Before last week, Trey Pearson was best known as the lead singer of the popular Christian rock group Everyday Sunday. Then he came out as gay. “Most of us reach at least one pivotal moment in our lives that better defines who we are. …To make an extremely long story short, I have come to be able to admit to myself, and to my family, that I am gay,” he wrote in a letter shared May 31. Since then he's been featured on talk shows and in major publications across the country as the most recent in a string of Christian artists who are publicly reconciling their faith and their sexuality.
Sojourners caught up with Trey to discuss what's happened in the days since going public with his sexuality. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Catherine Woodiwiss, Sojourners: How are you feeling right now?
Trey Pearson: It’s certainly a whirlwind.
Woodiwiss: What’s this been like, juggling something so private with being a public figure?
Pearson: It is a very personal issue, but it’s also something that I think is a very important story to be told. I realized how painful of a thing it has been in my life and how many there are who are afraid to come out to their families. This just feels very important to talk about — the grace that I’ve received and the redemption that I’ve felt. To speak honestly about that feels really good. I guess I’m not too worried about the other stuff.
...One thing [author and former pastor Rob Bell] told me was, “Just remember, the truth is the safest place in the universe.” And that’s definitely been my mentality in being to get through this whole thing and in the way that I want to represent it publicly.
Woodiwiss: Has your experience of God changed at all through this?
Pearson: No. I don’t think it has changed at all.
My faith has progressed my whole life — growing up in a super Calvinist church and ending up in a Wesleyan church as a teenager, wrestling with predestination and free will and all that, and then progressing in my faith as an adult. I came to a place years ago where I was able to accept and affirm homosexuality as not a sin in God’s eyes. I think it’s important that the church ceases teaching that homosexuality is a sin, and I think that it’s important to have that conversation as more and more people are willing to have that conversation. And it’s important to find out why most Christians who are told how to think about condemning homosexuality don’t even realize that homosexuality wasn’t even a word until the 1800s. So what the writers in the Bible were talking about is not what we’re talking about.
By the time I came out, to myself and my family, I was very thankful for the place I was in my own faith, where I didn’t feel condemned or anything like that. It was more just a place of liberation and freedom. I just felt really free, and I’m thankful for the people I’ve had around me.
Woodiwiss: What do you most hope for other Christians who are questioning their sexuality, or are closeted and feel like they can’t come out publicly — what do you hope they get from your story and the responses to your story?
Pearson: That they can find strength and courage. I think about how many stories gave me the strength and courage to come to the place I’m at, and it’s like I said: I hope they can find that the truth is the safest place in the universe. Once you have nothing to hide or be scared of anymore, your life can truly change.
And I want those people, especially those who have grown up inside a faith community like I have, I hope they can see that God still loves them for who they are and has made them for who they are. They don’t need to beat themselves up over it anymore. I hope that they can see that there is a way better way to understand Scripture, and that they can understand that homosexuality is not a sin.
Woodiwiss: And for those Christians who are confused or concerned or not affirming yet of being LGBTQ in the church, are there things you hope they can take away from your story as well?
Pearson: Yeah, definitely. I’ve had lots of people reach out that don’t know how to come to an affirming place yet theologically, and the absolute biggest thing I want from those people is love. Knowing how to love the way Jesus loves; compassion; and a willingness to have an open mindedness to talk about the issue, to not think they have a corner on the truth. And to listen to people’s experiences, listen to people’s truths, and listen to other understandings of Scripture to where they can at least have the conversation.
It’s hard when you’re the one who has had to go through it. And that’s tough — it’s tough when you can pour your heart out to someone and they’re angry or not willing to listen to what you have to say. My hope is they’ll be willing to have a conversation, with compassion and love, even when they don’t understand.