Annie's Mailbox®, February 6
Dear Annie: I am a male in my early 40s. My mother died a few years ago, and my grandmother shortly after, so life has been difficult lately.
Here is my problem: I'm gay and still in the closet to friends and family. At my age, single and never having dated, people have pretty much put two and two together, but I was raised to think this is not an acceptable lifestyle. If I were to come out publicly, I believe I would be made an outcast by my family and church.
The church I attend (which I love attending) does not accept gays. The official outlook is "hate the sin but love the sinner," which means I'd have to stop being gay to be accepted. It makes me feel I'm losing my connection to God and that breaks my heart. Annie, I didn't wake up one morning, decide I was tired of being heterosexual and switch over. This is all I've ever known. To make matters worse, I was recently diagnosed as HIV-positive. I have found a man I would like to spend my life with and he has been extremely accepting of my positive diagnosis. His family has accepted his sexual orientation, but he doesn't attend church.
I know counseling would help, but I can't afford it. Who can I talk to confidentially about being a closeted, HIV-positive gay man who doesn't want to lose his faith or family? — Lost and Confused
Dear Lost: You didn't specify your church's denomination, so we recommend Dignity (dignityusa.org) at 1-800-877-8797 for Catholics; the Gay Christian Network (gaychristian.net), P.O. Box 17504, Raleigh, NC 27619; Integrity (integrityusa.org) at 1-800-462-9498 for Episcopalians; Seventh Day Adventist Kinship (sdakinship.org), P.O. Box 69, Tillamook, OR 97141-0069; Metropolitan Community Churches (mccchurch.org), P.O. Box 1374, Abilene, TX 79604; and of course, PFLAG (pflag.org), 1726 M Street, NW, Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20036.
Good luck and God bless ... and may God give each and every ONE of us the grace we need to respond to those asking the questions "Lost and confused" is asking AND the resolve to keep making the Episcopal Church a place where those who are "lost and confused" will not have to wonder if "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" sign applies to them!