Lizzy and I met my sophomore year of college. Both pursuing journalism at the time, we really bonded during a media study abroad trip to Ukraine.
Lizzy came out as a lesbian around Valentine’s Day of this year. She graciously agreed to share her story here–how she decided to be honest with her friends and family and walked with God through the process.
I’m so proud of Lizzy, especially of how she pursued God and didn’t neglect the Church, even when the majority of evangelical culture shames and stigmatizes LGBTQ Christians.
Here’s her story:
As a teenager, when people used to ask me what superpower I wanted to have, I would always say invisibility.
Invisibility meant not drawing attention to myself. It meant being able to accomplish things without being seen.
But sometimes things change, and I definitely wouldn’t say that anymore. After about ten years of deeply working through my sexual orientation, I realized I didn’t want to be invisible anymore.
“Coming out” seems to be this big scary thing with lots of stigma attached to it. And it can be.
Most of my friends–upward of eighty percent–are Christians. I knew many of them wouldn’t agree with the conclusion I came to regarding my orientation.
“Gay” was the label I attached to being rejected: when I transferred schools just before middle school, I was relentlessly teased and called a lesbian. I promised myself then if that was why people didn’t like me, it was something I would NEVER be.
I denied and buried my attractions, not only for fear of rejection at school, but also at church.
A rising leader in youth group, I became a zealot and tried to get everyone saved—especially anyone I perceived could possibly be an LBGTQ person.
So, when I could finally say I was gay out loud to myself just a few years ago, it was a significant breaking point.
I expected to feel that same feeling of rejection from God. I was sure I’d feel estranged if the words ever fell off of my lips, if I ever “confessed over myself” that I was gay.
What actually happened was that I felt the presence of God like I hadn’t felt it for a very long time. And God covered me with love in that moment. I’ll never forget it.
So after realizing you’re gay, what do you do? You may not be able to choose your attractions, but you definitely have some choices to make.
What does this mean for your life?
How does your orientation fit into your theology?
Are you going to tell people? If so, when and how?
Is sexuality fluid, and what if this changes?
Is this the most important thing about you?
When Jesus asked people to follow him, he told them to make sure to count the cost first.
And although following Jesus and coming out are totally different things, I think LGBTQ people certainly know what counting the cost means.
Thankfully for me, I have an amazing mother who loves me fiercely. She’s my best friend, and no matter what I choose in life, I know her love will never change towards me.
I started my coming out journey with her, and then I told a couple of other family members and close friends. I had to feel it out: I wanted to test the waters with the people closest to me one-on-one.
After I spoke with each of the people I cared the most about, over the course of a year or so, no one else’s opinion mattered that much to me.
But in each of those conversations, I was counting the cost.
Will this person leave me or distance themselves from me?
Will they make every conversation from here on out about my sexual orientation?
Will they condemn me?
Will their objective for our relationship become more about persuading me to change than being my friend?
Most of the conversations went well. There were only a few negative experiences, and though they were very painful, I realized that coming out was something I personally needed to do.
I wouldn’t have to lie anymore when I was around people casually having conversations about their boyfriends or spouses or when people asked me if I was dating anyone or liked anyone.
When you just want to be yourself and act normal around people, but you have a secret that can potentially be so ostracizing, those simple conversations can destroy you on the inside.
That’s why it’s so important for people to respond in love even if they don’t agree.
Isolation and shame eat away at you until you disappear or hate yourself. And though well intentioned, many don’t realize how harmful and damaging their “tough love” approach can be. I didn’t until I was on the receiving end of it.
After posting my coming out letter on my blog, there was one person’s response stood out.
I knew about her attractions from conversations we had before, but she told me the struggle of only having one person she felt like she could confide in and how she wished more than anything that she could be out. The hiding and the covering up were eating away at her.
And I read that. And I cried. And I’ve read it several times since.
But before I responded to her, I wanted to be objective and honest. I thought about a another friend’s experience that has been very different from my own.
My friend who, when she counted the cost, saw that she would lose everything important to her–family, spiritual community, workplace respect, etc.
As much as I advocate authenticity, I realize coming out is not an option for everyone, and it is most certainly not the best option for everyone.
It is a choice, and it looks different for each individual. There are as many different scenarios for coming out as there are people who question whether they need to.
But if we are ever going to see the treatment of LGBTQ people change, especially within the Church, it’s very important for those who can share this part of themselves to choose to do so.
Honesty really does make a difference.
You can read Lizzy’s coming-out letter here on her blog.
You can find the first post of the Sex/Gender/Identity 2015 series here.