I could choose to live in fear and not live true to myself. That was very tempting when I first realized that I was gay. I came out to myself less then a month before I left for college a little over 2 years ago. My first thought when I looked in the mirror after this realization was, “You’re gay and you can keep a secret.”
The only reason I can think of that would make me say something like that to myself is fear. I didn’t have a name for that fear nor an idea what that fear is, then nor do I really have a complete idea now.
I know that there is unfortunately a risk you must take every time that you decide to come out. There’s a fear that something horrible will happen if you tell someone you’re gay. That fear can begin to get so thick that you can feel it in the air between you and the person you want to tell and it can, and unfortunately in many cases does, cloud the friendship or relationship that you have with this person.
With all of this in mind there is only one way to get rid of fear. The way to displace fear from the world is to show that there is no threat. I believe that the only way that the fear and hate will go away is for their to be a name and a face to what people generalize as a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person.
In a class I took on human sexuality a guest speaker from a local AIDS services center came in (for lack of any other way to describe it) to “do the talk on homosexuality.” He started the discussion off by asking the class to throw out any and all of the terms they had ever heard gays and lesbians called. The room of over 400 went almost silent and a few people actually answered his questions. I think that I may have spoken up and gave him a barely audible, “dyke.” As the class and he brainstormed these terms he wrote them on the overhead projector and I felt my heart sink.
He then posed an interesting and poignant idea to ponder. Do you think that if the man that beat Army Pfc. Barry Winchell to death in July 2000 had yelled his name instead of “faggot” over and over again that he might have stopped. He might have stopped to think. And he would have realized that there was a face and a name to what he was doing.
A face. A name.
That is what I’m trying to be. It’s kind of comical now when I think about the night that a group of my closest friends got together this semester and decided that we were a family and needed to have a family meeting. The players in this evening were myself, Mandy, Stephanie, Jennifer and Johanna. We viewed ourselves as sisters and agreed that it was time to act upon that idea and discuss what we wanted out of the group. During the course of the evening we all took turns pointing out what we thought the others brought to the group.
Mandy said that I brought gay pride to the group. At first I thought that surely there was something else I brought with me other then being gay. After all I am the “group psychologist.” (The one that everyone comes to, because I’m a good listener and approachable). It wasn’t until I sat here at this computer screen and started to write this that I now understand what she meant.
I pride myself in living an honest life and that to me means being out and taking the risks that follow that decision. My family at the University of North Texas respects that and it doesn’t matter to them. The fear that I could have is gone because there is no risk of loosing these “sisters.” I know that they would respect and protect any decision that I make. (And in turn I would protect them if the need arose.) I know that I have these wonderful women in my corner which lessens the fear that I have every time I’m faced with being honest to someone else.
I guess what I’m getting at is, that to me, fear is not worth it. I’m more afraid of hurting myself by not fully being me. I fear being a self-loathing lesbian. I fear losing my faith and the denomination that I hold dear to me, the Presbyterian Church (USA). I do fear that they will not allow me to fulfill my call to ministry, the path that God has set me on. But I can not leave PC(USA) even though it would be easier and this fear would leave. What about the others after me who may live in fear of this same thing or fear not being able to be fully a part of this denomination? If I leave out of fear then I have, in a weird round about way, given them the permission to exclude and have condoned it.
I would rather live honestly and openly and make it easier for others in the future. I would rather show others that they do not have to live in fear. And the way for me to do that is to live that way. I must take the risks and know that there are people who love me and support me no matter what. And hope that others will feel the same way. I hope, no, I know that there are others that feel the same way.
A member of the Presbyterian Church, Jennifer Felix wrote for Whosoever while attending the University of North Texas and planning to enter seminary.