Category Archives: Coming Out

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

Internalized Homophobia and Sense of Self

It’s been awhile, friends… almost two years since I’ve posted on this blog. So many of you have been an emotional support for me over the past several years. I certainly hope this finds you. And if none of you are still out there, I hope someone who needs to hear this will read it.

Disclaimer, here: This is a cathartic post, and it’s full of word vomit. It probably won’t be succinct, and I don’t plan on editing it. Whatever comes out will be published. So, here we go!

Let’s Catch Up!

A few things have happened since we last talked. I write for a living now. It’s copywriting, and it’s not sexy work… but it pays the bills and gives me a way to do all the things I love. I’ve also been seeking the Divine in all things. I’ve explored many paths, and all have blessed me in very different ways. I feel the spirit of Jesus at work in my life like never before. I was accepted to Vanderbilt Divinity School (didn’t end up going for financial reasons, but plan on re-applying once my other loans are paid off next year). By far, the most amazing thing is that I got to marry my best friend. We were married in a private ceremony last December by one of the most loving pastors I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Truly God has blessed me.

How to Heal?

When I stopped posting two years ago, I needed to go into hiding. I was too raw. Too hurt. Too weary. And in a lot of ways, I still am. That’s one reason I’m writing tonight. You see, while talking with my wife (I love being able to call her that) a few weeks back, I realized something that never occurred to me in nearly ten years of coming out:

I struggle terribly with internalized homophobia.

Now, many of you who know me might be thinking, “Um… yeah! Of course you struggle with that. It’s obvious.” But what’s crazy is I never even considered it until I started reading about it. Through the years, there are many things I’ve overcome. For example, I don’t avoid gay people. But I used to. I don’t feel negatively toward those who live out and proud. But I used to. And while I may have moved through many of these “symptoms”, I still desperately struggle with other factors.

I have a deep-seated anxiety about what others will think of me when they find out I’m gay. Just. Absolutely. Debilitating. Yet, I still force myself to be transparent with others, because truly, honest-to-God, deep down, there is not a single fiber of my being that believes it is wrong to be gay. Everything I’ve been through on this journey has pointed me toward this belief. My relationship with God is richer and more profound now than ever before. And as always, it is ever-changing and growing. But… I know there are others that pity me, or are disgusted by me. And that thought is just so depressing. I never considered myself to be suicidal before. But when I had to face rejection from so many of my loved ones, it no longer seemed so far-fetched. It was almost comforting to think of having a way out if things got too bad.

This is why I simply cannot be around people who do not accept LGBTQ individuals. I need more than just tolerance. I need acceptance. I need love. And there are plenty of people out there who do love me just as I am. So why waste one more minute around those who just don’t understand? I suppose a part of me will always mourn those that I have lost because of this. And it seems I will just have to learn to live with that.

Truly, in the grand scheme of things, I haven’t really lost many people… not compared to a lot of folks I know. I guess the pain just comes from feeling that rejection from people you really thought you were close to before. And now, this ONE thing changes all of that. Regarding my wedding last year, I had a longtime friend tell me, “I just don’t think this is God’s plan for you.” I cannot tell you how deeply that hurt. It really upsets me when those who know me minimize my journey: That all the pain and prayer was worthless. That my sleepless nights and pleas with God didn’t mean anything. My spirituality is very important to me… and when people just assume I’m willing to throw that away without concern or thought, it hurts.

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My Sins

Boy, do I have a lot. Gossip. Ungratefulness. Lust. Worry. Hatefulness. The list goes on and on and on and on. But loving another person fully, deeply, profoundly? Yes… I suppose if you see that as a sin, I am guilty. But I will go to my grave loving her. And I make zero apologies about it.

Social Media and “Being Out”

Another huge stressor for me is social media. The friends I’ve made over the past six or seven years all know I’m gay, and are completely fine with it. It’s the people from my past that send me into a panic attack every time I get a friend request. It’s always the constant struggle: Do I hide? Should I be honest? Do I need to edit my profile? It is just exhausting. And I know ALL of that stems from my internalized homophobia.

