My eleventh summer was spent catching snakes and spiders in the neighboring field, or riding my bike to the pond to fish, unfruitfully, for hours. Then I’d pedal to the local library and read book, after book, after book. Too quickly my blissful summer was over, and school started again.
I understood relationships between boys and girls. As 10 year olds we’d thrown around the words girlfriend and boyfriend, and kids snuck kisses on the swings. I even “went out” with Scott Edwards, and had my first French kiss, which made me feel super cool. It felt like a fun game.
But at 11, something changed. I didn’t want to play that game anymore. In fact, life suddenly became very, very serious.
At first I was curious. Why did I feel so strongly about some of my girlfriends? Why did I behave in certain ways around them? And, what was this strange struggle I was feeling when we were in close spaces, or at a sleep over?
I remember when the curiosity ended, and panic and horror took its place. I remember telling myself, “There is something wrong with you. You can’t feel, or think, or BE like this!”
There was no name for what “this” was. I grew up in a small rural Montana town. I didn’t even hear the word “gay” until I was in my 20s.
But, I did know what weirdos were. I knew what freaks were. And I knew what it meant to be rejected, ostracized, and socially executed.
I was weird, I was a freak, I was broken, and no one could ever, ever know.
Yet, the power of this brokenness was so intense that I felt it would surely expose me, or betray me, or burn me to the ground in a smoldering heap of rejection and shame. Disconnecting from my soul, at eleven, wasn’t a conscious decision. It was a survival reflex.
But, three decades later, as a mature, educated, mother of four beautiful children I was planning my suicide.
The title of this coming out article is a bit sensational, as I know it will engender some strong feelings for those on either end of the “gay issue” spectrum. But, I chose to use it because it speaks to some of the deepest parts of my experience of being gay.
I know there will be all sorts of humans reading this post—happy practicing Christians, to hurting or doubting Christians, to those who have left Christianity altogether, and those who have never identified with the faith.
Although, my words are primarily oriented to those who Identify as LGBT Christians, and those who are trying to love them, I welcome all of you, and hope you’ll find this journey worth your time.
I’ve used the term Christian rather than my specific religious affiliation because I want to keep my message as clear as possible.
My message is this: Being gay, or having someone in your life that is gay is one of the greatest gifts you could ever have as a Christian.
However, I’m painfully aware that most Christians, LGBT and straight, experience the exact opposite. Statistics bear this out. A division of the CDC recently completed the first nationwide study asking high school students about their sexuality. About 8 percent of youth identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual (the survey didn’t allow students to choose a transgender option). Over 40 percent of these students admitted to having seriously considered suicide, with 29 percent having made attempts in the year before they took the survey.
“The Family Acceptance Project® is a research, intervention, education and policy initiative that works to prevent health and mental health risks for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) children and youth, including suicide, homelessness and HIV – in the context of their families, cultures and faith communities. [They] use a research-based, culturally grounded approach to help ethnically, socially and religiously diverse families to support their LGBT children.” The Family Acceptance Project makes the connection between how families respond to their LGBT youth, and that youth’s mental and emotional well-being.
I know well the mental and emotional struggle of being a gay Christian, and I’ve witnessed over, and over again the struggle that families have in how to love an LGBT family member, or even if they should.
My experience is not every gay Christian’s experience, but I’m certain I’m not alone.
I hope sharing my experience of what it’s been like for me to be gay, and the gifts I’ve discovered might help you better understand and feel more gratitude for the gay people you are trying to love, or love yourself a little more.
Gift #1: It Gets the Light In
In the song, “Anthem,” Lenard Cohen sings, “Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
God means to get light into you, and into your relationships. And getting the light in always requires a cracking open. Cracking open isn’t a punishment, it’s a gift.
Being gay, or loving someone who is cracks you wide open, but because of the discomfort we often resist the gift that will expand our souls.
I’d successfully managed the conflict between my sexuality and my faith for over thirty years by being unconscious in my life, by being disconnected from my soul, and by pretending to be something different than I was. God had so much more to offer me, and He does for you too. But, first, He has to get the light in.
I had my last baby when I was 40, and I fell headlong into a deep, dark postpartum depression.
My therapist spoke prophetic words when she said, “Postpartum depression breaks women open in ways nothing else can.” It was true. I broke open, as if God himself had cracked me like an egg. What came spilling out were the words, “I. Am. Gay.”
I’d never spoken those words before. I felt I knew what God thought about gays, and I wasn’t going to be that.
I believed that if I could just be good enough, it would make up for this terrible, broken part of myself. If I could be righteous enough, I would be straight.
