Kristen Soo is a relatively new friend, as always, through twitter. Ever since we started talking, I have genuinely enjoyed our dialogue, been greatly encouraged by her voice. When I put out the ask for this series, she was one of the first to step up, because this Matters to her. It matters deeply. And her story below only gives me more hope for the future. I am so appreciative of this incredible voice in the conversation!
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I am in Grade 10, a young teenager fumbling through my identity. My close circle of friends comes to include Aaron*, an aspiring musician and also my first gay friend ever.
What I Thought Then: Wow, Aaron is super-flamboyant! It’s kind of ridiculous. Why does he need to act like this ALL THE TIME? It’s annoying! But other than that, he’s pretty great.
What I Think Now: Aaron, you were so brave being out and proud in high school. You used the constant bullying and mockery as fuel for your music. I’m sorry for silently judging you when, underneath it all, you were struggling with your own identity as well.
I am in my second year of my undergraduate degree. In my small, tight-knit program, two of my friends are James and Alex. Together, we puzzle over difficult assignments for hours and play euchre as a “study break” for more hours. I soon learn that James is an out-and-proud gay man, while Alex slipped quietly out of the closet later on in our friendship.
What I Thought Then: Weird, I thought all gay people were super-flamboyant…I guess that’s not the case. And other than being gay, these guys seem pretty normal. Who cares when we’re all killing ourselves together studying for finals?
What I Think Now: James, thank you for trusting me enough to complain to me about gay relationship drama. I guess it really wasn’t that different from straight relationship drama at all!
Alex, your quiet confidence in who you are helped challenge my beliefs about LGBT folks. Thank you for continuing to be my friend even when you knew I didn’t approve of your sexual orientation.
In my third year of undergrad, the Christian group in which I am heavily involved does an outreach for international students. It is through that event that I meet and become friends with Carrie.
What I Thought Then: OK, Carrie is interested in Christianity, but she told me she’s gay! This isn’t possible! I need to show her the truth that is very clearly written in the Bible.
What I Think Now: Carrie, I honestly don’t know why you continued to be my friend after our long conversation about why I thought gay people couldn’t be Christians. I’m sorry I used the Bible to hurt you.
I am in the first year of my postgraduate degree, living on the other side of the country from where I grew up. Neil is a seminary student at my church and I am thrilled that we share the same favourite rock band. Eventually, he comes out as a gay man and leaves our church for an LGBTQ-affirming church.
What I Thought Then: Wait, what? But Neil’s a seminary student – he’s definitely a Christian! How on earth can he be gay too? Hmmm. Now I’m curious, but I don’t know if and when it’s appropriate to ask him about this, because it’s so personal.
What I Think Now: Neil, thank you for all the great conversations we had about theology, music, and church culture. You helped me see that it’s not impossible to be a gay Christian.
During my postgraduate degree, I continue to be involved in the university’s choir. During that time, I meet Connor and Martin – both are huge sci-fi geeks who sing in the same choir section as me. I eventually learn that both Connor and Martin are transgender men. They are the first trans friends I have ever made.
What I Thought Then: So…they were born female, but their gender identity is actually male? That’s so weird! I cannot even imagine that‼ Actually, I also can’t imagine how incredibly tough that must have been growing up, and still be.
What I Think Now: Connor, thanks for opening my eyes to some of the struggles you faced as you figured out your gender identity. You’ll never know how important this was to me. Martin, you helped me see (among other things) the importance of using gender-inclusive language in our choir section, and for that I am grateful.
Near the end of my postgraduate degree, I’m hanging out with Kelly, a fellow choir nerd who is also an incredible artist. During the course of one of our conversations, she casually comes out to me as bisexual.
What I Thought Then: Oh, well, that’s good! I’m glad Kelly has come out and is comfortable with her sexuality. And I’m very cool with that.
What I Think Now: Kelly, you’re a fantastic girl and I’m so glad for our conversations about the queer community. I still don’t quite understand it all, but thanks for your patience and for confiding in me. It’s an honour.
*Names changed to protect the privacy of those mentioned.
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Follow Kristen on twitter @readstooswift!