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.

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6 thoughts on “In Which I Share with You That I Am Not Straight

  1. I am here to support you and your wonderful family from the heart. Something tells me that anything less in our reactions would mean we have not been listening to Jesus. Here’s a hug across the miles. I’m proud to know you.
    Brett Butler

  2. I am so honored that you shared this with me and the others who know you and care about you. It takes tremendous courage and I admire you for it. I’m also glad I get to see and know the whole of who you are—you don’t need to hide anything from me or anyone else who truly cares about you. Thank you for the truth of your words and the beautiful way you wrote them. I am glad to call you my friend!

  3. Dear Alison,

    I left a comment earlier, in response to your most thoughtful and evolutionary post. My words didn’t ‘take’, as it were, which is ok, because I wanted to say more. If I may, please…

    First, though we’re strangers, I’m sending you giant hugs across the miles. I’ve loved reading your posts for the last few years, and watching y’all grow together as individuals and a family in the arms of God. And I sense that His embrace has never been tighter than it is right now.

    My initial thoughts were of admiration; it’s certain that what you’ve written, told from the heart, will help others and – in the deepest sense of the word – encourage them in all kinds of ways.

    To bestow courage is no small thing. Many of own failings are connected to fears of how others will perceive me. The ‘sin’ of withholding the truth of myself. In a perfect world, I suppose, the only shadows are ones from leaves dancing in the sunlight.

    When strident believers insist on the completeness of the Bible – especially the gospels – I am left wanting more from Him. A book that’s left all the writing to men – ones who would identify as ‘straight’ at that – is puzzling. It may be where we find Jesus, but it’s hard to believe that it’s all He was.

    It’s a drag that I also wonder if you’ll be attacked for these truths you’ve told. (The idea that being gay is a sin has never held an iota of worth to me. It never will.)

    I will try to keep this simple and just say I’d be so proud if you were my daughter, sister or friend. I’m proud to know you today and send extra angels of understanding, light and unity to you and yours. You’re someone who makes this earth a finer realm to inhabit. Your kindness, sentience and wit are treasured.

    Sincerely and with love,

    Brett Butler

  4. Alison – Let me commend you for your bravery. I know how scary it is to make such a bold decision to embrace your true identity after so many years, but I also know how life-giving it is when we stop spending our entire relationship with God trying to pray that God would change us and start enjoying God just as God made us. Blessings to you on your journey. Your decision to make your story public will undoubtedly help save lives.

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