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SAN DIEGO -- Celebrating LGBT Pride takes on many forms for members of the LGBT community. For many, it means an annual parade and festival. For one local man and member of Missiongathering Christian Church, celebrating his sexual orientation is a weekly remembrance of a lost friend and sharing hope for those on the journey of coming out.
When Joshua Romero was in college at a conservative, Christian university, he lost a friend to suicide.
“He was a close friend of mine, one of my hall mates,” Romero said. “One year, I was his resident assistant and we lived two doors down from each other. And I had no idea what he was struggling with.”
Among the things Romero’s friend struggled with while attending the private university, which has strict anti-gay policies, was the question of his sexual orientation.
“When I found out that his sexual orientation was something that he struggled with, it frustrated me,” Romero said. “We were essentially in the same environment, same situation, neighbors. Neither one of us knew the other was struggling with the same questions about our faith and sexual orientation. But for all of the similarities, our lives took two very different paths.”
In the years following his graduation, Romero moved to Ohio for graduate school. While there, Romero reconciled his own questions and challenges about his faith and sexual orientation, emerging as a proud gay Christian and anxious to get back to San Diego.
Since returning to San Diego in 2008, the reality of the loss of Romero’s friend to suicide led Romero to think of ways he could help other Christians questioning their sexual orientation.
In May 2010 he started Solace, a peer support group for Christians in the coming out process or who are questioning their sexual orientation.
“The whole idea behind Solace is to provide a safe space to talk so that Christians don’t feel alone while they’re dealing with questions about their faith and sexual orientation,” Romero said. “I think that my friend felt alone. And in that aloneness he made a decision to take his own life. That shouldn’t happen. No one should feel that alone.”
Solace participants are encouraged to share where they are in their coming out process and any questions they have about faith and sexual orientation. It gives them a chance to talk about the coming out process and the issues they are struggling to understand, an opportunity they might not otherwise have in their churches or faith communities. Most importantly, the peer support found at Solace reminds participants that they aren’t alone in the coming out process.
“Whenever Solace meets, I look around the room and see hope in people’s eyes,” Romero said. “Burying my friend wasn’t easy. But his hurt has become hope for so many others. And I can’t help but celebrate that his life brought such great hope to people who need it most.”
Solace meets every Sunday at 7 pm at Missiongathering Christian Church in North Park, 3090 Polk Ave. at Illinois Street, San Diego, CA 92104.