I'm back and I hope it's for good. This past year, it's been an incredible challenge for me to sit down and write. I've succumbed to the fear that my story isn't interesting or is one that won't be accepted. I've grown tired of fighting to unite two communities through my experience, when it seems we endure a setback every other day. I'm still very much in the midst of a dramatic struggle, yet I feel like I've lost my voice. Until recently, that is. I realized that I've not really told my full story. Sure, I've talked about my situation with enough vulnerability that people can relate to to it; however, I've still managed to keep my personal story somewhat obscured from view.
Over the next few months, I want to tell my personal story of how I came to realize that I was first just "different," then "not gay," then "same-sex attracted," then "celibate," to finally being content with the fact that I was a "gay christian."
Initially, I was scared to discuss some of the people in the story out of fear that they would read this and be offended. So, I wondered if I should approach them and ask for their permission to share my experiences. Even as I type that, I cringe—this is my experience, not theirs. Why did I need their permission? But, after some thought, I have changed some of their names out of respect for both their story and my own.
Here we go...
When I was in preschool or kindergarten, my parents would often take me to hang out with my friends. Looking back, I suspect they just wanted to get a break from my bratty self nagging them for things. At the time, my dad was working at our church as a part-time youth pastor, so church-related friendships were the bulk of our lives.
Sometimes, my parents would take me to hang out with my friend Billy. Billy and I would spend hours together in the attic of our parents' friends, the Rudd's. Whether it was playing dress-up or running around outside in the neighborhood, we absolutely loved getting to go to the Rudd's to hang out. Billy and I had a special bond together at that house. We really got along well with each other, and I recall feeling confusing feelings for him. I couldn't call them overtly romantic feelings, because I was about six years old—I didn't really understand what that stuff even was. But as I reflect on my time hanging out with Billy, even to this day I can recall the seemingly different feelings I felt toward him. Different. Different than my friendship with my best friend Aaron (who had a severe gas problem that, to this day, I still can't explain) and different than my friendship with Anthony. Different.
Billy, like me, would later come out as LGBTQ.
It was after this phase of life, when I entered elementary school that my sexuality began to surface, albeit unbeknownst to me. Throughout elementary school, I became the founder of a recess-based friend group that we affectionately called "The Misfits." We were a group of kids who knew we didn't fit in with our peers. As I look back, this sounds sort of pathetic—a group of kids who knew that they weren't going to be the popular kids on the playground. I actually remember both my parents and teachers staring at us with a sort of pity when they discovered what we called ourselves and why. It's the look of pity that parents give their kids when they finally realize, "My kid is going to be a bit weird."
Each day, at recess, The Misfits would gravitate to "the makeup tree." It was a tree with a trunk that was super powdery, resembling skin foundation and blush. We all would hang out by this tree playing pretend, trying to forget that we would soon be stuck back in class with Mrs. Vanderkroll. Vanderkroll was the teacher who made me sit out of recess for a week when I jokingly flipped one of my peers "the bird." Needless to say, I don't have great memories of her, but I doubt she has good memories of me either. As we grew older, I remember the friend group becoming more devoted to talking about the latest Blink182 or Linkin Park songs than running through the pretend department store scenarios of our childhood. Needless to say, we were pretty cool kids. I can't even write this without turning red in embarrassment.
Each day, when we'd hang out, I remember all of us lamenting the fact that we couldn't be a part of the "popular" friend group. For me, that was the group that Jack was in. Jack was basically the most popular guy in school (and a bully), which was saying a lot for elementary school. Jack was the good looking kid who was already starting to get the muscle that all of us would soon envy. I'm not actually sure it was true but that's how I perceived him at such a young age. I often thought that I hated Jack and I made sure all my peers knew it, but really I just had those same "different" feeling towards him. Later in life I would enter conversion therapy, where I would be told that I was afraid of Jack and was attracted to him because I really wanted to be him. I still don't really think I wanted to be Jack.
What Did It All Mean?
There's nothing novel about this portion of my story as a young kid. There isn't anything that I can really moralize or point to that definitively made me gay. However, there are some small allusions to my sexuality—allusions that I'm sure some conservative-types will attempt to argue had nothing to with my sexuality, but I'm less interested in that debate.
As I was writing this, I sheepishly looked at my husband and said, "Do you think it's weird to mention that me and my friend played dress-up?" He looked up from his laptop without pause and said, "No, but..." then explained that statistically playing dress-up as a kid might have been a pre-indicator that I was gay, yet other sources argue that this was normal behavior.
I'm thinking back on The Misfits group and I realized something interesting: Almost half of us in the "Misfits" group would later come out as LGBTQ. I always wonder if it was some coincidental fate that so many of us would eventually come out. Was it fate? Did we try to find family in each other at such a young age? I'm starting to think this may have been more than just fate.
Regardless, even at an early age, something sure felt different. I felt different.