I hope it doesn’t seem too strange that I, a complete stranger, am writing to you, but I think you’ve probably grown sufficiently famous by now that a little bit of unsolicited mail is probably expected! I started reading you on Dan Savage’s recomendation, I stayed for the Thruway Christians, and lately I’ve been very interested in the saga of your relationship with your father. I think I feel compelled to write because I’m struggling with matters of faith and family right now, and you’re the only writer I’ve seen who has been able to identify a brand of Christianity that I can fully embrace.
I’m a 23 year old lesbian, and my parents are in no way capable of dealing with that fact. I was raised in a very conservative Southern Baptist household, and while my parents aren’t crazy fundamentalists, they’re just intolerant enough to think that being gay is the ultimate slap in the face to God. Years ago they found that I was a lesbian, and the resulting fallout was horrific. I retreated out of cowardice, and in order to regain their trust lied to them that it was “just a phase.”
The past three years have been horrible for me. I feel like I’ve stopped developing emotionally, all because I’m trying to remain in this limbo of striving for their approval without fully committing to the kind of life they want me to lead: marriage, kids, church every Sunday, etc. It’s all the more difficult for me because I truly love my parents, and can’t conceive of giving up a relationship with them. They’re kind, funny, smart people. I think being gay is the only thing I could possibly be that would absolutely devastate them.
I haven’t given up being a Christian, and I think I’m writing to you because recently I’ve been really buckling under all of this, and I wish I had a person of faith around to talk to. But the pastors in this deep southern town aren’t the progressive type. Like I said before, you seem like an ambassador for the type of Christianity that seems real, and I wanted to lay this burden down somewhere.
I don’t know what to do at this point. I just met a girl I really like, and I’d like to move on with my life, and experience a healthy relationship with her. I can’t do that in my current position, though. My father, whom I love so much, wants me to move back home and go to grad school at the university where he teaches. He thinks it would be good for me, and would him and I to grow closer. On some level I agree with him about that. But another part of me wonders if it would be best for me to practice with my parents a scorched earth policy: if I should just tell them, once and for all, that I’m gay, and then stay away from them for enough time that they can start to get over it.
I know what would happen if I moved home and tell them about who I really am: they would be so, so hurt; I would never be at peace from their efforts to save me; and I would probably lie down and submit to them out of my feelings of guilt and love for them.
I can’t believe this is what my life has turned into. How did modern Christianity get so fucked that a totally average girl like me, from an otherwise great family, has to feel this kind of pain, and cause my parents to feel it too?
Thanks for listening, John. I don’t know how coherent this letter has been, but I want you to know that it means a lot to people like me to be able to read a blog like yours. Your ‘gays and christianity’ posts are truly inspired. Thank you so much.
So. This letter’s been on my mind for days now. It just wipes me out this sweet girl has to deal with this.
I’ve got my own plans for responding to my new friend. For one, her letter has inspired me to produce, via extranormal (which I utilized to make Christian and Non-Christian: Who Gets Into Heaven? and Adam and Eve: The Day After Paradise) an animated series around exactly the kinds issues she is facing and raising. (The first episode of the series, which I’ll publish Friday, is entitled The Smith Family Chronicles: Jane Smith Comes Out to Her Conservative Christian Father [Episode 1].) I also plan to write and publish here on my blog something that I hope will be of some service to her and anyone else in a similar position. Look for that post here on Monday.
Here’s to working toward a Christianity that wouldn’t embarrass, depress, or royally anger Christ.