I have known Mandy Esch longer than most people I skate with these days. I've always had a lot of respect for Mandy. She has given her time to coach and teach skateboarders and surfers for many years. Mandy came out years ago. I had known she was Christian, but in the early days of skating with her, I didn't know she was gay. Our friendship doesn't change. I still love Mandy. I don't try and change who she is, because God wants us to come as we are. Even though our views differ when it comes to what the bible says, we still have a friendly relationship, and I still think she's awesome. I sat down with Mandy to see how her beliefs differ from the "conventional" way that people view homosexuality and the bible.
When you came out, did you continue to worship God?
Yes. I knew God from a very young age. I said the salvation prayer when I was about 5, so I grew up knowing God in a very Christ-centered home. I had my rebellious phase, but that was before I came out. I was realizing who I was, and I honestly, had no idea until I was in my early twenties. I think maybe two reasons, because one, I was taught it was not an option, and then number two, I think it was God’s way of protecting me, because my parents would have sent me to like conversion therapy, which has crazy, detrimental effects. Most of those people end up having a lot of self hatred, a lot of suicides, a lot of drug use associated. So, I think that that was his way of protecting me, but I was figuring it out when I was in my early twenties, and just praying about it a lot. And, I don’t know, God just told me not to worry about it.
Was it a hard decision coming out to your parents?
They kind of called me out on it. I think I was the last to know, to tell you the truth [laughing]. I came out, and I was like, “Guess what guys?” And everybody was like, “Weren’t you always?”
So they were just waiting for you?
Yeah, my parents asked me one day, “if everything was as it should be?” They’re not good at talking about stuff, so, I was honest with them, and then it was really hurtful, because then the very next question they asked me was if I had been doing anything to the kids I was mentoring. Because I was working with a mentoring program… so, that was really hard to deal with and there is a lot of hurt associated with that, but I was never angry at God for any of it, and He’s never really asked me to change. I was talking to Him the whole way through the process and kind of coming to terms with what I believe and who I am, and trying to reconcile that with the way I was raised and how I was taught and what the church is telling me. God has just told me to keep praying about it and He’s revealed some verses to me, some different interpretations of verses that we all know that aren’t talked about much in the church and when they are, they’re talked about in a very "culturally acceptable" sort of way.
Which verses has He revealed to you?
Matthew 19:12. Where Christ actually says, “Some eunics were born this way, some were made that way by man, and some choose to be celabate for the kingdom,” right? So, he’s kind of addressing sexual minorities. He says, “some are born that way.” Like no male is born castrated, so if it’s strictly talking about castration, it’d be a very small percentage of the population who were born with genital mutilations or deformities of some kind, so I don’t think that is what he’s talking about. Stuff like that, and looking at the story of David and Jonathan is taught like, brotherly love. I was praying about that, and reading about it, it could be a romantic story. If he had had his soul knit with a woman the moment he laid eyes on her, it would be praised and written about as the greatest love story of all time. I mean, he gives him his most prized possessions, and gives him everything off his back. They meet in secret and it goes against political correctness, and against his family, and his father [Saul] says that he’s [Jonathan] shamed. And he actually uses a euphemism for incest, so God showed me that’s kind of a sexual shame that he brought on the family. It’s the term, “The shame of your mother’s nakedness…” was like a euphemism for sexual sin or incest. And all the ones the gay community calls the “clobber passages.” The verses we get beat over the head with, like Sodom and Gomorrah, I feel are a misuse. For example there is a verse that specifically says, this was the sin of your sister Sodom; they were wicked and foolish and they didn’t take care of the orphans, the poor and the widowed. And that’s why they were destroyed. The gang rape isn't sited as the reason. I think all the verses that are used for the clobber passages are talking about sex as idol worship being a sin, and I don't feel that's the way I live. So, I don't apply any of those verses to me.
If you think about it, look at the way the church treats the gay community, what if it was anything else, like skin color and they were telling an entire group of people, God doesn't love them because of their skin color. Does that sound like the heart of God? Does that sound like it's furthering the kingdom?
I think with society these days, people are so offended by what someone says. And as Christ followers, to win people to Christ, we shouldn't use condemnation at all.
Yeah, that never works.
Jesus never condemned anyone.
And He hung out with the tax collectors, the prostitutes and the sexual sinners.
There are lots of preachers who still preach that way. This is a sin, that is a sin, you're going to hell. The people on the street corner with the big signs.
Yeah, the extremists.
