It's been a couple of days, so it's probably time for me to finish my story about coming out because otherwise, I will totally lose track of where I was and forget to wrap it up...
We left off in the summer of 2018 when I had finally decided that I was going to be okay if I let myself just be bisexual openly and I wouldn't restrict myself when looking at particular relationships. At that point, I had been hanging out off and on with this girl named Marie* for a little bit under a year.
Marie posted on Facebook at some point during the summer that they were planning on moving farther away from school to get out of a really horrific living situation, but would need a car to get to and from school for the first couple of weeks while they figured out bus schedules and all that.
I saw it and messaged her about her using my old Subaru cause I had the use of my aunt's car for a few months. But it was a stick shift which she didn't know how to drive. Since she wasn't getting any other offers for cars that I knew of, I offered to teach her how to drive it over the summer.
[Before I get into this part, a reminder that I was, in general, absolutely terrible at figuring out my own feelings for people - especially girls - and had no idea what was brewing at this point in time.]
This wasn't the first time I'd ever offered to teach someone how to drive stick, and wasn't even the first time I'd let them use my car. However, it was the first time that I did it without thinking about how *not* freaked out I was about someone else driving my car (I may have some control issues when I'm not the one driving the car...).
If that wasn't enough evidence that something was suddenly different, I kept coming up with reasons to extend the times we hung out when we went for lessons. "Oh, there's traffic, we can hang out at this coffee shop/go to my house and watch TV for a couple of hours to wait for it to die down, totally."
I distinctly remember first getting an inkling of what was happening when I went down to the Bay Area for the day to help my little brother move to Santa Cruz for school. That year, after realizing how much I'd let basically all of my relationships fall to the wayside while I was working, I was making it a point to go down more often and be Present when I was down there. I spent the whole day messaging Marie through Facebook when we weren't actively moving things.
Soon after that, I decided to invite my friend Marie to my camp's Family Camp weekend over Labor Day. After all, I had been going there for years and had never really invited anyone up, just been content with hanging out with my camp people.
About a week before Family Camp, Marie was at my place watching Brooklyn 99 and we got to an episode with some jump scares. She *casually* cowered against me and I put my arm around her and then we sort of... stayed like that until she left a few hours later.
At that point, my brain finally began to put all the pieces together because I knew that was definitely not in the category of "platonic friend behavior" for me, and I have been a fairly touchy person since college with people I'm close to. I texted my best friend and listed all the things that could mean that I like, "like liked" Marie. I came to the conclusion that I had actually fallen for someone who was also bisexual and had dated women and could potentially like me back. Which was a wild thing to consider like, a month and a half after I'd finally decided that God would still love me if I went that direction
So I was pretty excited and simultaneously freaking out because I couldn't figure out, "how do I even have this conversation?"
It turns out I didn't have to worry a ton. It didn't really end up being a conversation. A few days later, Marie was over again and it got pretty late and we fell asleep on the couch together. When we woke up in the morning, the conversation went like so:
I just kinda popped out with, "well, I never thought that out of all my siblings, I'd be the last one to get a girlfriend."
"Wait, so I'm your girlfriend?"
"If you want to be?"
"Well, yeah, I do."
And the rest was history. [Spoilers: We dated for about 5 months very intensely because neither of us is particularly good at doing things halfway, got engaged the day after Christmas, and then got married in early January of 2019 and have been happily married for almost two years now.]
Then came the slightly more nerve-wracking issues. See, there was a reason it had taken me over three years to process being bi and come to be okay with it. And a huge part of that was the knowledge that the chances of me losing a huge amount of my support system and chosen family were pretty high.
It started at Family Camp a few days later. Seeing as I had already invited Marie, and my parents and my younger brothers would be there, we decided she would come up with me (we had our first official date at Gus's Steakhouse in Sonora on the way up) and get to know my family for a couple of days while I slowly came out to my family. A few of my friends knew already because I'd come out to them while I was wrestling with everything.
The positives: My family, for the most part, took it well, although I'm sure they will tell you it was a bit of a shock to get "hey, I'm bi, and also this is my girlfriend not just my good friend," all at once from their 29-year-old daughter/sister. My friends also welcomed her with open arms.
The negatives: I knew better than to come out to the camp as a whole. I knew full well that a good number of the leadership had voted multiple times against my right to exist and get married as a queer person, and if the years after 2016 taught me anything it was that even people who preach unconditional love can be really supremely unloving when it comes to certain issues.