I really don’t know how to get past this. I’ve come so far, and I just want to lay this to rest once and for all. I am certainly considering going back to therapy. I don’t know what the right answer is, or even if there is one.

Anyone Else?

My main reason for posting this is to reach out. I’m curious to know if any of you struggle with internalized homophobia. If so, how are you working through it? How do you stop caring? How do you allow your sense of self to be enough?

I truly hope all of you are doing well. I think about this community often. And for those of you wondering… believe it or not, I am still planning on finishing the documentary. (Yes, it’s already two years late.) However, I am considering including my own story. This is scary for me to think about, but I think it’s something that needs to be done. I am also working on a memoir about my experiences. Maybe these things will come to fruition sometime within the next decade… haha!

For now, my friends, I wish you well. Have a beautiful, awe-filled Christmas season. And I’ll try my best to not be a stranger anymore. xoxo

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A Backpedaling Apology

In September, I wrote a farewell post. I simply couldn’t take the negativity going on in this culture war. To be honest, I still can’t. Many of you have written me to express your support, your kindness, even your frustrations with me for not continuing this journey of reconciliation. Every single word has been heard, treasured, and put to good use.

After thinking on these things for the past few months, I’ve arrived at a few conclusions:

I stand by my decision to take a break from staunch advocacy. However, I would be remiss if I said my journey had ended. For better or for worse, I still deal constantly with living as a lesbian in the bible belt south. And at the risk of making myself too vulnerable, I feel the need to come clean on a few things.

Before going into that, I must say: I am extremely happy. I love my life. My partner (who I’ve put through a lot, by the way) has helped me realize true love is not a lost cause for this sappy romantic. However, as someone who has experienced social anxiety on some level my entire life, it has become nearly unbearable over the past few years. Self-acceptance was never as much of a problem until I came out.

I worry. Constantly. I can feel the disgust people have for me, even when they don’t say it out loud. It hurts. Like everyone else, I want to be accepted and loved. And to know there are some people who feel they can not be in fellowship with me because of this issue damages me on a cellular level.

I see other LGBT friends living life normally with their partners. They don’t let the naysayers bother them. Truly, they are able to simply brush it off and go on with their happy and healthy lives, without one worry about what people think or say. I envy them. Why is this so difficult for me to do as a grown woman in my thirties?

In addition to everything I just referred to, I feel guilty for mentioning it. I feel as though by giving into these negative thoughts, I’m allowing myself to stay in the role of the victim. And I despise the thought. When I truly give into the negativity surrounding my life as a lesbian: I feel cheated. I feel victimized. I feel hated, loathed, and cynical. I feel talked about. Whispered about. Laughed at. It may not be true for every person in my life, but it’s there. I’ve seen it happen, time and time again: Before someone knows I’m gay, they enjoy my company. They take me seriously. They treat me like a human. After they find out—either by me or the grapevine—they avoid me. They see me as less than. They treat me as the “other”. I don’t want to fall into the trap of over-generalization, but it’s difficult not to when you’ve seen it happen as many times as I have.

So the primary reason I wanted to say farewell to you, my dear friends, is because I don’t have a lot of positivity to give about this subject at the moment. But perhaps there is value in authenticity. Maybe it’s important to come right out and say I’m not in a good place. As it currently stands, I feel like I’m in an incubator, just waiting to emerge a better person. I’m attempting to nurture my soul by immersing myself in hobbies, in spiritual readings, in Christmastime traditions. But despair is still there, underneath. It always is. Maybe with every passing year, it will shrink, growing smaller and smaller, completely enveloped by my joy. Until then, it’s my cross to bear. And as long as I have feelings, I suppose you’ll find me writing about them. For your sake, I wish they were always happy ones. But as long as you’re willing to read them, I’m willing to share them… for better or for worse.

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