Finding Queer Family Within and Without Faith

Queer podcasters unpack evangelicalism in How Gay Thou Art

For many kids growing up in the early 2000s, Britney Spears and Disney Channel were childhood staples. That is, unless you grew up as an Evangelical Christian like Jey Austen and Clint Keller.

Jey Austen (l) and Clint Keller (r) (Courtesy of How Gay Thou Art)

It took divorce on Keller’s end and joining a cult on Austen’s, but both eventually left the church in adulthood and came to terms with their queer identities.

The duo started their podcast, How Gay Thou Art, last October to explain core Evangelical beliefs to queer people in a comedic manner. Austen says in light of transphobic attacks sweeping the nation, they hoped to help queer people understand the mindsets of people targeting them. “We wanted to do more than just say ‘this white Christian nationalism is bad,’” Keller says. “[We wanted to] point out how specific but accepted beliefs and practices that have been perpetuated for decades are continuing to cause real harm.”

The idea for the podcast formulated after one of Austen’s friends assumed Christianity started and ended with church on Sunday. Austen, who grew up thinking evolution wasn’t real, had a vastly different experience. They roped in Keller, a friend they met at film school, and started researching last January. “It is kind of traumatic, so having the power to go back and laugh at it is huge for me,” Austen says.

While some listeners have no connection with the church, Keller says meeting people through the podcast who had similar experiences felt “really validating.”

Doing a deep dive into some of the darker Evangelical beliefs ironically makes Keller optimistic. “A lot of it felt like a bummer,” Keller says, “It was tough to get through, but as we’ve gone on, it’s built more hope for the future for me because … a lot of the content we parse apart is just so goddamn stupid.”

Through poring over countless books and movies, the duo realized the connections between different elements of their former religion. Austen says so-called homophobic “Christian beliefs” can be attributed to the thoughts of a few people and a few specific interpretations of the Bible. “Conservative evangelical Christianity targets the queer community so much that it makes you think that you can’t be part of this religion if you are queer,” Austen says. “It’s just bigotry.”

Although the pair weave in personal anecdotes in a lighthearted way, Austen and Keller also want to provide resources for the queer community. Austen says they hope to create more mini-episodes in the future featuring experts and offering advice, such as the episode that talked about chosen family. Keller says they plan to set up a resource page on their website as well. “We hope that we can just provide some sort of comfort to people,” Keller says. “Other people have been through this shit and they’re not that weird.”

Keller says the process of shedding his beliefs and overcoming internalized homophobic felt “very freeing.” “Especially for people who grew up like we did, it can take a long time to come around,” Keller says.

Austen came out while deconstructing their faith. The process, while slow, felt like “putting on a pair of shoes that fit for the first time,” Austen says. They said severing ties with unsupportive family took effort, but having truly supportive people in their corner is “wildly different than just people who tolerate you.”

While Keller fled the south and currently resides in Chicago, Austen settled in Austin. They said the queer community shows up here in the city. “I like standing up from my home state,” Austen says. “I feel like you have to clean up your home before you can move somewhere else.”

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