The Aftermath of Coming Out

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I shared my coming out post recently. I didn’t know how I would feel or who would respond or how.

After I hit the “publish” button, I sat at my dining room table and sobbed. That moment was a touchstone in an incredibly intense journey.

It was not long before comments began pouring in. To everyone who sent messages of support and encouragement, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. They have truly been uplifting for my soul. I felt the love and care. It matters so much to me. Thank you for standing with me and offering me your love and support.

Thank you, too, to those of you who reached out to Matt with love and support. This process has been difficult for him, as well, and he needs kind words and encouragement, too.

I was overwhelmed by the comments and messages I received, and I am still sorting my way through them. I have such a high capacity for intense emotional engagement, and even I have been exhausted by people’s thoughtful responses to what I shared!

Several people came out to me. Thank you for trusting me enough to share this deeply vulnerable part of your story.

And several of you messaged me to say that my post made you think. Maybe you are not affirming, or maybe you have tacitly accepted your church’s teaching of homosexuality as a sin, or maybe you aren’t sure where you stand, but you want to know more. You want to have conversations or want to know what books I might recommend so that you can better understand me and others who share my perspective. I am – and always will be – 100% here for that. I appreciate your curiosity and desire to engage thoughtfully, and I am thankful for your honesty in trusting me with where you are at right now.

I actually received no truly hateful messages, and for that I am thankful, as well.

I did receive a fair number of messages from people who told me they loved me while at the same time asserting their non-affirming positions as what they believe to be absolute truth. It’s interesting to me that all of these messages came privately. What does that say to you?

I would like to share with you a little bit about how receiving these private messages feels – because I know you, dear Christian people who sent them. I’ve loved you. I used to be you. And I know that you mean well, and you are doing your best to negotiate your adherence to a belief system that you think demands that you reject homosexuality as immoral and wrong while also caring for me as a person. You’re trying to, “love the sinner, hate the sin.” And you think this is what you should do.

I know you’re trying to be kind. That’s not how it feels, though.

It feels like rejection.

For me, it feels similar to how it would feel if you were to have a conversation with me about my God-given gender. I am a woman, and that identity is inextricably linked to who I am. If you were to have the perspective that being male is unequivocally better than being female, you might say something like, “I love you, and I consider you a good friend. I just wish you weren’t a woman. In fact, God says that it’s wrong to be female and that He prefers males. In being a woman, you are broken and inadequate, a manifestation of this fallen world in which we live. I understand that you can’t do anything about being born female, but it’s still a shame. It is not as beautiful for you to be female as it would have been for you to be male. You and I have different perspectives on this. But I still love you.”

No one would say that. It sounds ridiculous. You couldn’t love me – a woman – wholeheartedly while rejecting the goodness and beauty of my femininity. Are you sure that you can love me – a gay girl – while rejecting the goodness and beauty of my sexual orientation?

I think these attempts we make to love each other are so important. Jesus tells His followers, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

That means that the love Christians show one another should be so incredibly beautiful and overwhelming that it distinguishes us as Jesus’s followers. People should be able to look for that sort of love and know that it comes from Christians.

I asked several people to read a draft of my coming out post before I published it. One of them questioned why I left the door open for negative feedback. He said, “I think that even if someone has theological/political/moral/other firmly held views that same-sex relationships are wrong…it is unspeakably cruel to state those views in response to someone coming out.”

I was honestly overwhelmed by the love and support I was shown in response to my public coming out. But most of it didn’t come from evangelical Christians. And from multiple evangelical Christians, I received responses that this person would characterize as “unspeakably cruel.”

And so, today, I am asking you, my Christian people, to consider these thoughts. My coming out post was probably the most vulnerable post I have ever written. It was my honest attempt to be authentic and real and follow God by acknowledging the ways in which He made me and the person He is enabling me to become. If you believe the only option available to you, in response to that, is something that is more easily characterized as unspeakable cruelty than beautiful, overwhelming love, then do you think there might be something not quite right there? Does that perhaps warrant a closer look at your belief system?

