Sexual Identity and Labels: A Testimony by Rachel Gilson
Transform Minnesota partnered with Rachel Gilson for two events on February 13 at Chapel Hill Church and The Grove Church. She spoke to several hundred attendees about her journey to finding Jesus at Yale University and how meeting Him changed her understanding of everything, including her same-sex attraction. Transform asked Rachel to speak to sexual identity and labels, as both have become divisive for the Church and affect members inside and outside of Christian communities.
Rachel’s testimony begins with a secular family in a conservative area of California and ends with a radical understanding of God and His holiness.
As a high school and first year college student, though not necessarily identifying as gay or lesbian, Rachel preferred relationships with women. She remembers feeling that LGBT+ labels seemed to communicate more than she was feeling. After being accepted into Yale, she leaned into two pillars: her sexuality and her intellect, both of which, she says God kindly removed out from under her.
“couldn’t pretend the Gospel wasn’t real just because it was inconvenient for her life”—even when it came to her sexuality.
Rachel spoke to labels and noted that while she personally has landed on using ‘same-sex attracted’ as opposed to ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’, she recognizes that LGBT+ language can often be freeing and healing for those who have felt shamed and hurt for decades and are pursuing a life submitted to Jesus. For Christians, LGBT+ language does not necessarily indicate disagreement with God’s word nor a desire to pursue a same-sex relationship. “When we talk about identity labels, we have to be talking about people – image bearers – not just about concepts.”
Rachel shared some of her concerns about using LGBT+ language, namely perceived ambiguity and what she refers to as ‘totalizing’ language. Ambiguity leaves room for radically different interpretations, misinterpretations, and judgments. Totalizing language, and in this case totalizing adjectives, “carry conceptual weight” and have “the ability to become the center of your world”. “The way the word ‘gay’ or ‘queer’ is used in our culture has a similar totalizing push—it wants to own all of you and be the center that your world revolves around…language easily moves from how I am to who I am.”
“There are so many things that are true about each of us. The point is not to say that they are not true, the point is to submit every single one of them to the Lordship of Christ…”
Rachel’s presentation was followed by Q & A.
Rachel serves as the Director of Theological Development for Cru while pursuing an M.Div at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. She writes for her own blog in addition to featured pieces on The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, Christianity Today, and the Center for Faith, Sexuality, and Gender. Rachel will release a new book this March: Born Again This Way. She and her husband Andrew have been married for ten years and live in Boston with their daughter.
Recommended Rachel Gilson Articles:
Resources recommended by Rachel Gilson:
- Center for Faith, Sexuality, and Gender: Grace and Truth Curriculum, Digital Leaders Forum
- Lead them Home – for parents of LGBT+ children
- Confronting Christianity, Rebecca McLaughlin
“That there’s a Millennial female believer with intellect and dry wit who can speak on the subject of Sexual Identity and Labels using personal experience and sound theology.”
“We haven’t done a good job with sexuality in the church.”
“Excellent–events/seminars are a great way for TM to engage with churches and the Christian community!”
“Rachel was amazing. So clear, humorous, and bold.
“Keep them coming! These are so informational and helpful.”
“Very well presented. Rachel Gilson is an excellent communicator. I ordered her book already!”
“Really great event- every Youth Pastor should attend this training.”
“Thank you. Grateful for these types of honest conversations.”