When Julie Kerr was about 12 or 13, she decided that, like many other Christians, she would try to wait until she was married to have sex. That part wasn’t especially surprising. She grew up in a small town in Virginia with a Baptist minister for a father.
It was also around that time that she discovered something about herself that was less conventional in her circle: She liked women.
To her, the two are not incompatible. She never took a formal purity pledge, but, “it's mainly through [my faith] that I felt a calling to wait until marriage, or waiting until I meet the love of my life. For me, the love of my life is definitely going to be a woman.”
Demographically, Kerr is unusual in at least two respects. A prominent 2006 study found that 95 percent of Americans did not wait for marriage to have sex. “Premarital sex is nearly universal among Americans,” that study’s title proclaimed decisively, “and has been for decades.” And gay people are much less likely to identify as Christian than straight people are, which means there are precious few gay “waiters,” as they are sometimes called. (“I know of like two, three, four, … five?” Kerr said, trailing off.)
Still, their ranks may grow. As religious institutions become more accepting of homosexuality, Kerr might find more (though perhaps not many more) kindred spirits. The 48 percent of LGBT Americans who identified as Christian in 2014 is up slightly from the 42 percent who did so in 2013—even as religious affiliation declined among all Americans in the same timeframe.