Den of Vipers – Introduction

I have been extremely blessed to have the opportunity to assist many people I encounter, with a focus often being with LGBTAI+ people of faith who struggle to feed both realities of their faith and sexuality within their lives. This area, while very important to me for over 10 years, has been dormant for a while. So, its reawakening has been very exciting, though has also opened the doors I thought I had nailed shut pretty strongly. These doors were to hold back many friends and family who feel very comfortable telling me I am NOT a Christian, that homosexuals cannot be Christians, etc. I would be lying if I didn’t admit I get angry and hurt when this happens. However, despite these opinions, the truth is I DO have the Holy Spirit within me and He is directing my path and that it worth ALL of the negative responses I may encounter!

One indirect (okay, passive/aggressive) post I was exposed to recently involved a Pastor speaking about the sin of homosexuality, and specifically how Pete Buttigieg claimed to be a Christian and “attacked” Mike Pence, calling him a Pharisee. The Pastor went on to say that Pete could NOT be a Christian, and that Mike Pence (who he knew personally) was a wonderful man, a great Christian, and followed the laws of God. He emphasized that it was “horrible” that Pete suggested Mike was a Pharisee, which was offensive and wrong.

Now, let me be clear – the following series is NOT a reflection of Pete Buttigieg or Mike Pence; I do not propose to suggest I know either man’s heart and I will certainly NOT declare either of them a non-Christian! The Bible is clear that we cannot know the heart of man and that those that appear holy can have evil hearts and those that appear retched love God. But this DID make me think long and hard about Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees and how it impacts our interactions today. So, over the coming days I’d like to review each of these interactions from Jesus and try to see how ALL of us can benefit from His words. I would love to hear from any of my 2.78 readers for their thoughts as well!

How I Reconciled My Life to My Faith

This blog entry was written a few years ago privately. It is my answer to a stranger on Facebook who happened to be commenting on a Christian site that advocates acceptance of LGBTQ. She reached out to me and asked how I have reconciled my faith with my sexuality and how it involves relevant verses in Romans and I Corinthians. I have other blog entries that touch on this subject, and just yesterday read this shocking article, so I thought I’d share both here today to answer some possible questions one of my 2.78 readers may have. And, for what its worth, the woman who reached out to me had no further questions. 🙂

Response to said FB Person

First, I have not been called to convince anyone of anything.  I choose not to debate.  I am merely trying to answer, as clearly and honestly as I can, your question.  Therefore, I would appreciate if you respect me in that, if you do not agree with what I share, you leave it at that.  I appreciate that you may not agree and may even think I am completely wrong.  I am cool with that assessment, if it should occur.  But it will do me and you no good in sharing it, if it happens to be the case.  I do not ask this in arrogance or to belittle your beliefs or even to be intolerant of them; I do it in the spirit of not debating or arguing.  Thanks for working with me in that regard.

However, and I want you to be free to do so, I don’t mind questions.  If you are sure in your heart that your questions aren’t to lead me to some point you think I should be lead, that’s cool.  And I guess I don’t want to set you up to fail, so ask away and if I am uncomfortable or feel like it leads to a debate, I will just say so.  Maybe that’s better.

Second, I’ve spent decades getting to this place and it’s hard to summarize it in bullet points and show all the facets, prayers, soul searching, and time with the Lord this encompasses.  I know you must appreciate your own life as a Christian and even leading up to your decision to accept Christ – there is so much involved.  Even when considering such expansive and yet so simple ideas as Grace, how it applies to the law, and other items that can be such long journeys and one day you get to a point where a light turns on and BAM!  And yet others are next to you and are not there yet.  I don’t knock those who don’t see things the way I do – that is between them and the journey they are on with the Holy Spirit – and I respect that my views and life and experiences with the Holy Spirit are hard to articulate.  Where some scriptures speak so clearly to me that I can do nothing but nod in agreement, I also know others look at the same words and scratch their heads.  Predestination is a great example, and I’ve watched “tennis matches” many times between amazing theologians who can prove their respective sides of predestination and free will with tons of scriptures.  Alas, I am off topic – thanks for allowing this sidebar.

So, let’s break this down.  I apologize, I am very clinical in this area at times, and I am sorry if this is dry.

