I first started entertaining the idea of writing a book when I was in High School and the subject of my book was going to be about the balance and hardships of being a young adult learning about her own faith and sexuality. As I have mentioned before, I was very involved in my church youth group (Baptist) when I was in HS. Our youth group was kind of huge and at my HS many of the kids went to church too. We are talking about the kids on the football team and the cheerleading squad, along with the misfits like me, and everyone in between. Church was in this particular community the “cool” thing to do. Even kids who didn’t go to church for Jesus/God, went to youth group because it was just really the only thing in town for kids to do, and we had a ton of fun.
Fully entrenched in the “War on Drugs” and the “Just Say No” campaigns (this was the late 80’s) our little slogan was, “Jesus is the High Life” and we were referred to as “High Lifers” at school. Looking through the yearbooks from that time, you can’t find a single page that didn’t have a High Lifer in it. I would venture to say that at least 70% of the kids at my HS attended at least one High Life event, and slightly less than that were regular attenders (I am probably underestimating).
When I read about religion in schools and the battles some kids go through to have a Bible study at lunchtime, I wish I could roll back to camera and show them what we got away with at school. We wore t-shirts, had Bible studies on campus, led prayer groups, and of course told everyone who would listen that, “Jesus was the High Life.” We were evangelicals, and we were serious about it. I was serious about it. I embraced Christianity hook, line, and sinker. I was a Bible Thumping Jesus Freak. I had a dark side too though – one that would forever change my faith, my friends, and my views on religion and spirituality. I was a lesbian – I think. Maybe. Sort of. Yes. No. Yes. Gay. Shit.
I really tried to not be gay. Really. I prayed for God to change it. I had so much shit to deal with already. I already didn’t fit in. I already had to fight to be accepted in this group of kids and young adult leaders. I already wasn’t like most of them – from wealthy or at least financially comfortable families. I already had to have other church members sponsor me to go on youth trips because my Mom couldn’t afford to pay. I already had to prove everyday that my faith was real, and that I was a good person despite the fact that I had already been involved with drugs, I used to steal anything that wasn’t nailed down, I was a smoker, I had non-church friends who I loved, and my Mom was an alcoholic. So needless to say, I spent some time being quite pissed off at God that He would ‘make’ me a lesbian on top of all that other crap.
So I did what any good Christian gay person does. I tried to change it. I tried to ignore it. I asked for counseling from my youth group leaders. I talked to my closest friends for hours on end about how to deal with being a lesbian and being a Christian at the same time. I prayed. Others prayed for me. I prayed some more. I had boyfriends. I prayed. I read the bible verses that condemn homosexuality and died inside every time I read those words. God didn’t love me. God didn’t want me. The one entity that I had been told would love me unconditionally as long as I trusted and put my faith in Him, and would never leave me; the one being that would understand me – well, He apparently lied according to Leviticus and Romans. I didn’t want to be gay. I wanted to be Christian. It took me many years to realize that these two things were not in fact mutually exclusive – but the journey to understand that was a long and painful one.
I had two youth pastors during this time, one of them counseled me with hurtful words and threats – the other counseled me with concern and kindness. The stark difference between these two men made me realize something quite crucial that I had never put together before. These are just men. These are just men with opinions. These two men can read the same two verses and have two very different interpretations of those verses. The book we were using was the same – the only difference was the delivery of the message and the intent behind that delivery. What a liberating revelation that was!!
So I started to really read the Bible. I studied religions from around the world – especially the “Big Three” – Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. I started noting inconsistencies. I started to really watch those people who condemned me and told me that I could not both love God and love women. I had to pick one or the other. There was no other option. I was told to pray. I was told to read God’s word and it would provide answers, comfort and guidance. They were right. I have found answers, insights, comfort, and inspiration from not only the Bible, but other holy books and writings as well. I discovered the simple fact that faith is individual. The interpretations of these great literary works can cause good or harm – it really just depends on how you read them. Kind of like reading a Stephen King novel, some people will be entertained, and some people won’t sleep right for a year.
That’s when I got the idea for my book. I had decided that I would teach young homosexuals that they could in fact love God and live a faithful life at the same time. The tentative title for my book was, “In God’s Closet” and it would focus on the fact that if you hang out with the church people, your sexuality is locked away, but if you hang out with the homosexuals, well your faith gets locked away. Back then (oh so long ago) there certainly wasn’t the acceptance that we see now. There weren’t accepting churches on every corner for the homosexual faithful. We were forced to live these double lives, and when you are a person of faith it is a constant burden to not be able to be an honest person. You have to pick a side and it isn’t because God says you have too, it is because of our fellow flawed human friends that force this decision upon us. Their discomfort and lack of understanding dictated my life – not God. I had fooled myself into thinking that these people were speaking for God and they weren’t, they were speaking for them. God has a much different message and it’s pretty consistent no matter which faith you hail from. The common themes are: 1. God loves/accepts you as an individual 2. Treat others as you wish to be treated and 3. Take care of those who have less than you – be hospitable, be kind.
Anything after those three is subject to interpretation and individual bias because we are reading stories. Some may be entertained and some may not sleep right for a year…
What got me thinking about my book again was the announcement from Exodus International that they are finally ending their “ex-gay” ministries and counseling. They even issued an apology to the hundreds of lives they ruined, to the hundreds of kids who came home from their camps to commit suicide or live a life full of drug abuse to escape their sexuality because God hates them for it. They are apologizing for telling Christian parents to shun their gay children until they pledge to live a Godly life. These people have done so much damage, they have killed people, they have ruined families, and they have destroyed faith for those who need it most. They are truly evil people and an apology just doesn’t cut it for me. I am not happy with their apology – I am however eternally grateful that enough people have learned to accept us that their “ministry” can no longer be profitable for them, and a good majority of people now see them for the abusive quacks they are. They didn’t change their tune because they believe differently, they changed their tune because of pressure. In order to stay relevant in these changing times – they have to change the delivery of their message. So no more shock therapy or starvation (yes Exodus has used these tools to get rid of the gay), they have to take a kinder gentler approach to brainwashing. They didn’t just suddenly decide to be good people and anyone who thinks they have changed are just fooling themselves. Read the “apology” here.
I still would love to write a book that really gets into the struggle I went through, and how I came out a whole person on the other side. I am a whole person because I have my faith, I have my spirituality, and I have an amazing and loving partner to share it with and I wholeheartedly believe that she is one of the greatest gift’s that God has given me.
I figure I will still write that book someday – thankfully though, I think I can change the title.