The great thing about being out and being honest and being vulnerable is that in doing so people know they have the invitation to be all those same things right back. The space is now there for them to go to as well, so they wish. It’s a basic fact about humanity: The ways we live our lives serve as invitations for those around us to do the same. That’s why our friend groups influence so much about who we are. Spend time around people who are kind and compassionate and you will find yourself more kind and compassionate. They modeled it. And now you know it. We’re all a bunch of copycats. It’s part of being a social species.
I’ve heard from a lot of queer people since I’ve been out. We’ve stared into each other’s eyes and held each others hands as we share some of the most painful experiences of our lives. It is intense and beautiful and carries an energy that I can only call holy.
Story after story I heard was gut-wrenching. They were heart-breaking. They were atrocious. The ways that we treat queer people and the spaces we create to keep queer people closeted is something I will only ever call inhumane. It is contrary to the human spirit to both treat people that way and to be the recipient of such treatment. We will look back at this period of human history in shame
Time and time again, story after story I heard one common element: Christianity.
Though wholeheartedly in the practice myself, I decided that I wouldn’t do any of my “good christian things” with these friends. I wasn’t going to pray with them, or recite scripture, or recommend a sermon or a church or a pastor. It seemed counterintuitive to care for a wound with the very thing that caused it. Though I had only known how to deal with pain myself through Christian practices —prayer, scripture, belief. I was stuck and confused.
Since coming out, I’ve known I want to use my life to help other queer lives. That why I wrote a blog in the first place. That’s why I am writing this right now. But hearing so many of my friends stories and really combating the question of, “How do I want to engage in this arena?” forced me to redefine what I thought of as success.
I received a job offer from a queer christian organization, but turned it down because I didn’t want to put myself in the Christian box. When meeting with queer youth (like I would have in the job), I didn’t want to feel pressure to talk about Jesus and pray and read scripture. I didn’t want them to feel pressure to stay and shame any desire they had to leave. Staying in Christianity didn’t seem like success any more.
Success seemed like a life of wholesomeness and health, of joy and abundance. And I was now confident that a life with God could be outside of the Christian practice. The Christian practice really screwed up these people’s lives. There is no need to stay in the pot when all the pot does is burn you.
Get out of the pot.
I realized that I was still waist deep in Christianity myself only because I was afraid of any other alternative. I wasn’t afraid of God. But I was afraid of what others would think. It felt like a second coming out.
It took me looking in from the outside, looking at lives other than my own, thinking about what is solely best for them —to accept what was best for me. In seeing their stories, it led me to accept that their story was also so much of my story, of my pain. I knew not to do the Christian things with them, because I knew what they felt like to have them done to me, and I didn’t like it.
I didn’t like to be prayed over because I had been told so many times, “I’ll pray for you” when that person was not at all praying for me. They were praying for themselves. They were praying that what they wanted came true. They were praying that the way they viewed the world would remain so that they wouldn’t have to do the work of rewriting it. They were praying for their own comfort.
Sticking firm in the Christianity I knew before felt like going back to my abuser. And it was.