I was good. I prayed for an hour every morning. I read my scriptures twice a day. I fasted every week. I kept the Sabbath day holy. I Worked hard at my assignments in the church. I attended the temple every week. I Paid my tithes and offerings. I volunteered anywhere I could. And, I always gave away my spare change, lunch, or even my coat to the person who needed it. Good didn’t take the gay away.
So, control became my watchword. Lovely, intoxicating control. If being good enough wouldn’t make me a straight woman, then control would at least help me pretend to be.
“One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it . . . You will never fulfill your destiny until you let go of the illusion of control.”
-Master Oogway, Kung Fu Panda
For all that time, it had never occurred to me to ask God what he thought about me being gay. But, He was patient. He waited until the crack in my soul let in enough light, and my tears enough water that the seed He’d planted from the beginning could grow. And, then I asked.
“What do you think about having a gay daughter?” I said.
“Yes. I made you that way. And, it’s good.”
The light came pouring in. But, it’s not the light that is the highest value. It’s the expansion that happens when a soul is exposed to the light.
We are all asleep to one degree or another, and God means us to wake up, and open the most precious gift he’s given us—our own lives.
I won’t pretend that the cracking open that happens around being gay or loving someone who is isn’t difficult, and sometimes even brutal. The pain comes in whatever ways it comes, but it will always tempt us to reject, abandon, judge, or blame, and turn away from the light that is trying to enter. But when we see our gay loved one, or our own homosexuality as an invitation to a deeper, more abundant life, we lean into the cracking open of our hearts, and the seed of our souls is exposed to what it needs to grow.
Gift #2: The Wisdom of No Escape
“You can’t get away from suffering. That’s the good news. For at the core of your most painful experiences, perhaps more than anywhere else, you will find the seeds of your awakening.”
“If Christ came today to heal you, would you let him?” I choked on the steam from my pot of spaghetti noodles. I’d begged for that very thing for three decades. But, finally, here in my kitchen, a mother of four children, what would the answer be?
And, just that quickly my knees buckled, I gasped for air, and I knew that I could no longer live the way I had been living for the last thirty years. Although I was married to a kind and loving man, I could not bear to live in a heterosexual relationship for one more moment.
And . . .
I could not break up my family.
The intractable conflict was tearing me in two. The physical and emotional pain was immediate and mindbending, and it felt like the only way out was death. I was falling, and clawing at the walls trying to find something to hold onto. I couldn’t eat, or sleep. I could barely feed, and dress my children, and I certainly couldn’t work or function in any reasonable way. The only comfort I felt was the thought of ending my life.
I read Pema Chodron when I’m hurting the most. Here is what she spoke to me during that time of dire desperation.
“I remember very clearly, at a time of enormous stress in my life, reading Alice in Wonderland. Alice became a heroine for me because she fell into this hole and she just free-fell. She didn’t grab for the edges, she wasn’t terrified, trying to stop her fall; she just fell and she looked at things as she went down. Then, when she landed, she was in a new place. She didn’t take refuge in anything. I used to aspire to be like that because I saw myself getting near the hole and just screaming, holding back, not wanting to go anywhere where there was no hand to hold.”
-Pema Chodron, “The Wisdom of No Escape”
It was true, there was no escape from this experience, there was only walking through. With that vision of settling down into my experience, of not running, or trying to medicate it away, I might be able to make it to the other side, and find myself in that new place of awakening.
I stayed in the pain, I breathed through it, I meditated, I gathered around me a loving circle of support, and I rode the waves of suicide for over a year.
During that time I listened to videos of other gay people saying, “It gets better. It gets better. It gets better.” I hated and cursed all of them. Though I couldn’t believe it would ever be better, I clung to my deeper belief that life would find a way, my soul would come alive.
Being gay offers us the gift of no escape. There is no choice in the matter. I am. They are. The invitation to walk through what is, is the territory in which the seeds of the soul are found.
It has been over two years now, and I tell you, having walked in the shadow of the valley of death, it does get better, it does get better, it does get better.
Why Am I Coming Out?
Until today, I’ve been a closeted lesbian. However, my aunt has known I’m gay for a long time. I never told her and she never asked. She just knew. When I told her I was thinking about coming out publicly, I expected her typical open, affirming, supportive response.
“Don’t do that! Why do gay people always feel like they NEED to tell people they are gay? Your sexuality is private. Nobody wants to know. Seriously, don’t do it.”
