We found love in a hopeless place

The biggest risk I ever  took was telling my parents that I’m gay.

I’d been brought up in a conservative, religious household. We went to church every Sunday. We grew up going to church choir rehearsals, confirmation classes (that’s the class all adolescents take before becoming official members of the United Methodist Church. Confirmands study the Bible, seek wisdom and learn the responsibilities of church membership — which, simply put, is supporting the church with your prayers, presents, gifts and service.)

My family wasn’t angrily anti-gay or anything. We participated in the arts, which brought us into the company of gay men and women. I took voice and acting lessons from a gay man. And for a long while, it was an open secret that our church choir director and the church pianist had lived together for twentysomething years.

Even so, my parents made it clear that the Bible had it right: sex is a covenant between married people, and when expressed any other way, sex pulls us away from God’s grace. Our lifelong friends had a gay son, and we all loved him. My parents never spoke ill of this young man (who later died from complications of AIDS), and treated him with warmth. But I could tell that they found his sexual identity troubling.

My years at Baylor University unveiled a less loving attitude toward gay folks, with then-President Herbert Reynolds answering a question in a student-president forum by saying that he hoped homosexual students wouldn’t feel at home at Baylor.

When I met and started seeing Wondertrickster, I buried a lot of that. I’d been close friends with a gay man, Matthew, for years, which seemed to cause my dad increasing anxiety. My father is so gentle, though. The most he ever said about my friendship was along the lines of “I don’t understand what’s in it for you.”

I kept the real nature of my relationship with Wondertrickster a secret. It took a toll. I started drinking heavily. I started binge eating. I got pretty ill. One morning, I woke up still drunk, and still sick from the ungodly amount of food I’d eaten in secret. I was more afraid at that moment than I’ve ever been. I looked up the number for the  employee assistance program provided by the company I worked for.

And I went into therapy. My therapist got to the bottom of things pretty fast.

I was a liar.

I was lying to the most precious people in my life about who I was. About who Wondertrickster is to me. That felt horrible. So I tried to make it all go away with booze and food. I didn’t drink daily, but it was always in secret. I binge ate every night, when Wondertrickster was asleep. I ate so much that, after a while, I’d vomit involuntarily.

It takes a long time to stop being a liar. Especially when you’re convinced that your lies are sparing the people you love from the horror of what you are. Lying externalized the selfish, destructive things you do. Lying outsources your sin, your evil impulses to the world.

It took a year to unpack all of this. My therapy prepared me to come out as a lesbian to my parents. I was really scared, but I planned a week at my parents house as a vacation. I would spend five days enjoying their company, and then I would tell them.

This is how scared I was: I had all of my things packed the night before I told them what I was. I put my shoes on before I went downstairs to tell them “the news.” I never wear shoes in a house. But I was ready to be thrown out of the house. Disowned.

The words came out utterly inelegantly. I felt as if I’d stepped out into nothingness. We were all in free-fall. I was pulling back a curtain that could leave me an orphan, technically. As soon as I told them: “I’m gay, and Wondertrickster and I are in a relationship, and I love her,” my mother started crying. Why do mothers cry so often when their children come out to them?

My parent’s response was the deepest testimony to their Christianity I ever witnessed. They said I was their daughter, they loved me and were proud to know me. They said that Wondertrickster would always be welcome in their home. A few hours later, my mother was leafing through a catalog, and asked “what do you think she’d want for Christmas?”

Things haven’t been simple or easy since I told the truth. And it’s taken me years to understand that their grace was — and is — an extension of their love for me.

In the long run, I’ve come to understand that being in the closet is more than a dishonor of those who are keepers of secrets. Its belittling to those around us. Being closeted is living out the assumption than people around us can’t cope with difference.

I didn’t breaks my legs when I landed from that free-fall. I stumbled a little. I’ve learned that being out of the closet is an ongoing process, and every now and then, I choose to rush back in. And as always, when I rush back into the closet, I’m lying to myself, the new person in my life and to God. Every new relationship involves that risk of telling the person “I’m gay.” Or “I have a girlfriend.”

I’m not sure what God is trying to teach me. But the risk is always scary. I always have to take a breath and step into uncertainty. There’s no safety net.

There’s only the mystery of grace and love.

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3 comments on “We found love in a hopeless place

  1. jenninaustin
    February 23, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    VERY true. The scariest thing in the world is to have the courage to live authentically. We’re all called to do so, and support each other in the process. Thank you for sharing this!

  2. tourmama616
    February 23, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

    I like that you called that kind of release “a free-fall”. I call that kind of honesty “word vomit”. When you can no longer keep something in because it is eating you alive. Like you feel like the words will literally be thrown up if you don’t voluntarily say them anyway. I word vomit often, just as a cleanse.

    Or maybe that’s just me. Really, really gross analogy me 😀
    Good for you though, and I’m happy your parents were and continue to be supportive. I’ll never understand how parents couldn’t be.

    • Cecile JOhnson
      February 24, 2014 at 1:31 am #

      Such a beautiful writing and testimony to your own strength of character and the love of your family…………I applaud you and am even prouder to say we are friends…………….

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