Speak the Truth, Even if Your Voice Shakes

Being in the choir at my church is so much more than just singing. It’s community. It’s support. It’s friendship. It’s a shared space to check in with each other and speak from the deep places of our hearts we might not be ready to show to others.

I adore Tuesday nights. It’s my favorite night of the week. I get to sing with a musically proficient group, have a lesson from the incomparable David Glasgow, and share a sacred space with some incredible people – people like the woman who sits in the front row of the alto section, basically right in front of me, depending how far I slide down the pew. She rarely says much during check in or out [the sharing times at the beginning and end of each rehersal], but this week, she had a LOT to say.

She’d been a good UU and spent her day in Harrisburg, visiting lawmakers about the PA Fairness Act. As she told us of a lawmaker who could not support it, her voice broke, and she began to cry.  How is it okay for people to be treated like less than a human being?”

This woman is a veteran. and is now spending her retirement still quietly fighting for other people’s rights and freedoms.

For people like me.

Yes.

People. Like. ME.

I’ve been writing publicly for almost 20 years now, in print and online, and this is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever written, because it’s SCARY. I might lose some friends, and probably some family, over what I’m about to say….but, as my friend said, the other night, and I’ve heard/read twice since in the past 24 hours….it’s time to speak the truth, even if my voice shakes. So here goes.

My name is Christin. I have brown  hair and green eyes. I’m left handed. My little toes are each missing a bone, so they are shaped like C’s. And I’m gay.

I also have a pretty decent singing voice, a passion for small businesses, and a love of celtic and folk music. I watch too much PBS, obsess over the news, and drink too much tea.

Every one of those statements is true. And that first paragraph – I can’t change any of that. It’s just the way I was born.

So I’ve been asking myself for a while, especially this week, why is being left handed, or having green eyes, nothing special, nothing to be seen as bad or weird, while being gay is such an issue? It isn’t any more or less a part of me than which hand I write with, or the fact that I don’t bother painting my little toes because the nail is tucked under my foot.

But I know the answer.

It’s because, from my earliest memories, being gay was wrong. Bad. Sinful. The worst possible thing you could be.

God couldn’t possibly love me. I couldn’t possibly love him. There was no way I could be a Christian and like girls. They were simply incompatible.

Ever since I was little – the first time I remember thinking I was “bad” was at summer camp. It was a rainy day, and we were watching Mary Poppins. The other little girls were commenting on how “cute” Dick Van Dyke was…and I said that I thought Julie Andrews was the prettiest lady I’d ever seen, and that I was going to grow up and marry her. “Chrissy’s GAY!!!” they squealed. I didn’t even know what that word was….until one of them told me that girls who like girls and boys who like boys all went to hell.

I never mentioned it again. I didn’t want to go to hell. I didn’t want Jesus to hate me. I didn’t want my parents to throw me out of the house . They’d said that if I ever got pregnant before I was married, I’d be thrown out, so how much worse would it be if I said that I wanted to grow up and marry Julie Andrews?

So I kept my mouth shut.

One day, riding in the church van, I saw a rainbow flag flying in an especially “artsy” area of Cincinnati, and pointed it out. My sunbeam leader [the SA equivalent of the girl scouts] immediately scolded me that it was the “devil’s flag” and that I should never, ever talk to anyone who wore or flew that flag. “Why?” I asked. “Because they’re GAY. And gay is an abomination!”

So I kept my mouth shut.

I knew from the time I was 12 that I wanted to be an officer in the Army. A preacher. A pastor. So I couldn’t POSSIBLY be gay and want to do that, right? I couldn’t be an abomination and want to serve Jesus at the same time. I had to live my life in a holy way, all throughout my teen years. No secular music. No dancing. No swearing. And for me….no dating.

So I kept my mouth shut.

I got to seminary. It was a fishbowl – you couldn’t even be friends with someone of the opposite sex without someone assuming you were dating. You couldn’t be friends with someone of the same sex without someone accusing you of being gay. And of course, that was against the moral code, and any offenders would be thrown out on their ears immediately.

So I kept my mouth shut.

I served a decade as an officer. Left under really, really crappy, unfair circumstances, but not because I was keeping my mouth shut. I kept my mouth shut really well, which , if any of you know me, is a HUGE feat! And I kept my mouth shut even after I left, because, well, I still believed that God wouldn’t love me if I admitted it, and I was positive that everyone I knew would leave me – and I couldn’t handle that thought, after having just lost nearly everything when I left the army.

I’m not sure when things began to switch, but they did. A lot of it has had to do with social media. Seeing the polarization of people has been eye opening. There is so much blatant hatred in the world – for anyone who isn’t like the person doing the hating. Race, religion, sexual orientation, body type, clothing type, political affiliation….the list goes on and on.

But the biggest realization came when I was able to shed a lot of the stigma that I’d been steeped in my entire life. If I was going to truly believe that I am made in the image of God, then there can’t be something fundamentally wrong with me. If I am a child of God, and he doesn’t make mistakes, then it’s time to let go of the thought that I’m going to hell for how he made me.

The notion that being left handed, or green eyed, or short, or fat, or gay, is enough to send me to hell became almost laughable.

But I was still afraid of losing people I care about….

So I kept my mouth shut.

Until Tuesday.

I was at work, and someone I don’t work with regularly made a really homophobic comment in the breakroom. I tried to say something, in very general terms, why that might be really hurtful to some people.

She didn’t get it.

And I’d had enough.

And, for the first time in my life, I publically outed myself. Sure, a few people I really trust knew, but I’d never come right out and just SAID it.

And then went to choir….where Cindy’s words struck me to the heart. I would have hugged her, but, as she told Becky, touching her would have made her cry harder, so I didn’t.

I got home and sent her a message. And her response was that she’s learning to speak the truth, even if her voice shakes.

So I’m taking that advice to heart.

No more hiding.

No more keeping my mouth shut.

Because the hatred doesn’t just hurt “some people.” It hurts me.

Because if people like Cindy, who didn’t have a choice but to live in the closet for decades, can spend their retirement fighting for people like me to not face the same fate…..how could I stay hidden and negate her efforts?

Because I am who I am.

And I’m not hiding any more.

I might lose friends over this. I might lose family over this. And I can’t say that I don’t care, because I do. That’s why it’s taken me so long – because I care about the people I love.

But I’m also at a point where I care about ME too.

So let the chips fall where they may.

This isn’t up for discussion. It isn’t up for debate. I won’t entertain any “lifestyle choice” arguments, because 1. I didn’t choose this, and 2. Clearly, I haven’t been living any sort of “lifestyle”.

I am who I am.

I’m Christin. I’m 35 years old, brown hair, green eyes, left handed, my little toes are missing a bone so they are basically shaped like C’s, and I’m gay.

And I’m still the same person I was before I wrote this post.

And my mouth isn’t shut any more.

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