A Love Letter from Hännah Ettinger

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I have only met a handful of friends from the internet, but I am so glad Hännah Ettinger was one of them. Shortly after I made my move to DC, she invited me out for drinks where we had the chance to get to know each other on a deeper soul level. She introduced me to her friends and new places and then…. We both moved out of the district- (sad face).

 

Hännah has written a poignant letter that will leave you feeling touched and encouraged and motivated. I was so moved when I read this that I read it several times over. Friends, I cannot encourage you enough to go check out her blog here (that is, if you haven’t already heard of it, since it was mentioned by SETH MEYERS a couple weeks ago)

 

Here is her letter. Be so blessed.

 

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This post is not a big deal. This post should be obvious. I told Ben I wouldn’t write this post, last year when he first asked me. I said that I didn’t want to make a big deal out of something that isn’t mine.

 

But I don’t want to receive another letter like the one I did this morning, a letter where an old and dear friend came out to me and asked if I would be comfortable having a lesbian as a friend, because she couldn’t tell from my blog.

 

I don’t want there to be any question in the minds of my siblings where I stand on this issue, because statistically speaking, there are nine of us, and right now the official word is that one in ten people identifies as LGBTQ+.

 

I don’t want anyone to be afraid of me knowing who they really are.

 

Let this be crystal clear, then, for I am about smashing shame and isolation.

 

I love you. 

 

I will stand up for you to our friends if they talk about you behind your back, saying that you chose this and how cruel and selfish it was to have the audacity to come out.

 

I will be angry with you at your parents when they send you away with your boxes full of your inheritance, a prodigal child made wanderer by the older son’s bitterness.

 

I will answer the phone and sit with you when you call me to tell me that your mom found your birth control and you think you’ll have to tell her you’re bi.

 

I will cry in relief with you when she doesn’t tell your dad.

 

I will beat my inner English major asshole into submission and carefully use your preferred pronouns despite my habitual stumble-trip awkwardness.

 

I will try to gently educate those who I introduce to you if it will make you feel better to not have to explain to more people that you are called they or hen or ze or Ivan.

 

I will solidarity-drink with you late at night and invite you over to stay at my place and marathon Buffy when you feel you can’t face explaining yourself to your family yet again.

 

I will grieve with you over our alma mater’s choice to pretend that you don’t exist, and howl with glee when you indulge the imp of the perverse and subvert their policies.

 

I will shut up and listen and let you tell your own stories the way you want them to be told, and when you need to yell a little I’ll hand you my megaphone if you want it.

 

I will tell you you’re cute or beautiful or handsome and offer you hugs if you want them when you’re feeling floaty and can’t quite connect to your own skin.

 

I will take endless selfies so you don’t feel alone when you need to take one to see yourself staring back and know you’re really you.

 

I will make you coffee and cookies and have you over to talk or sit alone together in the same house if you need to not be really wholly alone.

 

I will crow profanities in crowded restaurants with you if you need to rage against the universe in public.

 

My parents used to have a tile they got when we drove through New Mexico on our pilgrimage east, and it hung in our entryway at home for years and years. Mi casa es su casa, it read.

 

All of these things I have said, they have a lot of “I” in them. This post shouldn’t be necessary, because this isn’t my story. I prefer to be quiet and let you tell your story.

 

But because invitations are sometimes hard to accept if they aren’t made loudly, let me make it very clear: mi casa es su casa.

 

This house always belongs to you, too.

 

Love,

Hännah

 

~

A Love Letter from Bethany Suckrow

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Much has happened to the gay community the past couple years that has been both uplifting and heart-wrenching, but mostly- exhausting. World Vision encapsulated perfectly the way things have gone. Beautiful affirming moment. Crushing defeat. Anger. Resilience. Restoration. Phil RobertsonMichael Sam! Chick-Fil-A. Rob Bell!

 

It’s been A LOT these past couple of years and I’ve been longing a return to the roots of this blog. Look above this post and see the Love Letters tab. Look through there and you will see the saving grace of this site.

