Queer Joy, Saint Francis, and Skipping Church

I want to write about joy. I want it to be profound and eloquent and make us all feel better.

I also wanted to skip church yesterday, but apparently I can’t figure out how to do either.

I wanted to skip church because I was tired and frustrated and angry. I’ve been angry for the past couple weeks. I’ve been angry at homophobic blog comments. I’ve been angry at the dude who rolled down his car window as he drove by just to call me a dyke. I’ve been angry at myself for letting that Eugene Peterson interview make me feel better. I’ve been angry at myself for being surprised and hurt when he took it all back. I’ve been angry about all the chances I’ve given Evangelicals, all the grace I’ve shown, and all the bitterness I’ve still managed to feel. I’ve been angry at myself for being angry.

So I thought that one Sunday off might do me some good. Because, guys…I don’t want to be angry at anyone anymore. I want to sleep in and I want to write about joy. But I don’t know how…

It has become a running joke among some of my friends to justify ridiculous life choices with the phrase “Queer joy is resistance.” It doesn’t matter if I’m getting Chipotle for the third time in one week, sticking birthday candles in my pancakes, drinking a La Croix in the shower, or ditching class for a Tuesday road trip to Chicago. The personal is political. Queer joy is resistance. Let me live.

Although I’m usually just making fun of misguided activism and my own propensity for hi-jinks, I’ve been using this phrase a little more earnestly as of late. Joy hasn’t felt natural. Joy has been an active and difficult series of decisions. And in a society where queer people are still expected to hate themselves, there’s something to the idea that being publicly, unapologetically gay and happy is kind of a radical thing to do. So last week I took lots of walks. I bought myself flowers. I went to a drag show. I took more selfies than usual. I danced to Beyoncé in my apartment. I ate a really good donut. Because queer joy is resistance. It really probably is, I think.

But damn. Is joy supposed to be this exhausting? Because as much as I love the idea of resisting, I’m getting a little tired of my “joy” being a giant middle finger. I don’t want to be joyful just because society tells me not to be. I don’t want to baptize my rage in glitter and call it happiness. But sometimes that’s what we do. Sometimes queer anger and queer joy look a lot alike. Sometimes we burn our anger like gasoline and then dance around the fire. It’s good and it’s important and it’s beautiful. But I don’t think I can do it forever.

I wanted to skip church yesterday. I wanted to once again sarcastically claim my queer joy by sleeping in and eating waffles. But I couldn’t sleep in, and I ran out of waffles, and yeah, ok God,  I also really needed to go to church.

During liturgy, I sat next to a stained glass window of St. Francis of Assisi, and I remembered his prayer that I prayed every day last summer as a closeted evangelical camp counselor…

Lord, grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console,

to be understood as to understand,

to be loved as to love.

I prayed the prayer again. I thought about some of my blog comments. I thought about the guy who yelled at me from his car. I thought about Eugene Peterson and the people who share his “biblical views of everything.” I thought about queer joy and wondered where on earth it was supposed to come from. I repented of the belief that it comes from people like Eugene Peterson.

Sure, queer joy is resistance. But I don’t know if it can exist without queer love, queer peace, queer patience, queer kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness…

For it is in giving that we receive,

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

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15 LGBT Christians on What Being Queer Has Taught Them About Faith

I recently started reading an excellent book by the Reverend Elizabeth M. Edman, who is an Episcopal priest, political strategist, and super awesome lesbian. The book, titled “Queer Virtue,” goes beyond the question of whether or not homosexuality is Biblically permissible, and celebrates the inherent queerness of spirituality and Christian ethics. She argues that a queer identity is not only “ok,” but can enrich one’s understanding of the Divine and should be acknowledged as a unique expression of God’s love and creativity. Y’all. I’m only a few chapters in, but I’ve been snapping and amen-ing throughout the whole thing. Like, the other people in this coffee shop are starting to stare.

It’s so easy (and so understandable) to get caught up in the hardship of being an LGBT person of faith. There’s plenty to be angry about and plenty to mourn. The Church has a lot of work to do, the progress is slow, and none of it is easy. But WOW, GUYS, there is so much beauty!  This book has been an awesome reminder of just how beautiful faith can be, and how being a member of the LGBT community can serve as an incredible lens though which one experiences God.

