Living in the closet is sort of like staying in the womb! It's safe! At least we can fool ourselves into believing it is safe. But safe isn't always comfortable. It's a struggle between who we are and who we want to be. With how we wish to be known by others and how we really feel, about ourselves and about our sexuality.
Perhaps, for some of us, it's most difficult to come completely out to ourselves. It's easy being "out" at church or even in a club, where it's expected that we are gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgendered (GLBT). But what about being out to those at work? Or those people we see daily who might look up to us because of our education, or our vocation, our degrees, our career, our executive positions? What exactly is at risk here?
Do we want to be known by our accomplishments, by our personality, by our complete being? Or do we want to be known by our preference of significant other? If I do this thing, participate in the Gay Pride parade planned for spring, stand tall and proud with all my friends and church family, everyone will know. They will also see me as a professional person, as a really caring Christian, as an educated, honest person and will also know that I probably am in a loving relationship with another woman! I am a lesbian!
I can say that to myself. I haven't been able to say that to anyone else. I'm sure some of those people whose opinion of me is important will turn away. It's happened in the past. Those that do not turn their backs on me will be the true friends, the ones who really count. I know all this! I'm not ashamed of who I am. But I don't flaunt it either.
Being GLBT only means that we have a different preference in the ones with whom we choose to have intimate relationships. Society in general doesn't see it the same way we do. The majority of adults have many choices about those they will choose for a "significant other." (That phrase in itself came about because of heterosexuals who did not desire to marry in order to live together.) Everyone has basically the same choices. Those choices involve ethnicity, various backgrounds, education, affluence, etc. GLBT people make those same choices, only take it a step further and choose that "s/o" from our own gender.
What about the risk we take of not being loved? The risk of losing people in our lives whose approval has meaning to us? If I participate in this parade, all the friends of my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will know that I am a lesbian. How will that affect my family? It begins with parents and family, of course, but what about those people who only know us by our accomplishments? Are we willing to risk losing their approval?
Where is the risk here? Our Lord, Jesus Christ in Mark 12:31 gave us the greatest commandments of all. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second greatest is this, Love your neighbor as yourself there is no commandment greater than these." None. No commandment greater. "They will know we our Christians by our love!" Do they know we our Christians if we don't love ourselves enough to be who we really say we are and are completely honest with those around us? What if we don't love ourselves enough, even if we may be GLBT, to be completely honest with ourselves? Who am I kidding?
If I truly believe that the Lord loves me unconditionally and has forgiven me ALL my sins, why would I still be afraid to "come out?" What could be holding me back?
We are not an abomination to God! God created all men in God's own image. Does that mean that God is straight? Or that God is gay? That God is a man? Or that God is a woman? Is God white? Or is God black? Look around you. How many different people do you see? How many colors of hair, shades of skin, colors of eyes do you see? Some people are born blind, does that mean God is blind? Some are born without arms or legs, without some parts of the body? Who is the different one? The one that society says is perfect or the one with a deformity? Which one is the one created in God's image?
The truth is that we are all created in God's image, because God's image is spiritual, not physical. God's image is on the inside, not on the outside. God is love, pure and simple. If we follow God's will for us, that we are in constant, prayerful and loving service to God and all his creations on earth, we cannot fail. We cannot fail God. We cannot fail ourselves. And we cannot fail those around us. Not if we seek only to do God's will.
We are afraid to take the risk of "coming out" because we still see ourselves the way society sees us, on the outside. We are still putting others in little compartments of classification. We are still seeing others on the outside instead of looking at the person that God has made, the spiritual one that resides inside.
The eyes are the windows of the soul. When we first meet someone do we look into their eyes and allow our spirits to meet? Or do we take in their size, shape, color, or gender? We are trained to see the outer first. We are trained to be attracted to that "tall, dark, handsome" person, are trained to be repulsed by obesity, by deformity, and ugliness. How fortunate for us that these are learned behaviors. Learned behaviors can be unlearned and replaced with other, more appropriate and Godly behaviors.
Where do we find the pattern for the behaviors we should be changing to? They are all right there in the handbook. God gave us a wonderful manual for living. It is called the Bible. The best ones are called "study Bibles" and are geared for everyone at every stage of life. There are study Bibles for teens, for adults, for parents, for seniors, for women, for men.
But a Bible cannot be used as a handbook for living until it is opened and read. Because life is more important than a household appliance, a vehicle, or even a game, the Bible needs to be read and studied regularly, not glanced at occasionally when living brings problems. Most manuals aren't even opened until the appliance breaks down. Like any manual it begins with a basic history of how things came about and how God dealt with the world and the people in it. When God had enough, the son of God, Jesus Christ, was sent to walk the earth. He came as a helpless little baby, dependent on parents for food, clothing and nurturing. Jesus came to be the same way as each one of us did. When I was born there was no one around who said, "This baby looks like a lesbian!" I was just one of God's creations. When you were born you were just one of God's marvelous creations.
Well, guess what? We are still just one of God's marvelous creations! We have not changed. We have only made different choices! God does not love us for our choices. God only loves us because we are one of God's wonderful creations.
Addendem to Coming Out
February 26, 1998
The decision of coming out publicly at the Gay Pride Parade in Corpus Christi has been made for me. I'm not certain that it was God's work or not, but needless to say, I will NOT be participating in the parade. I found out that the parade will be held on Sunday afternoon, sometime after church. As I have to leave immediately after church for home to get ready for work at 3 p.m. it will be physically impossible for me to participate. I can't say I'm not relieved, I am. I was really struggling with this one. I realize that there is a possibility of taking that day off work. For me to get a weekend day off, especially after May 1 when our summer season begins, is next to impossible. It was very difficult getting a day off to attend an out of town event, even for one day! In the hospitality business there are no weekends, holidays, etc.
For now, I will not be able to answer the question of whether I am ready to come out publicly in a Gay Pride parade. I have been televised a couple of times at the AIDS Day services at our church. But many heterosexual people attend those services also. I guess this is something I'm supposed to struggle with for a while longer.
Another item for my Lenten prayer list.
Wayne A. Meeks (Editor), Jouette M. Bassler (Editor)