A picture on my desk

So for those who’ve not had a “coming out” experience it may seem, from all the talk and Glee type hype, that coming out is a one-time event with two possible outcomes.  The story seems to go something like this:  First we inwardly acknowledge who we are then we announce to the world, rainbow gymnastic ribbons a’flyin’, who we are. We are either warmly embraced by our friends and family or we suffer an Exorcist-like intervention to try and cure us from our “sickness”. After that point it is either all Pride parades and glitter bombs or a tortured life of angst and repression.  Yeah, I’ve read the propaganda too.  But as it turns out, it is not as simple as all that.  Though those experiences do exist, there are many more nuanced layers to this trifle we call life.

For some we always know who we are and either embrace it from the get-go or struggle mightily and slowly come to terms with who God has created us to be.  Maybe we fight against it, desperately seeking to be loved by our families while accepting that we may never love or even like the inner pulsating glow of who we are.  For some it may be a coming out that happens in concentric circles; an awareness that dawns slowly, sometimes over decades, or a complete unawareness until a cosmic frying pan smacks you upside the head with the rush of the first crush on a glowing creature of your same gender.  How we welcome people into this awareness varies as much as Lady Gaga costumes.  And yes, some folks do have that take-the-field, banner busting moment and just rush on out of the closet – pom-poms a shakin’.  Many others take things much slower; first allowing an inner core of friends to know us then to open up, like a gardenia on a sultry summer day, eventually revealing to more and more people who we are.

More often than not I have encountered folks who come out over an over again, in degrees, vacillating between reticence and confidence within each sphere of their lives.

For some, like my own partner – it remains a safely guarded secret in her professional life, where only a select few are permitted access while our home and community life is lived openly.  A life lived bifurcated that flourishes at home with love and wholeness yet in her work setting, even where she has worked for 17 years, there is not a single picture of the whole family her desk.  Conversations at work that include references to one’s spouse are guarded and whispered if they happen at all.

And me?  I mean I am out there – gay as the day is long and life is short, but still…I have a new job, a wonderful new job, where I have been “settling in” for just over a month now – and I have chosen to play the pronoun game (as Laura calls it).  My new professional home is about as open and affirming as a place of work can be and there are out LGBT folks in nearly every department.  Still, I have taken things slowly, not yet naming my partner or even speaking in gendered pronouns.  I skirt the issue saying things like “my other half” and “the bossy pants at home” (sorry hon) and a lot of innocuous “we” and “us” without making clear who we are. Now sure, I imagine that most folks in my department, my little office, have long since figured it out.  I mean damn, my Facebook activity just reeks of big ole gay Christian love right?  I have felt what so many folks have told me they feel; I want to be taken as my professional, thinking, creative, team-playing, Protestant work ethic self first.  As it turns out, once we tell people the little fact that we are gay or lesbian that often becomes the first thing about us, the central thing.  We become the “lesbian police officer” or the “gay writer” or the “transgender pastor” rather than just officer, writer or pastor.  So I, Ms. Coming Out Christian, have not even put so much as a family photo on my own desk.

And you know what?  All of these ways, and a myriad of other ways, of coming out are right. What is never right is outing another person without their permission or against their will. And it is never ok to use fear and ignorance all tangled up with proof-texted religion to abuse someone as they figure out how to live into who their Creator has made them to be.

But today, National Coming Out Day, just a couple of days before Pride in Atlanta, I am placing my favorite family snapshot on my desk.  I’m not going to tie a rainbow balloon to the frame or march it into the office making a scene like Baton Bob.  I am simply going to take it out of my bag, place in on my desk and then go grab a cup coffee.  It is such a simple thing really.  How many of my non-gay friends have not even considered the significance of your unquestionable freedom to do things as simple as tack up a photo of your last camping trip on your scratchy cubical wall?  But there it is – the little, seemingly insignificant things that actually matter a great deal.

So, all that said, I’d like to lift up a prayer for people young and not so young who will be coming out today – and every day.

God of male and female,
of gay and non-gay,
of bisexual and transgender souls
remind us that you are the maker of us all.

Open our minds
that we may invite and be invited

Open our ears
that we may hear the cries of those who suffer,

Open our mouths
that we may offer solace

Open our hearts
that we may enter and feast at your table.

Save us from believing
the lie that we are unloved by you.

Grant us courage
to be who you have, in your own image, created us to be

And make us a light in the world,
that all your people may experience and embody your mercy.