In an effort to process the ways that my own faith and queerness interact, I decided to ask a bunch of my #faithfullyLGBT friends what being queer has taught them about their walk with Christ. These are their responses, and they’ve got me feeling some type of way…


“Being queer has taught me that the image of God is in everything and everyone if you have eyes to see it. I’ve learned that God is beyond gender and yet still encompassing of gender, beyond race and yet encompassing all race… Basically that God is much more of a mystery than I ever thought.” –Kevin Garcia (@theKevinGarcia)


“Being out and Christian has taught me the beauty of love and grace. I have learned true and unconditional acceptance. Not works based, but love based.” –@IAmCindyT1 


“One of the first things that coming out as gay has taught me is how I define my faith, and what I believe is the basis of our faith that Christ laid out for us. I run into so many people who don’t understand how you could be a practicing gay and a Christian, as they see it as contradictory. I’ve learned quite a bit about my view of God when trying to lay out for others and myself how I believe I can be both. I’ve basically had to remind myself that the basis of my faith is that God is love. I temporarily dismissed all my jumbled thoughts about Christianity and started over again at that foundation.” -Ilsabet Fouch


“The process of figuring out my queerness has required me to give myself a lot of grace, and I’m learning to do the same thing in regards to faith. Being patient with myself has been super important in my journey as a Christian queer person.” -Anonymous


“Being gay and coming out is an act of radical love. Love that is stronger than the demands of society or social stigma. Love that would rather be with its beloved than receive approval from family or culture or religion. Love that will literally turn its back on everyone and everything else. I like to think God loves me at least this much. That the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus was God’s coming out. An act of radical love that said he would rather be with us than anything else.” –Kyle Tyson 


“[Being bisexual] has taught me that showing love truly is the most important aspect of living out my faith. Essentially redefined love to a more unconditional, honest, and accepting love. Learning to practice that love on others has been extremely difficult, but so so rewarding.” -Anonymous


“Even if I’m ‘wrong,’ I’d always rather err on the side of Love. And according to Jesus (and Paul), when I do that- it’s never ‘wrong.'” –Laura Jean Truman (@LauraJeanTruman)


“When it says we’re ‘fearfully and wonderfully made,’ it still applies to queerfolk. Took forever to finally accept that being queer wasn’t a mistake or punishment on God’s part, but it was intentional. My batch just got more glitter, hips, and sass. It also taught me a bit about the whole, ‘we have a great high priest who is able to empathize…’ I know the verse is about temptation and not sinning, but I think it also has something to say about empathy within the trinity. It taught me that the Holy Spirit gets us, she knows the feels we’re wrestling with and translates our groans and moans and sobs and cries into an ever beautiful narrative of hope and peace and strength. Finally, being queerfully and wonderfully made has taught me about welcoming the outsider, the stranger, and the alien among us. It wasn’t until I experienced rejection, condemnation, and hate that I was able to see how often and how easy it is to cast those judgments on others. But Jesus hung out with hookers and con artists and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a handful of LGBT+ hanging around him…and all the while he loved and accepted and ate with them! He said, ‘come and walk with me and let me hear your story.’ Jesus’ whole, ‘father forgive them for they know not what they do’ was so much stronger because he heard the stories of the guilty, the ostracized, the abused, and he took the time to walk alongside of them and then to walk in their shoes–became one of them. If Jesus took the time to walk along the outsider, what a challenge it is to me to take up that charge and walk with someone else.” -Hannah


“Being gay has taught me that there is beauty in suffering and persevering in the face of pain, but there is even more beauty in arriving to a place of peace and joy after the suffering.” -Anonymous


“Looking at my choice to embrace my sexuality from the viewpoint of younger ‘pray away the gay’ me, that choice represents embracing everything that I believed was sinful and perverse. It has not been easy to disengage with that habitual thinking. But it has brought me to a place of resting on the largeness of the grace of Jesus. It has brought me to a place of relying on believing that the grace of Jesus is large enough to encompass this turmoil that I feel and speak into it. When my mind is full of condemnation, the grace of Jesus is the voice that speaks stillness and assurance.” -Franklyn Harrison


“Being queer has taught me that human categories and concepts cannot do justice to the beautiful complexity and mystery of God’s creation.” –William Stell 


“It’s taught me how easily even the most sweet and well-intentioned people can turn you into a divisive issue instead of a person. Adhering to a biblical statement that most people barely understand the context or significance of and using the adherence to that rule as a status indicator of their faith instead of their relationship with God and with marginalized people is horrifically common…But it also taught me some nuances of God’s love and character that I hadn’t felt or looked at before. I was scared He would be disappointed in me, but I learned to listen to His voice about it and got reassurance that He still wanted me to do His work. It made me challenge norms of Christianity and gender roles in general, and brought me a bunch of awesome people devoted to doing the same.” -Tessa Diaz


“Being a queer person of faith has moved me to listen to and learn from the voices of other people who are marginalized in ways that I am not. I cannot claim that Jesus is in solidarity with me in my oppression, while standing idly by as others are oppressed in ways that I am privileged. Being queer has awakened me to Jesus’ heartbeat of justice.” –Rachel C. 


