Vicky Beeching, the popular British Christian rock star and religious commentator made a courageous move by publicly coming out as gay to her conservative audience in an Independent article.
Pro-LGBT equality commentators are voicing the huge significance for someone so popular among the American Evangelical community to come out. According to Autostraddle, "[Beeching's] Christian rock albums have reached gold status, and her songs are among the “25 Most Sung” in North American churches. She is a regular guest on TV and radio shows, and she’s a regular contributor to Radio 4?s Today program and the Chris Evans breakfast show. She was nominated for a 2014 Sanford St. Martin Award for her radio work." Evangelicals are already showing a shift in views towards acceptance of LGBT people, and The Guardian, among other outlets, predicts that Beeching's coming out will help make that shift faster and quicker.
The Independent article where Beeching first came out goes through the long, powerful interview where Beeching described her life story of struggling to accept who she was in a well-meaning but hostile Christian community. Beeching, who comes from a family who was devoutly Christian – at first Pentecostal and then evangelical Church of England – recalled the great shame she felt when she began to realize her attraction to other girls when she was 12 years old. She said,
I increasingly began to feel like I was living behind an invisible wall. The inner secrecy of holding that inside was divorcing me from reality – I was living in my own head. Anybody I was in a friendship with, or anything I was doing in the church, was accompanied by an internal mantra: 'What if they knew?' It felt like all of my relationships were built on this ice that would break if I stepped out on to it.
One night along in her bedroom, when she was still only 13, "the schism between feelings and beliefs overcame her":
I felt like it was ripping me in half. I knew I couldn't carry on. I was trying to align the loving God I knew and believed in with this horrendous reality of what was going on inside me," she says. "I remember kneeling down and absolutely sobbing into the carpet. I said to God, 'You have to either take my life or take this attraction away because I cannot do both.'
It wasn't until almost two decades later that Beeching was able to let go of this enormous self-shame and learn to love herself for who she is, and it was certainly a long struggle to get to that point. Beeching described how she had hoped by confessing her "sin" to her priest at 13, she could be "healed," but afterwards the priest's blessings did nothing it affect her feelings, it only increased her sense of disgrace. She said, "I felt there was something really wrong with me, that maybe I was so sinful and awful I couldn't be healed."
Later, at 16, Beeching underwent a humiliating, traumatic exorcism at a Christian summer camp. The Independent reported,
Beeching stood with her arms outstretched as the leaders brought in extra people to perform the deliverance. "I remember lots of people placing their hands on my shoulders and back and front, praying in tongues really loudly and then shouting things: 'We command Satan to let you go! Cast these devils out of you! We speak to you demon of homosexuality: let her go!' People around me were wailing and screaming. It was really frightening. I was already feeling so vulnerable, it was horrible to think, 'Am I controlled by demons?'"
How did it feel? "Degrading," she says. "Very humiliating – it made me so embarrassed."
This too did not change her sexual orientation, and her feelings only got worse as she got older until her shame was literally beginning to kill her: At 30, Beeching was diagnosed with linear scleroderma morphea, a degenerative tissue disease that, if left uncontrolled, can kill. Doctors told her in their experience the disease was always triggered by stress, some kind of deep trauma, and then Beeching knew it was from the stress of hiding her sexual orientation. It was during Beeching's 16 months of chemotherapy that she vowed to accept herself and come out.
Despite Beeching's traumatic experience with the church, she still finds strength through her faith and is determined to make change from within. She told Autostraddle, "What Jesus taught was a radical message of welcome and inclusion and love. I feel certain God loves me just the way I am, and I have a huge sense of calling to communicate that to young people…rather than abandon it and say it’s broken, I want to be part of the change."
Beeching has already faced much criticism from her conservative audience. However, she has courageously stood her ground for LGBT equality. In a heated debate on Channel 4, Beeching challenged anti-LGBT pastor Scott Lively – who has claimed credit for Russia’s controversial ‘gay propaganda’ law – when he said Beeching has "given into a lie."
Beeching is following in the footsteps of other LGBT and ally Christian singers, such as openly gay grammy-award winning songwriter, Jennifer Knapp, and the frontman of the Christian band, Jars of Clay, who voiced his support for marriage equality.