I was an early adapter netizen so I ran into Westboro Baptist Church (the God Hates Fags people) in the late 90’s. I was in late high school, attending a Baptist church. I was still parroting the beliefs of my family and their institutions but cracks were forming.
There was one animated GIF that came from Westboro that did more damage to inculcated LGBT prejudices and my evangelical faith than anything else. It was a rather poorly done GIF of Matthew Shepard’s head bouncing around in the flames of hell. The first thing I felt was pure horror and disgust, but the first thing I thought was, “wait a minute, I believe this!“. Westboro Baptist wasn’t presenting anything that the average Evangelical Christian didn’t believe. In fact, in some ways taking things to the extreme the way they did was more honest. Seeing one’s beliefs taken to their most grotesque extreme gives one the ability to examine them more thoroughly. Westboro wanted me to hate Matthew Shepard. Instead I felt for him.
It took me a long time to become an ally. I did lose my Christian faith though for some reason the fear of hell and exclusion stuck. For a long time I was just indifferent but was still angry at the way most Christians excluded LGBT people from church fellowship. The church meant a lot to me, more than the actual faith, and I had trouble fitting in at churches because of a moderate physical disability and mental problems. Seeing the church exclude others over something they had no control over saddened me.
It wasn’t until 2012 that I found a place where I could signal whether or not I was an ally. It was signing the OneWheaton petition (a petition where Wheaton alumni come out as LGBT or LGBT allies). Considering I’m not religious signing this petition didn’t incur much of a cost to me, I know others it costs a lot more to and I sign the petition in support of them.