“Being queer has taught me that, God bless, the Gospel is good news for everyone. Growing up, I couldn’t understand why the Gospel was taught to be an exclusive form of grace that was only bestowed upon certain people. Realizing I was queer messed me up in terms of faith, but ultimately it has shown me that God’s love is big enough to include all of us. It has also taught me that Jesus has ultimate grace that allowed me to step away from my faith and sometimes still step away to breathe through the trauma of what I have had to unlearn. It’s taught me to let go of fear and fully embrace myself for who I am because I am able to embrace God as the creator who made me this way, and that’s enough to get me through the hard days.” -Anonymous


“I learned God isn’t the one shaming and rejecting those who don’t fit the mold. He’s the one loving and comforting those hurt by the Church.” –Matthew Parker


YAS. AMEN. GOD BLESS. GOOD NEWS, INDEED.

I can’t speak for every LGBT Christian, but for a lot of us, arriving at these truths has been a long and difficult process. There can be a lot of harmful teachings and internalized hatred to overcome before you can fully embrace God’s profound love and inclusion. And that’s ok. If you’re in the questioning or coming out process and these things are hard for you to believe right now…that’s ok. God’s love for you is not dependent on your level of faith or your ability to love yourself.

But please know, friends, that God does not love you despite your queerness. Rather, you are a beautiful expression of God’s endless creativity. You are made in God’s wonderfully queer image. You have a faith that you’ve had to fight for and a capacity to love that not everyone can comprehend. Your existence is bravery. Your love is radical. And until you can believe that for yourself, there is a community of folks who are more than happy to remind you of your worth, and there is a God who is proud to call you their child.

There is a seat for you at Christ’s table, my friend. And GUESS WHAT? We’re having brunch.

I Can’t Be Your Gay Friend

Dear Non-Affirming Christian,

I have reviewed your offer and the attached job description, and after careful consideration I regret to inform you that I will not be accepting the position of “Gay Friend.”

It was tempting at first, mostly because the alternatives seemed so lonely. And I’ll be honest, you almost won me over with the promise of paying for coffee when we sit down so you can “hear my story.” However, I have some concerns.

First of all, the job description states that you will be name-dropping me in all conversations pertaining to “the issue of homosexuality” from this point forward. I assume you’re referring to the conversations you have with your real friends, when you muse about the world and your faith and the ways the two interact. I’m sure these conversations sometimes turn into debates, especially since your non-affirming position is so quickly losing popularity. That’s where I come in, right? If you mention that you have a “gay friend,” then no one could possibly consider you a bigot. I’m the living proof that we can disagree on divisive issues and still get along, correct? As if the coffee we share could be listed among your credentials and our perceived friendship somehow makes you more qualified to condemn…

But here’s the problem, Non-Affirming Christian: you’re still thinking of me as a divisive issue. Can you understand why that hurts me? Can you understand that I do not want to be used as a mascot for your theology? Your theology puts kids on the street. Your theology tears families apart. Your theology killed Zack Harrington. It killed Leelah Alcorn. Your theology is a murderer, even when it’s wearing a smiling face and skinny jeans. You can try to justify it next time you and your friends get into one of these debates, but please…I beg of you, not in my name.

Forgive me for my bitterness. If I’m being honest, I’m actually a bit jealous that you can have such inconsequential debates. You can argue about homosexuality and then forget about the conversation 10 minutes later. You can arrive at any conclusion you’d like and it will have no effect on your life. I can’t do that. Every time I’m asked to speak on the subject I am making an appeal on behalf of my existence. When I share my opinion, I am sharing a sacred part of my identity that I know could be rejected. We are not having the same conversation. That’s not your fault, but I think you forget about it sometimes.

This job description you wrote also insists that we both “agree to love each other despite our disagreements.” God, that sounds great. It really does. And I am trying so hard to figure out how we might make it work. Non-Affirming Christian, I believe that you think you love me. And I know that I try to love you. But the problem is that one of us has a lot more to lose than the other.

