When I first realized I was gay and had my first crush, Adrienne, I was a little southern Baptist girl living in a small town insulated by the ideas of the church, handed down to me by the imposing hands of my foremothers and forefathers. Adrienne came to hand me a revision, something that I had to cope with, something that changed my life forever, and something that I’ve forever grappled with.
I’d grown up between the four worlds of my mother and my grandparents, each of whom had starkly different value spectrums. My mother attended church off and on when it fit the bill, but after falling in love with a woman when I was six never reconciled her faith and her beliefs. My grandma, the pianist for the First Baptist Church where she lives, is fiercely religious. My grandpa however was a sci-fi loving, discourse-engaging skeptic. It’s like living with Cynthia Nixon, Tammy Faye Bakker, and Bill Maher. My mom was conflicted on being gay and conflicted on religion. My grandma was convicted—staunchly anti-gay, pro-religion. My grandpa was anti-religion, anti-government, and anti-labeling. Rightly I’d be a little confused by the time I’d hit puberty. And when one party, likely the one with the most sense, my grandpa, passed away when I was 13 I was left with little to no comprehension of how to navigate between the four worlds I was floating in.
My first problem was when I heard a repeated message from both sides: gay kids don’t come from gay mothers. Assuredly, I was straight and I didn’t have to worry about grappling with my sexuality. I took on my religion as my main focus, hosting a bible study at school and going to church every Sunday. It was after a night of reading my bible that Adrienne came to visit.
I spent hours reading my bible and praying after Adrienne left. I knew every church I’d ever been to had condemned lesbians to hell. I knew that’s why my mother hadn’t gone to church for years. I knew Jesus didn’t love gay people. I knew in my mind that if I chose to listen to my body, I’d be sent to eternal damnation, away from my Father in Heaven, away from my grandpa who’d just passed away. I quit the bible study. I read my bible daily, I searched for clues to why I could be a lesbian or how I could be a lesbian and ignore it, or how I could just get rid of it. I searched for ways to make it go away. I searched for a religion that could promise I wouldn’t be gay anymore if only I’d follow it to the letter of the law. I learned a lot about religions. I went to so many churches that I couldn’t count them on ten hands. I’ve had hands laid on me, prayed for, anointed, baptized, and condemned. Nothing made me any less a lesbian. It wasn’t from a lack of trying.
After accepting that there was nothing I could do and entering a relationship with a girl my senior year of high school, the personal insults began. Those who had previously loved me to death started threatening me. I received hateful looks, dirty comments, and condoms on my tailpipe of my car, broken CDs scrawled with nasty words in my driveway at home, and multiple voicemails with condemnation on my box at home. It was insanity. These were Christians who professed love. Were they so “afraid” for my soul or so afraid to be “wrong” that they would resort to threatening me to save me? Did that ever work?
I grew up and fell in love with the idea that Christianity was a four-letter word. I had become so fed up with the way I had been treated in the past that the future without Christ was a better option. I attended a reform synagogue for several years, and what I learned there was invaluable. Tradition, love, and good works are the ties that bind us to each other. I saw myself not as a Jew, but as a faith seeker. I found myself furthering my progress toward rectification and healing.
It was Christmas of 2010 that I entered a church of my own volition upon invitation of friends for a candlelight service. The calm and peace of the familiar hymns and carols echoed back to my soul somewhere down deep to the Tammy Faye Bakker side while the Cynthia Nixon side sat holding the candle still, keeping face. It wasn’t long before the smudged eyeliner of Tammy Faye could be seen on the outside, running down my face. Finally, I could feel peace in a church. Finally, I felt home.
Christ never spoke about hellfire and brimstone for lesbians. He spoke about acts of loving-kindness and radical love for neighbor and enemy. He spoke about the evils of being rich and judgmental and the blessings of being merciful and meek. My God is a loving God, who wouldn’t send His creation away because of the way she was made in His image. My church is one that understands my need to question faith in order to have faith. My four-year relationship with my partner is based upon the biblical principles of respect and mutual care. It enhances my life tremendously. When I have enough money for a wedding I hope to have a traditional church wedding.
Still, the opposition is out there. My partner’s brother and his wife are adamantly anti-gay and we worry about every holiday and what her nieces and nephews will call me. It breaks my heart. Churches preaching that we are evil, sinful creatures who deserve to rot in hell, that we’re demons, that we’re going to take down America every Sunday across this country when I couldn’t even finish my dinner much less ruin the nation. We’re all afraid of what we don’t know and what we don’t understand; we’re all also afraid to be wrong. America is such a culture of being right. But can we really afford to be right all of the time?
I’ve only met a few Christian lesbians, but we’re out there. Don’t assume lesbians are all godless heathens. We all have a lot to learn from each other if we dialog and get over those assumptions. And if there was nothing else I learned from spending years as a non-Christian, I learned a few things from Rabbi Hillel, standing on one foot, “What is hateful to yourself, do not do unto your fellow man. That is the whole Torah; the rest is just commentary. Go and study it.” And if you’re not ready yet to accept the words of others, listen to Jesus, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” All of your neighbors—gay neighbors count!