 

It is everything I wanted to find on the internet when I was in the closet. When I felt the whole world growling all around me and I didn’t know where to turn. There was It Gets Better but I doubted it would for the Christian. There were theological treatises, but those went over my head, and after all, the collapsing was happening in my heart. I needed words for my wounds.

 

And I am now restarting the series- well, sort of. I began soliciting requests for more letters, but then life kicked into warp speed and I lost track of it. So this will be more of a rolling basis as they come in. (feel free to send me yours!)

 

AND TODAY we have the incredible, the wonderful, the unbelievably talented Bethany Suckrow publishing a powerful letter to LGBTQ people everywhere. I am so thankful to her for her grace, compassion and encouragement. I am so thankful for her voice. Please, please go check out her site hereYou’ll thank me later.

 

(Also, a Trigger Warning for this post: discussion of suicide.)

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Dear Friend,

 

A few nights ago I was fiddling around on my phone as I waited for my husband to get home from work when I found a message. It was from a friend I haven’t seen in a long time. We don’t know each other well anymore, but we catch glimpses of one another’s lives through links and statuses and photos. I was surprised to see she had contacted me directly, and even more surprised by what she said.

 

“I just want you to know that as a Christian who is also a lesbian, sometimes reading your posts is the only time I feel a glimpse of love from a brother or sister in Christ. Just wanted to say thank you.” 

 

As I sat in the silence of my living room and let her message sink in, a bittersweetness welled up inside of me. My heart aches for her. I feel honored by her words, but I also feel profoundly undeserving. The things I share on social media these days reflect my changing opinions on many things, not the least of which is my growing conviction that the faith culture I’ve participated in has deeply wounded the LGBTQ community.

 

I haven’t always understood this, though. Like so many raised in conservative evangelicalism, I was a teenaged Jesus Freak, deeply committed to my youth group, zealous in my attempts to convert people, and profoundly naive about what it meant to love others as Christ loved me.

 

When I was tenth grade, a girl from my freshman softball team committed suicide. She was a star athlete, a naval cadet, a good student with a kind heart and a quiet spirit. And she was gay. The issue I’d been taught to oppose “because the Bible clearly condemns it” suddenly had a face, a name, a story that ended in tragedy. I went home from school the day we learned of her death, laid myself face down on my bed and wept. All I could think about were all those moments when I looked back at her on the bus ride to and from our softball games and saw her sitting alone. I didn’t go and sit with her.

 

It was the beginning of so many questions for me about how to love you, my neighbor. Still, it took a long time for me to get past my prejudices and preconceptions. In the years ahead, as people from high school and college came out, I realized over and over again that in my devout religiousness I had never been a safe person for my friends to be themselves.

 

I was a clanging symbol of ideology instead of a voice of love.

 

And I am so sorry.

 

These last few years I’ve been working to connect the dots and discover ways to be an active participant in reconciliation for Christians and the LGBTQ community. I’m deeply thankful for people like Ben Moberg, who have bravely shared their stories. The scales are falling off my eyes and I’m finally learning to see my privilege.

 

Today as I write this letter to you, I have this vision in my head. It’s bittersweet, but also hopeful. I’m standing up from my seat on the bus and I’m walking back to where you sit.

 

May I sit next to you? I would understand if you didn’t want me here, if you need more space and time to heal. But if you’re willing, I’ll sit down and loop my arm through yours and say the words I wish I would have said all along:

 

Your story and your being matters to me.

 

I’m listening now. Please forgive me for all the times that I haven’t.

 

I want you here.

 

I want you here.

 

I want you here.

 

 

With all of my love,

 

Bethany

 

“Speaking Up With My Friends”- Emily Maynard [Love Letter Series]

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Great writers across the blogosphere are like a few bright stars shining in the inky black sky. Rare and powerful. One of them is Emily Maynard. When I started reading her blog, I simply could not stop. She is a source of inspiration for me. A must read for me. If you aren’t a regular reader yet, fix that Right Now by clicking here.

As I’ve told Emily already, her heart is gold. She genuinely wants the world to know the love of Jesus, especially the shoved out and shut down. I feel so honored to have her voice Speaking Up here on my blog.

