For years, Julie Rodgers’s entire life revolved around trying not to be gay. She grew up in an Evangelical Christian family, hearing that she was “depraved, disgusting, broken, an enemy of God.” In her new memoir, Outlove: A Queer Christian Survival Story (Broadleaf Books, $24.99 paper; June 22, 2021), Rodgers tells how she went from ex-gay poster child to helping bring down Exodus, the largest ex-gay organization in the world, and to building a whole, healthy, and happy life with her wife Amanda Hite.

Rodgers’s story is featured in the documentary Pray Away, executive-produced by Ryan Murphy, which will debut on the streaming service in August, 2021. A Tribeca Festival Official Selection (2020), it will be shown at this year’s festival, in a sold-out screening on June 16.

Rodgers grew up at the center of the debate between Evangelical Christians and the LGBTQ community—a battle that continues to rage in headlines and courtrooms across the country. Hers is a painful coming of age story: a teenage girl who wants to be “good,” to be loved, to belong, but whose own mother considers her an abomination. When she came out to her family at 16, she was immediately enrolled at a conversion therapy ministry called Living Hope—an organization that is active and growing to this day. Conversion therapy has been widely discredited by medical and psychiatric organizations. Rodgers hopes her story will help young LGBTQ people who have been harmed by efforts to change their orientation.

Julie’s story is also that of a naive, earnest young woman who began to understand how she was being used by evangelical leaders to support their narrative about homosexuality, and to protect them from being branded as bigots. “I was seen as one of a handful of unicorn gays who would parrot conservative views and shield them from accusations of homophobia,” she writes of her time as a speaker at Q conferences and as the first openly gay associate chaplain at Wheaton College, an Evangelical school. “I was a pawn in their battle against my own people.”

All the while, she was self-harming, beset by self-loathing. “What’s a queer person to do,” she asks, “when the only people we’ve ever known and loved believe our love is disordered and our bodies are broken?”

“Evangelical leaders had willfully lied about the people I loved,” Rodgers writes. “They actively spun stories that denigrated beautiful queer people, drumming up fear in Evangelicals to mobilize them to support their preferred policies in every sphere of society.”

After years of trying to fit in to the conservative world she had grown up in, Julie “didn’t have the will to live another day at the center of the evangelical debate about queer people.”

Now 35, Rodgers is comfortable in the skin she once burned—out, affirming, feminist, politically progressive, and still Christian. Her faith looks a lot different now, with more room for mystery and more questions than answers. “The day I married Amanda I bore my scars with pride in a sleeveless gown. I thought they told a story about neurotic queer who was broken and deranged. I finally understood the scars told a story of a girl who was born into a system that tried to kill her and by the grace of God, I survived.”

About the author:
Julie Rodgers is a writer, speaker, and leader in the movement working for full inclusion for LGBTQ people in Christian communities. She is featured in Pray Away (2020), a documentary about the moment to pray the gay away. Her writing has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Time. Through her writing and speaking, Julie inspires people to reimagine belonging with her queer reflections on faith, public life, and chosen family.

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