And I’m so scared that you think it’s you.

I’m afraid that after we finish our coffee, you’re going to go home and pat yourself on the back for adequately loving the “least of these.” After all, Jesus also spent time with prostitutes and tax-collectors! Isn’t it somewhere in the Bible that we should love the sinner and hate the sin? And we all know that it’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

So, doctor, am I your friend? Or am I fulfilling your monthly leper quota?

If we’re going to make this friendship happen, Non-Affirming Christian, I have some work to do first. I’m going to have to pray for the grace to love someone who will never fully accept all of who I am. I am going to have to learn how to love unconditionally and without any expectation of support in return. I am going to have to forgive you for your unrepentant wielding of a belief system that has systematically oppressed my community for centuries. That is excruciating love. That is tremendous grace. For a gay person to love a non-affirming friend is astonishingly Christ-like.

I don’t know if I’m qualified for this position. I’m getting there. I feel closer to Jesus than I ever have before, and he’s teaching me a whole lot about grace and love. But listen, I am just so exhausted. And until I can learn how to give you grace, I need to be gentle with myself. I need to learn to love the person I was created to be before I can fully love a person who tells me otherwise.

Non-Affirming Christian, I don’t think you realize what you’re asking of me when you ask me to be your “Gay Friend.” But I’m trying to forgive you for that. In the meantime, I will walk alongside you and I will pray for you and I will ask God for the will to search for some kind of unity. And perhaps one day we can meet for coffee. I’ll pay this time. And maybe then we can renegotiate the offer.

Playlist: A Queer History Lesson for Your Tiny, Gay Ears

A couple of my favorite hobbies include 1) learning about LGBT history and 2) making weirdly specific Spotify playlists. A few weeks ago, I decided to combine the two. After a full Saturday of research (when I really should have been studying for finals), I ended up with this beauty: “Queers Invented Art: A Very Gay Anthology” 

The anthology includes gay, bisexual, and transgender artists all the way from Tchaikovsky (1875) to Halsey (2017). I did my best to represent a wide range of gender identities, racial identities, religious backgrounds, and musical genres. More than 100 musicians are included, making a playlist that runs for almost seven hours.

I never claimed to be cool, you guys.

ANYWAY, putting the work into making this playlist was such a fun way to brush up on some of my queer history. Surprisingly, there are songs dating all the way back to the 1920’s that are explicitly affirming of same-sex relationships and sexual liberation. Unsurprisingly, many of these were written and performed by women of color, who are almost always the ones at the forefront of social progress (shout out to Ma Rainey and Sister Rosetta Tharpe). As the playlist goes on, you’ll hear the transition into the queer punk scene of the 1970’s, the lesbian folk phase of the 90’s, and the openly gay pop singers who are currently topping the charts. There are even a few contemporary Christian artists who have come out fairly recently, such as Vicky Beeching and Trey Pearson.

Music is only one facet of gay culture, but it’s such a vital one. These songs provide fascinating insights into the ways things have changed over the past 130 years for sexual minorities. Personally speaking, this project was an important reminder that the entire spectrum of emotions has its place in social justice work. In the age of Don*ld Tr*mp, sometimes it’s easy for us to get stuck on anger. Of course, anger is valid. This playlist is full of bitter and angry songs. We have a lot to be angry about. But there are also songs of hope, happiness, silliness, sadness, love, and heartbreak. It’s personal and it’s political, and it’s so very human.

I hope this playlist can provide you with some new jams as you celebrate the last week of Pride month! Be sure to let me know of any important artists I forgot about, and have fun being That Person who says “Did you know they’re gay??” whenever one of these songs comes on the radio. Happy listening, my friends.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/1223562392/playlist/5DVoF6L7It30mW9EpILugP

On Trailblazing & Bow Ties

She looks to be about thirty-five and walks with the confidence of someone who has had to prove herself on more than one occasion. She wears her hair short and accessorizes with quirky-but-professional bow ties that perfectly contrast her patterned button-up shirts. She makes a different caffeine pun every time she orders a drink, and something about her just seems to scream, “I listen to a lot of NPR.” The only thing more consistent than her coffee order is the smile that is always on her face. I can’t be sure, but I think she might actually be me from the future.

