In high school, I was secretary of our newly-formed Bible club. Every Wednesday I would wake up at five a.m. in order to get to the school by six, so that the club could meet before class started. I was already the odd one out for being the only Catholic in this group of born-again Christians, so I always felt this weird drive to try and fit in with the rest of the club.
One day the teacher who led the group announced that we were going to do a special project: write letters to a gay group informing them that being gay was a sin.
I was thunderstruck. How did my innocent little school group go from Bible study and Bible Pictionary to political activism (that it was presumed we all agreed with)? My classmates hopped to it: to my eyes there wasn’t one who hesitated. If I said I didn’t want to write such a letter, I felt certain they would all pounce on me with Leviticus lectures, as surely as if I had marched in there waiving a rainbow flag and then kissed another girl.
I should mention that at this point in my life, I was so blinded by “Christian” dogma that I couldn’t even admit to myself that I was gay. I was repulsed by boys, confounded by my boy-crazy gal pals, and cried the first time a boy tried to kiss me. But I was Christian, so couldn’t possibly be gay! So it wasn’t for myself (at least consciously) that I was hesitant to write the letters. My hesitation was based on the moral principle informing the project; I didn’t agree with its overall assertion. It was also based on my one bisexual friend, whom I knew to be a good person; it didn’t seem to me that she was inherently a sinner just because she liked women as well as men.
However, with everyone diligently writing away, and the teacher noticing my lack of participation, I caved. I did not want to be the freak show in this group any more than I already was. I did not want to be singled out.My letter said something about how the only time anybody is supposed to have sex is if they are married and actively trying to make babies—which meant that not only priests, but any unmarried Christian person was therefore called to chastity. So, I argued, it’s not gay love that’s the problem, since Jesus taught love, but just the sex, which is a problem for everyone.
Shame-faced, I gave the teacher my letter. He was “approving” them before sending them off to whatever unfortunate group received them. It turns out I was singled out after all—for, in his words, writing the most thoughtful and well-argued letter of the bunch. I was praised for how well I had betrayed my own ethics.
I remember wishing that whatever group got those letters would just toss them unread into a fireplace.
It wasn’t until years later that I was able to admit to myself that I was gay—and that was the happiest, most liberating experience I’ve ever had. Of course, I had years before then left any form of Christian church. Now I’ve been testing the waters on an attempted return back, secure enough in who I am to not let those same negative attitudes that drove me away the first time cause me to lie to myself any longer.
But it still hurts to know that I will never be fully accepted for who I am by those I would like to call “family”—that is, a church family. Other members can talk about their significant others, their kids, their weddings, their anniversaries. When they do I smile and nod, the same as I did in my high school Bible club, and let them tell me with condescending smiles not to worry, that one day I’ll find Mr. Right.
Is it worth it to have the peace that church brings me, if that peace is counteracted by the play-acting I have to undertake in order to be welcome there?
This is one of the letters in my book “UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question,” available in print, as a Kindle book, as a NookBook, and directly from me, signed and inscribed according to your directions.