Lastly, take in these words with a box of Kleenex nearby. You may need them.

~

Hi Friend,

 

Emily 1I feel compelled to start with an apology, because I know the power of someone taking on the words that I need to hear and writing them out for me. I have felt the whispers of grace that come in the form of someone seeing me and offering support. I know the energy that rises when someone standing next to me grabs my hand and says “I’m sorry,” even when it wasn’t their fault.

 

What happened to you may not be my fault directly, but it is corporately. It is my fault in part because I participate and benefit from the culture that has kept you down.

 

I’m sorry.

 

What happened to you was wrong and I’m sorry. I’m sorry you were told that something inherent in you was a dirty rotten choice and you knew it and you don’t deserve cosmic or human love. That’s so wrong.

 

I’m sorry people, even people in the church, said they were safe for you and then stared unflinchingly into your eyes as they led the angry mob forward.

 

I’m sorry for the things I said and did, the fear I let sink down in me, the “othering” I did to you and your life. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to publicly validate your love and worth. I was bullshitting around because I have the privilege to decide what I want to say about this “issue” and when, but it’s your life every day.

 

I’m sorry I treated you like an issue instead of a person.

 

If you need more apologies, if you want to trace your fingers over your past and name them for me, I will apologize for each one. Because you are not alone and the true words we speak together are part of the physical act of spiritual healing.

 

But if you are ready, I want to move past the apologies. Even those can set us apart, and I want to talk about the drawing together (which reminds me of my favorite cartoon).

 

You and I are gay and straight, but we also so much more than those attractions wired into us. We’re more than the shame piled on us when we step out of line.

 

You and I are gay and straight, but we’re so much more than those attractions we express. They are a part of our days, and some days they are ever so important, but other days they are the most minuscule, unimportant parts of our lives. We’re people: working, studying, crying, learning, praying, laughing, and being human. That’s what makes us people: the being, not the gay or the straight.

 

When we are being together, we are a community. We are common. Maybe we find that commonality because we’re both human, or both have crazy dreams about becoming BFF with Taylor Swift at a Rhianna show (oh, that’s just me?), or because we’re both trying to follow the same Jesus way.

 

I know that the church hasn’t been and still isn’t a safe place for you. It’s probably not the first place you think of when you think “community.” Some people there think the adjective “gay” negates the noun “Christian.” But I don’t think that. And I really don’t think Jesus thinks that, based on what is written about him.

 

It’s Jesus who shows me the power of taking on someone else’s burden and saying enough. I can’t carry you cosmically the way Jesus does, with the Spirit guiding and the Father pouring out love. But I can stand next to you. Together we can all echo the chant: this is finished.

 

This division has to stop. I hope the church, gay and straight, proclaims that Jesus alone takes the weight from us and we can stand as equals. We are equals together. I don’t think our biology or our behavior puts us outside the bounds of love.

 

Speaking of behavior, I want you to know that I don’t care who you like. I don’t expect you care who I like.

 

What matters most to me is Who loves you. (Pro Tip: it’s the Jesus God-Revelation I was talking about a few words ago.)

 

Second of most, I care about how you love and are loved. I care about whether your love is safe, growing, dedicated, fun, healthy, supportive, and chosen freely. I hope you care about those things for me, too, because that empathy is the foundation of community. It’s an action of friendship, and we both need friends.

 

I had a hard time writing this letter, Friend, because it seems to silly to have to say all this. I hesitate, as a straight and cisgender person, to tell you that you’re okay, because it could seem like I’m the one allowing you in. I’m not. It’s God who did that, who does that, by forming you and knowing you more than anyone ever could. That’s the God I worship and love, at least.

 

But I also know that I have privilege in society that you do not. I know that in some small way, my speaking up may invite others to let you in or encourage you to let yourself in. So I’m saying this: I’m handing you back your power and I will help break down the social and religious structures that say you’re not okay. There’s nothing silly about that. That is a serious, holy sort of work. It’s the work of redemption. It’s the action of friendship and community.

 

I think it’s better when we do it together.