You can see the hate in their eyes. That's not God, you know? So, you think about end times, a lot of Christians feel we're either at the beginning of amidst the end times. If you read about the end times, Christians become the enemy. They get hated, and hunted down and their friends and family will turn them in to have their heads cut off. So, how does satan get the world to hate Christians? What if he tricked them into condemning the gay community, but claiming it in God's name? So people would look at that and say, 'Oh, that's hateful. I don't want any part of that.' I don't believe in a condemning God. I believe in "come as you are." If God has a problem with them, don't you think He can take care of it?
I pray about it all the time. I know His voice. I know Him very well. I can hear Him very clearly. The sheep recognize the sheperd's voice, and He's never asked me to change. We can argue biblical interpretations all day, but when it comes down to it, God's never asked me to change. And He blesses me. When you're on the path that God doesn't want you to be on, it's like that head banging against the wall effect. Everything is frustrating, everything is difficult, and God's making it very apparent to you something needs to change. I've been in those seasons and I know what it feels like. When I'm walking right... and I'm still gay and I have a girlfriend, I don't feel that. I don't get that, you need to stop doing this, not once. I've had this person's no good for you, once, but never you need to change who you are. He knit me together in my mother's womb, He knows me better than I do. And if you look back over my life, people were asking my parents if I was gay when I was like 12. And my parents were saying, "She's 12. How about we let her grow up?" I've always been this way. That's why Christians argue so hard that it's a choice. If it's a choice, then can say that it's sinful. It's not a choice that God made us this way, and they have to try to accept us.
So do you also believe in gay marriage?
Gay marriage? Yeah, I mean, equal rights, right? Why should some people be excluded from what other people can do?
Is it a rights issue? Don't the domestic partnerships have the same rights as married couples?
Almost, I'm not a lawyer, I know that it was close, but I don't know if it's changed since then. I know why people are fighting for it so hard. It really marginalizes you. You feel like a second class citizen. It's like interracial marriage, that's a big comparison, back when interracial marriage wasn't recognized, where's the logic in there? How come this group of people can do it and this can't. That makes them automatically second class citizens. You feel... it's very very deep and painful, insulted and hurt. I asked my dad– my parents have come a really long way, but we will probably never see eye to eye, but they have come a long way, so I got the courage to ask my dad if he would come to my wedding. And he– basically, without saying no, said no. That's still hard for me to even think about. It's incredibly painful, a rejection of who you are as a person.
And how is your relationship with them now?
Oh, it's good. I love them and they love me. They retired to Arizona and I call them maybe more than any of the other four kids in the family. We laugh and get along, but it's hard because we can only talk about pieces of my life. They don't want to hear about stuff that involves my girlfriend, who I love deeply, who I want to spend the rest of my life with, so that's difficult. Legal recognition is important for people who build lives together and build businesses together and their families dont agree, and when one person tragically dies young, then the families come and take everything away from the partner. The parents have rights and you don't, even though they haven't seen the parents in 10 years. There's all kinds of emotional damage that can come from treating people as second class citizens.
And you know, the bible doesn't say that marriage is between one man and one woman. David had lots of wives and concubines. It never says one man and one woman. The whole line about God made Adam and Eve is so frustrating because it's the creation story. Of course they would be heterosexual and fertile. It's an assumtion to say that every sexual relationship after that would be heterosexual.
Is there anything that you would like to say that others [Christians] may not understand, misconceptions?
[Laughter] So many things. Yeah... other than, I am loved by God. I know it— when you have something screamed at you for so long, and people make enough degrading comments, you start to question, ok, God, show me how you really feel about me. And He's like, "Don't worry. You're mine." Every single time. So... I wish people would just pray about it more with an open heart. If they are struggling with it, ask God to show them, how He sees us? I think if they pray that truly with an open heart and an open mind, they'll start seeing things differently in the bible like I did. They'll start questioning the things that have been taught. I think that's about it.
Mandy is currently attending UCLA where she is studying for a Bachelors in Health Science degree with an emphasis in Radiologic Technologies. She worships at Christ Chapel of Orange County in Lake Forest.
I want to thank Mandy for taking the time from her busy schedule to have a chat with me. My idea for this story was not to sit and debate with Mandy, but to just listen to her beliefs and her feelings on a topic, on which she is very passionate. For those of us Christians, who believe with all our heart that the bible is the word of the true living God, it is very hard to sway us to believe otherwise. You can ask a hundred people about one verse of scripture and get a hundred different interpretations. In the end, it is God who will judge, and we will all be accountable for our actions. We all need to live to be like Jesus, the only human ever to be without sin. If we can look in the mirror and see more of Jesus than ourselves, we are doing well.