Note: I know that I'm not alone in my experience. Below my post are some resource links, stories from friends, and places you can find more info on how you can move forward as the most authentic version of you.
I know some might say there’s no need to add to the noise. That it’s not that big of a deal — that staying silent is some sort of testament to the unapologetic inherency of who I am. I understand those arguments, and I can comprehend their validity. I don’t mean to nullify them in any way. But when I lay my head down at night, something continues to reverberate within me; to pull me deeper into the tides of its freedom, its power, its incredulous vulnerability. The world is supposed to know our stories, and I have believed for quite some time now that its only by them that we can liberate others to live out the sheer and unguarded beauty of their own.
I don’t mean for this to be a big, hairy deal. I hope it doesn’t come across that way. Sometimes, culture and truth simply collide in a way that demands of us a moment that pushes history forward, both personal and corporate, and leaves upon the soil a mark that otherwise would go unseen and unscathed. I believe these moments exist to define a generation, to reshape our culture, to bring truth back out unto the frontlines — where it has quite honestly always belonged. But most importantly, I believe they exist to liberate ourselves. To let our shame slink away like a weighted necklace at the bottom of a deep, deep ocean. And yes, I realize I just pseudo-referenced a James Cameron movie in a relatively momentous blog.
Which I suppose leads me to the seven-word phrase I’ve been aching to spill for quite some time now.
I am gay. And I love God.
I love God so much I could cry. He captured my heart when I was 14 and he has been cavalier in his faithfulness towards me every day since. This isn’t to say I haven’t walked through fire. This isn’t to say I haven’t doubted or feared or walked away with massive emotional bruises due to traumatic life experiences. The past five years have encompassed some of the most difficult years of my life. I don’t say that lightly. I have struggled with suicide, depression, deteriorating health, love, loss and abuse — the list goes on and it’s a wonder to me at times that I haven’t let go already. But I’ve never been able to shake the notion of his existence in my life. Some of my highest points have been in the church. I stumbled upon it at an early age and found my community, my solace there. No matter what I've done or where I’ve gone… it has always, somehow, chased me down. I found so much purpose in playing old, four-chord Tomlin tunes behind a shitty microphone in the ninth grade, and from then on I resolved to never look back. It’s where I learned to write my songs, to share my sorrows, to douse my troubles in high-fructose grape juice. My heart had been sold and taken forever. It wasn’t until recently that I experienced what it is to have a higher power undoubtedly step in and save you at your very lowest low; when you’re at the point of unraveling and are certain that you won’t wake up to breathe in the oxygen of another day. These are the experiences that I hold sacred between myself and him. But those close to me know that without them, I wouldn't be here.
The church called me out and taught me who I was, who I am. I learned about unconditional love, inexhaustible grace and the power of a deity who put everyone and everything else before him. But it was also deeply ingrained within me, not necessarily by anyone’s intention, that who I was at my core... was deeply and unredemptively wrong. That I was somehow sin reincarnate, that the shame I felt could never go unshed. Luckily for me, no one actually told me these things to my face. These were the assumptions I made towards myself due to the vast heavyweight of the culture(s) surrounding me. I know that so many can relate. So many have been abused by ancient passages and red letter words — and for that I want to say I am so very sorry. My apology isn’t enough to heal your wounds. But maybe, in some gently divine way, it’s a start just by knowing that you’ve never been alone. I know that the church hasn’t handled this — hasn’t handled us — well in years past. Hell, the harsh reality is that most still don't. Misunderstanding has led to fear, fear has led to prejudice and prejudice, often times, to straight out abuse. Most of us have been pushed out of steeple-clad buildings and made to feel like the only church we have left is the night club down on Church Street. And that’s a sorry shame. The one place that welcomes all should unreservedly welcome all, and unfortunately, that hasn’t been the experience of most who share the same story as my own.
But I believe in the church. And I believe in good people. God to me is so much bigger than those who have twisted his words to suffocate my identity. I’ve been favored enough to find some of the greatest people I’ve ever known between its religiously institutional walls. I have never believed that to be a coincidence. And by some heaven-appointed miracle, I’ve gotten to know the heart that hasn’t always been mirrored by his people. And I believe with everything in me that it’s so vastly different than what the world we live in has shown.
