I continue to be astounded at the gifts welcoming myself into authenticity has afforded. Don’t get me wrong; it has not been without challenge.
I now celebrate over seven years of being a Black Lesbian Christian Pluralist.
I find it important to locate myself in these identities because I recognize my privilege and freedom to do so. I write particularly for my brothers and sisters on the African continent living in the 38 countries where homosexuality is outlawed, whose brown bodies are thought to be against the cultural and religious value systems of their countries, when they are a part of the value system. They are unable to welcome themselves.
To welcome is to accept with enjoyment the incident or presence of someone or something. It was not until I welcomed myself that others began to welcome me. Historically and presently, LGBT advocacy continues to be met with a Christian religiosity so dogmatic that it relegates persons one-dimensionally to their sexual acts. This type of dogmatism is abusive and not only hinders persons from welcoming themselves, but also arrests people’s destinies, keeping them from realizing their full potential. This is not only an individual crisis, but a global crisis. When persons are unable to operate fully in who they are, this filters into work life balance, which impacts economies.
With the religious climate of our world, welcoming self is not a docile act, but one that requires fortitude and courage.
My foundational Christian education is rooted in Siegel Avenue First Church of God, which my grandmothers helped charter over 100 years ago. As you can imagine, I grew up with a very fundamentalist perspective of biblical interpretation. With these traditional Christian leanings and my fear of eternal damnation throughout my teenage and college years, I gave the best of my prostrate prayers to inquiring of God if she would rid me of my same-gender attraction. I was unaware that my sexuality was a divine gift that only the Creator could give, with all of its intricacies and delights.
Throughout these years I existed in the throes of hypocrisy and conflict. I was an active participant in ministry, encouraging my peers to seek “deliverance” from their same gender attractions, while maintaining my own share of trysts with young ladies who shared the same struggle. I loved God with my whole heart, mind, and soul, however I didn’t want to disappoint my family, friends, and church community by succumbing to this damnable “sin”. I was concerned about their thoughts, judgments, rejections, objections, and ultimately the loss of their love.
With persistent prayers that the gay would leave me be, God was persistent in silence and my prayer going unanswered. I was baffled that God would maintain silence on an issue so fervent in the hearts of Christians who picket in the streets that “God hates fags” or “Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve”. I thought ‘they have so much to say, but you are saying nothing’, and I’m contemplating suicide because this weight feels so great.
It was not until the age of twenty-three I gained the courage to inquire of God how God felt about my same-gender attraction.
It was ironic to me that I spent most of my time being concerned about what others thought based on what they felt God thought, as opposed to going straight to the source. How often do we consider everyone else before we consider God? This was a critical moment in my life that enabled me to begin welcoming myself. Spirit’s response was that it had always been alright but I never asked. As Oprah would say, I had an “ah-ha” moment, and I reflected on all the mental anguish I put myself through that could have been avoided had I sought my Source first. Yet, I am grateful for the journey. When I made a decision to welcome myself, I also accepted the possibility of losing familial relationships.
In these 8 years the Creator has done a miraculous work in my family. When I initially told my mother and father I was gay their first response was “you’re going to hell”. They had difficulty understanding why I felt God was okay with it. I also had an aunt and uncle that called to check-in as if I were suffering from a terminal illness. I have been blessed to have family members who welcomed me with open arms. 8 years later, my mother can speak about her journey of acceptance, I can have conversations with my grandfather about ending my relationship with my partner, and I have been ordained in the Baptist tradition, being fully who I am. To Spirit be the Glory for the things Spirit has done!
This act of welcoming self is also an act of radical love, and I accept with enjoyment the fruits and struggles.
To all my brothers and sisters in the Christian tradition and those of other faiths who have difficulty welcoming themselves: know you are not alone. Take courage, for you have many advocating on your behalf. To those who have found the courage to welcome themselves: what will you do with your freedom?