Chicago-area native Buffy Adams believes it's OK to be gaythe Bible tells her so.
In September 2012, Adams launched Gay People Go to Heaven, a truth movement that informs gay people that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality.
Adams knew she was gay at an early age.
"The first person I kissed was a little girl in my Sunday school class," she said. "I was always OK with it and I knew God was OK with it."
But when some Christians began telling Adams and her current partner that they were "living in sin," Adams began questioning her faith.
"I went from being an angel to being called a devil," Adams said. "I fell away from the church because I was angry and upset at how I was made to feel."
Adams had experienced that same shame in high school when she tried to take her own life.
"I would have rather than dead than be a gay Christian," she remembers.
Last year Adams began researching translations of biblical verses used to condemn homosexuality. Adams learned that translations of the Bible have been influenced by the homophobic social and historical contexts in which those interpretations were written.
"It is so easy to see how translations have changed over the years," she said. "If you go back to old versions of the Bible, the word 'homosexual' wasn't even used. You don't see the word 'homosexual' being used until the 1950s."
Adams' research also uncovered passages of the Bible that might be gay-affirming. In Matthew 8 and Luke 7, Jesus heals a centurion's dying servant. According to Adams, the Greek word "pais" used to describe the servant was also used to refer to a younger partner in a same-sex relationship.
"Using common sense conclusions based on the Greek words used in the original scrolls, it seems Jesus was interacting with a gay male ... .and accepted [him]," Adams said.
Prior to this research, Adams had been traveling with a Christian non-profit organization to share the Bible with people around the world.
"I realized there's a whole lot of people who haven't heard the truth right here in our own backyard," Adams said.
Adams began speaking about homosexuality and the Bible at churches in her area. On the Gay People Go to Heaven Facebook page, Adams interacts with hundreds of youth and adults every day, spreading the word that "Jesus and the Bible have been used as hateful weapons, and gay people need to know it's just not true."
Adams' message strikes a chord with gay Christians struggling to reconcile their sexual orientation and their faith. After Adams spoke at a church in southern Indiana, a 65-year-old lesbian woman told Adams that her message had changed her world. "Today I start my life with peace," the woman said.
But not everyone is willing to accept Adams' message. The Gay People Go to Heaven Facebook page receives angry comments from anti-gay Christians, and some gay people who grew up in anti-gay Christian communities have a hard time believing that church could ever be a safe space for them.
Rev. Lois Parr of Chicago's Broadway United Methodist Church (BUMC) acknowledges that the visibility of anti-gay Christians scares many LGBT people away from church.
"The place where harm is most often done is in the public sphere with really vocal comments from more conservative Christians," she said.
Adams encourages gay Christians to seek out gay-affirming churches. Every Sunday on her Facebook page, Adams posts a link to GLBTNearMe.org, a database that lists local resources, including churches, for LGBT people. According to Adams, gay-affirming churches are "where the Holy Spirit is living these days."
"We preach that God loves everybody," Rev. Parr said of BUMC, which is listed as an LGBT-friendly church on GLBTNearMe.org . "I hope that our voices can be heard by young people who are struggling hurt by religious people representing God as angry, as hateful."
With Gay People Go to Heaven, Adams is working to change that representation.
"The main reason I'm doing this is because Jesus wants the truth out there," Adams said. "He needs a PR agent right now because he's gotten a bad rap from his followers. We can save some souls and save some lives."
For more information about Gay People Go to Heaven, visit Adams' website at www.gaypeopletoheaven.com or her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/gaypeoplegotoheaven.