feature image via vickybeeching.com
Vicky Beeching, a British Christian rock singer, theologian and commentator, came out as a lesbian in an interview published in The Independent. In the article, Beeching talks about her experience managing her attraction to women while establishing herself in the contemporary Christian rock scene.
If you, like me, don’t know anything about Christian rock music, let me give you some background: Vicky Beeching grew up in Canterbury, Kent, UK, where she began writing songs at an early age and leading worship in her teens. Her family was conservative Christian, at first Pentecostal then evangelical Church of England. She counts among her close friends the daughter of Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
She received a BA and a Masters in theology at Oxford University, spent over a decade in the States recording Christian music, then returned to the UK to pursue a doctoral degree at Durham University, focusing on social media (she was an early social media adopter and has over 50 thousand followers on Twitter) as well as the theology of human sexuality. Her 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.
Throughout her life of worship, academia, and professional success, Beeching was haunted by her sexuality. At 12, she knew she was gay: “Realising that I was attracted to [other girls] was a horrible feeling. I was so embarrassed and ashamed. It became more and more of a struggle because I couldn’t tell anyone.” The secret drove her to isolate herself from others.
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.
Beeching tried for years to “cure” herself. At 13 she went to confess to a Catholic priest, whose prayer of absolution did little to comfort her. At 16, she received an exorcism at a Christian youth camp. When her feelings remained the same, she “began to disconnect.” Music became her “one outlet.” What followed was an incredibly lonely and painful period that she tried to fill with work. She would “perform endlessly, ensuring every birthday and public holiday was booked up,” even if her performances went against her personal beliefs. In 2008 Beeching was booked at mega-churches all over California for events that supported Prop 8. She felt compelled to stay silent. “I would find myself at these events that were anti-equal-marriage rallies, but I was only booked to sing so there was no way I could say anything. If I had, I would have got kicked out.” Additionally, if she’d spoken out, she would have violated the morality clause of her record contract.
Meanwhile, the pain of staying closeted was literally killing her. In 2009, after finishing her last album, Beeching was diagnosed with linear scleroderma morphea, an autoimmune disease that can be triggered by deep trauma or stress. While undergoing chemotherapy, she came to terms with her homosexuality. She made a promise to come out by the time she was 35, saying, “Thirty-five is half a life. I’ve lost so much living as a shadow of a person.”
So, now that she’s bravely come out, what next? Beeching has already received some heavy criticism from her Christian fans after she wrote several blog posts in support of gay marriage last year, and she’s likely dealing with more now. She and her parents have agreed to disagree on the sinfulness of her sexuality. As she says, “We often confuse needing to agree as the basis of being able to love one another.” She aims to help change the Church’s view on homosexuality. When asked why she hasn’t left her faith when it’s caused her so much “shame and isolation and pain,” she answered, “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.”