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coming out: one year later preview & good friday reflections

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Notes: Before I get into this post, I just want to take a moment to thank everyone who’s been reading this blog and keeping up to date on my outward thought process. For many of you, that’s involved sitting with me as I rifle through thoughts and ideas over tea and food on multiple occasions, and I’m especially thankful for that. For others, that’s encompassed your kind and encouraging words that create safe spaces as I continue to write and think out loud in a public space on what it really means to be on this journey and on this path that has all the twists and turns you could imagine. And for yet others, that means challenging me and having open discussions on where we’re coming from, the perspectives that we hold, and why we hold them. So thank you. And for anyone who’s just met me recently or who’s new to the blog, I hope that you find this as a safe place, a safe place as an LGBT Christian, as a Christian in general who has a heart for this, as a Christian who might not know a lot about this sphere, as anyone. I hope that everyone who comes here finds this as a safe place where dialogue is open, where learning is sought after, and where ignorance is not always willful or inherently bad. So, (in a bit of self-promotion here) for you guys (and anyone else who hasn’t yet), feel free to subscribe to the blog so you can get emails that link to new posts when they go up, and also feel free to engage and talk with me about anything that you might be thinking, whether that’s questions about what I’ve written or what I believe on this, curiosities on things in general, or just to talk. I’m open to that and I love it.

All of that being said, I want to talk about two things in this post: a couple things that I’ve seen and realized thinking over everything that’s happened since last year when I started writing this blog and also some of the things that I’ve been reflecting on, specifically regarding LGBT Christians, as it’s Holy Week this week and Good Friday today.

I think that the most significant thing that I’ve noticed between last year around this time and this year is both the magnitude and also surprising lack of change, which I’ll explain. If you had asked me relatively soon after coming out where I saw myself in a year, I’m not sure I would know how to answer that question. I’ve already written a “one year later” post/letter, and I’m going to put that up later this week, but I think that with everything going on a year ago, I don’t think I ever would have thought that I’d look one year into the future and see that a lot of things were actually pretty similar, pretty normal. And I think that lack of change is beautiful, because it feels so normal. It takes away a lot of that stigma that many people feel surrounding the coming out process. It seems like this thing that’s going to change your life forever and make it so that it’s never the same. While that is true to an extent, I think that when the people around you choose to value relationships over rightness and to see you as the same person you were before you came out, it really creates this beautiful normalcy that I’m starting to return to, and I’ll talk more about that in my “one year later” letter.

At the same time, I think that it’s also encouraging to see all the change that has happened over the past year. The Supreme Court ruling forever changed the way that people in this country will view LGBT people, and I think that’s a good thing. It created the visibility and (though not always productive) kickstarted a lot of conversations that needed to start happening. In addition, even in my smaller sphere I’ve seen change. After appearing in the Clarion (Bethel’s student newspaper) article about what it was like to be LGBT at Bethel, I wasn’t sure what to expect in the aftermath, even more so after studying abroad for a semester. I didn’t know what kind of ripple effect that would have and what my final semester at Bethel would look like, but I think that I’ve been pleasantly surprised to the atmosphere of openness and curiosity that’s been created on campus.

Several weeks ago, I was walking through the halls and noticed this sign outside the Student Life office. It advertised the fact that Student Life, and the message was that by extension Bethel as an institutional whole, was willing to dialogue about controversial topics. One of the little boards stated that “It’s okay to talk about sexuality,” and I think that’s a massive step forward for a Christian university, and one that I like to think I contributed to by being open and willing to take risks last year. However, I think that the vast majority of the credit goes to Bethel and the student body for having an air of openness prior to last year that was just ready for all of this change. So, I’m glad to see that magnitude of change. I’m glad to see campus pastors and Campus Ministries engaging in topics such as race and sexuality that people may try to shy away from, and I’m glad that it’s being presented as a way for everyone to learn from each other, rather than Campus Ministries throwing the Bible at people and saying that they will teach you how you should think about things and how you should react to them. Coming from a very conservative and stringent Christian background in elementary and middle school, I think that this is huge for the Christian community at Bethel, because it reminds everyone that black lives matter, that LGBT lives matter, that students with disabilities’ lives matter, that EVERYONE matters, and I think that is so crucial because it re-humanizes people, which is the first step to getting to a better place in any sort of conflict or tension.

And that openness and culture of respect that I’ve seen develop and am proud to say that I’m a part of ties into my Good Friday reflections: I think that it’s really easy for us to only selectively apply Jesus’ sacrifice, and I think that we give up on people too easily when we feel like the differences between us and them are too great.

