Kate Green is a reader of this blog and I don’t know how to express how profound her friendship has been to me. She has told me what my writing has meant to her, how it has helped in her in areas of her life that don’t have to do with the LGBTQ world, and it was both wildly refreshing and deeply moving to know her story and to know that this blog spills over into other regions of life as well.
And she says she’s not a writer, I call BS. This is a wonderful piece and I couldn’t be more excited to share it here today. Kate’s story.
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1998. My high school bff Donna calls. I haven’t heard from her since college – maybe 1994 or thereabouts. My memory is terrible (as she can attest to). But this moment, I can remember vividly, as we would discuss years later. She tells me to sit. I do (on one of the swivel stools in my big, old kitchen that I loved dearly). She says, “I’m gay”.
1988. At 15 I was moving following the divorce of my parents and my mom’s subsequent remarriage. I knew no one in this new city except for my mom and step-dad and new step-grandparents. The first week of school, I met my best friend. We made plans to meet up after school. At the flig, at least that’s what she thought. Really, it was the flag, but with my still thick Wisconsin accent, she couldn’t understand what in the world I was saying. Months later riding on a bus for a choir tour, as the song Satisfaction came on, we turn to each other and at the same time say, “Have you ever seen that movie?” And with that, our friendship was cemented, eventually leading to spending every weekend together. One at her house, the next at mine. Frick and Frack, we were nicknamed.
1990. My music teacher, who was a second mom to me, warns me about Donna. Tells me there is something about her. Wants me to keep my distance. And so I do. I wish I could go back and redo it, to make my teacher spell it out for me. I know now what it was and it sickens me that she felt it something worth tearing a friendship apart, and really I could cry all over again because at that point, Donna herself couldn’t have even put into words what it was.
1994. I reconnect with Donna after being out of high school for three years. She visits me at college, I visit her at her apartment in another city. Her apartment is haunted. I see the ghost of a cat and it freaks me out. I don’t know if that was a sign of how things were, but our reconnecting didn’t really stick and we moved on in our lives.
Which makes that call in 1998 so very brave. We were as close as two people could be in high school but that closeness experienced an unraveling that neither one of us understood. But really, there was – there is – something about Donna and I that can never be torn apart completely.
When she told me she was gay, everything clicked into place and I knew that I had always known. It was like a scene in a movie where a character experiences flashbacks- all of the situations that have led up to that point race through my mind. So that was my reply: “I knew that”. I remembered I laughed, slightly, when saying it but I don’t remember what I said next, or what she said. It really wasn’t a big deal at all. (to me, but to her, well, like I said it was one brave call and I am so proud and thankful that she made it).
Sounds good so far, right? It would have been except…
Being the good, conservative Christian girl that I was, when Donna and I connected after that (I lived super close to her then girlfriend) I made sure to let her know that I loved her but that what she was doing was wrong. That being gay was a S I N. That while I could be her friend, I could never accept the “lifestyle” she had chosen. I remember her calling me to tell me that she and her partner were trying to have kids and my response was, “you know I think that’s wrong”. At that point in my life, I loved Jesus with my whole heart. I was fully devoted to Him. But I was judgmental, legalistic, proud and very concerned with being R I G H T. Because that is what mattered. And it was my duty to let Donna know every time we talked that what she was doing was wrong.
2012. Donna and I are facebook friends. God has been doing some major work in me. Some gut wrenching, painful, beautiful work in me. He put someone else in my life – a fellow school mom – and I feel like I’ve known her my whole life and we spill our secrets one night on the playground when we really have barely known each other but know that we were meant to be friends. She is gay. And it isn’t a “problem”. It isn’t an “issue”. It is just a fact that she has a wife. And in that friendship, I sense the shift in me. So I send Donna a message on facebook and we chat a little bit. But not much and I don’t hear back from her for awhile. But when I do, something magical happens. We connect. Really connect. And we exchange message after message and email after email. I say I’m sorry for the way I treated her. For the “love the sinner, hate the sin” attitude I had, which always translated as “I hate you”. She shares her story. I stammer through awkward questions that slowly become natural. Nothing is off limits. She educates me about being a lesbian. About gay culture. About exactly how she feels about Christians. (it wasn’t pretty). I share my evolving views. I read about the Stonewall Riots. I tell her about how much I love Jesus and about the things in my own life that are crumbling down around me and how amazing His love is in all of it. She accepts my faith as a part of me – which I am so thankful for since that faith has been hurtful to her.
Sometimes I wish there would not have been that 14 yr span. It seems a long time to get to the point of loving someone in the way they should have been loved from the get go. But I know I wasn’t the person back then that I am now, and God in His mercy gave me another chance. He gave me the chance to make things right. It still disturbs me sometimes looking back and knowing that at the moment, I was saying and doing what I thought were all the right things. But that is so water under the bridge for us. And I pledged to Donna that I would do my part to fight homophobia. To stand up for her rights. To be brave enough to go against the majority of my Christian friends and family in loving her completely as she is and embracing the gay community without reservation.
When I think about what to say to someone, what advice I would give to anyone who has someone come out to them, is what I hope to teach my children to do if anyone should come out to them. I would want them to tell that person how much they love them, how proud of them they are, and how honored they are that that person would be willing to share with them. I would tell them they should stand by that person and fight for that person. I would tell them to ask questions and not assume. And most importantly, I would tell them to have fun with that person. To laugh. To create amazing moments together. In other words, to be that person’s friend. I am guessing that it would be a friendship that would enrich their lies in ways not possible through any other friendship. And that being an ally will teach them more about love than many other things.
Kate doesn’t blog, but she does have twitter!