Category Archives: Coming Out

Coming out is a process, and every person’s journey is different.

Pulling Up The Drawbridge

“Time to pull up the drawbridge.” That’s what my dad says when it’s time to get re-centered. My dad is an extremely social guy—not at all like me in that regard—but he still needs the occasional recharge. He’ll get his grocery supplies, refine his Netflix queue, lock the doors, and hibernate. It seems like that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few months now. I go to work, then come home and pull up the drawbridge. For extroverts, that may sound depressing. But I’m not sad. Not at all. I’m actually the happiest I’ve been in a really, really long time! Life is good, and it’s only going to get better from here.

In the midst of the documentary project, and some other side projects, I’ve been quite busy lately. I decided to temporarily disable my Facebook account in order to get some things done. (I’m still currently on Twitter and Instagram; Somehow those don’t take up major chunks of my day the way that Facebook tends to do.) What was meant to be a one week hiatus has turned into over two weeks (and counting). I’m astonished at how much I’m actually enjoying being off Facebook. I’ve taken breaks before, and I couldn’t wait to sign back in! But this time is different, and I think I might be starting to understand why.

If you follow my other blog, you might remember a post about HSPs (Highly Sensitive People). I won’t go into detail here, but in a nutshell, I am affected way too much by what others think of me… to the point that it’s debilitating. Therefore, when I really immerse myself in advocacy work, I am engaged in lots of conversation. Some of it is uncomfortable, and that’s ok. We must have discussions which take us out of our comfort level, or else nothing will change. That being said, I found myself in dire need of a recharge. Being off Facebook has resulted in a more even-keeled emotional state. Although I really try to stay out of controversial Facebook arguments, I still saw them every day on my news feed, whether I participated or not. I felt flooded with negativity. I was focused on things that cultivated anger instead of peace. I was reminded of those who think differently of me now. And really, why give those people even one second of my time, worrying about what they think?

When I set out on this venture of being honest about who I am, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. And I wouldn’t go back in the closet for anything. But sometimes, I just grow weary. Perhaps advocacy work isn’t for me. Perhaps I internalize it a bit too much. And maybe things will change in the future. But for me, right now, all I want to do is stay inside my safe, comfortable, predictable world. I want cozy up inside my house with my awesome little family.

And I want to pull up the drawbridge.

Update: Film Project

Hello, all! This is just a quick update to let you know I have not fallen off the face of the earth. I’ve had a lot going on over the summer, most of which is settling down now. I hope all of you are having a relaxing and adventurous summer!

This map shows the proposed route of interviews for the project.

This map shows the proposed route of interviews for the project.

I’m so excited about the documentary project I mentioned earlier this year. (Yes, it is still happening!) I have not begun a Kickstarter campaign yet, because I want to make sure I’m doing this fundraiser thing right. I’ve spoken with a few people… all of whom have very different opinions about how to approach marketing and fundraising for this project. Some say an extended fundraising campaign will do the trick; others say a brief and focused campaign will be more effective. Honestly, I’m not sure what to do (although I’m pretty sure that doing nothing won’t get me too far)! That’s why I’m asking for your thoughts. If you have any ideas for the “One Liberation” film project, please let me know. I do have a short list of organizations and online communities that are willing to advertise once the fundraising begins, although I’m always on the lookout for more!

Stay tuned for more info! In the meantime, I’ll be working on a “real” blog post.

Cheers!

So You’re Gay. Why Can’t You Just Shut Up About It?

