Pride

I still remember the details of my morning when five years ago yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled to legalize gay marriage across the country. My four-year old daughter was playing with blocks and mermaid toys. My infant son was cooing in his bouncy chair. I poured black coffee into a rainbow mug and posted a picture of it on social media with a simple caption of rainbow-colored hearts. And then the text messages started pouring in. “You’re a Christian, so how can you celebrate same-sex marriage?” “I’m confused…are you not a Christian anymore?” The truth was, I didn’t know then why I was so moved with joy. I knew cerebrally that I was an affirming Christian. At that point I had worked all of that out within my faith. I knew that I was joyful for my LGBTQ loved ones who now had the opportunity to marry whoever they loved. And I knew that I have and will always speak loudly and boldly (read obnoxiously) for those of us who exist in the margins of the white supremacist and Christian patriarchal “normal” that is America. But I didn’t KNOW know, the way a heart and a head know, and the way language wraps succinctly around a thought and defines what the soul knows, that the deepest part of my joy wasn’t simply stemming from my being a good ally.
Let’s reverse time travel to me in college- Eugene, University of Oregon 2004. I was living with girlfriends in a big old house, dating my now-husband, going to school for psychology, and working for the online side of a women’s clothing boutique managing their virtual store’s orders and shipping. Most of my extracurricular time was spent going to a country bar with Joel and house parties with friends from school. But one summer as I remained in Eugene to work and my friends and Joel all moved home for the summer, I started spending time with a coworker. In appearance, she was my opposite. Tall, lean, brunette, with a cute little nose. I thought she was amazing. She was funny, comfortable in her own skin, living on her own, fun…and cute. One night, casually and soberly hanging out a bar (we both had to work the next morning) we kissed. It was kind of a dare, but mostly an advance from her that I didn’t put together until much later, and it involved a guy with a tee shirt that read “I Love Lesbians”. We were attractive, young, and attention-seeking (even though we both had boyfriends at the time). I remember her saying “let’s make this guy’s night the next time he looks over at us”. He did. Of course. Kissing her wasn’t a quick, silly peck. It wasn’t me staying in my head and wondering what the guy with the lesbians shirt thought or who else was watching. Kissing her was feeling soothed by her lips, and safe with her hands on my face, and completely, terrifyingly, OK with all of it. It was body wisdom and my soul feeling something, but in typical enneagram 7 form, my head, and my incessant need to put on a show took over the second we broke apart. And I was just a girl in a bar who had a boyfriend hanging out in his apartment a mile away, and a cute friend that must have been more drunk than I realized to want to kiss me like that. And that was the end of that. I moved in with her later in the summer for a brief in-between apartment leases season that also felt like an in-between two worlds season. We went to hot yoga together every day after work, we ate meals together, and slept in her bed together at night. If you would have asked me then I would have told you that I thought she was awesome and that letting me live with her was super nice and convenient. I would not have told you that I suspected there was chemistry between us, and that if we both had not been in committed relationships to men at the time I might have even read our relationship as flirtatious and attraction. Those are the thoughts that would fleetingly come to mind when I would watch her smile in the mirror when she tried on a cute new sweater at the boutique, or when I’d feel fleeting jealousy when she talked to her long distance boyfriend. Its not so much that I held firm to my straightness during that time, it’s that I was so naïve about sexuality and so inexperienced within my sheltered Christian purity culture upbringing that being queer was not even a thought. I hardly knew what the word “queer” meant, and even though I was aware of and accepting of homosexuality (despite the preaching and “statements of faith” from my pastor back home that it was a sin), I had placed it neatly into boxes of gay or lesbian. I was in love with and attracted to my boyfriend, and I wasn’t even aware that I had anything to consider.
On my birthday in 2006, Joel Mayer asked me to marry him on a blanket under the stars, and in May 2007 we were married. He is without a breath of a doubt the love of my life, and the person that my heart and soul recognized as a forever partner when we were just teenagers. As long as we both live, the Supreme Court’s vote to legalize the marriage between two men or two women does not bear impact for me personally. But I now recognize that what it represents for me is still very personal, and I also recognize why.
Healing and self-discovery go hand in hand. Letting go of baggage, lies, shame, and abusive self-thoughts isn’t a clear, linear trajectory, but with loving support, growth can at least resemble a squiggly line moving slowly northward, even if there are downturns every so often. And when we remove the heaviness of shame-inducing family of origin systems, toxic patriarchy, suppressive religious structures, etc, we make space for Truth to emerge within us. When our thoughts aren’t cluttered with fear, insecurity, and the anxieties that come with not feeling safe, then we can begin to acknowledge what our very wise selves have been trying to speak since our birth. My thirties have been like a treasure hunt through Mordor. I had discovered beautiful hidden gems in an absolute landmine decade. Children, friendships, allies, a dismantled and pieced back together again Faith, politics that stem from knowledge and integrity, boundaries, bravery…and bisexuality. I can finally see and acknowledge that I am queer as can be, and the long and the short of it, is that I have been my whole life. It is simply that the noise was too loud and my soul with too well-behaved and quiet to hear. The fact that I am in love with and married to a man does not diminish the potential that is within me to respond romantically and sexually to both female and male-presenting humans…and even some in-between if I’m honest. I’ve played around with terms, and what fits best is Bisexual but a label is just a label. Ultimately, I am Heather. Fully beloved, fully valid. Still faithful to my love for Jesus, still faithful to the commitment of my marriage to Joel, still the same me. But instead of just being a committed ally, I am committedly queer and fully belonging.
I cried my eyes out when I said the words to Joel. He was neither shocked nor upset. I sweated through my shirt every time I came out to a loved one. Nobody was in the least bit phased. We left our old church because as I was coming out, they became loudly not affirming. I held my head high as I refused the gaslighting of the pastor. But this begins a new chapter. This open and out version of Heather the Bi Femme gal is yet to be discovered. I’m unleashing her with trepidation. But mostly with hope. Hope that this will lead me down a road that makes sense, perhaps helping other ex-fundamentalist Christian women navigate their own queer sexualities. Hope that future generations won’t have to be so mystified or kept in the dark about their own perfectly beautiful selves. Hope that gay and Christian won’t appear as opposing one another. Hope that the Church can stop placing premiums on one picture of humanity.
In the meantime, I am finishing my Spiritual Direction Certificate this fall and allowing the Spirit to continue to move me where they will. If you see yourself within these words, then I welcome you with heaps of joy and honoring. And I encourage you on and on and on to whatever bright new Hope lies ahead for you. Jesus loves us, this I know.

1 thought on “Pride”

  1. Thank you so much for this beautiful story and the immense courage it took to write it. I have only once before witnessed the bravery of coming out, when my mom told my grandfather she was engaged to my (now) stepmom just over 5 years ago. It was such a charged atmosphere that immediately released once she said it and my grandfather started planning to redo his whole backyard to accommodate a wedding.
    You have always been very strong and inspiring, and definitely another mom I look up to. We love you and support you in all of this 💕
    Thank you for choosing to let us be a part of your life (and your family’s) and we are so grateful you (and they) are a part of ours.

    Like

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