I say this not in anger or in a plea for emotional support. I don’t really need anything from you.

I say these things because I care for you, and I care for the other people with whom you will be interacting. I believe the choices you make matter, both for you and for those around you. As we are in the midst of Holy Week, I am identifying with the disciples who are forced to confront, in tangible ways, their failures, their denials of Jesus. I met up with someone recently whom I hurt tremendously by my own failures and denial (by my actions) of the truth of who Jesus is and how He loves us. It is painful to confront our own sin. It requires humility. But it is so necessary. It is much easier to keep moving forward on the path of least resistance, believing what our churches tell us to believe and doing what they tell us to do. But what if they are imperfect institutions led by fallible men, who don’t always get it right?

Maybe you won’t answer any of these questions the way I do today. Maybe you won’t tomorrow, and maybe you won’t ever. But I hope that if your son or daughter or friend or co-worker someday comes out to you, you may be able to offer a response characterized more by beautiful, overwhelming love and less by unspeakable cruelty.

And as for me? I am so happy to have come out. Still emotionally exhausted? Absolutely. But I am no longer hiding. I am being my authentic self in every arena. That feels so incredibly freeing.

This past weekend I was able to listen to and sing along with worship songs I’d felt phony with until I came out, and I cried tears of joy. I am coming to God and standing before all of you as the real me. I don’t know exactly where I’m going, but I am content with where I am.

To those of you standing with me and walking alongside me on this journey, thank you again, a million times. I cannot tell you how encouraging that support is. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is a good place to be.

In Which I Share with You That I Am Not Straight

I have written this post hundreds of times in my mind, shared a hundred different quotes that resonated with me, and told a hundred different versions of the story – all true but spoken from different angles and at different times.

This is my story for today, at this time, and in this place. It will be different from the stories I might have told in the past or might tell in the future. The commonality among all of the stories is this: as Dan Levy’s character in Happiest Season says, about different people’s coming out stories, “Everybody’s story is different…But the one thing that all of those stories have in common is that moment right before you say those words when your heart is racing and you don’t know what’s coming next. That moment’s really terrifying. And then once you say those words, you can’t unsay them. A chapter has ended and a new one’s begun, and you have to be ready for that.”

I am sitting in that place, feeling the racing of my heart but also thinking that I’m ready for the new chapter, whatever it brings. So – here goes.

I am not straight. I have a hard time with labels, but I think I’m probably gay.

I have lived most of my life (including the parts where I got married to Matt and gave birth to and adopted four babies) believing I was straight. And even after realizing that I wasn’t, I still desperately wanted to be and hoped and prayed I could make it so. I couldn’t. It doesn’t work that way.

Having to face that reality has probably been the most agonizing experience of my life. I didn’t want to be gay. On top of that, it was shocking to realize that there was something this huge about myself that I didn’t know for so, so long. It’s incredibly disconcerting. I began to wonder – what else do I not know? Who am I really?

Nadia Bolz-Weber, in her book, Shameless: A Case for not Feeling Bad About Feeling Good, tells the story of a man who “shut down a part of himself in order to please God. He disconnected from his body and his desires, and it backfired. Eventually [he] found it difficult to connect with even his own feelings, express them, and be heard by those closest to him” (p. 139).

That description reminds me of the experience of having an eating disorder – the recovery from which was a defining feature of my twenties. When I became so focused on living up to my image of goodness and perfection (in which thinness obviously played a central role), I disconnected from my body – I literally did not feel hunger.

The experience of suppressing my own sexuality was less conscious but just as unhelpful and unhealthy, and unpacking that has been a defining feature of this stage of my life.

My awareness of my sexuality was slow in coming, but it was necessary. Acknowledging it felt like the optometrist holding the lens with the correct prescription in front of my eyes. So many disparate details about my life story began to make so much sense.

The fact that it explained so much made it no less devastating.

I wrote, last June, “In spite of this being Pride Month, I feel no pride. I feel a deep, abiding sense of shame…My entire life can no longer be a living out of the story I dreamed it could and would be – because of me.”