In a general sense, translation of the verses is a big issue.  The original text was written in Hebrew (Old Testament), and Greek (New Testament) and only later translated into English.  And it was VERY much later; the first English version of the Bible that gained a relatively wide distribution was the Tyndale Bible in 1534 and later still the King James translation in 1611.

In many cases, the ‘old’ English word used in the King James and other early translations had little or no meaning to us today (such as the word “catamite”) or has totally changed its meaning (“effeminate”).  Another problem is that in many cases the original text was meant to be used as an example, or in a figurative rather than in a literal sense. For example, we may say today “all eyes on the chalkboard”; in the literal sense the statement asks us to physically place our eyes in contact with the chalkboard. In the figurative sense, this phrase means, “look up at the chalkboard and give me your undivided attention”.

However, to me the biggest challenge is that the English language is very limited when compared to the Greek dialect. This problem can be highlighted with the word “love”, which has three versions in Greek but only one in English. This is not very descriptive and cannot begin to convey the levels of intensity involved.  With this in mind, I came to realize that there is a real and logical case that inadvertently during translation, verses have taken on meanings that were never intended. Despite fighting this realization for years, it’s very possible that God’s perfect word may have gotten muddied with man’s attempts to give the Lord a hand in translating His book! I believe this is apparent with the scriptures that many attribute to homosexuality. 

I should add that, through this journey, I’ve been given a filter of sorts from the Lord; every interpretation must ‘line up’ with other Scriptural truths and commandments (aka, the law of love). God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) and “every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (2 Corinthians 13:1). Basically, I have relied on the fact that scripture will interpret scripture and my conclusions should make logical sense. If they don’t then I acknowledge I have missed it and need to start again.

Romans 1:26-28 NIV

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.  Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

This is the only place where women are noted in the homosexual sense directly in the Bible, so I do take specific and detailed notice of it.  First, it is historically proven and universally accepted that the Romans during the time Paul wrote this epistle were very much involved in temple and other sexual activity.  This included orgies, temple prostitution, and often involved young boys who were not willing participants.  Most of these sexual activities were religious in nature and also included temple prostitutes and pagan rites.  In that analysis and context, the texts become a condemnation of pederasty and prostitution, things of which most Christians (conservative or liberal) disapprove even today. There is also the perspective that Paul’s pointing to same sex intercourse as being idolatrous could be referring to the practices of priests and priestesses of Mediterranean fertility gods who regularly practiced that type of prostitution and elevated it, within a religious context, to the state of idolatry. Those approaches are valid and mostly convincing perspectives, but they do require a small leap of logic to arrive at their conclusions. Much less of a leap of logic, mind you, than believing that these texts are about something of which people at that time had absolutely no comprehension, but slight conjecture all the same.

But the real concern and focus for me is, what is “natural”?  It’s clear that this scripture talks about “natural” and “unnatural”.  Most use this scripture as a very clear condemnation of homosexuality.  But when looking at the original Greek, the word here (physikos) doesn’t mean “natural” or “nature” so much as it means “produced by nature.” Those who use these verses as clobber verses tend to understand “natural” to mean something closer to “normal” than “produced by nature.” I know for years I viewed it that way, and was one of the reasons I struggled feeling so guilty about who I am.  It is easy, as humans, for us to define what is and isn’t “normal” based on our personal biases rather than on science or the reality of the world around us (“I think gay people make me feel creepy, so that must mean homosexuality is an unnatural act.”).

But feelings aside, the meaning is misused in this verse, in my opinion.  The Greek work physikos has more to do with how things naturally occur in God’s Creation.  I believe the way Paul used physikos here in Romans, also means something very similar to “the realities of nature.” It is concerned with what is of our nature and not with what is defined as acceptable. That is to say, Paul is concerned with how God created something or someone to be. He is concerned with people going against their nature or in the words of Lady GaGa herself, if they are “born that way” he’s concerned with them behaving as if they were not.  Let me tell you, I have 35 years under my belt living in the “unnatural”, trying to appear to be a straight woman in America.

I believe THAT is the real sin noted here in Romans – that I was acting against the very nature of who God created me to be. Or, for a straight man or woman to have sex with a same-sex person!  In this case Paul seems to be addressing the idea of a same-sex sex act in which at least one of the two are not attracted to someone of the same sex; they just are not born that way.

