I know some of you may be struggling with various emotions and thoughts after reading Tara’s Coming Out blog. Here’s my story. I little lengthy, but stick with it to get the full perspective:
As much as I would wish that everyone would think like I do, it just isn’t going to happen. Life would be much more simpler, no? But, oh, it would be much more boring…
That said, I think there is a part of my journey in this life that others might benefit from hearing. My thoughts and rationale are constantly evolving. There have been many events in my life that challenge my current way of thinking. That cause me to pause, reflect, and reshape my opinions. I like to think this is open-mindedness, but a lot of times, it takes a two-by-four to make it happen, so I accept that it is merely human nature.
One key area of evolution in my thinking comes with homosexuality. Growing up, I thought of homosexuality as ‘weird’ or ‘gross’ or ‘perverse’. The only people we heard about were the strange, flamboyant, entertainers like Elton John, Boy George, George Michael, Corey Hart (so sad since I had a crush on him). We never even really heard about the dreaded lesbians… until Billie Jean King, Ellen DeGeneres and later, Rosie O’Donnell. Then, there was the phase of lesbian acts being ‘sexy’ to men. Then came the emboldened uproar from the Christian community claiming homosexuality as a sin, not to be tolerated nor condoned. I followed this bandwagon, not because I gave it a lot of thought and insight, but because it was the ‘thing to do’. I had other, in my mind, more important things to worry about. Just getting by in my own life, my own world. I had to figure out my life plan and execute on it. I couldn’t be worried about these other people who wanted to go against the grain.
As time went on, I was forced to re-examine my views. In college, I found out that my best friend from high school, the boy I thought I might be in love with, was gay. I was devastated. How did I not know?? I shrunk into a little ball while my world came crashing down (I know, a bit dramatic, but it seemed that way at the age of 19). I thought, ‘how could this be’? I still loved, and continued to love him. We met, we talked, we hugged, we hung out. I watched him drift and struggle in our society. I watched him move out to California to search for acceptance. I watched as he destroyed himself with a lifestyle that ended up taking his life when we were only 22. I was convinced that it was this evil called homosexuality that did this. If it wasn’t for that, he would still be here, he would still be alive, he would still be my friend.
I continued on with my life.
I met a wonderful man and we married. We solidified our Christian faith and beliefs through the Evangelical Free Church. This church proclaimed to teach the bible. They sang worship songs. They engaged and convicted their congregation. They taught homosexuality is a sin. They pointed out the bible verses and their rationale. It all made sense. We followed along. Life was good. Homosexuality was ‘out there’, but we didn’t have to worry about it or think about it. It was someone else’s problem and it was a sin. People just needed to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and they would be saved. End of story.
Then came another wack in the head. My baby brother (I was 12 when he was born, and then my parents got divorced, so I helped raise him) came out to me as gay. I remember the moment vividly. We were walking at the zoo in Madison Wisconsin. I remember that I was one of the last of my family for him to tell. I felt bad about that. I remember feeling it as an unexpected crushing blow. A slap in the face. I remember hugging him and telling him that I loved him. I remember mourning the loss of my idea of what his future would hold. I remember thinking (again) “how did I not know”??? I felt so blind. Then I thought, what would I tell my husband? I could only tell him the truth. I don’t believe in keeping secrets. He was saddened by the news. Said we had to pray for him. I bought a couple of books… ironically books that reinforced my current views, not books that would challenge them. I think I even still have them…. Interesting. I did not tell my children. In fact, I even asked my brother to hide it from them. My children were being taught that homosexuality was a sin through their Christian school. I did not want them to prematurely judge my brother before they knew him. He lived far away and the only way they interacted was through facebook. I know it still seems wrong, but this was actually the beginnings of me changing my mind… the realization that people judge without knowing the full facts and that act of judging can cloud their minds to future understanding.
It wasn’t until much later that my mind evolved more in this space. Well after my husband died from cancer. After I started to reexamine my thoughts on Christianity and spirituality in general. Nothing overt actually caused it. I was reflecting on how our culture is obsessed with labeling and judging when Jesus taught about rejecting “the established church” and loving one another. I read more about Jesus’ teaching. I thought “who am I to judge anyone?”. It’s really not my place. I have no idea what they are going through. I have no idea what they feel. Most of all…
What if I’m wrong?
If I’m wrong, then I have vilified a whole group of people that only want to be accepted for who they are. I have directly or indirectly caused them pain – caused them to hate themselves, caused them to attempt or commit suicide, caused them so much angst and unhappiness…. Could I face Jesus if he walked into my door today and challenged me on how well I did loving my neighbor? Hmmmmm. What. If. I’m. Wrong… what makes me think I am right and what good does it do anyone to think I am right? NOTHING. That was the beginning for me. I will continue to challenge myself in my thinking – especially when I think I am “right”. And, I will also challenge myself not to be self-righteous in this thinking. I have much more to learn, much more to accept, and much more to do than I can even imagine. It is in thinking that we know anything or everything, where we fall down. Questioning everything includes questioning ourselves. Thinking we are above anyone is where the sin lies. This is in line with what Jesus taught. I strive every day to further my understanding and to tame my judgements.
All of this prepared me for when my daughter came out. I was able to listen, absorb, feel her pain, and hurt in my heart for what she has endured and continues to endure in this society. I wish nothing more than a world where everyone is accepted and loved for who they are individually. There is nothing for us to gain to tear each other down. Even when we disagree. There is room for all of us to improve every day. An open mind does not assume everyone else thinks and feels as they do. An open mind assumes there are other viewpoints and perspectives that should be explored, understood, discussed…. Only then, do we move forward. If we reach out to everyone with love, respect, and understanding, we can only gain.