What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s post is by Kate.
I was raised in a conservative, evangelical Christian household in a medium-sized town in a semi-rural part of New England. Growing up, I was taught (among a great many other things), that homosexuality was a choice and a lifestyle, that it was sinful and wrong. I was conflicted about how to engage an increasingly gay-friendly world with these views - but at least (I assumed) as a nice, Christian girl who had always done all the "right" things, I was safe from anything that had to do with being gay.
At the age of 19, I met and fell in love with another woman. In the space of a single week, everything I thought I knew was ripped out from under my feet. I was finally faced with a reality I had avoided and denied for years, which was that I was never going to wake up and have sexual or romantic feelings for men. I had always assumed something was wrong with me, that I was asexual or developmentally stunted or... well, I hadn't given it a whole lot of thought, actually. Keeping your "purity pledge" as an evangelical teen is a whole lot easier when you're just not that into the opposite sex. But now I had a word for what I had always felt, and it was not a word I had ever wanted anything to do with: lesbian. I was scared out of my mind. I was sure that I was going to hell. I was furious at the God of my childhood for putting me in the position of having to either lie about who I was or live in sin. I couldn't imagine there was any way that a loving, omnipotent God would make me gay.
Fast forward four years, and I am still in love with the incredible woman who gave me the first inkling that I might be gay. The world didn't end that week, as much as I expected (really. REALLY) to be struck dead for falling off my evangelical "nice girl" pedestal. I have found a welcoming church home. I have begun the long process of making peace with myself and with God, of coming to terms with who I am. I'm even starting to make attempts at reconciling with my family, many of whom are still happily oblivious to the fact that I am gay.
I want you to know that being gay isn't a lifestyle, but Christianity is.
I want you to know that being gay isn't a choice. Given my family, my upbringing, and my theological background, I would never have chosen to be gay. But here I am - a woman who is romantically attracted to other women.
What I want you to know is that my heart breaks every time I read the comments on any online news article or blog that has anything to do with Christians and LGBT issues. Because as people throw around misguided phrases like "the homosexual lifestyle" or "hate the sin, love the sinner", they aren't discussing some faraway socio-theological issue - they're talking about me. They're talking about my partner of four years. They're talking about my friends who are gay, closeted, and serving our country proudly (although, thankfully, many of them will be able to serve openly soon!)
I want you to know that I am terrified to walk into a new church because I have no idea whether I'll be chased out with pitchforks. I want you to know that I cry every time I take communion now because of the sheer joy of simply being welcome at the table. I have learned never to take the communion table for granted, but I have also learned enormous caution where Christians are concerned, because the church can cause untold pain. I stll grieve for the uncomplicated Christianity of my childhood, where friends never turned their backs on me in the name of Christ. But I am a better Christian and person today, because I've learned what it feels like to be an outsider, to be misunderstood. I have learned more about grace in the last four years than in the 19 years that preceded them.
I want you to know that if you are a Christian who struggles with the "issue" of homosexuality, you can still love, care for, and get to know me or other gay people without any discussion of our individual understandings of Romans 1:26. I want you to stop worrying about how you will be perceived and just get to know your gay neighbors, or nephews, or cousins. I want you to know that honest conversation is never offensive, but a sudden lack of contact from old friends stings for years.
I want you to know that I want to get married someday, but I fear that no one in my family will show up. I also want you to know that I have found a church family that accepts and loves me and my partner for exactly who we are. It is my hope that a wedding full of chosen family will be just as meaningful and joyous as if they were all blood relatives.
I want you to know that there is a vast array of experiences and stories within the gay community, and within the Christian church, and those of us who are both LGBTQ and Christian often find it difficult to fit into either of those groups.
And I want you to know that every time I tell this story, my heart feels a little less heavy. So thank you for listening.