Today is National Coming Out Day. While it’s nice to celebrate the freedom to be who you are, coming out isn’t always easy. This is a guest post by a writer named CJ. While I hope you read it and get to know her story, I also hope you’ll understand how hard it is–still–for some people to be out.
I was raised in the Church of Christ. Starting at a young age, church was my safe place. I was never really the most popular kid at school. My girl parts developed very early, and I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I was very self-conscious and felt the need to hide my body under baggy clothes. It may have been different in some places, but in the mid-90s at my school, it was very uncool to be 5’6” and wearing a 36C at twelve-years-old. I was also an unattractive child. Maybe we’re all funny looking adolescents, but I was beyond funny looking. But, I never felt threatened at church.
I got to see my best friends two to three times each week. Most of my church friends were older than me, so they didn’t call attention to my big boobs or my big bones. I fit in with them. I spent summers at a Church of Christ camp where I had friends who lived all over the southeast. We wrote letters to each other, we prayed for each other, we bought phone cards so that we could call each other long distance. In my down time at home, I often studied my Bible, because you know, 2 Timothy 2:15 says “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” I “rightly divided” as much as I could on my own.
My mother put me in private school in ninth grade. A Southern Baptist private school. Those poor souls had no clue what they were getting themselves into when they accepted me. I was a good student. But, I challenged EVERYTHING when it came to religious doctrine. I refused to close my eyes in prayer with the Baptist folks. I refused to sing hymns and spiritual songs during chapel. Sometimes I would close my eyes in prayer during Baptist worship and pray for those lost Baptist souls because, you know, only my Church of Christ people are going to Heaven. There were times that I would raise my hand and interrupt the speaker during devotionals or sermons if I disagreed with what they were saying. I would quote book, chapter, and verse during my outbursts. They probably all thought I was the antichrist. However, when I would discuss my school accomplishments at church, I received praise. “Way to stand up for the Word!” “Keep your head up; they’ll eventually hear the truth!”
I toned it down during my junior and senior years. I worked at the corner drug store downtown, made friends outside of church, got my first checking account at sixteen, and drove a pretty nice car around town. No longer the ugly duckling of the town, I was a cute and independent girl with a tan who drove a Mustang and always had cash! Woohoo! I eventually graduated from high school without getting kicked out for being a religious deviant. I was also a pretty good kid. I didn’t drink, smoke, cuss, or have sex with boys.
But, I didn’t have sex with boys, because I was attracted to girls. I thought it was normal for friends to hold hands or snuggle with each other. However, it felt different when a girl touched me than when a guy touched me. I guess I thought it was also normal to want to kiss a pretty girl. Even as a child, I had thoughts about kissing my friends in ways that a man would in movies and on TV. I always fell for the woman in romantic movies: Robin Wright in The Princess Bride; Shari Headley in Coming to America. I can remember drooling while watching Kylie Minogue’s music video “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”.
I had sex with my best friend for the first time when I was seventeen. I was in love with her, and she broke my heart. She broke my heart into pieces. Here’s the problem with this whole piece of the story. Remember how I mentioned that I often “rightly divided the Word of Truth”? I believed then that what I had done was wrong. Things got worse when my older brother went snooping through my room one day, found a letter I’d written to the girl, and showed it to my mom. When my mother confronted me, I left the house in my Mustang and took a drive down a very windy road in the rain. I was driving 65 in a 35 MPH speed zone. I wanted to swerve off the road. I wanted it to be over, and I wanted it to look like an accident so that my parents wouldn’t think I took my own life. It stopped raining, and I was fine. I went home and prayed and cried, prayed and cried. This was not the first time that I contemplated ending my life.
I felt like God forgave me of my terrible sin. I went back to my church friends and went back to church camp the following summer. I prayed constantly and asked God to take the gay away from me. I kept myself busy with school, work, and spending time with my friends. Of course I still had my girl crushes, but I never acted on them. By this point, I knew I was different and that it wasn’t “normal” to feel the way I felt about women. I talked to my youth minister at camp the following summer. He’d been my youth minister since I was six-years-old, so I trusted him.
We had a very serious conversation about how I was attracted to women. He told me that I should see a Church of Christ psychologist and that I should have a Church of Christ doctor do a blood test to make sure that I didn’t have too much testosterone. I was convinced that there was something wrong with me and I just needed a pill to fix it, so I skipped the psychologist and went straight to the doctor as soon as I got home from camp.
