The Closet: You Can’t Go Back In!

Once you’re out, you’re out. It’s not something you can really take back. That’s why it’s so important to be sure you’re ready. Your decision can’t be dependent on a person’s reaction to your honesty; because—take it from me—you don’t always get the response you expect. For years, I operated on a “need to know” basis. My progress went something like this: until 10 years ago, no one knew my truth. 5 years ago, I could count on one hand the people who knew. 2 years ago, I could count that number on two hands. Today? I have no idea. And frankly, it scares the crap out of me. Why is that? Because it’s out of my control. I no longer get to decide who knows that I’m gay. Since my guest post on Andrew Marin’s blog, and my article in Curve magazine, one can now discover my sexual orientation with a simple Google search. It’s out there in the blogosphere! I won’t lie… it’s frightening. I don’t regret my articles, nor do I regret this blog. I started this website to discover others who were struggling like me, and perhaps create a sense of community among those who often feel so alone. God has brought some amazing people into my life through this blog, and I’m forever grateful for that. I wouldn’t change it—not for the world! Yet there are several nagging fears ever-present in my consciousness:

I’m afraid that people will dismiss me as a Christian and minimize my personal walk with God. This is by far the most intense fear I have. I’m afraid that people will simply assume I have abandoned all matters of faith, and turned my back on God. The truth is, this journey has been a long one. It has been filled with years and years of research, prayer, and Scripture meditation. I didn’t wake up one morning and say, “I don’t care what the Bible says! I’m attracted to women and I intend to live my life as a lesbian!” Quite the contrary, actually. I fasted. I prayed. I pleaded. I bargained with God. I read the Bible like never before. I went to healing services. I attempted to will myself to become sexually attracted to men. I began to feel so ashamed that things weren’t changing! I became convinced that God just wouldn’t even want to hear from a filthy soul like me. God began to heal my spirit, a little at a time. I began to feel His love for me, and it gave me the courage to love myself again. The experience I had (and am still having) is a profound one to me. Not everyone will understand it that way. Some people see things in black and white, with no gray in between. (Have you noticed the only people who think that being gay is a choice are straight?) But that is my story. That is my experience… and no one can take that away from me. I’m not really the type of person that has ever desired to shout my sexual orientation from the city’s tallest building. But I talk about it because it gives me satisfaction to share my stories with those who are going through the same things. It brings me great joy to talk about the all-inclusive, fierce, unconditional love of Christ. Sadly (and rather ironically), for many Christian LGBT brothers and sisters, it is a love that has been eclipsed by the words of other Christ-followers.

•I’m afraid that people from my past will find out, and that it will change their mind about me as a person. I think the biggest factor here might be that there’s no way of knowing their current views on homosexuality. I have so many fond memories of childhood friends, teachers, ministers, etc. I fear it may ruin all of that if they find out. I’ve heard people say more than once about gay people: “Oh, it’s such a shame! They used to be such a sweet child.” As if sexual orientation somehow blemishes an individual’s character or integrity!

•I fear my approval addiction will rule my life. I’m a people-pleaser. I always have been. The number one reason I generally choose to keep my sexuality off the table for discussion is because I worry what others will think of me. I know this is a valid concern, because it’s happened to me more than once. People are going to think what they want, and “haters gonna hate”. The trick is to stop caring!

•I fear I will become unable to love those who cannot love me. I’m all about love. Every fiber of my being believes that is the answer to every evil that exists in this world. After all, that’s our number one commandment from Jesus. If we don’t remember anything else from his life of ministry on this earth, we are supposed to remember how to love God, and love each other. I’ve come to realize that different people have varying perceptions of the definition of love. There is fair-weathered love, forced love, selfish love, love with benefits, insincere love, self-righteous love. Yet we know none of these are truly pure love. Pure love is unconditional; it’s the kind where actions speak much louder than words ever will. Unconditional love is the love of Jesus. It transcends race, gender, social class… and it transcends time. Love… nothing more, and certainly nothing less. There is so much negativity concerning the topic of homosexuality within the Church. Thankfully, it’s not like that in every congregation. But when you are in an environment where people persecute you with their words, looks, or even their deafening silence… it gets to you after a while. But one thing we know, friends: we cannot fight fire with fire, or hate with hate. We must remember that God changes hearts. We must love with the relentless love of Jesus.

These are the things I’m pondering today as I continue my journey. What are your fears?

14 responses to “The Closet: You Can’t Go Back In!

