My journey to self-acceptance as a brown queer God-loving woman has been a long one, with many hurdles and wrong turns. I was raised as a non-denominational Christian. My connection to my church and my God were strong. By the time I was a preteen, I was going to church at least two days a week. I attended every special event for the youth group; I was in all the plays, and the highlight of my summers was getting away to Christian camp in the Guadalupe Mountains.
Homosexuality wasn’t something we discussed in my home—there were a lot of things we didn’t discuss.
I began my coming-of-age in a relationship with God. My parents were more silhouettes than actual participants in my childhood. I was a passionate kid who never found her place on the playground. I found my connections with characters, in books. A lot of my reading consisted of my mom’s romance novels, so I fell in love with love. My crushes were focused on the boys in my class during my preteen time. I considered myself straight until I was 17, and by considering myself straight, I mean I didn’t consider any other option. I had experienced dreams of being with women and woke up feeling ashamed. It was while I was sitting in my senior English class that I was first attracted to a woman. At that moment, I acknowledged all of who I was. Flashes of my best friends when I was younger ran through my head; the letters I wrote those girls, the gifts I bought them, the way I missed them. What did these feelings mean?
I turned to the one place I usually found answers—the library. My hands shook and I looked over my shoulder as I searched the periodic cards for “homosexual” the only word I knew to describe what I felt. The only book I was able to find was the encyclopedia. I turned to the short chapter in the H book and found history on the Stonewall riots and the AIDS epidemic. It spoke nothing of love and connection. There was another book that spoke of homosexuality. That was the bible. I locked myself in my room that night, afraid that my parents would know by looking at me. What I found in the bible terrified me. I cried myself to sleep that night.
This was the beginning of my struggle to embrace my sexuality and my faith.
I joined the Air Force at 19 and had to sign a form stating that I was not involved in homosexual behavior. I could have been jailed if my queerness was revealed. I had already I been in a relationship with a woman. I lied about who I was, signed the form and joined the ranks in defense of my country. My struggle to embrace both of these identities intensified when, at 24, my mother discovered my truth. She is a devout Christian, and she told me she would never accept it; she said I was sick. She began to include me in group emails that she sent to her fellow Christians about “homosexuality destroying Christian families.” The emails stopped coming when I responded to all in the thread that I was homosexual.
How could a God of love find me repulsive?
I have lost much in the name of God. I’ve lost relationships with family members who couldn’t love and affirm my queerness. I lost the right to raise my ex-husband’s son who I loved as my own. Although I am not his biological mother, I held him in my arms the day he was born. His name is Abraham, and he called me “mom”. I was one of the most stable people in Abraham’s little life. Yet, after my ex-husband’s death, his grandmother removed Abraham from my care because as a Jehovah Witness, she believed my queerness to be a sin. I lost the right to parent him and to know him because to his biological family, my life was a sin. I will never accept the loss of my son as God’s will.
The irony is that Abraham’s Jehovah Witness grandmother is in an interracial marriage. She was criticized and disowned by her own family because of their racism. She spoke about a time when it was illegal for interracial relationships to exist, and how the bible was used to support segregation laws. Yet, here she was, defending the right to take my son away, with the same judgment in her heart.
How can Christians justify their support for discrimination and call it “religious freedom”? What is the cost of this hypocrisy?
I am now 42 years old and the mother of a bright kind 13-year-old. I identify as queer or bisexual, and I co-parent with my former partner. My mother has found a way to love her queer daughter and her God too. As for me and my God, we’ve never been closer. I have taken religion out of my relationship with God. I am able to embrace the love that dwells in me, and all others, as God.
Religion scares me, yet I support the right of all people to worship and define God as they see fit. I have seen hateful things done in the name of God but, luckily, I have also experienced “Godlike love” in His followers. Priests have welcome all of who I am. Christians have marched with me in PRIDE parades.
Supporting discrimination, and calling it “religious freedom,” can only divide and condemn us all. There is nothing American, nor Christian, about that.
When we think of the First Amendment, we must remember that it was written to protect against judgments, promote inclusivity, to ensure our nation would embrace people from all walks of life.
Photo by Flickr use:
American Indian or Alaska Native