Sometimes I forget that I’m still going to be gay in 15, 20, or 50 years. I know that sounds stupid, but here’s the thing: the only gay people I know are my age, and none of us have any idea what the heck we’re doing. In fact, for a lot of gay people my age, being queer still means going to protests, frequenting bars and clubs, and figuring out how to navigate the incredible awkwardness and confusion of the “second adolescence.” As a twenty-something at a conservative Christian college, being gay is still a struggle.

So when this 35-year-old lesbian shows up to the cafe I work at for her daily latte, it’s a weirdly profound experience. She looks like me. She dresses like me. She makes dumb jokes like me. And she is obviously queer like me. But she also has a real career, a wedding band on her finger, a nice car in the parking lot, and an incredible air of self-assurance.

I’ve never been able to imagine what my life will look like beyond the next year or so. I’ve never thought about what my wedding will be like, what kind of person I’ll end up with, or what kind of mom I would be. That’s because, for most of my life, none of those things seemed like options. It wasn’t until I came to terms with my sexuality that those possibilities started to feel real. But even when I gave myself permission to imagine what it might be like to get married or start a family as a gay woman, I still couldn’t really do it…because I’ve literally never seen it done before.

You see, almost every queer kid is a bit of trailblazer. Metaphorical machete in hand, we cut our way through the heteronormative jungle that is young adulthood. We are all pioneers, and every date, every coming out conversation, every pride party, and every ugly reminder of homophobia is a new piece of previously unexplored territory. We have experiences and challenges that even the most wonderful and supportive straight person wouldn’t think to warn us about. We are our own pilots and navigators, which is both terrifying and exhilarating.

It’s terrifying to be so starved for role models, and it’s frustrating to feel unrepresented in the world around you. But here’s the exciting part: when your very identity already defies expectations, you get the chance to throw precedents in the trash and make your own way in the world. And as you continue to create and innovate, you might even get to be the role model you never had for someone else. That’s pretty awesome.

I still don’t know what my life will look like in 15, 20, or 50 years. But every time I make a latte for my future doppelganger, some of my anxiety is eased. My brief conversations with her make it just a little bit easier to see myself as a person with a big, beautiful, gay future ahead of me (and hopefully an equally impressive bow tie collection). Sure, I don’t really know much about what her life is like. But I know she’s living it, and I know she always has a smile on her face.


Here’s a relevant song that got stuck in my head while writing this. Go forth and blaze some trails, my friends.

 

In the Line of Fire: Reflections on the First Anniversary of the Pulse Massacre

About 369 days ago, I came out for the first time. I did it over text message, like the millennial trash I am. I still have the screenshots of my confession and my roommate’s reply, in which she told me that she was proud of me and that I was great and that she loved me a whole bunch *heart emoji.* I saved the texts because it was a rare moment of safety and self-acceptance for a then-closeted gay kid working at a Christian campground. It was a moment when I felt like everything was going to be ok. It was a deep breath in the midst of a years-long panic.

Four days later was the Orlando Massacre.

On Sunday, June 12, 2016, I felt the full weight of the words “that could have been me” like I never had before. Forty-nine people were murdered in what was supposed to be a sanctuary, the same kind of sanctuary I had just visited for the first time a couple weeks earlier. They died on what was supposed to be a lighthearted night of dancing and flirting and drinking and being human. They were not radicals. They were not there as activists. They were kids and spouses and siblings and partners who were just trying to have a good time and live their lives. They were killed for doing exactly what I was trying to work up the courage to do: openly existing as the people they were created to be.

The Pulse Shooting was a brutal reminder to the LGBT community that to step out of the closet is to step into gunfire. We already knew that, but we were starting to get comfortable with the fact that the gunfire is usually metaphorical. Usually it’s the slurs you hear every now and then, or the dirty looks you occasionally get for holding your significant other’s hand in public. Sometimes “gunfire” comes in the form of social isolation, depression, or anxiety. Sometimes it’s misguided and damaging theology that condemns you to Hell. Sometimes it’s having to sign a contract promising not to be a “practicing homosexual” before your evangelical college will give you housing.

But damn it, sometimes the gunfire is literal. And I still don’t know how to process that. I don’t know what to say when my mom asks if it’s safe for me to go to Pride, and I don’t know how to not think about June 12, 2016 every single time I go out dancing with my friends. I don’t know how to comprehend the pain that the families of those 49 people have endured or how to give any kind of comfort to the friends who were left behind. I just know that LGBT people are still getting killed for existing, and I know that we keep existing anyway.

