Menu Close

Bruce, Were You Transphobic as an Evangelical Pastor?

transgender sin

Transphobic: having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people.

The short answer to this question is yes. I am sixty-four years old. My upbringing, political identification, and my Fundamentalist religious beliefs all led to me adopting transphobic, homophobic, and racist ideas. To some degree, I was a product of my time. But I refuse to dismiss my past beliefs with a wave of the hand, saying, hey, it was the 60s and 70s. I can point to my parents and how they raised me, religious indoctrination, and social conditioning as mitigating factors, but I still must own the fact that I was not a good person when it came to what I believed about LGBTQ people. What I am today bears little resemblance to what I was as an Evangelical pastor. If there is anything redemptive in my story it is this: true moral and ethical change is possible. Yes, change is hard, and all of us are resistant to making fundamental changes in our beliefs and practices. But just because change is hard doesn’t mean it is impossible.

I spent much of my life as someone who was:

  • Born again Fundamentalist Christian
  • Bible Literalist
  • Patriarchal
  • Republican
  • Christian Nationalist
  • Pro-Life
  • Homophobic
  • Transphobic
  • Racist
  • Pro-War
  • Detroit Tigers fan
  • Green Bay Packers fan

Today, I am:

  • An Agnostic Atheist
  • Egalitarian
  • Democratic Socialist
  • Pacifist
  • Pro-Choice
  • Pro-LGBTQ
  • Cincinnati Reds fan
  • Cincinnati Bengals fan

Family, friends, colleagues in the ministry, and former church members who knew me in the 70s, 80s, and 90s are often shocked by what I have become. How is it possible that Pastor Bruce Gerencser, a defender of True Christianity®, Bible Truth, Christian Nationalism, and the Culture War, is now a Bible-denying Atheist, an Anti-War, Liberal, Commie, Socialist? How can these things be?

My beliefs began to change in the 1990s, first when I stood against the first Iraq War, and later when I publicly rebuked notable Evangelical culture warriors (those who followed in the steps of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority) for abandoning the gospel for the sake of raw political power. In 2000, I left the Republican Party, voting for my first Democratic candidate for president. It would be eight more years before I left Christianity and embraced atheism.

Clearing my mind of transphobia was a long, slow process. Earlier this year, I wrote a post titled Meeting My First Gay Person. Here’s an excerpt from this post:

As a card-carrying-member of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, I often preached sermons condemning homosexuality. According to my infallible interpretation, the Bible condemned homosexual sex. Being the faithful Bible preacher that I was, I thought it important to preach against man-with-man, woman-with-woman sex. Never mind the fact that I did not personally know anyone who was gay. Well, I had my suspicions about several people — Polly’s late uncle comes to mind — but as far as actually knowing someone who was gay? Not one. I would learn years later that several of the students in our Christian school were gay or bisexual. Consider this statistic. I was a raging homophobe who railed against homosexuality and sexual “sin” in general. Yet, one-third of the students in our school were either gay or bisexual. Add to that the students who likely engaged in premarital sex, and I think I can safely say my preaching did little to change hearts and minds on sexual identity and activity.

In March of 1994, I left a church I had pastored for almost twelve years and moved to San Antonio, Texas to co-pastor Community Baptist Church. This move proved to be a disaster, and in the fall that same year, we packed up our belongings and moved to Frazeysburg, Ohio. With the help of Polly’s parents, we bought a newish manufactured home — a $25,000 upgrade from our previous mobile home.

We lived in Frazeysburg for six months. Needing immediate employment, I turned to restaurant management. I was hired by Charley’s Steakery (now called Charleys Philly Steaks) to be the general manager of their franchise at the Colony Square Mall in Zanesville. I continued to work for this restaurant until March 1995, when I assumed the pastorate of Olive Branch Christian Union Church in Fayette.

The restaurant I managed had a drink refill policy for mall employees. If employees stopped at the restaurant with their cups, we refilled them free of charge. Some employees would stop every day they worked to get their large plastic cups refilled. One such employee was a man who worked at a nearby store.

This man was in his twenties. The first time I personally refilled his cup for him, my infallible, never-wrong (I am joking) gaydar went off. I thought, “OMG, this guy is gay. What if he has AIDS?” Quite frankly, I am surprised he didn’t see the disgust on my face. Maybe he did, but ignored it. I dutifully put ice in his cup, filled it with pop, and handed it back to him. After he walked away from the service counter, I would quickly run to the kitchen and thoroughly wash my hands, fearing that I might catch AIDS.