In the midst of all the conflicts that exist in the world, I think that we need to remember to re-humanize people continually, and that’s not just something that applies to hot button topics like LGBT issues or Black Lives Matter or things like that. I think that it’s something we need to remember in any situation arising out of conflict, whether that’s conflict with your roommate or your manager at work or anyone else, because I think that in the heat of conflict, the first casualty of that conflict is usually the other person’s humanity. We start thinking of them as just being wrong or being annoying or being hurtful or being whatever might be going through our minds at the time, and all of sudden that’s all that person becomes to us. But what we need to remember is that regardless of the situation, regardless of how confident we are that we’re right, regardless of all those things, the other person is still human, for better or for worse. They’re human, and that means they make mistakes and they’re not perfect and that happens. And they’re human, and that means that they are made in the image of God and deserve our respect even when we’re not in the best of moods and even when we disagree and even when they’re treating us less than human in the same ways. Because, in the end, the blood of Jesus covers us equally and none of us is better or worse in His eyes. His sacrifice was for all of us.

And my second thought also ties into this one: I think that we give up on people too easily, whether it’s that friend who can’t seem to text you back to save their life, or that one relative who claims to be a Christian but doesn’t in any way act like it, the entire population of people of color in America, or the LGBT population. I think that American Christians give up on people too easily. They seem too hard to deal with. It seems like too much work to engage in relationships with people rather than judging them by stereotypes. It’s too frustrating. Whatever the reason we come up with, I still find myself saying that I think we give up on people too easily, and that’s a problem, especially for Christians.

Over and over in the Bible, we see that God never did that. He never gave up on us, even though I think we can all agree that He had every reason to. Just look at the Old Testament. Most Christians would agree that Israel had probably four thousand more chances than they really deserved, but God never gave up on them. In fact, he had Hosea marry a prostitute and told him to continue seeking after her when she went back to her old ways to illustrate just how much God doesn’t give up on us.

In relation to Good Friday there’s two more examples I want to point out. The first one is Peter. I think that I would probably give up on someone and cut my losses if someone denied me not once, not twice, but three times in the face of arguably the hardest and most difficult point of my entire life. I would be done and over that faster than Westboro Baptist would be over me. But that’s not what happened. After His resurrection, Jesus reconciled with Peter and told him that he would be the stone upon which the church was built, and from that passage, Roman Catholics consider Peter to be the very first Pope in many traditions.

Secondly, Jesus spoke with the criminal to His side even as He was dying on the cross. I’m pretty sure that any rational person would probably consider someone being crucified beyond hope at that point, but Jesus didn’t. Even as He was hanging there, bleeding out and in agony, He found it in Himself to reach out to someone who was being crucified right next to Him for a crime that he actually did commit. Even at the last possible moment, Jesus didn’t give up on him.

I think that those should all be examples for us as Christians today in the 21st century when we consider other people being able to get legally married as a threat to our faith system and when red Starbucks cups become an attack on Christianity. And this is all when it can take months for pastors to be investigated and dealt with for allegations of sexual abuse while a tenured professor at a Christian university can be fired in four days for even wanting to discuss perspectives on LGBT issues in a class. So, yes, I think that we give too easily on the things that actually matter while blowing insignificant things out of proportion.

So, don’t give up. LGBT Christians, don’t give up on the church. Don’t give up on God. Don’t give up on other Christians. Don’t give up on those that are Side A or Side B or whatever the opposite side is. Don’t give up when it feels like it’s getting hopeless. Don’t give up when it feels lonely. Don’t give up, because Jesus hasn’t given up on you and He’s not going to.

And mainstream Christians, don’t give up. Don’t give up when your church tells you that “homosexuals” are beyond hope and deserve to burn in hell. Don’t give up when other Christians or your church spurns you for showing love. And don’t give up on LGBT Christians or anyone else. Jesus saved the other criminal on the cross just hours or minutes before both of their deaths. Let’s follow that example that says that anything is possible and it’s never too late.

As I said at the beginning of this post, there’s been a lot of change in the past year, in both my life and the world. You don’t know how much of a difference a few months or a year will make or what God can do in that time. So keep loving. Keep persevering, and don’t give up, regardless of what it is.