I didn’t know any Church of Christ doctors, so I got the yellow pages and picked a random doctor, made an appointment, and got my mom’s insurance card. When the doctor came into the room to ask about my symptoms, I said “I’m attracted to women, and I need to have a blood test to see if my testosterone levels are too high, and then I need an estrogen pill to fix me.” I will never forget the look on her face. She placed her clipboard on the counter and sat down. She said, “Listen, there’s nothing wrong with you. There’s no pill that can fix you. You are who you are, and it’s okay.” Of course, I disagreed. She had a nurse draw my blood and sent me on my way. I didn’t have to pay a copay. I never received the results, and our insurance company was never charged for the bloodwork. That was the second time that I contemplated suicide.
Remember how I said I trusted my youth minister? After our confidential talk, some of my church camp friends were told that they needed to stay away from me. Not only did I feel broken, but I couldn’t talk to my friends about it because they weren’t allowed. This was the third time I thought about the whole dying thing. It also wasn’t the first time that I lost friends.
Clearly my praying wasn’t working. I was still attracted to girls, and it wouldn’t go away. During my early college years, I actually dated a few girls. It was always a secret that I kept from my parents. I had come to the conclusion that everybody sins, this was how I had chosen to sin, and I could have sex with girls at the time until I find the “right man.” I would just ask for forgiveness later.
When I was 20, several of my friends were already engaged or married. I decided that it was time to force myself into the mold. I would find a Church of Christ man, date him, marry him, raise Church of Christ babies, and be happy enough. Happy enough was the goal.
I met an awesome guy during that time. He was very handsome, sweet, and a bit of a nerd, but in an endearing way. He lived in a very nice house in a very exclusive part of town, and he’d already graduated from college with his first job. He was also a Church of Christ dude. Happy enough.
He proposed to me on our second anniversary. I hesitantly said yes. I was only a junior in college at the time and wanted to finish school before I got married, so a long engagement was necessary. Wedding planning was terrible. I’ve never really been a big planner, and girly things like dresses, shoes, cakes, venues, and photographers are not my idea of a good time. My mom and I chose the venue, cakes, caterer, photographer, and I chose a DJ for the reception. I asked my closest friends to be in my wedding and we picked out bridesmaid dresses. I was engaged for a year and a half and never went wedding dress shopping. RED FLAG. Isn’t that one of the first things that engaged girls do?
During my senior year of college, I met a lesbian couple in one of my English classes. I was still engaged and trying to force myself into a mold like a size 16 woman trying to fit in a size 4 dress. I knew I was gay, but I just forced myself not to think about it. I think they could sense with their super lesbian senses that I was struggling with something. They friended me in real life and on Facebook, which was becoming a pretty popular thing at the time. They had been married for a few years. They had both decided to go back to college together for a second degree. They were a good bit older than me and had lived a very cool life. They embraced me and helped me realize that it’s okay to be who I am. The doctor told me that during my blood test when I was 18 years old, but this time I got it.
I’d been struggling for so long. As much as I wanted to change and be a “normal” girl, I couldn’t change it. I couldn’t take a pill that would fix me. I asked God to change me, but God couldn’t change me either. I came to terms with being gay. I broke off the engagement, and I came out to my family. Yes, the Bible-thumping girl who rightly divided the word of truth came out of the closet. The same girl who prayed for the souls of others because she wanted everyone to go to Heaven even if they read the Bible differently from her. The same girl who prayed for ten years to be different finally realized that she was just fine the way she was.
I’m thirty-two-years old now. I have a great job, I own my own home, and I have some of the best friends that a girl could ask for.
I just ask that before you spread hate or teach hate to your children, before you judge someone because they’re different from you and have experienced life in a different way than you have, humble yourself and show some empathy. Those you judge could end up being the ones holding back your hair in the bathroom when you’ve had too much to drink!
My story isn’t over yet, and I’m so much more than just happy enough. I’m happy to be alive.
What I’m Reading
These books are currently cozied up with me in bed each night. (Tell me I’m not the only one who sleeps with my books like they’re stuffed animals.) I bet that you would enjoy them, too. If you haven’t already read these, then click on the pictures and let’s read together – like a book club, but we get to stay at home and no one has to wear pants or a bra. Oh, and it’s definietly BYOPS (Bring Your Own Peanut Butter Spoon).
Also on Clothesline Confessional
Do you know what happens when someone tells me that I am intelligent, hilarious, compassionate, or strong? I start to believe that I can change the world.