713307_82954404This was said to me by a former colleague of mine, albeit slightly more politically correct. I think she said something like: “Why do we have to talk about this? Why can’t you just be quiet?” This came at a crucial time in my life; I was at a crossroads. I could either stay in a ministry which did not accept any aspect of my orientation, or I could resign. I could lie, or I could be true to myself. Put that way, the choice seems easy. I should be a hero, right? Live honestly. Sacrifice comfort for truth. But I enjoyed what I did. I loved the ministry. I loved serving in that capacity. So, I learned to compromise. I told half-truths. I lived a double-life. For a time, I shut up about it.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you the decision to do so was not in my best interest. It could only last so long: Censoring my personal life; editing pronouns; serving people who I knew would not approve of me (or perhaps not even like me at all) if they knew the truth. For those of us in the LGBT community, these stories are all too familiar. But what saddens me most about situations such as these is not the fact that folks may disagree on LGBT issues, but the fact there is an overall unwillingness for such discussions.

Growing up in a religiously conservative environment, I can recall the fear that surrounded topics such as LGBT issues. It can be an uncomfortable conversation for some folks… and it’s easy to forget that fact once we’ve spent our fair share of time in more progressive circles. But there are a few things I would like to get out into the open. For those folks who wonder why we can’t just shut up about it? Our answer may be a little different than you think.

Most of the LGBT folks I know aren’t interested in running through the streets wearing nothing but a rainbow flag. They don’t want to shout their orientation from the rooftops. They don’t set out to “flaunt” affection in order to make you uncomfortable. They don’t desire to make waves, start arguments, or become poster children for controversy.

Personally, what I want is pretty simple. I want to live in community and fellowship with my brothers and sisters. I want LGBT Christians to be valued for their talents and gifts. I want to serve—to live a life of love and compassion. Most of us long for the day when sexual orientation and gender identity are no longer factors for determining human worth in our religious institutions.

One thing we’ve learned from history: issues don’t disappear when we stop talking about them. And one thing we’ve learned from statistics? Someone you know is LGBT. Yes, even someone in your congregation; and in many cases, it is someone in a leadership role. Instead of pretending people are someone they aren’t, why not seek safe spaces for conversation? Why not tear down those invisible barriers that keep us from true fellowship? It won’t always be easy. It won’t always be pretty. But it is the right thing, plain and simple. Because right now, the message that millions of LGBT Christians are hearing is: “You can continue to serve and use your talents as long as you hide who you are.”

Surely, there has to be a better answer. And that is why I, for one, can no longer shut up about it.

Documentary Promo Video Launched!

After several long weeks, I’ve finally been able to finish the promo video. Now, the real work begins! While I’m itching to get started, I realize the fund-raising process can be a delicate thing, and I want to do it right! Stay tuned for the fund-raising launch, which should be happening in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, send prayers, love, and good vibes this way. Here’s hoping to a successful project that will hopefully help us all to find some common ground.

Check out the project’s website, which will be finished within the week.

“One Liberation Under God: LGBT Life in the Bible Belt South”

Hello, everyone! I’d like to take a few minutes to tell you about a project I’m extremely excited about… a project I’d love for you to be a part of. As you know, everyone has a story. When you’re gay and Christian, you have a lot of insight to offer others who may be going through the same things. Many of your stories have been shared on this blog, and a lot of people have been encouraged by hearing them.  So, I’m taking things a step further, and making a documentary.

I will be contacting some of you personally within the next several days. But I’d like to get as many people involved as possible. Below, you will find the form letter I’m currently sending out to potential participants. Please contact me if you think you may be interested. For those of you who live long distances from me, don’t let that stop you. I plan to launch a fundraiser (via Kickstarter) in a few weeks to cover travel expenses. If the goal is reached, then I’ll have the means to travel anywhere within the continental US.

Read on and contact me if interested. And thank you in advance!

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Hello! I hope this finds you doing well. I’m contacting you because I believe you and I share a passion for building bridges between the Church and the LGBT community. I also believe you have a lot to offer in the way of conversation, theology, and unique perspective. That’s why I would like to personally invite you to be a part of my new project: “One Liberation Under God: LGBT Life in the Bible Belt South”. This project will be in the form of a documentary film. My vision is to open the lines of communication on both sides of the “Great Gay Debate”, and explore the things that inspire certain beliefs in people.