I don’t have all of the answers. I am no theological guru and I know there are arguments I still cannot win. I won’t waste your time with my own personal interpretations, because I know at the end of the day, that’s all it will remain — an interpretation. My own personal journey. My own way of delving into the holy books and asking the questions that nobody else around me seemed brave enough to ask. But I do know that the Jesus I believe in is okay with my questions. He’s okay with the wrestling in the dark — even advocates it at times (Gen. 32). The book I believe in is full of paradoxes, a beautifully evolving organism — living, active and ever-shifting in an attempt to brush the lips of our current society and norms. I don’t say this to invalidate absolute truth at all. God is God and I believe his word stands. But in times past, there has been no space for breathing room. Our stories have been shut out by the iron doors of intolerance and fear. No one has listened, everyone has assumed. And so many have suffocated by the stubborn inability to have what their heart has longest been aching for — a simple conversation. An humble attempt at nothing more than understanding. Some of us just need a voice. We only need a place where it’s safe to converse and dialogue about the howcome’s and why’s violently beaten down on us by life — the life that none of us played part in choosing. There are some questions we will never have the answers for. There are some experiences in life that demand a cathartic release. The world is crying out for safe spaces and sanctuaries. If there’s anything that I know, it’s that authentic human connection is a healing room for the heart.
I have known since I was seven. There was no question how I felt, and even as knobby knee-ed first grader playing four-square on the blacktop, I felt the walls of society closing in around me. I imagined the stares that would bear into me like fire if anybody I knew found out; and at seven, I swore to myself that I would be buried in my grave before I ever muttered a word. I would rather die an impostor under a blanket of soil than live a liberated life in the light of the sun. For a while, the spiritual asphyxiation seemed worth it. But the road of life diverged in every which way but that of obscurity. I was led to my truth by a torch that I, for so long, had no inclination in seeing. I know that not everybody shares the same come-to-terms experience; we each find ourselves in a uniquely independent way... but this has so truthfully been my own. I remember sitting out in the pews, ripe in my youth as a summertime peach, palms sweating like fountains every time the pastor yelled out “HOMOSEXUALITY!” in the most condemning of tones. I mastered the art of hiding myself. My life was a stage; my truth was a lie. I got so good at it that even I, tormented in my desperation for love, dated many people — unable to tell them why I wasn’t able to give them my whole self, my whole heart. I hurt a lot of them in my quest for self-realization. It’s a wreckage I left for the dogs and I still struggle with the guilt of it all sometimes.
I won't lie — I've been tempted to keep it all inside. But it tears me apart to compartmentalize everything in an effort to keep the constancies of my life intact. So much so that I've begun to feel it in my chest. I've cried myself to sleep for too long, my knuckles have whitened and I just can't clench them any longer. I have never known true love. True love sees everything. I have only known what it is to live a life that thrives in the presence of shame-induced shadows. Forever caught in a toxic, self-deprecating cycle, secrets were my specialty, and I lost myself in it all. I have never known freedom. That breaks my heart if I dwell on it too much.
So here I am. Freshly 27, wide-eyed and terrified, a November baby with a new year on the rise. On the very cusp, craving more than ever to live a life I was created to live. And in all of my arduous grasping that has brought me to the edge of this cliff, my hope is that, by some sort of candid honesty, I can let those like me know that they’ve never been alone. That those that have been burned can find hope in those who still feel the fire of the spirit burning explicitly in their bones — despite the beatings and verbal crucifixes of many mindless words. That church can still exist, even if its weeping upon the shoulder of a friend over a Manhattan in a dirty downtown dive bar. These are the moments I believe he treasures most.
I wish I could explain to you why I’ve chosen to cling harder to him in my search for solidarity rather than spit in his face and walk away. Believe me, there have been plenty of times where I’ve wanted to. Sometimes I’ve believed that this whole thing would be so much easier — to not have anything to answer to or believe in. Anchors only go low so we can go high, and sometimes that’s a responsibility too complicated and layered to bear.
But I no longer believe in hiding. The bells of freedom are just too loud. The truest me is all I have to offer. So here I am. All of me. A walking paradox with no garment left to wear.
For the first time in my life, I choose to be naked and afraid.
Refusing to break any longer. Falling into the abyss, risking all I’ve ever known for something I believe to be bigger. This is worth it to me — regardless of the loss I may suffer. And I know that I may suffer. I am no longer the girl that pleases everyone. That’s a fragment of myself that seems near impossible to release. But it’s worth it to me — to find the people who will love me like he does, see me like he does, embrace me like he does. Even if we can’t seem to agree… love is forever an option. It’s the greatest one, any angle you take. I don’t know why we’d have it any other way.
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of embracing damage. Of letting things break, only that they'd come back together again in a beauty formerly incomparable. Who I am is hardly damage — I believe it was always meant to be this way. But it most certainly calls for breaking. Maybe it's my oriental roots, maybe it's the romantic in me. But it's our fault lines and cracks that turn porcelain to gold.
“[For] oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared,
before I’d even lived one day.”
Thank you for listening to me. And if you continue to love me — thank you. I pray you’d embody the same to others who need it most. That we all, somehow, will.
My friend Christina's story: