I am not sure about you, but I often hear comments about minorities when celebrations are held, asking why that group gets to celebrate when “others” don’t. “Why is there a Black History Month, but no White History Month?”. On occasion, I am asked, “Why are there Gay Pride Parades? Why not Straight Pride Parades?”
First of all, I have to say I laugh when I am asked about Pride Parades. I mean, sure I am a lesbian, but it tickles me that the assumption is I attend every Gay Pride Parade near me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike them per se, and I have been to a couple in Dallas as I’ve ministered to attendees, assuring them that God DOES indeed love them. But, if I am completely candid with you, I would admit I am kind of too boring for most pride events. My idea of a perfect weekend would be to spend the day in my backyard with my wife and kids, have one of Deana’s great home cooked meals, and do laundry. In a word, I am old. More like the stereotypical white, straight married person nearing their 50’s. Further, I have often avoided becoming a political advocate for LGBT people, as I didn’t want to turn my very life into an agenda. I accepted many years ago that my life and my love was not a point for me to convince anyone – politically or religiously – that I am “okay” to be gay. I have resolved that in my heart and with my Lord, and that has been enough for me. Sure, I have moments when I feel attacked that I react, but I don’t live my life with the viewpoint of making a statement or taking a stand to insist anyone accept me. Others feel lead to do that and I appreciate it, but that is not my M.O.
And yet, here I am. Because the whole Gay Pride Parade question got me thinking. Coupled with the fact that I am in the UK and my sleep patterns are all jacked up, and here I am at 4:45am local time writing this blog.
I may not be super unique in the world, but I lived as a straight woman for 35 years of my life. I didn’t say I was straight, but I lived as one. I knew I was different when I was around 12, though I didn’t realize what that really meant until I hit puberty (which, to my chagrin, was later than my daughters DOH!). By around 13 1/2, I realized that I liked girls and that was absolutely not accepted and pretty much I understood I was on my way to hell. I did everything in my power to eradicate the fact I was attracted to girls; lying to myself, being very involved with the boy dating scene (which, surprisingly, I had many who were interested in me despite my super skinny body), accepting the Lord at 16, wailing and praying for hours/days/years for Him to change me, and marrying a month after my 20th birthday. And my husband was a good man, this is not about him. And my children were and are amazing blessings, this is not about them. But no matter how hard I tried, or prayed, or begged, or hated myself………I was still gay.
I don’t expect anyone who is straight to really understand this, especially if your view is that I made a choice in this realm of my life. But for over 20 years I truly hated myself. I hated that I was gay. I hated that my husband loved me and I loved him, but I was not really the person he thought he married. I hated that I was this horrible creature that must not truly love God, because if I did, He would have healed me. I hated that every-single-moment of my life I wore a mask to be accepted, or loved, or whatever. And as I looked in the mirror I knew it was all a damn lie. I was not proud. I was not happy. No, I was devastated. I was alone. I was this broken person who God didn’t even love enough to fix. And, to damn with hiding this anymore, I often just wanted to die. I truly believed that the world would be a better place if I no longer walked on its surface. Because I was nothing, or even worse, I was an abomination pretending to be straight.
Yet, in my charade I was celebrated every single day of my life. I was white. I was young. I was married. My marriage was held to the highest of acceptance by society, my church, my co-workers, my parents, my siblings, my pastor. I never, ever, not once in my life worried about what people would think or do as I walked in public holding my husband’s hand. If I mentioned we were going on a vacation or that he bought me a gift, it wasn’t scandalous. Sometimes, even at church functions, bawdy jokes would be shared and our sexuality within our marriage was never condemned, but rather celebrated. Even on our darkest days as a couple, when we were cranky or financially stressed or even mean to each other for no good reason, we were “living the American Dream” and no one, not even the most conservative of churches or right wing politicians could say one damning thing about our relationship. Every singe day was like a Straight Pride Parade, and we were the center of the celebration.
That might feel like a bold statement right there. Really? A celebration? Every, single, day? Come on Gina, really?
Because I’ve also been on the other side. When I could not take the lies anymore, to the people I love the most (including my face in the mirror), I didn’t come out for 5 years. I was honest with myself and of course Deana after we got together (ha, that sounds funny), but we both hid the fact that we were together, even after I divorced my husband. And we still felt the shame and uncertainty of our sexuality. We could not share our lives, we could not admit our love, and we were afraid not only of rejection from our friends and family, but from our God. We could not hold hands in public, we could not profess our love in front of others, we absolutely could not celebrate our relationship, and if bawdy jokes were to arise about same-sex relationships they were derogatory in nature, we had to laugh along and pretend to agree even though we were dying inside. Often we were around people who were very direct in their persecution of LGBT, even in our employment, so we even feared losing out jobs if anyone found out. So I know, in completely real terms, the difference between my “daily celebrated” straight marriage versus my marriage to Deana.
But the story doesn’t end there. Deana and I eventually DID come out, which was about 8 years ago. It was a hard transition, and we did absolutely lose friends, family, and jobs. But the process was necessary and we have reconciled our faith, and though that is an entirely different and much longer blog entry, today I am closer to Jesus than in all my years of knowing Him. We married legally in New York four years ago (having previously become domestic partners in CA), and are still amazed that our marriage is now legal throughout the entire country. But we still have to be careful holding hands, of being “too out” in some scenarios, as people can and do become belligerence and at times aggressive and/or dangerous (sad to say, but true). But during this process of coming out, we realized we weren’t these ogres that needed to hide in the shadows and be ashamed of loving each other with our whole hearts. We are God’s children, made in His image, and love each other with all that we are. We are proud that we argue and reconcile and irritate each other by leaving dishes in the sink while also surprising each other with love post-it notes or dark chocolate dove bars. And, while we understand and accept that there are still many people who disagree with our love for each other for whatever reasons, we are proud. Proud we survived. Proud that we have remained married even through the tough times. Proud that our children are thriving, and don’t take to being bullied either! We are proud that the Holy Spirit directs us and at times chastises us, as we are His children. We are proud of each other, for we are better together than apart. We are proud that more people view us as just a couple that are doing life just like the other couples in the neighborhood, and not “those lesbians”. We are proud that more churches open their doors to us, even if they aren’t sure what their doctrinal statement addresses but instead want to hold church to whomsoever. And we are proud that, on many days, we can walk down the street holding hands.
And THAT is why, in my opinion, there are Gay Pride Parades instead of Straight ones.
Now, I am going to try to nap before my alarm goes off…..in 15 minutes. 🙂