 

Love,

Emily

 

~

Emily Maynard is an outgoing introvert from Portland, Oregon. She is a big picture thinker who gets excited about questioning, exploring, and watching people find their voices. She writes a column for Prodigal Magazine and blogs at Emily Is Speaking Up. She is not the Emily Maynard from The Bachelorette. You can follow her nonsense and truth on Twitter: @emelina and Instagram: @emelinapdx

Grace to Breathe

Boy Rising from Swimming Pool

The sun is hot which only exasperates things. I just finished whipping through the afternoon playing basketball in the pool and I’m resting with family friends. It’s spring break and, for whatever reason, this small oasis has drawn much of our Minnesota network to this teeny corner of Orlando. For the most part, it’s great. After coming here for so many years it is starting to feel like a vacation home, a luxury I know, but at least its familiar and we’re all comfortable and I should, but I don’t, feel like apologizing for that.

Most of my parents’ friends know all about me except for a few and its not that we haven’t told them because of who they are or what they necessarily believe, the timing just hasn’t been right. In any case, I am sitting by the pool talking to my Mom’s friend, my former tutor, about the new Pope. She goes on about how much she likes him and I agree with her, and she goes further about her concern for the environment and global warming and I agree with her even more. And there’s this common ground that is felt whenever like-minded people meet.

 

“But ya know. If he goes too far… Like. If he says its okay to get abortions or if he says okay to be lesbian or gay. I’m done.”

 

I’m unsure as to whether she was done with Christianity altogether, because she’s definitely not Catholic, or if this was her way of saying she was done liking Pope Francis. In any case, her words didn’t wound, they sneered. And I felt my eyes narrow and I began to clear my throat and throw on my pre-emptive strike smile, because yes, I was Pissed Off.

I don’t wish to be anyone’s deal breaker, for anything. Especially for Christ. Especially because of who I am.

 

Sometimes, I wish all conservative Christians would have one gay kid in the family. I think we’d all understand and love each other better.

 

Before my claws protract and tongue puts a point on, another of my mom’s dear friends, a participant in the conversation, fully informed about my secret, interrupted and did exactly what, in my cool headed state, I would ask her to do.

 

“So, like, what does it mean to be a Jesuit Priest? I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of that before.  It sounds interesting!”

 

Her question disarmed me and the conversation led to some lovely dialogue about oaths of poverty, even if I did grit my teeth for minutes after.

 

What I needed in that moment was an unbelievable amount of grace. Unbelievable amount. I understand the argument, “well what if she was talking about black folks or Jews?” but I have to reckon with the world I find myself in and I’ve made it a commitment to not shut any one out. My former tutor, had she known about me, would probably rethink things a bit and would definitely not come out the gate with that confession.

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More importantly, I think as sexual minorities, we get justifiably defensive at thoughtless words tossed to and fro in the day to day convos. We get hit and we wince and all we want is war. We get frustrated at the folks with families and standing who have no idea how much they take their acceptance for granted. And when they talk down about people like you, yes, it feels like getting stung by so many bees.

But in those moments, we need people to distract us! The best thing our friends can do in conversations like these is provide a diversion before we say something we truly regret. For example, I let it slip that I can’t call myself an evangelical because, “they are so hard hearted.” I can’t tell how much offense she took to this, but in any case, I said it.


And, of course, we need advocates out there fighting for us on the daily. But we also need advocates that will hold us back from a fight when we need to. We need friends to look us in the eyes and ask if this is the hill we are willing to die on.


Because, normally, I will leave the conversation after its run its course, and I’ll remember that my tutor is a lover of Jesus and the planet and the poor. I’ll remember that she likely knows no gay people. I will remember that she is my sister in Christ. I will remember that she has no idea that I am gay. I will remember that the memory of her words, once she finds out about me, and perhaps, in twenty years when she changes her views, will be enough of a punishment for her.

 

And she’ll need me to forgive her. Which I’m ready to do now. Which would be harder to do if I fought and pushed her away.

 

Sometimes, biting your tongue is the best way to do grace.

Sometimes, its best, for friends to hold us back from ourselves.

 

Grateful,

 

RR