Specifically, I hope for the film to do the following:

•Outline the arguments held by both LGBT advocates and religious conservatives, and interview individuals on every point of the spectrum.

•Give a greater understanding of exactly what it means to be gay.

•Showcase testimonies from LGBT Christians, and from conservative Christians.

•Be a catalyst for conversation… because no matter what you believe about LGBT issues, we should all learn that it’s okay to talk about it.

•Give an overview of statistics for a number of things, including:

•Christians who are for or against LGBT rights

•LGBT youth suicide

•History of acceptance vs. disapproval of LGBT individuals in the South

•LGBT youth and homelessness

I understand and anticipate that you—as a potential participant in this project—may not have the same views I hold. However, I fully intend on showcasing all individuals, opinions, and thoughts in a positive manner. The goal of this film is to unite and build bridges. Therefore, I do not believe it to be fruitful or beneficial to negatively represent views that differ from my own. If you should choose to participate in this project, you may choose to disclose your full identity, or you may choose to remain completely anonymous.

If you’re up for the challenge, please respond via my email (wilson.mandy@gmail.com) by Monday, March 17th, 2014. This is to ensure that I have time to make travel plans and schedule interviews. This isn’t a large scale production; in fact, I’m planning to film with my iPhone, and edit with Final Cut Pro—things I already have available to me. However, I will launch a Kickstarter profile once things are geared up, in order to cover my travel expenses. And of course, if you participate, you will receive a digital copy of the project, absolutely free.

I’m really interested in telling our stories: gay, straight, liberal, and conservative. I want to do this project because I believe it’s important to have these conversations. By telling our stories and listening to the stories of others, we will gain a greater understanding of what it means to “love your neighbor”. We can achieve the impossible by rebuilding bridges that have previously been destroyed. Ultimately, I think we’ll find we don’t have to agree on everything in order to love one another. In my own life, I’ve experienced such immense joy in these conversations, and I’d like to take the world on a journey. Won’t you join me?

Warmest regards,

Mandy

Irks and Perks of 2013

Hello, friends! I’m b-a-a-a-c-k… and I’m so ready to catch up with all of you. I’ve spent the better part of 2013 on a sabbatical from blogging—partially because I had a couple other projects to work on, and partially because it was a tough year for me, personally. I’ve taken some time off to reflect, heal, and re-center. And now, I feel the fire of advocacy burning once again. I’d like to thank each of you who reached out to me during the past several months—to pray for me, spend time with me, or simply check in with me. You know who you are, and words cannot express how deeply I appreciate it.

I have a handful of projects lined up that I’d like to try for the new year… one of which is a podcast. It will not be replacing this blog, but simply supplementing it. (After all, I’ve got a swell new mic that I’m dying to try out.) If all goes well, a podcast would have great potential to help build relationships between those of us in the religious LGBTQI community. Time will tell, but I’m excited about the prospect! Podcasts will be announced on the Facebook page, Twitter feed, and on this blog.

It’s been awhile since I’ve set foot in the blogosphere, I’ve got a (not-so) straight and to-the-point post for you today. I apologize if I come across as being a bit cantankerous, but I’ve got eight months’ worth of opinions to give. I’ve devised all of them into two lists: “irks” and “perks”. Shall we begin with the top three “irks”?

3) The Duck Dynasty Fiasco: That’s right. I shudder as I type it, but it has to be addressed. Why? Because a particular bearded ninny is apparently what every social network on the planet deemed most important this holiday season. My take? Of course Phil Robertson is homophobic and (more surprisingly, in my opinion) racist; Is this really news? Are we shocked that a conservative, fundamentalist Christian from the bayou has nothing but derogatory idiocies to spout regarding sexual and racial minorities? Yes, Phil Robertson irks me. But what irks me even more is the way that people discuss these issues on social networks. Don’t get me wrong; These unfortunate incidents provide ways for us—as queer folks and as Christians—to address the misfortune of ignorance and discrimination in our society. However, whenever these things inevitably arise, the worst seems to come out in everyone. Otherwise rational and intelligent people (on both sides of the debate) suddenly sprout horns and start foaming at the mouth.

