-by an anonomous graduate student, in the Southeast -
Today, I sat on a park bench with someone who could be considered a spiritual mentor to me. She’s a United Methodist campus minister with a big laugh and a captivating smile. She has a tendency to put people at ease when she speaks. As we traded laughs and words on the Kingdom of God, I thought about just over a year ago when seeing her around my college campus would cause my chest to tighten in anxiety. In fact, I deliberately avoided the section of campus where I knew she worked. To me she represented everything I could never receive but so desperately needed. As a lesbian, I know all too well the terrible pain of being deliberately abandoned by God.
You see, my life revolved around pain and fear. I breathed it, felt it, and lived it. I was the president of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender organization on my campus. I know the harsh reality that GLBT students face on a daily basis. Our stories of rejection by families and friends and of being turned out by churches varied in their details but were consistent in theme. We were the outcasts who supported each other when there were few others who would. We had pieced together a family out of the brokenness. The camaraderie in that shared experience is one of the most powerful forms of hope and love that I will ever experience.
My mission in college was to create a place where students could come to feel safe when their homes, churches, and even dorm rooms were not the comforting environments they needed to be. Sometimes, the organization was the only place that students could go to be accepted without hesitation or condemnation. It became my mission because my own family, who, despite loving me, rejected my sexuality with harsh words that are best forgotten to the past. Even more so, I intimately knew the pain that came when my faith turned against me. I grew up Catholic with a strong faith built upon years in the Catholic school system. My Catholicism shaped my culture and who I was. The instant I realized I was gay was immediately followed by the instant where I realized I could no longer be loved by the God that I had depended on for so long.
So I went to college and threw myself into working for others. I strove to give the other students the love and support that they had lost when they discovered who they were and chose to live honestly. I knew that we couldn’t depend on God or on our families. I did all I could to comfort those whose brokenness was something they lived with every day. Many held a deep-seated anger against religion and God. Sometimes we would be in the office and someone would mention God. There would be an explosion of fury from the other students. The majority of us had given up on God as a method of self-preservation. We all knew the pain that followed when you attempted to reach out for comfort and were met with painful rejection instead. After awhile, we all just stopped trying and looked to each other for comfort. It was an us against the world mentality.
I hid my brokenness deep inside in order to be the source of strength for my classmates. I felt lonely and hungry for attention and care. I longed for the connection I once had with God but the knowledge that I was defective prevented me from having a relationship that I so desperately needed. The reason so many gay and lesbian people feel rejected by their churches has nothing to do with being condemned to hell. The pain stems from the deprivation of love and grace that are so necessary to the human existence.
So in one insane moment of desperation, I prayed to God that I would find someone who could help. If I was really loved by God I needed someone to help me see it. My mind remembered the Methodist minister who had introduced herself once but I shrugged her out of my mind. The next day, I was biking past the freshman dorms, nowhere near where she worked. I heard someone call out to me. I sat on my bike shaking uncontrollably before doing what amounted to one of the scariest things I have ever done. I asked her if she would talk to me about God.
What stemmed from that chance meeting was a healing of my soul that was nothing short of miraculous. At the first of many lunches, she simply listened to my story of rejection by the Church that I held so dear. I told her about the pain of being alone in the world and craving spiritual sustenance. The anger that I had held for so long finally broke over the meal. Because, for the first time that I could remember, a person who deeply believed in God did not preach or judge.
When you grow up gay, you live with fear every single day. There is the fear of rejection, the fear of losing those you love, and the fear of what will happen if you let others see who you are. It sickens you. God is an antidote for fear. But when God is hijacked by religion and held hostage away from those who need it most, love and grace become weapons. My life was changed because one person decided to stop and see me in all my brokenness. She saw me with the love and grace that can only stem from God. Can you imagine what would happen if we all decided to spread love instead of hoarding it for ourselves?
Being gay is never easy. It is a path that no one choses of their own accord because to be gay or lesbian comes with the risk of losing the love that is so vital to us all as humans. God can heal the brokenness, if there are people who are willing to minister his love to those in society who need it most.