  1. My biggest fear is disappointing my family. Both my biological family and my church family. I attended the same church until my early twenties, and it hurts so much to know that some will turn their backs while the rest will still love me but think I’m going to hell. The worst is to hurt my parents. My brother didn’t accept Christ until his thirties, and I grew up seeing how much they worried about him. I hate to think about them hurting like that because of me.

    • Sara, I understand your fear of disappointing and hurting family. I not only have parents and a life time of church family, I have grown children. This is my greatest fear and at times it makes me weary. Then I stop and think about the others fears God has helped me overcome. I am working on helping loved ones understand that I have this fear because I love them. I also fear that they may never come to know and understand the truth about how God loves you and me. I want my loved ones to know how much I love God and that is why I must seek truth. Keep 2 John 1-6 in your heart.

  2. I have discovered that the fears I have kept for so long inside my heart, wrapped in neat little packages and protected, were mostly of my own design. When I started to talk about these fears, to understand what they were and what caused them and that others had them too, I was able to open the little packages and “throw them out” with the trash. Each time I over came a fear I realized how much I had blown the fear out of proportion. Each one I over came gave me confidence to address another. I have saved my biggest fears for last, but I have a lot more courage and clarity then I did a year ago. I feel confident that God loves me and He has a purpose for me. I know my weakness and I am learning to rely on my God for strength. I know God’s love and I have learned to love others in a way I didn’t know possible. God has put many amazing people in my life too, and I am thankful. Some have cared for and nurtured me on my journey and others have come into my life for me to nurture and care for. For the ones who will find disgust in knowing me and others like me and turn their backs on the light that is shinning from us, I will weep them, for the love they do not know or understand. I too feel closer to God than I ever have before. I know that no one can take this away from me, no matter what they think of me. Ephesians 3:14-21 gives me great comfort and courage. I am also reminded of something a mother told her son who would become king, “Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy”. Proverbs 31:8-9 Mandy, you have opened your mouth for the speechless… and I thank you for that.

    • I love this, Anita! Your words resonate so much with me. You are such an amazing woman, and ever since I’ve heard your story, I’ve prayed to have your attitude. I want to hold my head high. I want to love others, even if they criticize me. I want to set an example for what it means to be a Christian lesbian. Thank you so much for your friendship and encouragement. :)

  3. My main fear continues to be hurting others who believe with all their heart that homosexuality is wrong. And I fear that those who look up to me (especially young people) will struggle in their own spiritual journey if I ever choose to pursue a relationship with a woman. As it is, I would be considered noble for admitting my attraction but to not indulge in the sin…this path would be pleasing to others. Yet the path I see as pure and innocent and pleasing to God, to “them” would seem impure and against God’s will. It comes down to perspectives. I’m not going to live my life to please others based on their perspective (This does not mean I don’t consider their feelings. I really do care but I can’t let their pain shut me down). Lately, the majority of my fear has been transformed into contentment as I’m confident that I’m walking with the Lord and I can’t do any better than that. I’m not afraid for people to find out about me even if there is pain…..maybe it is going to take some hurting in order for everyone to move forward. My prayers are that others can see the work of God in my life and that they are not blinded by their own fear that Satan sets in place due to lack of understanding…..and that we can all move forward in deeper relationship with God and with each other, and with a greater understanding of love.

    • As far as worrying about the young people you work with, there were definitely some LGBT folks who worked with the youth in the church Mandy and I grew up in. I’m not sure if they ever even admitted it to themselves, but it was obvious, especially to the young queer kids in the group (you know how we can always spot our own). In retrospect, I think their total silence on the issue was far more damaging for us than any fall out that would have happened if they had been bold enough to come out – though I am certain that would have meant dismissal from any leadership positions they held in the church. Still, I think seeing that someone could be a genuine Christian (as we knew them to be) and also be gay would have had immeasurable value for a lot of kids in that group. I also don’t think those closeted folks had as much influence on my young life as they otherwise might have, simply because I saw through them and thus wrote them off as sad and inauthentic. That is just one person’s experience of a closeted youth leader, though. Mandy, feel free to chime in if you’re reading this :)