2) Fundamentalist Christians With Double Standards: I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen this. Church leaders and congregants—who are vocally opposed to LGBT equality—don’t seem to mind if gay or lesbian brothers and sisters lead worship, preach, or give of their time and talents in ministries. That is—of course—as long as they simply shut up and stay quiet about who they really are. The gay musician can provide hours and hours of hard work and service—and the congregation raises hands and worships with them all the same. That is, until that same gay musician comes out; All bets are off, then. That God-given gift they have? It’s rubbish now. What about the lesbian who has quietly led the homeless ministry for a decade? Her brothers and sisters pat her on the back, give her thankful accolades… until she brings her partner to church. When the churchgoers find out they’re more than “just friends”, they are both dismissed from the congregation. Apparently her contributions no longer count for the Kingdom.

3) Gay Christians With Double Standards: I’m talking about those who are “homophobic homosexuals”. We’ve addressed this species of queer-dom a few times previously on this blog. Let me set the record straight. (No pun intended.) If someone is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, it is their choice—and their choice alone—when, and if, they ever come out publicly. We’ve all been there at one time or another, and some of us are still there. However, if you are “different”, “struggle” with SSA (same-sex attraction), could never consider being in love or marrying someone of the opposite sex—however you choose to see it through your own eyes—please do not slander your LGBTQI brothers and sisters who have chosen to be out in their community. Being in the closet is one thing; Slandering your own is quite another. Why not simply be silent… Or at least don’t pretend that you’ve never dealt with these issues. When Facebook or Twitter is “a flitter” with LGBT controversy, why do you feel the need to add homophobic rants to the comment section? *It was this side of a decade ago that you had your tongue down my throat. You may have convinced a few people, but you will never convince me. (*This is, of course, a hypothetical statement. I mean, I don’t know anyone who would actually do that… [cough, cough, wink, wink].)

Alright, that sums it up for the “irks”. But let’s end on a positive note, shall we? How about the “perks”?

3) 2013 was an incredible year for marriage equality. As of today, eighteen states in America have now legalized same-sex marriage. While fundamentalists may see that as a “sign of end times”, most of us can understand Americans are finally realizing that, no matter what you believe or who you love, all of us deserve the same rights. A decade ago, I never would have imagined that we would see full marriage equality in my lifetime. Now, we are well on our way. And that is great news!

2) LGBT issues are being talked about more openly in religious institutions. Finally! As we all know, education is the cure for ignorance. When a topic is ignored, it is seen as taboo. More and more churches across the nation are taking the first step: communication and discussion. When conservative Christians begin to realize that LGBT issues hit closer to home than they thought—when they discover they have a lesbian niece, a gay uncle, or a transgender neighbor—there’s a heart-change. People are finally starting to realize that we don’t all have to agree on this topic to love one another. We simply have to respect one another, and understand that there are multiple valid ways to interpret scripture.

1) Sometimes people surprise you (in a good way). We’ve all experienced it: You come out to someone who you think will be completely accepting, and to your surprise, they aren’t. However, I’ve also been fortunate enough to experience the exact opposite over the past year. As we know, coming out is a process. I’ve encountered conversations with loved ones that turned out even better than I could have ever hoped. For example, my dad told me that he loves me more now than he ever has—that he can’t imagine me any other way. One of my favorite school teachers—just about the most amazing (and conservative) woman I’ve ever met—told me that she believes people are born gay. She may have different opinions about what my life should look like as a lesbian, but she loves me just the same. More importantly, she listens to me, and truly hears me. Thank goodness for people like that—who love us because of who we are, regardless of differences.

May the new year bring about hope, love, and healing for us all.