Over time, this man and I struck up casual conversations. He was quite friendly, and truth be told, I liked talking to him. As I got to know him better, I found that I no longer was disgusted or worried about getting AIDS. I even stopped washing my hands after serving him. What changed?

My theology didn’t change. And neither did my irrational fear of gay people. Coming to where I am today, a supporter of LGBTQ rights with numerous gay and transgender friends, took years. What needed washing was my proverbial heart, not my hands.

I spent much of my life in a political, theological, and social bubble. Sure, I was a kind, thoughtful, loving man, but make no mistake about it, if asked what I believed about LGBTQ (for a time I refused to use the word gay) people, I would turn into a smiling, hateful bigot.

It was not until I began leaving the Evangelical bubble that I was able to see a world outside of my own. The Internet opened up a whole new universe to me, forcing me to confront and deal with my deep-seated prejudices. And then came this blog (in all its iterations), a wide-open door to a wild, wooly world. I now have LGBTQ friends, but more importantly, meeting people different from me has forced me to come to terms with how I viewed them. Again, actually meeting, knowing, and befriending transgender people changed how I viewed them. I can’t emphasize this enough. Exposure to people different from us is the first step in rooting out hatred and bigotry from our lives.

I am not one who says that I am free of all past prejudices. I am not. A lifetime of indoctrination and conditioning is not easily overcome. All I know to do is try to be a better person today than I was yesterday.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

21 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Jerry Dees

    “ My beliefs began to change in the 1990s, first when I stood against the first Iraq War, and later when I publicly rebuked Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority for abandoning the gospel for the sake of raw political power.”

    The Moral Majority was disbanded in 1989. You “rebuked” them years after they ceased to exist as a group?

    Honestly, Bruce, I think that you were just going through the motions…being a “pastor”. Reading vociferously through your blog over the years, you talk about many topics. One subject that almost never comes up is the topic of work. You probably would’ve left the church years earlier had you been one with more ambition and motivation. In all likelihood you may never have went into the “ministry” in the first place. I’m pretty sure you just thought being a “pastor” was something you could do without too much effort.

    Just my humble observations.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Thank you for pointing out my mistake. I corrected the post.

      As for the rest of your comment, it’s evident you have definitely skipped some of my writing. As my wife and children will testify, I was a workaholic for many years, often working 60+ hours a week. Ask my family how little they saw me. You must of missed where I said that I preached 4,000+ sermons, often spending 20 hours a week on sermon preparation. You also missed, evidently, that I planted five churches — not a job for lazy men. And finally, you skipped right over my secular work history outside of the church.

      Your comment is a first Jerry. This is the first time someone has ever said I lacked ambition or motivation. Since you made this comment after “vociferously” reading my blog, I assume you are just trying to be an asshole.

      I’ll await your apology.

      Bruce

      • Avatar
        Jerry Dees

        Apology? You always put yourself first, always.

        I’ve read your list of “jobs” many times. When I said that I’ve read through your blog vociferously, I wasn’t jesting.

        Would you like to make an additional hundred or so corrections like you just graciously did? How about adding a section to your bio that shows that you’ve quit or failed at almost everything you’ve ever done throughout your entire life, Bruce?

        Let’s have a conversation about some other things besides your failed “ministry”:

        How’s your photography “business” coming along?

        How about the book you’ve been “writing” for the last decade?

        Let’s talk about you pathetic social media channels (all failures). Five years on YouTube, 4 crummy videos, 83 subscribers, and zero comments! Just let me know if you would like me to continue to recount more of your online obsolescence.

        Now you’re retired…from what? Is Polly retired too? Don’t even bother answering that. You truly are a pathetic failure.

        You’ve even ruined your filthy, blasphemous, blog. Your sick, demented mind needs to control every aspect of everything. Instead of having a robust and diverse conversation around your diseased ideas, you ban anyone that you can’t control. The only talent that you have, and I really mean the only one — you are a decent writer.

        Full Stop.

        BUT, you’ve even managed to get in the way of this with your hunger for control! So, congratulations, big guy, after years of writing you have a following of about two dozen punks, weirdos, and all of them sycophants.

        That’s my apology, and You desperately need to get saved!

        • Avatar
          Bruce Gerencser

          Dear Jerry,

          Thank you for being a shining example of the depths of vile moral corruption found in Fundamentalist Christianity.

          I have no intent of justifying my life and experiences to you or anyone else for that matter.