My very self had become the central problem of my life and of my family’s life. My sexuality, something inextricably linked to the core of my being, was a problem. It is a deeply distressing experience, feeling like who you are is a problem.

My realization that I was not straight has been one element of my faith journey in recent times. Two of the major questions I have asked myself have been, “Who am I?” and, “Who is God?”

I don’t have precise answers to those questions. These days, I have fewer certainties than I used to. I sit more quietly, listening, aware that there is so much that I don’t know.

But at the same time, there are a few things that I know – things I know that I know that I know. And one of them is this – if the Gospel is not good news for gay people, it is not good news. Full stop. If your good news is only good news for those who are in the majority, who have the structural power in society, I would invite you to ask yourself a few questions. Does that sound like good news to you? Does that sound like Jesus? The same Jesus who sought out the people on the margins of society to be his intimate companions? I don’t think so.

If the Gospel is good news – and I believe that it is – then it has to be good news for everyone.

Some of you may have a refrain of, “But homosexuality is sin!” on repeat in your mind right now. If that is you, I would invite you to do some further research. I will not be using this space to make a theological defense of an affirming position, but I will say this. Matthew Vines writes in God and the Gay Christian, “Sin is what separates each of us from God. Sin also mars the image of God in our being. But strikingly, those aren’t the consequences of affirming lifelong, monogamous same-sex unions. They are the consequences of rejecting all same-sex relationships…Instead of making gay Christians more like God, as turning from genuine sin would do, embracing a non-affirming position makes them less like God” (p. 159-162). That seems worth considering. Read some books and articles. I’d be happy to recommend some resources if you need help knowing where to get started.

So many books and so much studying, journaling, contemplation, and therapy have informed this process for me. I am beginning to see more of what these Bible verses really mean: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:13-14). These verses are not just about babies. They’re about me, too. God made me – including my sexuality – to be who I am.

My life is about becoming, as fully as possible, this person I have the potential to be. Whether or not I would have chosen this path, there is so much that I appreciate about it. I am learning about myself, who I am and who I can become. There is much that I like about this person that I am. I am learning more about the God of the universe and the way He shows up mysteriously in our lives in ways that we would never expect and do not understand but that are no less good because of our lack of comprehension. I do not know where exactly this journey will lead, but I am learning to hold my head high while I continue on its path.

Some of you may wonder why I am sharing this with you. Does it need to be said? After all, straight people don’t announce their sexual orientations. That’s true. But I’ve lived a straight-presenting life for 38 years, and if I want to live authentically and be known for who I am – and I do – this truth about myself is something that is important for me to share.

You may also be wondering what this means for Matt’s and my marriage. Obviously, this discovery has affected the dynamic of our relationship. It has been incredibly difficult for us both. We don’t know what the future holds for us. We do know we love each other and are committed to raising our kids together and will be in each other’s lives and family forever. We will keep doing our best to work out how to live our lives.

How should you respond in light of my sharing about my sexual orientation with you? That is your choice. If you love me, just as I am, I would be so encouraged by your support. If you want to reach out to Matt and offer support to him, that would be great, too. If you are angry or hurt or upset by this news, I would invite you to sit with that discomfort and examine what it is about this that brings up those feelings in you. If you believe you must, “speak the truth in love” to me, I can understand that – just know that I have grown tremendously in maintaining healthy boundaries, and if I do not respond to your message, it is not because of the infallibility of your arguments but because I no longer subscribe to the belief that anyone else is entitled to my time or to a theological defense of my ideological position.

I am, in so many ways, the same person I have always been. I am the girl who grew up with you, the woman who advocated for children in need of families, led your Bible studies, spoke at your women’s retreats, baby-sat for your children, served as your lay counselor, and answered your questions about parenting. I am the person who has advocated for authenticity and genuine vulnerability and continual growth. As part of living that out, I have come to know myself more fully. And for better or for worse, I know I’m not straight – and now you know, too.