A Community of Conviction

Although I have been “out” for just over eight years, I truly feel that Whosoever is helping me to complete my coming-out process.

How is it doing this? By helping me to find community (cyber-community, at any rate) with other GLBT people whose hearts and minds are moving in the same direction as mine. Our segment of the population is just as diverse as is the wider world. Simply because I am a lesbian, that doesn’t necessarily mean I want to spend all my free time sitting around in bars, swapping girlfriends or playing softball. My home city, Phoenix, is a city of newcomers; it’s a place where nobody knows anybody they didn’t meet just last week, and whom they’re pretty sure they’ll never meet again. It can be an especially difficult place to connect with other sexual minorities who care about social justice, the reclamation of a truly Christ-centered morality, and the other concerns that motivate me.

Connecting through the stories and concerns shared in Whosoever can be a way to make friends, even right here in my home city. GLBT members of my church, and those of others, who read Whosoever (and there are lots of us) have the potential to meet face-to-face and get to know one another better.

In several of the essays I’ve written for Whosoever, I have bared my soul. Writing about the turbulent times going on in my life has been very cathartic for me, and has helped me to make sense of people and events I long struggled to understand.

Although the Whosoever community is a diverse one, I know that I belong here. Many people bemoan the rise of the Internet, lamenting that it will turn us all into pajama-wearing hermits who never leave our homes to meet one another face-to-face. But quite to the contrary, I have found that it can bring together people who might otherwise never have met, and bridge distances otherwise unbridgeable. It can create brand-new communities in what had previously been a vast wasteland of misunderstanding. It can create communities of conviction.

The Whosoever community is, very much, a community of conviction. We come together because we care about the same things. We get to know each other, and come to care about one another. I read the stories of the struggles and the epiphanies of other sexual minorities who share my faith, or who are seeking faith, and they become a part of me. Every time I click into Whosoever, I feel the same sense of anticipation that I get coming to church, or going away for a workshop or a retreat. I always wonder: “How will I grow this time?”

In helping to build community across this land, Whosoever may also play a part in building the sort of counter-cultural consciousness necessary to take back our society and make it truly free again. Our society (and most of our media) seem to be controlled by schoolyard bullies who’ve never grown up. These are the sort of people who used to steal our lunch money, or make trouble in class and blame it on us. They were the ones who called us nasty names, and then goaded other kids into beating us up. (They didn’t do the beating-up themselves, because — then as now — they were the cowards who incited the fights, then stood safely back and relished watching our heads get broken.)

When we begin making friends, and linking arms with others, we realize that we can take on anybody. Whosoever readers in small towns, or rural areas, may not even be able to conceive of a faith-community where they are welcome. But they are welcome here — and with open arms. And we can help them get connected with others in their area and find friends they never knew existed. Someone in a lonely corner of the country is just discovering Whosoever with this very issue. He or she is astonished at the discovery, perhaps a little bit afraid to believe that it’s real, but overjoyed about what they have found.

You are not alone, and you are loved. The God some others claim hates you is actually your Best Friend, has been taking care of you all along, and has brought you here. Although you have not met us face-to-face, there are people — and many of us — who are praying for you, and hoping all the very best for you. We who write for Whosoever are sharing our lives, and our very selves, with you. We’re giving you the very best of who we are, hopefully helping you to grow, and it is helping us to grow to dimensions we never before imagined possible.

The process of coming out involves learning to accept myself as who God made me to be. It has been eight years in the making, and will certainly continue for as long as I’m alive, but reading and writing for Whosoever has helped to clarify my understanding — to solidify my sense of where I belong in the world, and in the GLBT community locally and globally. It has helped me to find where I fit in. For a very large part of coming “out,” indeed, is fitting “in.”

Coming “out,” as a matter of fact, is only half the process. Living a healthy life, a life of integrity, as a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person certainly must begin with telling the truth — first to yourself, and then to the rest of the world — about who you are. But to imply that this is all there is to it is to go on thinking of who you are as some sort of “dirty little secret,” or at least a liability, that you have exposed. Sort of like admitting to a handicap: as if you’re “sexually challenged.” And laboring under such an assumption is no way to live a whole and healthy life.

The second half of coming “out” of the closet of denial of who you are is coming “in” to a new sense of belonging. It involves arriving at a realization of where you belong in the world, what gifts you have to offer, what your unique perspective is on what it means not only to be a sexual minority, but to be human. Whosoever has helped me to come “in” out of the confusion of not knowing where I belonged, not being sure where I might use my gifts and share my experiences with others who can benefit from them. It has helped me to transform something that, for many years, I considered a curse into a tremendous blessing.

Whosoever is more than a magazine. Whosoever is a movement. I’m part of a community of conviction. Nearly a decade after having begun the process of coming out, I finally know where I belong. And it is one of my heart’s fondest desires to share the joy of my discovery with as many people as possible.