          You might want to rethink my blog traffic numbers, dude. Thousands of people read this blog. Add up all the traffic sources, this site sees 750,000 to a 1,000,000 page views per year — many of whom are Evangelical and IFB Christians.

          I may bump your comments up to the front page. Isn’t that what you really want? You want everyone to know you put the atheist Bruce Gerencser in his place? I may grant you your deep, hard, throbbing desire.

          I’m far from perfect. I’ve made lots of mistakes. Unlike you, I don’t go around shitting on people’s doorsteps.

          Jesus Fucking Christ, Jerry. Get a life.

          This is your final comment. I gave you a chance to be a decent human being. You chose, instead, to attack a man you don’t even know.

          Peace.

          Bruce

        • Avatar
          Bruce Gerencser

          Jerry,

          I should add, if you have vociferously read my writing (and I doubt you have), you have had ample opportunities to engage me and the readers of this blog in thoughtful, robust conversation. Instead, you choose to full-on attack me with your first and last comment. Why is that? You squandered a golden opportunity to advance your beliefs. Instead you decided to be just another example of an asshole for Jesus.

          Good job.

          Bruce

          • Avatar
            BJW

            Gee Bruce, I’ve been reading your stuff for almost a decade. I certainly think that Jerry is full of shit AND he’s a major asshole. I certainly don’t respect anyone who shares his beliefs, not at all. These Jerry types are certainly a shining example of the complete moral failure of evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      In 1999, Ed Dobson (who worked for Falwell and the Moral Majority) and Cal Thomas wrote a book titled Blinded by Might, chastising Evangelicals for abandoning the gospel for the sake of political power. This book deeply affected me. During this time, I received an anonymously written book in the mail detailing the increasing influence of politics on Evangelical churches and pastors.

      The first Iraq War started in 1990. These two data points are the bookends on my initial journey away from right-wing politics.

      • Avatar
        Benny S

        Cal Thomas! Ahh, yes. It’s interesting to see that his writing impacted you in a (positive?) way and helped influence your escape. In my journey out, Cal Thomas was one of those early 1990s smug asshats that (negatively) prompted my first steps away from Christianity. Whenever he was on TV, he seemed to be the biggest fan of his own repartee, in the same ilk as his contemporary Pat Buchanan. Cal’s Jesus aura shined ever so brightly no matter how pretend-humbly he tried to hide it. /s For me, his op-eds easily morphed into his own little political power fiefdom. I can’t help but wonder why he isn’t leading the charge in these present days against people like Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, Tony Perkins, etc. My guess is that he’s trying to help preserve whatever political power that his religious tribe currently holds by keeping quiet. The irony!

        Hugs.

    • Avatar
      Sage

      Charles.. let me help out. There may be a day I get in trouble also since I am not always the nicest person. But Bruce hasn’t spanked me yet….sadly 😈

      Jerry..wow..you are an amazing person. You can read a person’s blog, and probably their Twitter and Facebook and TikTok, and know all about them. That is incredible since most people who post on the internet reveal only a small part of who they are. Often this image is a very crafted to focus on topics that are presented. The person you see on the internet is seldom the real person. The intent is to present something that others will be interested in viewing. The truth is you cannot know a person until you actually know them.

      You also seem to,think that being a preacher is a job lazy people,take when they do not want to,work. I am sure there are lazy preachers, just like there are lazy people in every career path.I also know many preachers are in the job for money and prestige, and don’t really care about their church or people, as long as the preachers gets money and power, all is good. But I can assure you that being a committed preacher is not a job for a lazy person. The expectations and demands are very high. The stress is constant. The politics is worse than any business you may work in. You deal with people in the best and worst times of their life you see more pain, suffering and death in a year than most people see in a lifetime. So, you are wrong,,,a good preachers who is dedicate to his flock work very hard.

      I have a lot of issues with preachers and the things they do and say, but I would not call them lazy. There are many other things I can call them and take issue with.

      So,Jerry, what you portray as knowledge is nothing more than an egotistical, arrogant cunt claiming he can know a person just from reading a few posts. You make statements that are verifiably false, and can be refuted by simply reading other post., as Bruce points out. And you choose to make these comments on a post where Bruce talks about coming to terms with his transphobia and bigotry. One has to wonder why that would be…hmm.

  2. Avatar
    BJW

    Here we go again. Another ignoramus visits Bruce’s blog, reads very little, and then makes all kinds of assumptions based on what iggy (for ignoramus) thinks, not what is real. These fundies are big on simply validating their prejudices without letting facts get in the way. Bruce, you’re a kind and caring person and you don’t deserve this crap from Jerry.