As we’re in Good Friday and as the Resurrection approaches, may the Lord find you all where you are. May the memory of His sacrifice linger in our hearts past today, and may the glory and hope of His resurrection strengthen us to face whatever it is that we may encounter, reminding us never to give up.

the ring by spring dilemma: lgbt edition

Note: I was originally going to post this later in the week, but after hearing a guest speaker in one of my classes this morning, I decided that it was worth posting today, even if it's a little later in the afternoon. Talking about some aspects of Bethel specific culture, she noted that having all of these expectations regarding relationships in college often sets up students for disappointment when things don't work out the way that they've romanticized them to be, something which I find to be especially true for Christian LGBT students who experience many of the same things in a college setting. So, yeah, that's just a little bit of the backstory behind this post. And again, as with any post I write, I'm not trying to attack anyone or anything necessarily. I just like to reflect on cultural elements and the impacts that they have that are often much larger and much farther reaching than many realize. Cool. Here we go.

If you go to, have ever been to, or perhaps even just heard of a Christian college, you’ve probably heard of the term “ring by spring.” For the uninformed, what this rhyming little cliché is talking about is the stereotypical understanding or assumption or expectation or whatever that by the spring semester of your senior year of college, you will or, perhaps more importantly should be engaged to the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with. Yeah, essentially what “ring by spring” is saying is that you should probably be getting married the summer after you graduate from college, otherwise you don’t really have your life together, and you’re probably also not a good Christian, because otherwise God would’ve brought someone along by now. I hope that everyone can see the problem with this.

Obviously, when put like that, the entire notion of ring by spring sounds completely ridiculous, right? But unfortunately, just because something sounds illogical doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone feels like it is. I can say that just from pure observation, I see a number of people in my life who have bought into this idea in one form or another, and it’s really sad to be honest. And just as a disclaimer, I want to say that I’m definitely there with them some days. But that doesn't take away from how unhealthy this mindset is. People shouldn’t be expected to be getting married at 22 or 23 when it’s been demonstrated that people continue to mature and their brains continue to change until they’re about 25. Sure, that’s only two years, but a lot can change in two years, especially for people who are just emerging into the real world from the very sheltered bubble that Christian colleges often create.

Now, I’m not saying that it’s bad to get married right out of college. That’s totally fine. If you find someone that it works with, I wouldn’t tell you to wait until you’re 25 just for the sake of doing it. However, I do think that the expectation and the stereotype need to go, and there are lots of reasons people could appeal to for why that is. But I want to tweak the angle from which we see this just a little bit. Because, yeah, I think that we can all agree that the ring by spring thing is a little insane, but the fact of the matter is that it’s still this Christian cultural shadow that does actually affect people, and if it affects straight people so much, how much does it play into the lives of LGBT Christians? I’d say the impact is just as bad, if not worse.

Dating and marriage are already sort of touchy topics when it comes to LGBT Christians in the first place, for a myriad of reasons, and the added cultural pressure to have figured out that process and be settling down with someone by the time you graduate from college just makes that process all the messier. First of all, there’s the whole Side A/Side B situation that LGBT Christians need to wrestle through that will affect whether or not they can even envision themselves in a relationship with another person long-term. That in and of itself can take years to sort through and figure out, and to make matters more complicated, I’ve seen many people switch from Side B to Side A after a number of years, having to then wade through that transition as well.

That notwithstanding, depending on when you come out, you might already be far behind the dating game and have to make up for lost time, for lack of a better term. While most straight people probably have their first relationship in high school or even middle school, depending on what you consider to be a relationship, there are scores of LGBT Christians who don’t even come out until college or beyond, and if even if they were out sooner, they may have not have dated or had previous relationships as a result of family or church pressure. With that background in mind, the Christian cultural pressure of ring by spring can quickly morph from a silly little stereotype into an actual concern of whether you’re behind the curve or whether you’ll ever find someone, because everyone says that it’s harder to make friends, much less have relationships that work after college. And again, those are stereotypes, but what stereotype isn’t set in concrete when you’re already freaking out in your own mind, feeling pressure from every direction?

It might sound silly or like something that people just need to get over, but it can be a legitimate fear, especially for LGBT Christians. People would probably say that the dating pool is pretty small given the context of a Christian college, but then you add the whole LGBT layer on top of that, plus whatever personal preferences you might have, and that pool really starts to dry up for LGBT Christians. There’s always after college, people will say, but for LGBT Christians, that only means that it’ll get harder to find someone who holds the same beliefs, especially considering the still shaky dating/relationship situation that awaits them in most churches. All of a sudden, ring by spring starts sounding like their last and only hope of finding someone, which obviously isn’t true, but it can surely feel like the case while you’re in the thick of it.

Fortunately, it seems as if this stereotype is at least starting to fade out as Christian culture and its obsession and emphasis on marriage and relationships starts to ease up a little bit, but that doesn’t take away the massive cultural pressure that still exists in many Christian communities today and especially the exponentially dramatic impact that it has on LGBT Christians specifically, who already must wrestle with a plethora of other debates linked to this one.

