I’m going to tell you my story. A story worth telling. About a girl who just wants to belong. Who loves God, but fears Christians. Who keeps going to church longing for community,
But always seems to walk away feeling more lonely and devastated, than refreshed and loved.
But let’s start at the beginning …
THIS IS A STORY about a little girl whose capacity for love, sexuality, attraction, and connection was nonexistent.
This little girl grew up in Wheaton, IL “the town with a church on every corner,” where she was taught that love was meant only for a man and woman in marriage, and anything outside of that simply did not exist. A household where two girls kissing on TV made people leave the room. So… it would take a long time for the words “girlfriend, “wife,” “gay,” and “lesbian” to not feel dirty in her mouth.
This little girl grew up hoping that she’d find a man one day that, because of some miracle, she was attracted to. Because that was the only story of love that she knew. In high school, she would go out on dates with guys simply because people told her to. And she’d pretend to have crushes on boys because that’s what they told her about love: you have a crush on a boy, and then happily ever after happens… right?
One day, that girl was asked, “when you envision your future with someone, what do you see?”… After many moments of pondering, she responded, “I picture the classic mom, dad, two kids, and two dogs… but I’m not in it.”
That was the day she realized that the story she’d been given for love didn’t include her.
THIS IS A STORY about that same girl, now a bit older, who is afraid to be her vulnerable, authentic self around everyone – But mostly Christians.
Because that girl has been told by her Christian “friend,” in passing conversation, “Just so you know, I won’t be at your wedding.”
She sat in this very building on Sunday, listening to the pastor preach the words, “God is love,” connecting God to the overwhelming love he felt on his wedding day… but the church has made it very clear that God’s love doesn’t exist in the kind of wedding she dreams of…
A wedding where she gets to stand with her friends and family wearing a beautiful, long, white dress, staring into the eyes of her best friend, the person she gets to spend the rest of her life with… who also happens to be wearing a beautiful, long, white dress.
That girl sat in church, glancing over at her friend holding hands with her boyfriend in the seat next to her, realizing she’d never get to do that.
She sat at a Christian retreat, heart beating out of her chest, mind racing back and forth, as she tried to decide whether or not to tell them who she loves…
Because even though “God is love,” apparently her love for another girl is the exclusion to that love… and she gets reactions like “oh… I didn’t know you were gay……….”.
THIS IS A STORY about a girl who is consistently punished for the way she loves.
And even when she hides her sexuality, she still walks away hurt by the church. During a casual conversation with a female church leader, an eavesdropping child suggested that they go “on a date” because they like the same movies… to which the immediate reaction was, “NO, that is disgusting and wrong; two girls can’t go on dates.”
When she served as a small group leader for 7th grade girls, there was one night when she finally thought she was safe enough to be authentic with her “friend” and co-leader. She was wrong. That night, she stayed up crying in bed after receiving a text from that “friend,” comparing her to a pedophile, concerned that she would “fall in love” with the 7th graders she was mentoring.
THIS IS A STORY about a girl who tries so desperately to find belonging in the LGBT community, but never seems to find her place.
She is confronted by questions like, “if you’ve never been kissed, how do you even know you like girls?” by fellow lesbians… because they don’t seem to understand the conservative background and values she’s grown up with.
She longs for a space to talk about her faith, but never feels welcome to be authentic about her sexuality and her love for the Lord at the same time… Because they’re always astonished that she’s even a Christian in the first place.
THIS IS A STORY about me. About the way I’ve navigated the messiness of being left in the middle of two identities: gay and Christian. Most of the time, it feels like I don’t fit into either label, and in order to fit into one, I have to give up the other: Either I choose the values of my upbringing and the church and give up on love altogether, or I choose the pursuit of love, and give up on my faith and my family altogether.
BUT my goal through all of this is to rewrite the story. To hold onto my faith, my family, my identity, and, as my favorite lesbian Christian speaker, Julie Rodgers, puts it, “the way I give my love away” all at the same time… Even when it’s hard.
Because I have to remind myself that every single part of my story matters.