- by anonymous United Methodist pastor kid -
Have you ever had a secret? One that you couldn’t tell anyone, not even your family? I have, and I have kept it my entire life, or at least 20 years of it. The only thing is, it wasn’t just my family that I am related to by blood that I was worried about, it was my church, and church conference family as well. I am a pastor’s daughter, and there are a lot of clergy in my family. I grew up in a small town, where if you mess up, everyone knows about it. So as the pastor’s kid, I had all eyes on me. It seemed almost as if people were waiting for me to screw up. So I tried to do everything right, I got good grades, I never got in trouble. I also grew up in the church conference world. I have been running around annual conference and "Pastor Kid" events since I was a little kid. Many people know me and care about me, so something this huge would really upset a lot of people.
Growing up, I wasn’t always 100% sure that I was gay. For a long time, I just thought there was something off, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I had always dated guys, mostly because that is what my sister and friends did, so I followed suit. I didn’t ever think there was another option. When I was in 8th grade I realized that I was different, I realized that I was slightly attracted to girls, but I didn’t really think much of it and I pushed it out of my mind. This continued into high school, but I kept dating guys, because they would ask me out, and that is what I was supposed to do, so I did. It never felt right though, something always felt off.
Once I got to college, I joined the Wesley Foundation at my school. It was so great, I made friends right off the bat, and they became like another family to me. However, feelings of being attracted to girls had been getting stronger and stronger and by the time I got to college, it was all I could think about, the secret was consuming my mind. I was really confused. Since I had been avoiding the thoughts for so long, they were kind of overwhelming when I finally let myself feel them.
My second semester of my freshman year of college, I joined the leadership team at Wesley. This added an element of complication to my situation. I knew from years of going to annual conference and listening to the debates, that homosexuality was not widely accepted in The United Methodist Church, so I didn’t think I would be accepted IF I was gay.
Toward the end of my freshman year, I decided to talk to a friend from Wesley. I said it out loud for the first time. I don’t completely remember how I phrased it, but I was a nervous wreck! I was shaky and my voice was barely audible, and I said something to the effect of “umm… I think… that I might like girls…”
Let me pause the story to say, when you are coming out to someone for the first time, choosing the right person makes all the difference in the world! See, this friend was raised Baptist, so she proceeded to tell me that of course she still loved me, but she thinks that being gay is a sin, and that I could choose to not live that way. At the time, I was just happy that she still wanted to be my friend, but in the following days and weeks, I started to regress, I took what she said to heart, and tried to ignore my feelings and pretend they didn’t exist. That mentality carried on for a few months. In the fall semester, the thoughts and feelings were getting so intense that I could not ignore them anymore, so what was the logical thing to do? I found a boyfriend.
I guess subconsciously, I thought that would help; it would make me “normal”. He was a great guy, he was very sweet, he loved God, and he was essentially the perfect boyfriend. But, once again, it did not feel right, and it only made my thoughts of being gay magnified times 100. I continued to date him for a couple of months, desperately trying to make it work, but I couldn’t and I broke up with him. I then realized that I needed to try to tell someone else, so I told my best friend. I was even more nervous this time, 1) because I didn’t want the same thing to happen as last time, and 2) because I really didn’t want to lose my best friend, in case she freaked out. Luckily, it went a thousand times better! She was so supportive and told me that if I’m happy then she’s happy, and she doesn’t care who I am with. It was such a relief! Within the next couple of months I had filled in four of my other close friends that I had made at Wesley, who were all very supportive and loving and said that they’d be there for me no matter what!
The time came where I felt like it was time to tell my mom. The one who is a pastor, and who is married to my step dad, another pastor, yea I was a little freaked. To set the record straight, she has never, and still does not have any problem with the LGBTQ community, she has actually fought for equal rights for as long as I can remember, but that almost made it scarier. All I could think in my head was that she would be fine with every other gay person who has ever needed her help, but somehow be freaked by her daughter coming out to her. That was obviously an irrational fear. She was amazing! She told me that of course she still loved me, and she wanted me to be happy. I still have yet to tell anyone else in my family, but I have a feeling that they will react similarly to my mom. They love me, and I have God by my side, so I am putting my trust in God that it will be ok.
A scarier time, however, is still up ahead. The day that once I’ve told all the loving, supporting, kind people in my life, and I have to come out to the rest of the world, to the church, and to the conference. Like I said, I have grown up in the church and in the conference. I feel like those communities are family to me. When I go to annual conference, I feel like I am going to one big family reunion. I dread the day that I go to conference, and I am merely looked at as the gay, pastor’s daughter, or the sinner, or the messed up one. I think it will break my heart.
Another fear I have about coming out to the conference and church world is how it will affect my parents. When you have three pastors for parents, being gay doesn’t really seem like an option. I have sort of come to terms with this messing up things and relationships in my life, but if it messed up anything in my parents' lives, I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I just want to tell all of them, I did not choose this, it was not my choice to want to date women instead of men. But it is my choice, and I am choosing to live the way that God made me, and to be the person that God made me to be.
I recently went to annual conference, and as I was standing there in worship, all I could think was that I was surrounded by hundreds of people, who I consider to be my family, who at least half of them would not accept me if they knew who I really was. As I was thinking about this, and having feelings of hurt and sadness about having to keep my life a secret, a very amazing friend of mine whom I have known forever, who is a pastor, and who knows about me, came and stood by me, put his arm around me and told me that he loved me. In that moment, I knew that I would be ok. I knew that if I had my friends, my family, and God behind me, I would be ok. That friend changed my life in that one moment. I felt the love of a friend, a member of my family, and God all in one hug. I want to be that difference for someone someday. I want to be that one person from church, who can go give the person who feels like an outcast a hug and tell them I love them, no matter what!
Sharing God’s love, in any circumstance, that is what we are here for, isn’t it?
That’s why God made us.
And that is how we are going to spread God's kingdom!
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