When I first visited my home church, the minister told me she believes in God on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and alternate weekends. I didn’t believe in God at all.
I was raised kind of Catholic and kind of nondenominational Christian, though I never got around to my first communion and I was asked to leave church events more than once for not behaving as a child. To this day, I’ve not read the Bible, though I’m pretty sure the gist of what Jesus said is love one another.
The same minister who didn’t believe in God every day also told me that we never know what someone is going through. She told me people come to the church for answers and meaning and purpose. I’ve found that those type of answers are not so easily produced in a Unitarian Universalist church, where every seeker is charged with finding the answers that work for them.
In the Unitarian Universalist church, every seeker is not only encouraged, but also empowered to find those answers by being a part of a spiritual community which will support them in any way possible.
There is a sacred safety in this community.
I’ve found that sometimes, people adopt the traditions they are born into as a convenient means of belonging. People can also claim to be practitioners of these traditions without striving to live up to their ideals. Though I know this exists to an extent in Unitarian Universalism, I’ve found that most UUs do strive to live up to the ideals we claim. We are not perfect – we all have and all will stumble over our own ambition at times, but for the most part, we are all trying our best.
At the time that minister first welcomed me into the church, she was declining to officiate any wedding ceremonies. This was in 2010, five years before marriage equality became law, and she was not performing wedding ceremonies in protest of legal discrimination against same-sex couples.
When the rainbow flag was taken from our church sign, she led the congregation, marching and singing “We are standing on the side of love,” to replace and rededicate it.
I am just beginning to realize what an incredible privilege it is to belong to a spiritual community that supports and affirms all people.
I am just beginning to realize what an incredible privilege it is to belong to a spiritual community that supported and affirmed my identity before I even realized it.
This week, the United Methodist Church is trying to decide if it will ordain LGBT+ pastors and recognize LGBT+ weddings.
The Unitarian Universalist part of me wonders how this can even be a question. The part of me which has grown up in the Bible Belt understands how deeply ingrained tradition and religion can be.
It was even ingrained in me, despite having very little to do with Christianity, despite belonging to an affirming spiritual community, despite knowing I’m queer since I was twelve.
My parents did not express views on LGBT+ issues until I did. In seventh grade, I had to report on a current event for my social studies class. That was when I learned about the gay rights movement. I was appalled that people were being denied rights because of their sex. It seemed ridiculous to me and I was eager to share my findings with my classmates.
I was not prepared for the hate and Bible verses that would come from my peers’ mouths.
I was not prepared for my father to reiterate that hate when I told him about the experience later.
In the same moments that I began to realize who I am, I was taught that who I am is not acceptable – not by my society, my peers, or my family.
So, I suppressed. I had short-lived relationships with males and a long string of intense friendships with females that I can now recognize as crushes.
Of course, everything happens exactly the way it is supposed to.
I had to be, or at least act, straight in order to have my son, and for that reason, I would never change a thing. Henry is the single greatest blessing of my life – he is the blessing from which every other blessing has come.
One he arrived, it was only a matter of time before I was finally able to accept the truth about myself and take control of my journey toward my highest good.
I fell away from the church for about two years and returned to my home church when I was pregnant. I slowly became more involved after Henry was born.
A lot had changed in three years. The kind man who sat next to me at my first visit had passed away. The minister had moved on and a new one had filled the position. The elementary schoolers I had taught in Religious Education were taller and more brilliant than I could have imagined, though I was completely unsurprised by the engaged and empathetic young adults they were becoming. There were so many new faces, and in many ways, it was a completely new place – but it still felt like home.
I’ve done more healing and growing as a part of that community than I have or ever could have anywhere else. I went back to school as a part of that community. I got my life together as a part of that community. I came out as a part of that community.
Actually, I came out in the minister’s office on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in September 2018.
We were talking about inherited familial trauma and she helped me meditate in hopes of quieting the constant chatter of insecurity in my mind.
Once the stillness was achieved, a Truth bubbled to the surface, and I laughed.
“What was that?”
“No, what was that?”
“Yes, you can.”
I took a deep breath and smiled for incredible relief and for knowledge that I was in an absolutely safe place to speak my Truth.
“I’m super fucking gay, dude.”
That is the story of how I came out as gay in a minister’s office in the Bible Belt and was met with nothing but love and congratulations.
Absolutely every queer person should be able to have such a positive, uplifting coming out experience.
Absolutely everyone should have access to an affirming and loving spiritual home where they can unapologetically live their truth.
Last week, the Unitarian Universalist Association asked LGBT+ people of faith to sign their name to a blessing acknowledging the LGBT+ United Methodist community.
I cannot imagine what those people are going through right now. I cannot fathom having my spiritual community debating if it should respect my inherent worth and dignity and that of my LGBT+ siblings. I proudly signed the blessing and offer heartfelt prayers that my United Methodist fellow travelers choose to side with love.
One of the spiritual answers I have found for myself is that we are all a reflection of the same Divine Love. Whatever we choose to call this Source, it is a part of all of us, and it does not care how we worship or who we love. It is entirely unconditional.
This Love transcends any scripture or tradition, any walls we have built around our hearts and between one another. This Love is the God I believe in, not just on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and alternate weekends – but every moment of every day. May we all embrace it in a way that suits our needs, may we all allow ourselves to be embraced by it, and embrace one another as loved, whole, and worthy fellow travelers, always.
Bless all those who love.
Bless all of us queer and lesbian and gay and trans and bi and nonbinary and beyond who lead in the path of spirit whether we are wanted or not, whether we are fearful or brave, whether we are out or not.
Our family has always been called to spiritual leadership and we serve in many ways.
As healers and song leaders, committee chairs and ordained clergy, counselors and prophets.
We preside over communion tables and Shabbat services, at bedsides and weddings and direct actions. We are at births and deaths, leading choirs and capital campaigns. We are everyday people in the pews ready to offer and receive food for our spirits.
May every LGBTQ+ person who doubts that they deserve a spiritual community find a home of spirit and celebration.
May every LGBTQ+ spiritual leader who guides their people with love and skill in the face of homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, know their worth and brilliance.
May every LGBTQ+ leader who withstands the pain and harm of congregations, institutions, and denominations find healing, love and power.
Bless all those who are self-avowed, practicing lovers of justice and liberation.
Bless all those who love.
See also: #GC2019 – Blessed are the Queer