Finally, immediately following verse 28, Paul provides an extensive list of sins. It is so extensive that we all fall into at least one of the categories. “So there you have it,” says Paul, “we all sin. Don’t try to deny it.” And let’s face it, we all go against who we know we were created to be. How many times have you done something, felt guilt or shame, and then said, “I shouldn’t have done that. That’s not who I am.”?  As Paul says in the very next chapter, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” As he also says to start that chapter, “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.”

1 Corinthians 1:9-10

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians uses a particular Greek word in a particularly way. The word is arsenokoitēs and it means “male prostitute.”   Well, that is what some experts have explained. Others have noted it could mean “the customer of a male prostitute,” or “boy molester” or any number of translations or arguments or even insertion of agendas, but who am I to accuse?

So, the word that is frequently interpreted as “homosexual” (which I’ve decided is absurd because, in Greek, it is clearly only a word referring to men) or “sodomite” (which I’ve also relegated as absurd, among other reasons, because the sin of Sodom was lacking hospitality, not being just, bullying, hating strangers, not caring for those marginalized.), is really difficult to translate. Why? In part, because it is only found in two places – 1 Cor and 1 Timothy 1:9-10.  And also, in part, because it is entirely possible that it is a made up word. It is very likely that Greek speaking Jews created this word to port a Hebrew word to Greek and over time the meaning has been lost. So, it is just hard to translate. So difficult, in fact, that scholars can’t agree on a single best translation. What most biblical Greek scholars can agree on is that it is not meant to be a blanket statement about a male-male sex act.

For example – of the many translations out there – the above NIV translation “men who are having sex with men” is not exactly accurate.  The KJV doesn’t say that at all, it says “effeminate”.  The NASB (translated hundreds of years after the KJV in the 20th century) was the first translation that used “homosexual”.

There is another word used in 1 Corinthians 6:9: malakos. The good news about this word is that it is found in lots of literature, so there are plenty of references about its typical intended meaning. It literally means “soft.”  Some say it means “soft” as in “effeminate”, but not in terms of sexual orientation. Others, say it is connected with being wasteful of sexual and financial resources. Still others convincingly point to it singling out a particular type of male prostitution involving young boys. Also in the list of contenders: sexual perverts, sodomites, weaklings, the self-indulgent. Malakos was a word that could be used to refer to things as diverse as men who were weak in battle (or who were “soft”), to men who lived extravagant and pampered lives (or who were… well, “soft”). It was not specifically about sexual relationships. If Paul was actually trying to describe something about a submissive male in a male-male relationship (which is still not the same as homosexuality as we understand it today), it’s very likely that he would have used kinaedos, which was frequently used to describe that very relationship. But he didn’t. So, I stopped reading these verses like that was what he was trying to communicate.

Summary

In summary, if you want to call homosexuality a sin, go ahead. However, I don’t.  And it’s not just my way of justifying my life, it is something I understand intellectually with these studies as well as spiritually over years with my Lord.  But mostly, I personally don’t try to convince people of what the Bible says.  Christians have the Holy Spirit in them, they are guided by our Lord and He will work it out.  I do not want to use the Bible to thump on anyone, to demand that it be viewed as I do nor to use it to suggest gluttons are sinning, those who practice premarital sex are hopeless, or anything else.  Even non-Christians have a right to not be brought to alignment with the Bible; Paul is clear that we cannot hold non-believers to the Biblical precepts we observe.  While many of these things in life totally make me sad and there are real earthly consequences, that is NOT my job.  My job is to love – my neighbors, my enemies, everyone.  There are tons that are sure to get it wrong, just like I often do, but I pray for people, wish them God’s great blessings, and go on with my life.  And if/when they don’t see things my way, I smile because I KNOW that I am crucified with Christ.  I know He holds me in his hands and nothing can snatch me out of them.

The Story of My Life Thus Far Part 3

I am going to jump ahead a bit.  Deana and I “dated” for about a year while I continued on the “business relationship” with my husband; we were really just together for the financial pieces and the kids.  But around a year we started the divorce process on friendly terms, though I never told him about Deana.  I moved in with Deana and it was a very happy time, all things considered.  But we both had no intentions of “coming out”; we both had huge risks of losing our jobs, we were both very much in love and happy, but both felt our relationship (as wonderful and fulfilling as it was) was wrong.  This was a weird time for us……being so very happy and whole, but feeling as though everything about our relationship was illicit.  I had no desire to tell my family (apart from my mom), and she felt the same way about her family (she has 7 siblings, she being the 3rd born and the oldest daughter).  So, all the people in our lives and work believed she was helping me out as I transitioned to being divorced.  This made a lot of sense to everyone because the cost of living in Southern California was so high.  Eventually, we bought a house together – using the same “it’s too expensive” argument – and even had a room designated for me, though I never even spent one night in it.  We were very careful during this time.

Also during this time, we remained involved in church as well.  Our careers at the Christian Credit Union were going well, both of us having received several promotions.  We also had “weekly staff meetings” held for all employees, though it really was a chapel and included worship and a message.  I was part of the worship team there as well as the worship team in our church.  Deana and I would often read through the Bible trying to decide if we were breaking God’s heart, but were not willing to break up with each other, so we felt double guilt.  During this time, I also went back to college, hoping to obtain my bachelor’s degree which I had started on and off since my first marriage, though did not sustain due to babies and finances.  Deana was a huge part of that, attending some classes with me even though she already had 2 degrees.  Finally, I enrolled at BIOLA University (Bible Institute of Los Angeles), in their BOLD program for working adults (Bachelor’s in  Organization Leadership Degree).  I really wanted to go to a Christian University and the degree required a minor in Bible, so that was right up my alley.  But, to enroll you had to sign a moral contract, and declaring you were not homosexual was part of it.  I signed it – what could I do? – and added yet another layer of deception.  I often chastised myself that I had given up one lie, to move in a new one.  It was very difficult.

I loved BIOLA and worked hard, graduating in 2009.  My work, who was associated with the university and in fact included many in leadership who got their degrees there too, encouraged my efforts.  I was already a supervisor and was on the track for leadership.  I was often sought after for work related activities as well as ministry/biblical teaching tasks.  Despite the duplicity of my life, things were good and my faith (as well as Deana’s) were very strong during this time, even as we would quietly question how much we were disappointing our Lord.

About five years into this, I had reached a boiling point – I could no longer lie about our relationship.  It was wrong, and I felt we should at least be honest with our family.  This was a bone of contention with Deana, who felt it too risky with our jobs to tell anyone.  One night while we were hanging out with her sister and my best friend, Deana had a little too much to drink and suggested that she and I were together.  She then back pedaled, saying it was a joke.   Her sister and my friend had suspected for some time, and seemed to be wanting to assure me that they supported our union, but when they sat with us to basically say “we know, you can trust us”, Deana turned livid and began to speak so negatively about homosexuals she could have been at a Baptist pulpit bringing down fire and brimstone.  It broke my heart on many fronts; not just the rejection of finally being able to be honest and have two close people accept us, but I realized that I had been leading her to do something that was against her core.  In retrospect, I also realize she was very scared of our house of cards crumbling, but at the time I didn’t allow for that to take hold of my emotions. I want to be clear though, my actions after this point may have been under the umbrella of “I have forced Deana to go against her convictions”, but were more from my hurt of the rejection than any care for Deana.

Shortly after that, I left Deana.  It was the hardest thing I have ever done and now something I contribute to one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done, but I would no longer live with the duplicity, and I could not feel her hold me without hearing the vicious things she said that day about basically our relationship.  Sure, I could tell you I was being honorable, releasing her from the sin of our illicit love, but I was too hurt to continue with her despite my overwhelming love for her.  She was completely blindsided by my actions, as by now we had adopted two kids from Russia, she was not working, and relied on me financially.  In her hurt and anger, she posted a blog (we blogged very heavily back then) “outing” us, divulging our entire relationship for all to see.  As many of her followers worked with us (her blog had started as part of our adoption process, or really HER adoption process since everyone didn’t know we were a couple) it was quickly communicated to the leadership.

Despite just the week before having been told by the CEO that I was a “rising star”, I was brought into HR and basically interrogated for 5 hours.  Even when I needed to go to the bathroom, I was escorted and a woman stood outside the stall as if I was a criminal.  I refused to speak about anything apart from my job performance, though I heard how my “moral failing” disqualified me from leadership, management, and even playing the drums in the worship band.  It eventually ended with them saying we would reconvene the next day and they would let me know what would happen to my position.

