A Testimony 23.01.2012
I always thought that in order for people to love me, I needed to be perfect. This wasn’t necessarily an overt thought, but it has in many ways hijacked my life regardless. I have always tried to be everything that everyone expects of me. The place I’ve tried the hardest to exceed expectations is within the Church. I went to every youth group activity and spent a week at a Protestant camp every summer. In high school, it was not uncommon for me to physically be at church 3-5 nights a week. I played guitar in the youth worship band, even led for a few years. I went on amazing mission trips to Oakland, Costa Rica, New Orleans, Mississippi, and Albania. When I graduated from high school, I continued going to mid-week youth events as a leader all through my college years. I served on a nominating committee responsible for hiring an Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry. I worked a summer as a mid-high intern. My life was almost exclusively school and church.
As I look back now, I wonder how much of that was for other people and their expectations of me rather than my own free will to dedicate my time. Don’t get me wrong, I loved and still love most of the activities I take part in at church. I truly love worship and singing praises to God—stressful as the background has been at times. I love all of the amazing youth I get to work with and have gotten to know over the years. Some of those kids I have been a part of their weekly lives and mentored from 4th or 5th grade into their high school years. That is such an amazing and life-touching experience that I am unfathomably grateful to have been a part of. I have gotten to know some of the most influential people in my life to date through my time and work at the church. These people mean more to me than they will ever know.
Even with all of this involvement within the Body of Christ under my belt, I always felt different, like I didn’t quite belong where I was expected to fit. I felt isolated, separate from my peers--Church going and not alike. It seemed to me almost like I had some piece of me that was biding its time in the recesses of my being. I had little clue or words to describe what this mysterious part of me was, but one thing I knew for sure, I didn’t want anyone else to know about it either. I pulled away instead, taking any difference with me. Little did I know that these feelings would only intensify, especially once I solved this elusive mystery.
I more or less figured it out when I was 17; a senior in high school, an overwhelming time bomb of hormones, anxiety and life. It hit me like a swift, heavy punch to the gut one day, though I wouldn’t even admit it to myself in my journal for months. Regardless, I knew I was gay.
This discovery scared the shit out of me. Here I was, quite arguably the epitome of a “Jesus Freak”—the Sunday school attending, worship leading, committee sitting, mission going, goody-two-shoes of a student and I was gay. What did I do? Exactly what most gay Christians do. I hated myself.
I lived in denial for almost a year. Told myself it was fleeting, it would go away, that my previous and barely existent crushes on boys would return. I prayed for all these things and more. Every day. All I wanted was to be normal.
When self-hatred and prayer and any other remedy I could attempt failed me, I stopped hating myself a tiny bit and instead began to hate who I thought was playing the sickest joke of all and had made me this way--God. Why would He create a person to have feelings that they’re told from a very young age are inherently sinful? Thoughts and desires the man standing behind the pulpit delivering the message of the Lord condemned time and time again to the ears in his audience, young and old. For a supposedly "loving" Creator, He was doing a bang-up job. With ideology such as this, I asked myself an endless stream of questions mostly centering on the thoughts: What good are you? Why are you even alive? And my personal favorite, how could God ever love a creature such as you?
By the time I was halfway through college, I knew that I was not going to change. I had always been gay. I was always going to be gay. Nothing short of complete denial was going to change that. That became the first good milestone to my journey—accepting myself as I was. Being on good terms with myself again, after so long, freed me up to reconcile myself to someone much more important. Yep, the God that created me and according to so many conservative Bible-thumpers, wants me to burn in Hell for eternity just the same.
I refused to believe it. I could put no stock in a God that knitted me in my mother's womb only to send me to a place of never-ending torment for something in which I feel I have no say. So I began devouring books, websites, opinions, facts, my bible (I actually utilized my concordance which prior I thought just made my bible look bigger and more important). I read everything. Both sides of a cataclysmic argument. I not only wanted to know what I was now standing for, but also for what I had previously stood against. In my earlier years I had squirmed at the thought of gay people and would never have batted so much as a gloss-free eyelash at homophobic comments.
This post is not the time or place to debate the (few) biblical passages that speak on the subject. Instead, I want to focus on another aspect: why now? I have pretty successfully (I think) hidden in the closet for five-years now. And that is exactly why. I have been hiding in fear from the world. I’ve listened to homophobic slurs, jokes, comments for too long. Some of the people I love most in this world have said some of the nastiest things about me--and they don’t even know it. I once had a student tell me in the midst of a light-hearted conversation over coffee that if I ever “turned lesbian” she would “punch me in the face”. A girl I had known and mentored on Sundays from the time she was in third or fourth grade was saying this directly to me and my heart has never been more crushed.
In truth, I’m exhausted. I’m tired of pretending it isn’t a problem. The problem not being that I am gay, but that hiding it makes me safer. I’ve lived in the fear of rejection for so long and I don’t want to fight anymore. I’m done making excuses. If this is going to make people uncomfortable and possibly even get me ejected from their lives, so be it. I will pray for them, but I don’t need to subject myself to them. I need to take a stand for me.
At youth group one Sunday evening in high school, a leader ended the weekly talk with words I have never forgotten, but have also not put into the practice they deserve. “What is fear doing but getting in the way of what God wants for me?” I need to take a stand for God.
I firmly believe I am exactly who He created me to be—from the color of my eyes, to which hand I write with, to my sexuality, to my small stature, to what I like and dislike, to every tiny fiber of my being. I am His creation and I am proud.
There are very few people in this world who know this about me. If you are reading this you may now count yourself among them, but you won’t be such a small number for long. I’m not going to make some big spectacle of it or some trivial update on facebook. What I am going to do is start having conversations, beginning with my parents. I love them so much and I know they’ll love me and accept me for who I am, but that is still a small shelter for dropping such a bomb. Perhaps I'm being dramatic, fearing the worst. Where I'm sure it will come in handy, however, is for when word spreads at Church. I have an unshakable premonition that I will be asked to leave worship and more importantly my youth leadership role. It makes me sick to think of having to do that, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.
As I said, I am ready for conversation. It’s been a long journey to get here and I am more than ready to start a new chapter. God has blessed me immensely during this time. Many of these blessings I have only realized in retrospect, but I know He has been with me every step of the way and will continue to bless and love me up until the day none of this will matter anymore because we will be with Him.
There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.