I have deep compassion for this position in the Christian community, given our current interpretation of what it means to be gay. Being gay is almost always defined in context of sexual attractions. We hear others, both gay and straight, explaining how sexuality is such a small part of our whole self. There is so much more to us as human beings, and children of God.
Here is an example of that thought from someone against the idea of coming out.
“And that’s just a best-case scenario for your side (pity that you need to insert ‘sides’ into Zion) that have driven so many people away from what could have helped them, but here you are nevertheless, insisting on a unique, exclusive ‘core identity’ based on… what? On SEXUAL ATTRACTION. You find the main point of your lives to be sexual attraction. Consider how extreme that is, how diminishing to every other element of human experience. Imagine removing all parts of your life experience unconnected with such attraction — all other actions and thoughts and experiences and relationships — and then living out that empty husk of a life. Would it not be hellish and zombielike?”
During my dark time, I dove deep into my own experience. Why was my suffering so extreme? Why did I want to kill myself, when I had so many reasons to live? If my sexuality was such a small part of me, why was I literally dying?
I’ve been part of the group of older single women hoping for a husband, yet not finding a mate. Although I won’t deny they exist, I didn’t know of, nor have I heard of a single woman killing herself over that dilemma. But, gay people seem to be killing themselves hand over fist in comparison. What is the difference?
I can only share the result of my own introspection.
In my own faith tradition, sexuality plays a key role in the salvation of human kind—the refining power of marriage between a man and woman, procreation, and the eternal binding together of God’s children as families. And, ultimately, parents becoming like Gods themselves to continue the process of creation, as from the beginning. Sexuality plays no minor, nor muted role here. It is fundamental to the whole experience, and progress of the human soul.
Because of its fundamental part of the fabric of our being, it informs our whole experience of the world, and our own selves. It touches everything. Its influence and impact can only truly be understood when it is denied existence. This is different than choosing not to have sex, or not being able to have sexual relations because of disease or disability. I’m talking about something deeper than sex. I’m talking about the make-up of the self.
Growing up as a gay woman during the 80’s and 90’s, I was counseled to ignore, stuff away, hide, and fear who I was. The only time I felt like a worthy human being was when I was absolutely sterile in thought and feeling. However, the cost for worthiness was high. It required that my very essence, and the juiciness of my life be squeezed dry. I couldn’t taste flavors, or smell fragrance, or feel my body, or hear sound, or see colors in full life because that always lead to my feeling gay—not the gay that we label as attraction, but something fundamentally deeper, something at the level of the fabric of self. I couldn’t allow myself to connect to my very existence, or I no longer felt worthy. I couldn’t crush it out of being, I could only disconnect.
That is the life experience of most gay Christians, a life completely disconnected from the very core of their humanity, their life force. The only analogy I can offer a straight person is how it feels when someone covers your nose and mouth, and won’t let go. You suffocate and strangle.
When the soul is strangled, at the level of it’s very fabric, the result are degrees of death. No wonder gay people often feel such acute pain at best, and kill themselves at worst.
I’m not coming out because I need you to know my particular preferences in matters of the heart, nor do I do so seeking attention.
I’m coming out because I want to come alive. I’m coming out because I want to plant my stake on the earth, fill my lungs with air, and say, “I belong here.” I’m coming out, because God made me exactly as I am, and has judged it good.
Coming out is my way of expressing my love and appreciation to Him, as Mary Oliver so aptly describes, for this one, wild and precious life.
For me, coming out is coming home—coming home to God, and coming home to my own soul.
May God grant you mercy, and grace as you walk the path of your own awakening, and may you meet kindness along your way.
There are so many questions left, right? Let me try to address just a few here.
You may be wondering if coming out changes anything in my marriage or activity in my faith. It does. It has strengthened my marriage to my husband, Doug, and strengthened my connections to the other human beings in my life, and to the Gospel of Christ.
Doug and I are committed to each other, our marriage, and our family. I remain active in my faith community.
Coming out allows my husband and I to be an openly safe space for others who may be suffering silently.
You may be wondering if my coming out as a gay Christian in a mixed orientation marriage (MOM) is a statement of my belief that gay people should marry someone of the opposite sex. I absolutely do not. Heterosexual marriage is not a cure, and if considered, should be accompanied by extensive support, communication, and great care.
It’s possible that my coming out changes your feelings about our friendship. I honor where you’re at right now, and will not take your need to change our relationship as a statement of my own value, only your need for safety, and I want you to feel safe. I value our relationship and hope that eventually we can come back together in friendship.
If you have any other question, I welcome you to contact me in the comments below, or on face book.
 There is a lot of life that happened before this time, but those are stories for another time.