Rev. T. Paul Graetz
First Metropolitan Community Church www.firstmcc.com
When and how did you come out?
It was 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning in May 1989. I was alone in the fundamentalist Assemblies of God Church I pastored. I was preparing for Sunday worship and I paused, questioning who am I and what am I doing as I struggled with the inner truth that I was gay. I was in a homophobic world that taught me self-hatred and shame and its message was in total conflict with my personal experience with the Divine.
I began to pray the prayer I’d prayed all my life since age 9 when I first became aware of homosexuality. “Lord, make me the man you want me to be,” I prayed and I felt as if a voice inside said, “I did. You are the man I want you to be — a gay man.”
It was a great moment of self-acceptance and I began to shout out loud, in the sanctuary, “I’m gay, I’m gay, I’m gay.” Fortunately I was all alone. The power of accepting who I am and my truth was so amazing it ignited my spiritual, emotional and physical life.
I resigned my church that day and began an exciting journey of living, loving and pastoring just as I was intended to. I transferred my credentials to a one of the oldest inclusive denominations in America, the Metropolitan Community Church, and never looked back.
How did religion play a role in you coming out?
I was a preacher’s kid and I knew God loved me in spite of what the church or my father, a Pentecostal pastor, said. It wasn’t so much religion and its rituals that played a role in my coming out but a spirituality shared through my religious experience that called me to a greater understanding of who I was and my purpose in this world.
This spirituality expressed in an awareness of who and what God really is called me to look beyond the messages of self-hatred, fear and ignorance to experience the power of living and loving as we are intended to be.