Not only do we still exist, but we still go dancing. We still hold hands. We still laugh and create and love so very deeply. We still go to evangelical colleges, and I dare say, we are still fabulous. The Church may have given me the language to talk about forgiveness and joy in suffering, but over the past year, it has been the queer community that has shown me what that actually looks like.

After Orlando, it’s hard to feel like everything is going to be ok. But we can still learn to take deep breaths in the midst of panic, and we can take pride in the fact that every single one of those breaths is an act of bravery.


On this one year anniversary of the Pulse Massacre, please take a moment to read through the names of those who lost their lives. Remember them, say a prayer for their families, and consider making a donation to Equality Florida in their honor. 

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
Luis S. Vielma, 22
Kimberly Morris, 37
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Amanda Alvear, 25
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
Cory James Connell, 21
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
Luis Daniel Conde, 39
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49
Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
Frank Hernandez, 27
Paul Terrell Henry, 41
Antonio Davon Brown, 29
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24
Akyra Monet Murray, 18
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25

Rest In Pride.

I Just Came Out to Say “Happy Pride!”

Oh hey, it’s Pride Month!

Since June of 1970, one year after the Stonewall Riots, Pride has been a beautiful time of parades, parties, mourning, protests, and glitter. This year is the first time I have been able to openly celebrate it as my super gay self, and let me tell you, it feels darn good. After a long year full of many difficult coming out conversations, I am proud indeed.

If you’ve never had to come out before, you might not realize just how strange and stressful the process is. It is a process that is further complicated by the fact that there seems to be two kinds of “coming out” occasions these days. First, there’s the kind that you have in the living room or over coffee, with loved ones who need to finally be told a significant and intimate detail about your life. This is the terrifying, vulnerable, awkward kind. This is the kind that can even come with a risk of losing friends and family. It’s the kind that usually ends in crying or hugging or both. This is the kind I have gotten REALLY good at.

And then there’s the social media kind, which, in the grand scheme of queer history, is a Very New Thing. I’ve never really hopped on this train. While I frequently reference LGBTQ issues on Twitter and Facebook, I don’t think I have ever explicitly said the words “I’m gay” on the internet, nor have I shared any of my personal journey to self-acceptance. It’s not that I’m embarrassed or ashamed. Not at all. The problem is that I know that my story matters, but I also firmly believe that I do not owe my story to anyone. I would love to put my life out there for people who could benefit from hearing about my experience, but I’m still pretty bitter that “coming out” is even a thing that anyone has to do in 2017. I’m angry about the fact that coming out means being pressured to prove myself as both a legitimate Christ-follower and a legitimate gay person (as opposed to a sexually confused sinner who has been led astray). While I am confident and secure in my identity in Christ as well as my identity as a gay woman, that pressure is still exhausting.

However, I have started to realize that the possibility of making a few queer kids feel less alone might outweigh the frustration of constantly explaining my existence. And I think that might be part of what makes Pride Month so beautiful. Parades are not a form of apologetics. We do not dance in the streets in an attempt to make ourselves more palatable to society. We do not hold hands or raise our fists in an effort to make straight people like us. We do these things because we are human, and we do them together because we need each other.

I am aware that this blog post is going to be read by two kinds of people: straight folks and non-straight folks. To my straight friends, I want to say that I love you. I want to dialogue with you. I want to talk about sexuality and theology and power and privilege and other important things. But not right now. This post is not for you. I’ll catch you in July.

Now…to my queer family,

I also want to say that I love you. Like, so much that it hurts. In fact, a LOT of people love you, even if that doesn’t always feel true.

I want you to understand just how strong you are, even if you haven’t “come out” yet, and even if you never do. Your survival is bravery and I’m so incredibly proud of you.

I want you to know that you are not alone in any of this and that you are not disqualified from the Kingdom of God.

I want to tell you that there is a space for you in the Church and in the LGBT community, and there are some great folks waiting for you with open arms here at the intersection.

I want to be a source of encouragement and a point of connection for you. I want to introduce you to the people who made me feel like I was gonna be ok. I want to let you borrow some books. I want to get coffee with you. I’ll tell you my story and you can tell me yours.

I honestly can’t think of a more beautiful way to celebrate my first real Pride Month. And I guess if I need to do this whole social-media-coming-out thing in order to make those connections happen, then so be it. I’m really gay, you guys.

Happy June, everyone! May your month be full of joy, glitter, and a deep awareness of God’s love.

With pride,

Caitlin J. Stout