I did come out to the managers because I wanted to make my case for still being allowed to serve as a counselor and maintain the leadership roles I'd grown into over the years of working at the camp both as paid staff and as a volunteer. This is where it gets rough because I love the camp and had spent hours pouring my heart and soul into it especially with this particular couple because we meshed well spiritually and theologically. I considered them spiritual parents. And the one question I remember them asking me from that meeting is, "how do you know you're actually attracted to her, and it's not just like, another deep friendship." To which I replied, "because I've never really felt any particular desire to kiss any of my close female friends?" [Please, join me in imagining if we asked every straight couple "how do you know you're not just good friends?" and think about how well most people would take that.] In the end, the decision was that I could not continue in leadership or as a counselor because "they wouldn't know how to tell the parents."
[rant] Tell the parents what? That a daughter of the camp who had been going there every summer for 22+ years, who had been a counselor for multiple camps for almost 10 years - including just a couple of months earlier - was still going to be a counselor? That nothing fundamentally had changed about my abilities or my desire to mentor kids? Oh, just that I was suddenly publically out and (at that point) married to someone who was not a man. And this was somehow the most loving decision and not the one that would just help them cover their asses. [/rant]
It didn't stop there. The next step was coming out to people at my church, where I had - again - poured out my heart and soul in volunteer positions over the years though I pulled back significantly when I went back to school, and even more when the 2016 election happened and I didn't have a hard time guessing who had voted for a man who actively encourages homophobia. The only reason I'd stayed was that I found a group of younger people who were enough of a community to keep me coming back, some of whom were even queer and had come after the church started preaching an "Everyone Everywhere" motto.
The pastor who had initially told me it was possible for me to be queer and a Christian still and her husband were great, very welcoming. Some of my good friends from the school of leadership were also awesome and thrilled.
But there were those few people whose faces stilled when I introduced Marie as my girlfriend, as they tried to figure out how to respond without actively showing disappointment. Again, people I'd confided in, trusted, and taken advice from for years. It was enough to make me uncomfortable about bringing her again.
Then we went to her church, a reconciling Methodist church and the first question the pastor asked us when Marie introduced me was, "oh, are you guys living together yet?" Which honestly, sold me on the church and community immediately. They had a great choir, and Marie had already been adopted as an honorary grandchild of a lot of them, so I gained that too.
I cannot even begin to express how different it was to walk into a church and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that no one would challenge my faith just because I was queer. After years of freaking out about whether or not I could be faithfully LGBT, I had a community where the answer was a resounding "yes!"
In the end, I'm thankful for a lot of things on this journey. There were always individual people who were Christians and still accepted me unconditionally, even when I was unsure that it was a possibility. Chris is amazing and has been one of the only reasons I've survived this hellscape of a year. I feel way better about my life prospects with them in it.
The pain I felt was largely contained to losing my church home of 10 years and losing my camp. I went up to camp one more time the next summer to say goodbye to the managers who were leaving to take another job, just for a half-day, and that may very well be the last time I'll ever go up there. I do not feel welcome after everything that's happened with the Evangelical church in the last couple of years. Going to Methodist churches the last couple of years and seeing them actually living out Biblical charity and love instead of preaching about revolutionary love and turning on people when they step out of line has been an eye-opener for me.
I don't really know how to end this other than to say that I do still consider myself a Christian, enough that I am incredibly grieved over the way some of my communities have gone the last few years. It's been a rough couple of years as places that were instrumental in my personal journey to acceptance of my queerness have revealed themselves to be actively homophobic and more than a little bit infested with white supremacy to boot.
It's hard to claim that Bethel songs (including a Sean Feu*ht album) were the things that nourished my soul while I was searching when good ol' Sean-y boy goes around holding public temper tantrums about being made to care for other people in the form of "freedom of worship rallies" because it's so disgustingly selfish but I also fully understand how that theology can be twisted to behave that way. Meanwhile, Bethel starts a "Once Gay" ministry on the DL to try and pray the gay away which is just poorly veiled abusive conversion therapy. I can't in good conscience continue to worship using their songs because I had most of them on Spotify and I don't want to continue to pay them even pennies because their actions are a direct attack on my personhood.
It's hard to give props to my old church for being mostly un-sucky about queer people (to some degree at least) when the pastor just got kicked off Facebook for spreading blatant misinformation about the pandemic in the name of "freedom of religion" and a bunch of people are crying persecution and censorship. It's hard to look at the people who taught you some of your most treasured lessons about being loving and unselfish and not reactive because you know who has your back, and wonder how they're the same people.
Part of me wants to hold out hope that something will happen that will pull the scales off their eyes, but another part of me knows that trying to keep one foot in that world just means I get stepped on a lot and I can only take so much before I'm permanently injured.
I am trying to find a version of Christianity that lets me be myself, the part of me that's queer, and the part of me that loves working at camps and in Sunday School, and the part of me that still wants to go to seminary someday because I genuinely love studying the Bible. At the very least, I still know one thing: God will continue to love me, no matter what, and when all else fails, that will continue to be what I stand on.
*Marie goes by Chris now and uses they/them pronouns. They have given me permission to refer to them by the name and pronouns they had when I met them :)