- by Jane Brazell -
“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country.”
~ Harvey Milk
When the United States Postal Service announced that on May 22, 2014 they were releasing a stamp in honor of Harvey Milk, I cried.
On November 27, 1978 I was 13 years old. I knew then that I was different from most of the other students in school. I thought and felt differently about the girls and boys around me. I also knew from my community and church that the way I felt was not acceptable. I began to dig a big, deep cellar in which I would hide these thoughts and feelings. I realized that those thoughts and feelings would get me in trouble. The day Harvey Milk was assassinated I learned that they could kill me.
For more years than I want to think about, I lived in fear. This led me to be “in and out of the closet.” I tried everything in my power to be like everyone else. I engaged in ex-gay therapy to make myself straight. I buried my true self. I did my best to be what others said I needed to be. We all want to be accepted and loved; and will do whatever is in our power to accomplish this.
Thirty-five years later I look back at that scared girl and still don't know what to say to her. Her fear is real. Her fear is justified. There are still many places where she is not accepted, and there are still people who do not love her because of who she is. There are still people who want her to hide away parts of herself, and there are still places where it is necessary to hide parts of herself.
I have come out. I have faced the fear and said that I am Queer. It gets easier, but no less scary. There is still a sense that I can be rejected, and I have been. There are still places where I am not accepted – church is often one of those places. Sometimes the fear comes because the way I label myself is found distasteful by another; sometimes it's simply because I will no longer live in the cellar that I built. At times the fear creeps back in when I stand and challenge the idea that equality in the church is only about marriage.
I look back at my younger self and I see someone who needed to be taken in and loved. Simply that. She didn't care about marriage at the time – to be honest, she didn't believe she could ever get married; it wasn't in her worldview. Now, I see so many standing for marriage equality, don't get me wrong – I believe this is an important issue, but I am frustrated for those who don't want to get married – for those looking simply for a place to belong.I want to show them hope.
Harvey said, “Hope will never be silent.” It may have taken years for my closet door to shatter, but it is shattered now, and I will not be silent. We must work for equality in our churches so that all may have a place of belonging.
. . .
Jane is a lay member of United Church in University Place, University Place, WA, and an American Sign Language interpreter. Photography being her most favored hobby, you will almost always find her with a camera or iPhone up to her face.