It’s been said that when the pupil is ready, the master will appear. Well, I wasn’t ready for a long time. Oh sure, there were clues along the way if I had wanted to see — clues that I did not seem to fit into the narrow confines of gender roles. Looking at my photo album, I had a running theme of using Halloween as a chance to dress in drag. And, I never doubted that I would be married and have children, but I couldn’t quite imagine the husband part. I was happily blind until about two years ago; then, whether I wanted it or not, the pupil was ready.
Ellen DeGeneres and God were my first masters. Something in me was intensely curious about Ellen’s character’s coming out process. Something unknown inside of me kept me glued to the Diane Sawyer interviews and to the famous coming out episode. I still remember the scene in which Ellen is desperately trying to prove to Laura Dern’s character just how “not gay” she is. That something unknown inside me wasn’t so unknown anymore; I was watching myself on TV. In that moment, I was frozen, yet I knew I couldn’t go back anymore. I could choose to be blind but I would know what I was looking at.
I spent the rest of that year happily resting in the void. I had made what was for me a giant leap, from I cannot be gay to I don’t know. Whew, that was enough for me for a while. Yet, I knew I couldn’t stay there forever. During an end-of-the-year ritual with a close group of women friends I put words to my fears. The ritual was to burn parts of ourselves that we wanted to shed. I explained my struggles and vowed to burn two things — Fear of Rejection and Fear of the Truth. “Fear of Rejection and find freedom in the flame” “Fear of the Truth and be free so I may love passionately.” And so I began my struggle to freedom, with my eyes open, if nothing else embraced by these women who accepted me and my struggle.
But, you see, my life terrified me. I was the good kid. I was the kid who followed the rules. I never had any doubt I would get married and raise a family. I desperately wanted to share my life with someone, to share my soul with someone. I knew the rules. Our society’s rules are that I marry a man. Without ever seeing this happen, society’s expectations had become my unquestioned foundations upon which I built my existence and my identity. I was the good kid as long as I lived within the acceptable parameters taught to me in unseen moments since I was a small child.
I am also a deeply spiritual person. At this time in my life, I began considering pursuing ordination in the Episcopal Church. Important people in my life had recognized gifts in me that could be shared as a priest. I certainly knew the rules about being a priest. If you want to be a married priest, there’s no latitude for who you share your life with in relationship. Besides, the messages I received growing up was that homosexuality was a sin. I could upset everyone else, my family, my friends, this world, but I could not go against God. And I was taught that to be in a same sex relationship was to go against God.
So, there I was one early morning, sitting at my dining room table. I couldn’t even take a bite of my toast. I couldn’t keep it down. I could feel all my foundations crumbling around me. I had no idea how much of this world’s expectations I had internalized until they began to shatter. Scared, lost, confused, and angry, I yelled at God … how could you do this to me? How could you give me the dream of being in relationship, the dream of sharing my life as a priest, and know the realization that I probably would share my life in relationship with a woman? Who will want me now? Will you even want me? I cannot handle separating myself from you? I felt like a small child again. I wanted to crawl into my daddy’s arms and have him tell me it would be okay.
At this lowest point, when I was exposed with no foundations of protection around me. I felt God’s presence deeply, and I experienced my most poignant moment of affirmation. “You are my child; I created you; I will not abandon you.” I was okay?! My greatest fear of separation from God, of committing a sin against God by being myself, was being removed. Finding myself, being myself, sharing myself was all God desired. In this spiritual presence of comfort, I saw that my life was an unfolding journey of dis-covering that love and God cannot be contained in the boxes our world has constructed. Loving outside the boxes was not to be a concept to me, it was to be my life. My life would be about sharing that message.
But, God, I still have to walk out my door. I have to go out into a world where many people won’t like me, won’t want me, where they’ll tell me I’m no good, I’m repulsive. Even your church won’t want me. Heck, God, they made those boxes.
“Fear made those boxes, love will heal them. You are my child, and I will not abandon you. Just share your life. Let your life be your message.”
It’s hard to live in this world of fear, even with God’s message of affirmation. Love blessed me with courage I didn’t think I had as well as a determined nature that just dives into stuff anyway. But I began to walk forward, to walk into my life, to live as myself.
And in this struggle, blessings and gifts were created. With a trembling voice, I had asked God to discover my truth. With whom shall I fly God? My soul’s desire is to share my flight with another — together — to soar amidst the heavens and dwell with You. I didn’t have to walk alone any longer. I found my soul’s desire. When I stepped away from society’s boxes around who we can love, I found my soul’s desire in a woman who had been my friend for years. When I opened my eyes to the love that cannot be contained in boxes, I found Elaine standing right before me.
The struggles continue, but through living our love we have discovered affirmation. I returned to that group of women friends with whom I had participated in the end-of-the-year ritual. After sharing that I had found love with Elaine, who was sitting right by my side, we were showered with a round of applause. I think applause is what affirmation sounds like, and an embrace is what affirmation feels like.
Elaine and I have been blessed with beautiful friends who embrace us. I have hope that I am living into a journey of freedom. I have hope that one day my family will embrace me in affirmation, but that’s for another day. I’m not the good kid anymore, but I’m real now. I’m trying to shed the masks and roles I was taught to have by this world, and I’m simply trying to be me. I believe, to be me is to be Sacred.
I know that our feeling free to walk down the street hand in hand is a blessing that has been created by many of you who walked this journey before us. I thank you for your struggles for freedom, for acceptance, for affirmation. To be you, just you, is Sacred. Together we share in this ongoing process of healing and reconciliation. All of us, however we live our lives and with whomever we share ourselves in relationship, we have the opportunity to liberate the Sacred’s loving and creative spirit from boxes of fear and become co-creators of a world of boundless love, peace, and freedom.