So, while it may be funny to joke about things like ring by spring and who in your circle of friends is going to get married first, it’s worth reflecting on the deeper implications of what Christian culture feeds us and how that impacts us and our thinking about various issues and about life. Are the values that these cultural phenomena push really Biblical? Or do they rise out of a mish-mash of Christian, secular, and in this case, purity culture?

Just some food for thought to go with these reflections.

do it for you

*deep breath in *deep breath out If you read my last post (and honestly, probably even if you didn’t), you’ll know that I’m insanely busy this semester, that is until May 21st, graduation day. It’s been maddening up until this point, having taken 21 credits until today (when I finished the last of my online classes, PTL), and as a result, I’m finding that I’ve dropped a lot of things from my life, simply out of sheer busy-ness. Today, I’m trying to reclaim some of those things, and one of them is being consistent with this whole blog game again, because doing this is something that fills me and something that I do for myself.

So, let’s backtrack really fast. It’s currently spring break, and considering that it’s me, I’m not off doing anything crazy or traveling anywhere, and that’s probably a good thing. With all of the residual stress that’s still coming off my shoulders from this top-heavy semester, I’m not sure I could’ve handled the stress that comes from traveling with friends (see #100daysinSpain, haha). So, instead, I’m hanging out at home, trying to decompress a little on this off week. But also, considering that it’s me, I’m never not doing anything, so I’ve also got this week filled with lots of little menial tasks and appointments, like going to the dentist, helping my grandma with technology, etc. I mean, hey, I have an entire week off so why not cross some of those things off the to-do list, right?

But today, one of the appointments I went to a little less begrudgingly was my appointment in the Career Development Office at Bethel, because I honestly have very little idea of what I’m going to be doing during my gap year next year and was really feeling the need to start figuring that out sooner than later. So, of course, I’m heading back to campus on the Monday of spring break, because that’s me. Campus was essentially deserted when I got there, so I got a really close parking spot, which is amazing during the day (#commuterlyfe), but it was also so weird to be able to hear the click of my shoes on the greenish-blue tile as I walked through the BC. There were some Student Life people milling around the occasional student who was still around campus, but other than that, it was pretty empty, which was strange to say the least. But I think it also contributed to the sort of gray, misty vibe that the weather had going on outside, so I rolled with it.

In Career Development, I met with this super great career counselor. Her name is Ann and probably everyone should go see her, because she’s fun, super nice, and also happens to be really great at helping you figure out your life too. So, there’s my shameless plug for Career and Calling, because every Bethel student should go in there, especially if you’re feeling hopelessly lost with graduation looming on the horizon, like me.

Anyway, aside from all the good career and life advice that she gave me, I think that she also taught me something else really valuable, and that’s the value of continuing to prioritize the things that you do for yourself. As we talked about a little of what I wanted my gap year to look like, obviously I wanted to be working and making money and paying off student loans and all that, but she also pulled out this undercurrent of me not wanting to hate what I was doing during that gap year, which was tied strongly to this idea of still having time for things that mattered to me, because we all know how busy life can get.

From our conversation, she told me that it’s so important to remember to make time for the things that we do for ourselves, because otherwise we start to lose our drive and then the things that we have to do start to lose meaning. For me, she saw one of those things as writing, specifically writing this blog, and she told me that when we get busy and stressed out with life, often, one of the first things that we drop is the thing that we do for ourselves. I mean, it makes sense, doesn’t it? A lot of time, those things don’t seem necessary. They seem extraneous. And we tell ourselves that we’ll just set them aside for long enough to get back on our feet and start making time for them again, but then life picks up even more and before long, it’s been a month since we wrote a blog post, or a year since we picked up that instrument, or a couple weeks since we’ve made art, and while that may not seem to affect us that much on the surface, it starts killing us inside. Because then, we lose stamina. The things that we do for ourselves give us energy and give us passion and give us drive to do the other things in life that, while we may enjoy them, we’re still doing for other people. So, when we neglect the things we do for ourselves, the rest of life starts to feel like a chore, slowly but surely.

This truth is something that I think I knew subconsciously, but that I’m actively working on now, especially during spring break. And obviously, this doesn’t mean that you should be selfish and neglect all of your other responsibilities. It just means that you need to remember to make time for yourself and the things that you enjoy doing simply on virtue of doing them, whether that’s reading, writing, making art, exploring the outdoors, whatever it might be. Those are the things that keep you sane, and I honestly don’t think you’ll last very long if you try to go through life neglecting them forever, telling yourself that you’ll get around to them eventually. It seems like a pretty simple concept, but I think that this is something that lots of us tend to forget amidst all the craziness and madness that life throws at us.

