Aibird is a regular commenter on the blog and, in bits and pieces, she’s told me fragments of her story. Whenever I wrote a post that really resonated with a similar experience of hers, all the emotions came out for the both of us. And there’s something holy about that. This growth through empathy.
For a long time, Aibird has been edging closer and closer to letting me in on her life. I was stunned today when she sent this to me, giving me a quick note that she was laying it all out. Then my heart broke. And my temper ROSE. And I sat at Starbucks thinking through this series, this blog, and I knew that, at it’s bones, this is a place for sharing and healing. This is a place for hope.
I asked Aibird if she would be willing to let me publish it, and she graciously agreed. She is truly an incredible person, a beautiful storyteller, and when I read this, her bravery breathes inspiration in me.
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I’ve tried many a time to write this tale, but I simply cannot find a way to say it succinctly. I’ve never tried to write it out in full. All I can do is try since you gave me an opportunity to share it months ago, offering that safe space, and I feel that maybe it’s time I try to write it in full. This hasn’t been easy, and I’ve sat on doing this for months out of fear of what this may unleash in regards to my own emotions and memories. All I can do is try my best to pass through it and hope that Christ’s love may finally reach me again. For I have not felt that love for years, and any attempt I’ve made to seek out fellowship in the Christian community has only reminded me of how much I don’t belong. How much of me is a freak and a sinner to them and nothing more. I have not been to church for five years and have not touched the Bible since then either. Why? Because of the pain, this feeling of abandonment.
This is a long story, and I don’t really know how to shorten it. My coming out is long and complex and happened over and over again. Each iteration often full of pain. So if you are still willing to hear the tale, RR, here it is in full:
I remember from when I was a child that I was convinced of three things:
1. I’d never marry
2. I’d have a friend who was a girl, who’d stay with me and we’d spend our life together.
3. I’d write the first novel in space. (A bit of humor to lighten the mood, but in truth, I really did believe this as a child. Still has yet to happen!)
Why did I think, at such a young age, that I’d never marry? Because it was taught in my Catholic Church and by my parents that marriage was between a man and a woman. Thus, as a child, I took them literally and believed that I just couldn’t marry. That was the most I thought about me being gay. I didn’t even have words for it. I only knew it was wrong to think about sharing my life with a woman, even though I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
I remember one instance in particular where I asked my father if a woman could share her life with another woman. His reply, slightly paraphrased, “As friends, yes. Remember that friends are important but not as important as Christ. Let Christ lead you toward your vocation. It could be marriage or celibacy, and either are okay.” He didn’t give too much details beyond that explanation, and the second time I asked, this time with my mother present, the same answer was given, this time with the addendum, “anything outside of friendship between them isn’t healthy.” They’d ask where I heard it, and I’d shrug. I never asked them again as a child or a teenager.
In sixth grade I met Rita, my dear sister in Christ as we called each other. The first day we met was my first day at her school. We were at recess and the bell had just rang for us to line up to return to class. I followed Rita toward the lines at the school doors, each very close to one another but fairly straight since the teachers had no tolerance for us mingling as we lined up. Three boys from the line next to mine turned to me, one stood out in my memory mostly because of how he laughed loudly at me and pointed. His hair also stood straight up like pieces of grass, a tiny detail I focused on since I had no idea how to respond to his question: “Are you gay?” I only knew of one definition of that word, one I learned from all my years of reading books. In the books I read, gay meant happy, and was often used in classics to describe a gay outing, as in it was happy and relaxing at the same time. At that moment in time, I felt happy and relaxed because I had managed to make one friend, Rita, the girl in front of me. I said, “Yes.” The three boys began to laugh and hoot. Slapping their knees and pointing at me as they repeated my word. Rita turned to them and told them in anger. Her face flushed. “She is not. Shut up jerks.” The three boys stared at her, and before they could respond, the teacher walked between us and scolded all five of us. I quietly thanked Rita as we walked inside.
That moment was etched into my memory, mostly because I didn’t understand why they asked it or what they meant by it. I also didn’t know who to ask. So I tried to forget about it and focus on my faith. I was a child of God. God loved me, so that was enough. I just had to live a life of love and follow Christ. Rita helped me along that journey, and I shared a lot of my fears and dreams with her just as she did with me. We made a vow to wait until marriage, one that I made mostly because I didn’t believe I’d ever marry, so the vow seemed like a no big deal to me. Rita was an evangelical Christian, and she’d often invite me to her church. I never liked her church much because the rock band seemed too loud and a bit pretentious. I came from a Catholic family, where our prayer and worship time together was very meditative. Any music we sang or heard in Mass that was lively held only traditional instruments and a choir. It also wasn’t loud but focused more on accenting the meditative aspects of the liturgy and Eucharist. We were there to focus on Christ not the music, so the evangelical Church confused me. But it also opened my mind to different ways of worshiping Christ, so I went to better understand. To be more open and accepting, and to learn more ways to show my love like Christ did.
My view of her church changed one night on Wednesday our eighth grade year. It was a short service and for the youth. It mostly focused on the music worship and the altar calls — another odd practice that confounded me. It reminded me too much of the pharisees in the Bible who stood on the corners looking sad as they fasted, but at the same time, I tried hard to be accepting of this different way of worshiping the same God. So I asked lots of questions to try to understand their faith, and so we could grow as brothers and sisters in Christ. Rita had often asked me many a question about my Catholic faith, so I did my best to be accepting and inquisitive in return. That night a group of girls came up to talk with us after the service. They knew Rita, and when she introduced me, one of them blurted, “Hey, is that the gay girl you’re trying to convert?”
Rita frowned at this and shook her head. One of the other girls began to laugh. “No it has to be. She looks so gay. Hey, are you gay?” I stood there in shock. I didn’t know what to say. It suddenly felt like I was in that line in sixth grade again. My silence condemned me in their eyes. “You know it’s not okay, right? The Bible says it’s wrong.” The third girl stepped in front of the other two and shook her head at them. “Hey, love the person and hate the sin, okay?” She turned to me with a smile and held out her hand to try to be welcoming. I didn’t take it. I shook my head and walked away. I felt burned and shocked. I hadn’t expected that at all, and for the second time in my life, I wondered what it meant. Rita had ran after me to try to apologize for their rudeness, but at the same time, she criticized me for rudely walking away. I should have said no in her view. But I found that I couldn’t. I just couldn’t do it. Saying no felt like a lie, but at the same time, even saying I was gay felt so terrifying and wrong that I was left with silence.
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Stay tuned for part two.