What are some of your “irks and perks” of 2013?

Vulnerability Is Not a Dirty Word

Hello, everyone! I hope this finds you doing well. I’m back after a four-month hiatus. I haven’t been kidnapped, nor have I fallen off the planet. I’ve just been taking some time off to reflect. A lot of life changes have taken place unexpectedly, and I haven’t been able to write as much as I would like. Today’s topic is particularly relevant to me on several levels, and I think it’s extremely relevant for those of us who are LGBTQI.
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broken heartWhat does it truly mean to be vulnerable? For lots of people, the very word drudges up negative emotions… things like fear, judgment, rejection, and loneliness (to name a few). Societal norms tell us that success is preceded by strength and power, not vulnerability and weakness. Throughout the course of my lifetime, I’ve adopted vast and varied philosophies about the pros and cons of vulnerability. When I was young—before I became jaded—I saw it solely as a positive thing. You open yourself up, give it all you’ve got, and let the chips fall where they may. If people don’t reciprocate or appreciate it, then it’s their loss. At least that’s what I told myself. It seemed pretty cut and dry.

Once you live a little, you learn the hard way that people aren’t always what you hope they are. Intentionally or otherwise, eventually someone will let you down. You realize that there are certain people who have the ability to cut you deeply, and leave wounds that never fully heal. You even discover that you, yourself, are capable of inflicting this kind of pain on someone else, however unintentional it may be. Suddenly, vulnerability seems like a terrible idea. Why put yourself out there at all when there’s a good chance you’ll end up heartbroken and forsaken? Over the past couple of years, this is how I felt. Because inevitably, you will have your heart broken. You will be betrayed. You will—at some point—feel as though you’re too weak to take the chance on someone again. So you make a decision… one by one, you build indestructible walls of protection around your heart. But what does that do to a person in the long run? I think C.S. Lewis said it best:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

So what are we to do? Vulnerability has the possibility of cultivating both extreme joy and extreme pain. It’s the ultimate catch-22: If you build those walls of protection, you’ll never know the full extent of the love you could experience. If you let your guard down, hurt may not be imminent, but it is certainly inevitable at some point. It’s lose-lose, right? What if I told you I may have discovered the secret to living in and surviving the risk of vulnerability? You see, I’ve come to believe that successful vulnerability is directly related to a person’s sense of self-worth. If your self-worth is solely defined by what others think of you, you’re going to have a rough go of things. This mindset can occur slowly. You may not even realize you’ve gradually allowed your dignity, self-regard, and value be determined by other people’s opinions of you. It doesn’t take long to figure out why vulnerability would be a bad idea in this situation. If you open yourself up to someone who defines your self-worth, and they hurt you in some way… that pain and rejection is difficult to overcome.

So how do we appropriately define our self-worth? Simply put, we need to love ourselves. It’s imperative that we take time for self-discovery… to figure out exactly who we are, and learn how to embrace it. We have to love ourselves before we can experience—and depend on—the love of others.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in solitude. Subsequently, I’ve learned there’s a big difference between loneliness and being alone. I used to be afraid of solitude; But now I’m learning to utilize that time to nurture my spirit, to seek out the sacred, to appreciate the frailty of life, to simply exist. This solitude serves as a catalyst for self-discovery—to determine what I like about myself, and also what I despise. Sequestering myself helps me to better understand my own thoughts, feelings, and belief systems. It prepares me for my time out in the world, among my friends and family. Is this simply the mark of an introvert? Perhaps. But it is a practice that I am learning to embrace.

So what’s the verdict on vulnerability? Is it healthy? Personally, it scares the heck out of me. Yet, as true as that is, I crave it. I desire to share those deepest parts of myself with those who mean the most to me. Human nature instills in us an eagerness to live in community and fellowship with one another. By all means, I say go for it. Take chances. Open yourself up. Live in the risk of vulnerability.

Just be sure to love yourself first.