  3. Avatar
    Matilda

    Here in the anglican Church in Wales, the archbishop has just announced same sex couples can have a church blessing if the vicar agrees to do it, though he/she may opt out. Friend from neighbouring parish to mine was sad yesterday. Her vicar has said he will opt in. The lay reader and a church warden and his family, pillars of the church for many years, have, this week resigned and left. Like most churches here, it can ill-afford to lose such devoted volunteers. My friend, sadly, is a homophobe, but one point I had to agree with, everyone here knows churches of all types are struggling, so this new, trendy idea from the archbishop could well look like a cool attempt to get more members…even LGBTQTIA+ are ”welcome” among us. I said, yes, though with the hidden agenda that then we can get you ”straightened out.” My friend agreed the archbishop is desperately trying to find new ways to ‘revitalise’ the church….but, for different reasons, neither I, nor my friend can see how this -or any other – will make any impact on the many dying churches all around us. The folk who leave, like these present ones, laughably often set up breakaway church groups, in their own homes, which attract, well, a couple of like- minded friends at most. That omniscient, omnimax god of theirs sure finds it hard to keep his flock together, on target and on purpose to convert the world!

    • Avatar
      Sage

      Matilda, I do know there are people in the LGBTQ community that have a great desire to be part of a church that will accept them and allow them to practice their Christian belief. I, however, am not one of those people and have no desire to darken the doors of a church, no matter how accepting. I suspect that is true for many others. We have been abused by the church for far to long, and many have come to realize that we do not believe, and are much happier now that we are free of the burden of Christianity.

      • Avatar
        Matilda

        I agree. As an inclusive pastor said to me, anyone who really wants to find an inclusive church, can usually do so. Many are disgustingly homo- and trans-phobic, but welcoming churches do exist and as most folk own a vehicle, just by travelling a few miles, in his experience, they can find a home. Though it’s beyond the comprehension of you and me why anyone of any colour, creed or minority would want to identify with a x-tian church of any description! My burden certainly lifted too, my chains fell off when I deconverted.

  4. Avatar
    Sage

    Bruce, thanks for sharing your story. I am glad you were able to face your biases and come to accept others without judgement. We all have to face our biases, change them, and grow. Doing so makes the world better for everyone. The majority of Christians will never face their bigotry, because they believe it is godly and therefor ok to hate others.

  5. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    Bruce said: “If there is anything redemptive in my story it is this: true moral and ethical change is possible…”
    When the evangelical bubble begins to leak in light from the world of Reason, Faith falters. I will forever remember the time in my life when I saw that chink of light and said out loud, ‘I don’t believe…’ What a day of rejoicing, of self-acceptance and care! I do regret that I was indoctrinated and held backward views because of my environment but the day I said ‘No!’ I took my life back again.
    Bruce you worked yourself almost to death in the service of religio self-harm. Many of your ailments today may well come from that abdication of true self, that ‘fallen nature’ bullshit you were raised in… On the other hand, you have climbed up and out into an honest and forthright man and you have been able to share your journey among us. Jerry sadly is yet another troll. Trolls don’t apologize, even when they say they are doing so… There is always one more hateful idea from the sweet, gentle Jesus of their belief.

  6. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    Jerry, I hope that you will read more of Bruce’s posts about his life as an IFB pastor, what led him there, what he was like during his pastoral career, and how he started changing his theological and personal beliefs. You might find his story interesting and helpful, as I and many others have.

    Bruce, thank you for sharing your journey. I was once like you, believing all sorts of awful things about LBGTQ people. Befriending many LBGTQ,people in college led me to understand that they’re people who have hopes and dreams and are often treated horribly simply for being themselves. I have so many friends and family who are LGBTQ that it really doesn’t make a lick of difference to me except to make sure I am calling people by their preferred name and pronouns, which is just common courtesy anyway.

  7. Avatar
    Troy

    The Moral Majority (I always called them the “vocal minor-i-tey” in Falwell’s Virginnie accent) may have officially disbanded in 1989, but like the Cheshire Cat’s smile it has never really went away. Look at how Jerry Falwell Jr.’s cuck kink with a pool boy helped get us Donald Trump. George W. Bush famously began pandering to the Religious right when he saw how wildly popular Pat Robertson was in the 1988 Iowa primary while working for his father’s campaign (He actually beat George H.W.Bush). Falwell Sr. just removed the lightning rod and the letterhead, the “Moral Majority” is still with us.

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away!

Bruce Gerencser