So, yeah, that’s one thing that I’m reflecting on this week, especially as I apply for jobs, have interviews, and start thinking about “adulting,” whatever that’s supposed to be.

Look out for more writing this week. It keeps me sane, and I’m trying to do more of it.

Happy spring break to those of you basking in the weeklong freedom, and press on to those of you who aren’t there yet or have already passed through it!

bethel is my church for now

In the past month (since I wrote my last blog post; yeah, it’s been sort of a long time), I’ve gotten the chance to catch up with a lot of friends and talk with them about Spain and about life and just talk in general. Something that's come up frequently has been what my current church situation is like since I originally started my church fast back in June of last year. And to be honest, I’m still not completely sure how to answer that question, but I think that I’m calling Bethel my church for the time being. That might sound a little strange (or maybe it doesn’t *shrugs*), but let me explain. Over the course of several conversations, I’ve explained why I’ve been on a church fast to begin with and what exactly I’d be looking for when I do get around to church searching again. As I mentioned in my last post, I don’t necessarily need a church that validates every single belief that I hold or one that completely agrees with me on every little thing, because that’s probably not a realistic expectation. To me, that’s less of a problem and more a sign of the extensive richness of the faith that we believe in. It’s also the reason why I can never understand why people say that the Bible and Christianity are black and white or how some churches or pastors or writers can so staunchly believe that they have it all figured out and they must be right. That just doesn’t make sense to me. Why else would we have so many different interpretations of the Bible and what Christian lives are supposed to look like? While I do believe in absolute truth, I think that people need to start admitting that living as a Christian is complicated and messy and so much more so than many people make it out to be. So that would be the first thing I’m looking for in a church. They don’t need to agree with me on every little thing, but I would like to find a community that’s a little more open and little more understanding of that complexity that comes with faith.

The main thing that I feel like I’ve been looking for is the reason why I’ve decided that Bethel is going to be my church for the time being: I feel a sense and a level of acceptance and respect here that I don’t think I’ve quite found anywhere else. Even though Bethel’s official position disagrees with me on matters of intersections between faith and sexuality, that’s not the way I’m treated here, and a lot of the time I’m able to forget that their policy even says that. And I think that’s what I’m looking for. Bethel doesn’t agree with me, but they don’t treat me like an outsider. My friends don’t. My professors don’t. And a lot of the staff in student life don’t. I’m treated just like any other member of this community. I can participate fully, and I can even hold leadership positions that I feel like many churches would deny me if I was out to them. They treat me just like any other student goes here, and I don’t feel like I have some sticker on my forehead denoting me as sexually deviant or a broken Christian or anything else that I’ve been called by churches in the past.

Now, that’s great, and I’m glad that I have this safe place, but I think it’s a little sad that I even have to write a blog post like this. I don’t think it’s right for churches to treat LGBT+ people like they’re extra sinful or extra broken because of who they are. As the old quote goes, the church is supposed to be like a hospital for sinners not a country club for saints. If that’s the case, I can’t fathom why influential supposedly Christian figures like Franklin Graham think it’s even remotely okay to say toxic things like “LGBT children are of the enemy.” That’s straight up wrong, inflammatory, poisonous, and not loving in the slightest. Churches are supposed to be safe places where people can let their guard down, rather than being another warzone where people feel like they need to defend who they are as people in order to be accepted and loved.

To get back to the original purpose of this post, all of that is why I consider Bethel to be my church right now. It’s a Christian community of support where I can continue to learn and grow and be supported regardless of who I am and I’m thankful for that. It’s true that this situation probably isn’t ideal, and chapel isn’t quite the same thing as actually going to church, but for now it’s going to have to be enough. I still don’t feel like I’m ready to step back into a church building yet, but I’m hoping my final semester here will help me get there.

So, to everyone who’s in my life right now, thank you. Thank you for not treating me any differently. Thank you for letting me be me. Thank you for not looking at me any differently than anyone else who you might come across on campus or in life. And thank you for being a safe place.

I’m not really sure when I’ll end up going back to the church as an institution, but I do know that when I do, I’ll be ready to be there and not leave again. Until then, I’m thankful for this community and this place and hoping that I’ll be able to go back sooner rather than later.

To The Girl Who Needs to Love Herself

This is an important read from a dear friend of mine, and something that many people, including myself need to be reminded of in a culture and a day and age where we place an idol-like value on exterior qualifiers, such as achievements and relationships to give ourselves value. Love her and this post.You are loved. You are chosen. You are wanted by Love Himself.