      • I have most definitely been mindful of this. There is not youth activity or a church service that goes by that I don’t think about this. For the teens who are struggling silently or feeling shame and are not free to talk about it, my heart aches for them and it is one of the two reasons I stay at the church that I attend. The other reason is the hope to educate others (oh, and because I love everyone there). I have mentioned my concern to ministers for the teens who might be struggling with this and the frustration I have in not being allowed to talk with them or support them, however it does not take away the fear of hurting other teens or parents or elderly that will be shocked and confused. I’m not going to let this fear stop me from moving forward in my convictions, it is just still reality that it is a fear that I still have. I’m just waiting on the “go head” cue from the ministers because I respect them as they are listening to me. I don’t think it is wrong to come out, but I do think that wisdom should be used in doing so. Thanks for your thoughts on the matter, but my hands are tied right now as for being totally open at church….but it sure doesn’t stop me from giving extra love and care to any teen that show indications that they may be struggling in silence….in regards to anything for that matter. No teen should struggle with anything alone.

      • That’s awesome that you are having enough dialogue with your ministers that you are actually waiting for the go ahead now! In that situation, I don’t think I would want to rock the boat either unless I felt that the leadership had really closed themselves off to the whole idea. Hopefully the continue to listen and open their minds and hearts to you!

      • Absolutely, Kelli! I guess I can’t say I ever expected them to come out in the church setting, especially since it was the 90’s in a very rural, conservative town. I wasn’t even ready to confront my own sexuality at the time, so I guess I never even thought about whether or not those people would openly discuss theirs. However, I clearly remember being very drawn to those individuals. I don’t even know if I knew why back then. But you’re right… we definitely notice our own. ;) I would definitely agree that things would have been much easier if people were willing to discuss the topic openly. It is my prayer for that little KY town that people like us will one day at least be able to have a support group. You said:

        I think seeing that someone could be a genuine Christian (as we knew them to be) and also be gay would have had immeasurable value for a lot of kids in that group.

        I absolutely agree with that 100%. People want to leave this discussion out of the Church, but I believe it belongs there! When so many kids are turning to drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and even suicide to cope with their sexuality, it’s time for the Church to break their silence.

      • This is was said….
        I think seeing that someone could be a genuine Christian (as we knew them to be) and also be gay would have had immeasurable value for a lot of kids in that group.
        Response…
        I absolutely agree with that 100%. People want to leave this discussion out of the Church, but I believe it belongs there! When so many kids are turning to drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and even suicide to cope with their sexuality, it’s time for the Church to break their silence
        My response….
        I very much agree with this …. Thank you for saying this out loud. This is very important for us to think about and consider how to make it a reality.

    • Also, Josha… I just want to say how amazing you are. I’m not sure that I could do what you are doing in the atmosphere you’re in. I know from experience it’s so much easier (and less stressful) to be yourself around those who accept you with no questions asked. It’s much more difficult to hold your own around those who judge you, or those that simply just don’t know the facts about homosexuality. It’s the most difficult of all when those people are the people you love and care about. But the fact is, in order for homophobia within our churches to cease, it will take people who are willing to put themselves on the line—people who are able to educate by action that LGBT’s aren’t scary, immoral, or promiscuous. I for one, am so proud of the important work you’re doing. I hope to gain courage from your boldness.

      • Thanks for the encouragement, Mandy and Kelli. While my greatest fear is the pain and the struggle that people may have in knowing about me, my greatest guilt is not telling for the sake of those who are struggling and could use my encouragement. I think my greatest guilt hurts more than my greatest fear. My on going prayer is that God will continue to work in the midst of all the places where I feel like my hands are tied.

  4. I was listening to a pastor friend of mine preaching, and he said when he is asked, are you living the gay lifestyle, he says no, I am living the Christian lifestyle. I thought that was a good answer. Too often people put too much emphasis on being gay, when we are all trying to get to the same place. Some religions have different beliefs than we do, but the scripture says “Whosoever” calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

    I have not been nervous very often about telling others that I happen to be gay as well. I am not afraid of public displays of affection. If someone is differing in their opinion about how God feels about being gay, it is their problem, not mine.

    I am so excited for you because I knew you when you were closeted, and I am so glad that you have begun the process. You are an inspiration to many!

    • Chris, I love this: “I was listening to a pastor friend of mine preaching, and he said when he is asked, are you living the gay lifestyle, he says no, I am living the Christian lifestyle.” I’m going to start using that!

      Thank you for your encouragement. You know you were (and are!) such an integral part of my coming out process. I had never been to an affirming church when we quietly snuck in the back of CLW. That’s when I finally figured out there were lots and lots of gay people who love the Lord. ;)

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