An Open Letter to Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family, From a Gay Evangelical

Dear Jim,

You recently told The Huffington Post that you wanted to take Focus on the Family in a different direction -- away from making "a 'super-sin' out of homosexuality" and similar distractions from the good deeds that "true religion should be doing."

I'm thrilled to hear that. I truly am. See, I'm a passionate evangelical who grew up with Focus on the Family. You could say that I was one of your biggest fans. I wrote a piece for Breakaway, your magazine for boys; owned many tapes of Adventures in Odyssey, your radio drama series; and learned about puberty from Focus founder James Dobson's book Preparing for Adolescence.

But there was one thing that none of that prepared me for. When I hit puberty, I didn't develop attractions for girls like my friends did. My attractions were for guys.

For years, I refused to call myself "gay." ("I'm not gay; I'm a Christian!") I'd heard Dr. Dobson talk about sexual confusion in adolescence, so I assumed this was just a phase I had to wait out. Over time, I prayed more and more fervently for God's intervention. It got to the point that I was crying myself to sleep, night after night, begging for God to take away my same-sex attractions and give me opposite-sex ones.

My attractions never changed. God didn't change them. My faith didn't change them. Prayer didn't change them. Nor did therapy, time, or dating girls. Focus on the Family sent me materials about "ex-gay" ministries. Those didn't change my feelings either.

Through all of this, I remained celibate. I kept believing I would become straight someday, if I just kept trusting God. Eventually, though, I had to face the fact that it might not, and that even if I never dated or had sex or kissed anyone, I would always be, well, gay.

And that one realization is what changed my whole life.

Because, you see, the message that my pastors and parents and Christian friends were getting from Focus on the Family was that gay people chose to be gay -- or that, at the very least, we'd been exposed to some kind of abuse or trauma that had made us gay -- and that if we wanted to become straight, it was just a matter of trusting Jesus. By now, I'm sure you've heard enough stories to know that it doesn't work that way. But I still remember the letters Focus sent out to homes across America endorsing that idea -- letters endorsed by Dr. Dobson and "homosexuality and gender" specialist John Paulk, who was repeatedly held up as an example of how a gay man can successfully become straight until he was photographed in a gay bar.

Those letters hurt me. They hurt Christian kids all across this nation. Not only did we read them and feel like something was horribly wrong with us; our families and churches read them and trusted what they heard from Focus over what we told them about our own experiences. So many of us -- me included -- were kicked out of our churches and Christian groups simply for admitting that we were gay. And let me tell you, when your whole life is wrapped up in the church, and the Christian community you so love turns its back on you, it can be devastating. I became suicidal. Thankfully, I never followed through on those feelings. I know some who did.

Today, I run a nonprofit organization called The Gay Christian Network. We offer support to LGBT Christians and work to help straight Christians understand what it's like to be in those shoes. We work with people across the theological spectrum -- including those who support same-sex marriage and those who oppose it. My mission in life is to ensure that other kids don't have the same experiences I had in the church.

Here's where you come in, Jim. My organization has about 20,000 members. Yours reaches millions. You have powers I can't touch when it comes to educating the church, stopping bullying, and teaching evangelicals everywhere how to love their gay neighbors like Jesus would.

You have the opportunity to change lives. To save lives. To turn away from the rhetoric that characterized Focus on the Family in the past.

Yet even today, I still get emails and letters from Focus painting gay people as activists seeking to undermine society. I still see evidence of an us-vs.-them mentality, such as counter-programming the anti-bullying Day of Silence with your own "Day of Dialogue" -- an event that would be great if it actually were helping with dialogue, but which in practice only ends up with Christians making gay kids feel unwelcome in their own schools, and, quite frankly, helping reinforce the notion that evangelicals just don't get it.

I know you and I may never agree on some issues. But if you're serious about wanting to stop the bullying of LGBT kids -- and all kids! -- and about wanting to help bring families together instead of letting them be torn apart, then here I am, speaking from one evangelical to another, publicly offering, here in front of the whole world, an open hand of friendship and a chance to sit down and have a conversation about ways we can work together for the sake of the kids.

If Focus on the Family is serious about changing its image, this is the chance to prove it. The Bible says that faith without works is dead. Well, millions of LGBT young people are suffering, and you have the opportunity to help them. Will you?

You -- and any other Christian leaders -- can contact me through GCN's website at The ball's in your court, Jim. The LGBT Christians of the world are ready to tell you our stories. Are you ready to listen?