There isn’t any really easy or clever way to begin coming out as a gay person. Something happens inside of a person at some point (hopefully….if God is moving him or her forward in life) where living as 2 different people doesn’t work anymore. The secret life of a gay person becomes harder and harder to maintain. The dual desires inside, the private thoughts and struggles and joys just can’t stay in anymore. Hiding isn’t fun, but as a gay person growing up in a Christian environment there isn’t any choice but to hide. Really, let’s be realistic….one could always argue that I had a choice to tell somebody at 12 years of age when I was majorly crushing on a girl on my basketball team (ok, totally obsessed with her). One could argue that I could have told somebody that if I saw a guy and girl walking down the street it was the girl I was checking out. One could argue I could have told somebody that when I stumbled across a lesbian movie on HBO it clicked in me in a way I knew it wouldn’t for all the other women in my life. One could argue that I could have told somebody when I started falling in love with a girl and I knew it. I had someone tell me once that they believed I would tell them if I was struggling with same sex-attraction. But let’s get serious, when you grow up knowing that being gay is one of the worst possible things you could be, then you don’t even think to tell people things like that. You cringe inside, close your eyes, look the other way, justify that you’re just admiring how skinny said gorgeous girl is, and most of all repeat over and over to yourself, “I’m not gay, I’m not gay, I’m not gay.” When you are unhappy in every relationship with a guy you’ve ever been in, you tell yourself that you just think too much, that it’s not the right guy, that you just need to be a better person…closer to God…read lots of relationship books so that you can understand men and be a great girlfriend and eventual wife…stop stressing so much and just enjoy yourself in a “normal” relationship. And then at some point, you get tired, it gets to be too much. Gay or not, living with a huge secret, living as two different people inside, drains you in ways the human heart can’t go through and stay whole and healthy.
So there was a season of denial that was easy. It was easy to repeat my mantra over and over whenever those feelings came up, “I’m not gay, I’m not gay, I’m not gay.” I figured if I never paid too much attention to that part of me, repeated my mantra if that part of me scared me too much, and never thought about or acted on being gay, then I would be fine. I dated guys….any time a guy excited me it was because it felt so amazing to be wanted, to have someone pay attention to me. I told my parents I didn’t even want to date my first boyfriend, but when he told me how much he liked me, I changed my mind, and dated him for a year. Every time I ever felt attracted to a guy was because I had some fantasy in my mind about said guy that hoped he would be some sort of protection from the shit in my life and a way to feel beautiful, wanted, and validated. When I hit my 20’s things started to get harder. Every one was getting married. My desire to get married, to even be with a guy was getting less and less. At 23 I met a girl who would change my life forever in more ways then I ever imagined. I knew I was falling for her when she would text me and my stomach would do flip-flops and my breath would catch in my lungs a little. She would text me before 5am in the morning when I was on my way to work, and I knew she was thinking about me. Not thinking about me like any of our other friends, but really thinking about me. I started repeating my mantra more….”I’m not gay, I’m not gay, I’m not gay.” When she asked me (innocently as I needed a place to live) to move in to her second bedroom, I was overjoyed. I was already at her place constantly. We were the best friends that two friends can possibly be. We fit perfectly. Being together was as natural as breathing. I knew in my heart that I would always be with her….that she was my forever. Gay or not, I knew it would be me and her till we die. I was relieved to be able to say that I would be living my life as a single girl with my best friend, and our companionship and compatibility would go on forever. I would never have to worry about the hardship of dating another guy or (the worse thing in my mind) marrying one. It was a great set-up because she didn’t want to date or marry any guy either. She wanted to do life forever with me as much as I did with her. And there we were. People would ask me about our relationship, and I would say, “we’re just 2 single people who have decided to do life together forever.” Our lesbian friends laugh at us now. “How could you not have known,” they ask. The truth is the more I did life with her, the more I did know, but I believed if I never told anyone and never acted on it then it wouldn’t be true about me. I believed if I kept it all in then I wouldn’t be gay. God had different plans.
Yes, I’ve been gay for a long time. Yes, denying it didn’t make it not true. Yes, I spent years lying next to her fighting my sexuality all by myself. I never even told her how I felt. I got angry when people would suggest it or ask us if we were gay. I got angry because I was terrified she would get afraid of what everyone thought of us and leave me. I became very good at explaining our relationship in all the right terms so as to answer all the questions, quell the gossip, and calm the fears….my own fears just as much as everyone else’s. When we moved to Denver it was a relief because we didn’t have to deal with small town people and politics. We didn’t have to worry about being seen together anymore, or anyone asking us if we were gay, or people gossiping about us. We could form relationships starting over. Most of our friends in the town we were in in Georgia had already turned their backs on us because we “acted too gay”. We had already suffered so much judgment and rejection and gossip. We were so ready to start over. But being gay didn’t stay in GA where I left a bunch of judgmental people and terrible memories. (minus my school friends, they didn’t seem to care how “gay” she and I appeared…thanks guys)
In fact, the reality that I am gay was becoming more and more evident to me. I kept trying to keep the lid on the “box” inside myself where I kept my secret, but one day God ripped the lid off and threw it away. (I still can’t find it…) It was like all those years of hiding, all my ability to keep it in, was gone. I couldn’t hide anymore. It wasn’t even possible. One of my very best friends, Zack, asked me a question that changed my life and made everything pretty clear to me. He said…if you didn’t have her, would you want to be with another woman? I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would, and I finally acknowledged to myself that I am gay. And I finally acknowledged it to God. Then I began the journey of trying to figure out how I was going to stay alive.