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178 responses to “A picture on my desk”

  1. I want to share this sentences From Risalei Nur collection by Said Nursi

    Be certain of this, that the highest aim of creation and its most important result are belief in God. The most exalted rank in humanity and its highest degree are the knowledge of God contained within belief in God. The most radiant happiness and sweetest bounty for jinn and human beings are the love of God contained within the knowledge of God. And the purest joy for the human spirit and the sheerest delight for man’s heart are the rapture of the spirit contained within the love of God. Indeed, all true happiness, pure joy, sweet bounties, and untroubled pleasure lie in knowledge of God and love of God; they cannot exist without them.
    One who knows and loves God Almighty is potentially able to receive endless bounties, happiness, lights, and mysteries. While one who does not truly know and love him is afflicted spiritually and materially by endless misery, pain, and fears. Even if such an impotent and miserable person owned the whole world, it would be worth nothing for him, for it would seem to him that he was living a fruitless life among the vagrant human race in a wretched world without owner or protector. Everyone may understand just how wretched and bewildered is man among the vagrant human race in this bewildering fleeting world if he does not know his Owner, if he does not discover his Master. But if he does discover and know Him, he will seek refuge in His mercy and will rely on His power. The desolate world will turn into a place of recreation and pleasure, it will become a place of trade for the hereafter.

  2. I don’t comment here a lot, but I am so thankful whenever I stop in and hear inspiring narratives like this one! I am currently at seminary in Texas and don’t get to have a lot of these conversations, even with the rainbow button on my backpack 🙂 Bless you Kimberly.

  3. I loved this! Your prayer makes me think of my own, a prayer of confession:

    Merciful God, I confess that I have sinned; I have failed to love my neighbor as myself. I have allowed my prejudices to blind me to who You created my neighbors to be, and tried to recreate them in my image instead of Yours. I have even justified my hate in Your name, when it is all, and only, mine. I have bought the lie that my neighbor is less than human because of who and how he or she loves, instead of seeking to know the truth. In my heart and in my words, I have slandered such persons, and for this, I repent. Have mercy on me, and let me see my neighbor with Your eyes, not my own. In Jesus’ name, amen.

    • I will certainly say “amen” to this. Your prayer certainly expresses the sin in my own heart and need for God’s mercy.

  4. Kimberly, thank you for this. I want to comment on this from a different perspective and this comes from a person still working through so much in my own mind and heart. I am an older man, straight (married to my wife for 39 years) and ordained in ministry for many decades as a hospital chaplain. I left the evangelical form of christianity many years ago and my ordination is in a non denominational church organization. I am one who would certainly be labeled “conservative”. I believe that homosexual activity is wrong and not according to the will of God…please, relax and move away from the keyboard for a moment. I also believe that a person who loves someone of the same sex and lives in a committed relationship with that person, has every right to do so and has a right to every privilege and benefit I have in my relationship with my wife. I do not believe I am better than any one else. I hate the practise within the christian church by so many who also believe homosexual activity is wrong and then prioritize it as if it is so much worse than other things we all do that are in the same category. I believe what I said earlier and also believe I can only say that as a fact about what I believe, not as a scathing statement of judgement because I am often doing things in my own life that leave me way more condemned than anyone I could try to judge. I disagree with you Mike, in your explanation of the New Testament teaching on this issue but I would ask you ( and everyone else who wrote here) to forgive me and to forgive so much of what the christian church has said and done to those of you who are gay. I long for the day that all of you will be respected and accepted in our society like everyone else. I work in the healthcare system and try to advocate always for partners of gay patients in regard to visitation rights, medical decisions, end of life issues and others. I wish everyone of you the best and again thanks Kimberly for helping me to understand even more about this, maybe someday you can have a wedding picture of you and your partner on your desk, I hope so.

    • Ron,

      I appreciate the journey you are on and your willingness to share with us here. While I deeply and faithfully disagree with your theological postion I am incredibly grateful for the way you can compartmentalize your faith and your understanding of civil rights. Thank you for being at the table with us and for praying in partnership with us for the freedom of all people to love who they are called to love, without fear, and with all the same civil rights you enjoy.

      Grace and peace,

      • Kimbery: thank you for accepting me for who I am as well and your kind response. One of the main conclusions I have reached in regard to myself on this issue though is that my faith (in terms of all that it involves for me) is the thing that now shapes my understanding of civil rights and respect for others that I may strongly disagree with. I hope you keep writing at this site in the future, I’m new here so I don’t know what happens here over the long term. Do pray for me too and for my wife. We want to have fellowship with others who are of the christian faith but find that we do not fit the categories that are out there very well….we don’t even vote republican.

        • Ron,

          I’m a Christian and I definitely don’t vote Republican :). Actually I try to vote policy and not party if ya know what I mean. And the policies that win my vote are the ones that reflect compassion, grace and freedom wherever possible.

          Keep on coming back!


    • Ron, I too admire the fact that you can recognize civil rights as separate from your faith, particularly in a society like America which has separation of church and state. I also do not judge you. However, I have to try to understand and counter your (mild) condemnation of homosexuality. If God dislikes Gay people why does he create them, for it most certainly isn’t a choice and if no choice is involved, how can it be a sin? There are genetic and evolutionary explanations for homosexuality and it occurs in other creatures, from whom we are not that different. So why is it wrong?

