically acceptable: According to some evangelical churches, divorce is only biblically justified due to infidelity or marriage to a partner who is not Christian — because these are the only two acceptable circumstances mentioned in the bible. Because the writers of the bible could not fathom any other circumstances in which divorce would be a sensible conclusion to a marriage, it is acceptable doctrine to force women in abusive relationships to stay until the situation in their marriage changes insofar as it checks one of the two aforementioned permissible boxes. Essentially, the absence of textual evidence is treated as evidence itself.

Of course, establishing a theological framework based on the absence of textual evidence results in an inconsistency of beliefs in evangelicalism: The bible only mentions male and female; therefore, only two genders exist. The bible does not give you permission to end your own suffering in the case of a terminal illness, but it is perfectly okay to extend your life, and likely your own suffering, with medical treatments. Unless those medical treatments are derived from aborted fetal tissue, in which case that might or might not be okay, depending on who benefits. And even when there is textual evidence for something, like a biblical woman with a career or the verse “in Christ, there is no male or female,” it is conveniently ignored in service of keeping women subservient.

Such inconsistency presents a challenge for the average churchgoer. So instead of teaching you how to cherry-pick which verses of the bible to follow, which would surely raise questions or inspire dissent, evangelicalism encourages you to attend church and obey the verses your pastor has cherry-picked for you instead. As a result, the church has accrued significant political power and social capital in conveniently equating a narrow interpretation of the bible with a politically conservative platform.

Evangelical Christianity taught me that my salvation and my belongingness in the church were predicated on my willingness to adhere to such a flimsy, unprecedentedly narrow biblical lens. Evangelical Christianity prioritized theological and doctrinal superiority and indoctrination over an adaptive and resilient belief system. And as a result, evangelical Christianity, with its unearned entitlement to the moral high ground, led me down the path of deconstruction.

When that narrow lens failed to hold up to scrutiny, it was easy to see how so many of my closely held beliefs fell short when confronted with reality. When I questioned one thing, I started questioning more — especially doctrine that hinged on the interpretation and application of a single poorly translated verse, of which there were many. The more I questioned, the more it all unraveled.

And then I began to grieve.

I grieved all the ways I tried to fit into boxes that were not designed with me in mind. I grieved the text that my entire life revolved around, until I recognized how it was manipulated to abuse me. I grieved the relationships I lost, because our only shared foundation was the faith I now question first thing in the morning and as I drift off to sleep at night. I grieved the years I spent distrusting my own heart, believing it was fundamentally depraved. I grieved the ways I refused to listen to my own body, instead storing up unacknowledged feelings as stress, tension, and pain. I grieved the years I spent not trusting my own heart and mind and body because, at the end of the day, that’s what I am.

Once I extracted the toxic hatred instilled in me about gender roles and sexual orientation, I began to realize how it permeated everything I believed. At first, amidst my discomfort with my own queerness, I viewed my marriage as an escape hatch from disclosing my sexuality to anyone.

When I have come out to other people in my life, they often ask about my partner, who is nothing but supportive. Because our marriage thankfully never resembled the patronizing God-husband-wife-kids hierarchy that evangelicalism declared as “holy,” it was easier for us to construct our marriage as a healthy partnership.

So as I unlearned these harmful beliefs about gender, sexuality, and marriage and began to discover my own identity, I was able to see my marriage as it has actually been: a safe haven and a landing place where my partner and I are free to be ourselves, entirely. It has been a space where love is not predicated upon what I do or don’t believe, whether I am a submissive wife, or the people I find attractive.

Freeing myself — from the church, from the relentless spiritual guilt, and from the expectations I could never meet — empowered me to start discovering who I really am, to re-examine and re-configure my own life.

And so, after many years of deconstruction, I started to rebuild.


It has taken me so long to come out because I felt obligated to first convince the evangelicals in my life that homosexuality isn’t a sin. I convinced myself that it was just a matter of them not knowing or being uninformed. That if evangelicals only knew the pain caused by their homophobia and discrimination, they would stop hating queer people and start loving us instead. That if only they had read the right books or listened to enough counterarguments, they would change their minds. So I gave them books and sent them articles and asked hard questions I was hoping they’d reflect on.

Some rationalized their homophobia away by saying they’re just following what the bible says. Others refused to entertain a more compassionate view of gender identity and sexual orientation or to imagine a vision of the church where gay people aren’t just tolerated but loved and accepted. But a few wanted to listen, which made my efforts seem worthwhile.

I realize now that this was my own insecurity over not being loved and accepted for who I am by the people I call my friends and family. I felt this pressure to first convince everyone that I was still acceptable, permissible, before I could disclose this facet of myself. Some have questioned why I would bother labeling myself in this way or have downplayed my disclosure because I’m married so it “doesn’t matter anyways.” But this is exactly the point. I’m bisexual, and yes, I’m married to a man. My marriage does not negate the fact that I’m bisexual.

Maybe my story and my experience will soften hearts, change minds, and provide more insight into what being bisexual looks like. Maybe it won’t. But I wrote this for me, first and foremost.

When I log on to social media and see my queer friends and coworkers and former students living their lives so authentically, so boldly, so proudly, I’m inspired by them. And I want to feel that sense of freedom and authenticity in my own life.

I often wonder what it would take for evangelicals to reject their homophobic theology. I’m tired of trying to figure out the answer. I don’t know, and at this point, I don’t care. I can’t teach or force or persuade evangelicals to treat queer people with love, compassion, and dignity.

But I refuse to live my life in a way that coddles homophobia or to sacrifice my own authenticity so that I can be tolerated by evangelicals. It’s not my responsibility to convince others that queerness isn’t a sin. It’s not my responsibility to confront the people I love with the consequences of their homophobia. It’s not my responsibility to proselytize an affirming theology to people who refuse to consider a more ethical perspective. It never was.

I don’t know what to make of this faith that shattered me into pieces and told me not to trust myself or my heart or my mind or my body. I don’t know how to belong to a faith that has left me with such irreparable damage, resentment, and trauma.

Since leaving the church and evangelicalism, I’ve never been happier, healthier, more self-assured, more myself. But this is never what I wanted, never what I had expected or anticipated for myself. A lot of people I used to know would write me off now as lost or on the wrong path or misled by the world. They would say that I’m too focused on myself or deliberately sowing discontent or blaming an entire religion for the harms perpetrated against me. I don’t listen to them anymore.

Evangelicalism remains in denial of the harms and abuses perpetuated by its teachings. Though sometimes it is painful to revisit these teachings that held me captive for so long, I feel compelled to interrogate them, to highlight the church’s harms and abuses. In doing so, I am able to use the voice I was never able to use, to advocate for myself and for others, and to reclaim bits and pieces of myself along the way.


If you’re interested, here is a list of resources that have helped me along the way on my deconstruction journey.



Kelsie McWilliams

she/her. A writer and editor who loves dogs. Exvangelical. I read and write about trauma of all varieties because there is hope and healing in this world.