You have to understand that the prospect of finally acknowledging to yourself that you’re gay is more difficult than you can ever imagine unless you’ve been through it. As a straight person reading this, you may think that the world is becoming more progressively open to gay people, but if that is your belief then you watch too many movies and tv show comedies and dramas and you spend way too little time realizing what it’s really like in the world for a gay person….especially a gay Christian. First I had to determine what being gay as a Christian meant to me before I could tell ANYONE I was gay. God is everything to me. I couldn’t turn my back on him just to be in the kind of relationship that straight people take for granted. God had already been planting seeds of love in me though. About a year before I acknowledged my sexual orientation to myself, I met a man named Andrew Marin and read his book called “love is an orientation”. (I would suggest reading it…no, it’s not “pro-gay”…it’s really a book about love and loving.) It made such a huge impact on me. I realized that to be a child of God is to be loved by God, that to be a child of God means that He is continually working in you to do His will and creating you into the masterpiece He has planned you to be since before you were born. This was a great comfort to me. I knew that my being gay wasn’t new to Him, and that he wasn’t shocked or disappointed that I was finally acknowledging it. I realized that it was Him pushing me to be authentically me. That it was Him asking me to be honest with Him, myself, and others….truly honest….for the first time in the 14 years I had been hiding the gay in me. So I started doing a lot of research. I started reading what people have to say about being gay and being a Christian. I told Zack what was going on (he was very accepting no matter what), I told another friend what I was dealing with (she told me I had to make a decision whether to glorify God with my life or not). And this is where I was…does God accept me? Or will I cease to glorify Him if I live as an openly gay person.
I secretly researched these things when she wasn’t around. I knew I had to fight the battle on my own….I had to decide what the direction of my life was for myself…I had to come to a conclusion about my sexuality and my relationship with God on my own. I had many heart-wrenching conversations with God. I prayed, I read, I talked, I emailed people that I didn’t even know who have done research of their own and asked for their point of view. One of these emails changed my life forever. I happened on a CNN article about a pastor in Denver (of all places) who is a straight evangelical and leading a church that believes that people can be gay and Christian. I emailed him immediately. Pastor Mark (at Highlands church in Denver) emailed me back the very same day. His email was full of understanding and love. We emailed some and he connected me with other people at the church who helped me see God working in a way I had felt and seen for a long time, but had never actually seen it lived out. I emailed another gay ministry asking for a mentor, and I was connected randomly (but we all know it was God) to the co-pastor of Highlands church, Jenny, whose story changed my life as well. I knew what God was doing, and I knew it was time to come out to the person I was hopelessly in love with.
We hadn’t ever done anything sexual, anything “gay”. I knew she was gay too, but I didn’t know where she was in her process of acknowledging it. So, I faced the task of coming out to her knowing fully that she might tell me that we couldn’t live together anymore and that she needed space from me. It was terrifying. I remember sitting in the bathroom crying my eyes out, knowing I had to tell her, knowing I couldn’t go back anymore, knowing the lid to my secret box was gone, knowing I could lose the person I loved more than anything. I thought about it being better to die then to live without her. I thought about God having a plan for my life regardless of her response. We were supposed to be getting ready to go to a bible study together. I came out of the bathroom and walked through the living room with purpose…she was coming out of the kitchen, ready to go. I told her I needed us to stay home tonight because I had to talk to her. It took a long time, and I cried a lot. But I knew there wasn’t any going back. I knew who I was. I knew who I wanted to be. I knew that God loved me and that His blessing was on me even as a gay person. I knew it was time to start being the me that I am. And I started with the person that needed to know the most.
Some of you already know that my courage gave her courage to face herself too….to start her own journey of reconciling being gay with her relationship with God. Some of you know that that led to us acknowledging (over time) our mutual love and feelings for each other, and committing (again) to do life together forever this time as a couple. A couple who believes in the ridiculous love of God, and His unconditional grace, purpose, and acceptance for us as gay, as people, as gay people, as children of God. For those of you who don’t know, this is my heart in text for you to read. God is everything to me, I’m in love with a beautiful person, I’m working on living as the whole person I am, I am changing and growing and becoming more and more of who God wants me to be, things are hard and things are amazing, and I’m gay.