  5. Kimberly,

    What a lovely post…I agree that homosexuality is often given more precedence (more voyeuristic interest?) than other, more important facets of a person. After all, we are people first, God’s beloved created children, and we have more in common with each other than we’ll ever know. I also appreciated your response to the comment that the hypocrites should be “outed.” We need to be reminded that inside of us all is a small, scared child, and deserving or not, we are recipients of God’s infinite grace and mercy.

    • Thank you Nan for lifting up the fact that we often have more in common than we realize. I hope through the stories we share here that more people will come to realize how similar and interdependent we all are.

    • We are all people first but it is upon the basis of their sexuality that homosexual people are discriminated against and so it is understandable that this aspect is emphasized. As a straight, Christian ally of gay people, I pray for a time when such emphasis is no longer needed. How they can be denied equal rights is simply beyond my ability to understand. Such opposition to equality is illogical and, in the US, unconstitutional. If God doesn’t like gays, why create them? If Biblical authority is the reason then why aren’t more right-wing Christians stoning their wives who were not virgins on their wedding night?

  6. What a beautiful post, honoring those who perhaps are coming out on this day for the first time and those who are seeking the courage to “dive off that cliff”. Thank you for reminding me that “coming out” is not a one-time, over-and-done event, but it is something that is done at numerous times during one’s life as jobs, location, friends, church, community involvement change. And thank you for a unifying prayer that we need to reflect on – and measure ourselves against – daily.

    • Jeff,

      You are so welcome! Thank you for who you are in the world living boldly into the role of ally. I am grateful for you!


  7. Wonderful post, thought-provoking as always, putting a human face on this issue…I’m planning to attend an Episcopal service this weekend, working through these issues of conscience I’ve been battling…love your writing.

    • Thank you Bob so very much for coming to the table and for walking this journey with us as you find your own way. May you find the light you are looking for 🙂

  8. Despite centuries of belief that homosexuality is a sin, I reason through the scripture itself. The Bible transcends the gap between the ancient world and ours, except for a handful of dictates that were created before modern scientific advancement and are changed by new information (not even the most stringent of evangelicals think a woman should be quiet in church and have her head covered). While the prohibition on homosexuality in Leviticus doesn’t carry weight today because the entire Levitical Law is finished, the passage in Romans 1 only establishes that Paul was opposed to homosexuality as he knew it and that was a promiscuous form associated with pagan worship practices. He also knew of heterosexual promiscuity at the Temple of Diana. Paul did not know of homosexuality in the context of committed and monogamous relationships and he did not know anything about chromosomes. In his world, they thought the earth was flat. Today, fifth graders learn things that are light years ahead of the ancient world’s knowledge but they had great wisdom of spiritual matters and issues of human ego, as well as corrupt worldly power and much more. Scripture contains the Word of God but also contains a certain human fallibility related to the limited knowledge humans had at the time.

  9. Thanks for writing this. I am a straight woman, and I’m trying to imagine how difficult and tedious it would be to never mention “my boyfriend” in conversation. I guess a lot of gay people feel pressured to hide a very very important part of their lives, and it shouldn’t be that way.

    • Thank you for sharing your understanding of this difficult place many people find themselves.

  10. I adore this post. I agree on most of it – however, I do think that there is a single instance where outing a person is appropriate. If that person holds political power and is using that power to support discrimination against LGBT folks and is a closet case themselves – that’s a disgusting kind of hypocrisy that is directly damaging me and my family, and I would out them in a half a heartbeat. If you’re out there talking about how marriage should be only for straight couples, how those evil homos are after kids and shouldn’t be allowed to adopt, how “family values” are only straight christian married parent values … and you’re out creeping with same sex prostitutes in the night? Oh yeah, you should be outed. Absolutely. Less for the “gay” than the “hypocrite” but…. still. :-/

    • Saffie,

      I totally hear that and have often celebrated with spiteful glee when hypocrites are outed for who and what they are. A very real part of me believes it is right and good to do this. Another part of me, maybe the mamma in me, thinks of the scared little child inside everyone, even those who hide the truth for the sake of their own power. It is hard one and I usually go with the folks who say these sorts of people need to be outed. Hopefully even in the face of evil I can still rise above and be who I want to be (but often fall short of).


  11. Thank you for allowing me to use your prayer and thank you for your witness. The coming out topic is a very personal one for me and I applaud you for your sensitivity, in both ways you must come out. Sometimes it is harder to come out as Christian than as gay and sometimes it is the opposite.

  12. Kimberly,
    May I use your prayer at our table on the ASU campus today? I am a campus minister for the United Methodist Church and will be having a table on campus celebrating God’s diversity on this Coming Out day.

    • Jeri,

      I would be honored beyond words for my prayer (our prayer) to be shared in any setting at all. Thank you for YOUR light in the world.


    • Kate, I love you and cherish our friendship. Thank you for being an ally to those who need a faithful and friendly voice in the storm of life.