At the time, I had been going to therapy as I was really having a hard time with not sharing my relationship with Deana to our family.  I told my therapist what had happened at work, and she immediately put me on disability so that wasn’t subjected to their “torture” as she called it.  During that time, I had sought legal and other help to see what options I had, but the credit union had recently filed as a religious organization (yeah, lending money to churches is religion?  Hmmmm) and their stance was that they could absolutely discriminate based on their religious beliefs.  Anyway, I never went back and did end up negotiating a “departure package”, but in an instant I lost my job, 99% of my friends related to work, 100% of my friends related to church, and was even told I could not attend church or step foot on the credit union’s property. Nor could my children or my eventual grandchildren.

At this time it was very dark for me.  I had lost Deana, I had lost my job, I had lost most of my support system, and I was seriously questioning my faith as I had seen a side of it that was so venomous, it appeared like they were instead followers of Satan.  In fact, despite being told the information in HR would be confidential, rumors and details from that meeting (and not the blog) went in every direction coupling me with many different women at the firm in addition to Deana. If I had to label myself at this time, I would say I was “an agnostic that loved Jesus”.  I didn’t want to kick Jesus to the curb, but anything to do with church or Christians were no longer part of my world.  I was extremely hurt by Deana, who I blamed for causing this mess (it was easy to ignore my part in it). Adding to my negative view of Deana was my best friend (who was a Director at the credit union and ultimately lost her job as they learned she knew about my relationship with Deana) would tell me horrible stories about Deana and what she told HR after the blog was read.  I believed everything I heard that was negative about her, and all the anger and hurt I felt for everything that was happening I laid on Deana’s shoulders.  But at night it was a different story – at that time, I would cry for her.  She was my home.  I truly thought I was created to be with her, and in those moments the “evil Deana” did not exist.  I was too scared to reach out to Jesus other than to ask Him to hold me so I could sleep.

Having lost everything, it’s hard to hide.  So, since the proverbial crap had already hit the fan, I decided I’d update my family.  Kirstie was the first person I told; she was 17 at the time.  I was so nervous, but it went extremely well and she’s has been accepting and loving from day one.  She often shares that anyone that insists being LGBT is a choice, they should have seen my face that day; I was so scared she thought I was going to tell her I was dying and the fear of losing her was obvious. She says no one would come out with such fear if they had a choice. But I didn’t lose her. My siblings all seemed not overly shocked, in fact, a few said they always thought I was and the others said it made sense.  Of course my mom already knew.  My Dad was loving, though he said his wife Ellie would probably have an issue with it (she is a Charismatic Christian), though she’s never treated me differently.  My Dad has gotten a bit more conservative and has told me he is concerned that I might be going to hell, but I have long since accepted he is speaking from a place of love. 

For her part, Deana did the same, and received many of the same responses from her family. Her Mom was extremely supportive, her siblings the same, some even saying they’d seen us give small kisses to each other over the years. It is almost funny to look back on now.

Deana and I reconciled about a year after the fiasco, though candidly we often saw each other during this time and never really left each other.  While she absolutely posted the blog (and took it down, though too late), she didn’t do the majority of things my best friend accused her of.  And, really, I loved her too much not to be with her, and she loved me too much not to be with me.  We both made mistakes and had regrets, but our love sustained us. We never really reconciled with any of our close friends during that time, but many whom we worked with have since reached out to us and most are advocates, if not supportive.  Our kids are thriving.  We were legally married in NY in 2011.  Though we lost everything, we have been restored ten times over and are so thankful.

Our walk with the Lord was not immediate, however.  I was truly jaded and if I heard the words “Christian”, “Evangelical”, or “Church” I immediately associated them with hateful, judgmental people.  I wanted nothing to do with any of it.  While I was not willing to throw Jesus in with that, my relationship with Him was strained at best.  There was a part of me that felt that, if He had only healed me, I wouldn’t be in this mess.  But the main thought at this time was that the majority of Christians wanted me dead and had no love in any part of their being for me or anyone who fell outside of their boxed view of humanity.  The only piece of church that I could NOT let go of was worship; it was so ingrained in me that I kept listening to it, played it, participated in it in my personal way, and let that be my church.

That is hard to sustain, however.  I wanted my kids to know the love of Christ in a real way, and if I was honest with myself, I missed the fellowship.  I found a new job in Texas and we moved in 2009; once there we found a gay church (I say that because there were mostly gay men in attendance) and my views changed.  For the first time ever, we were honest about our relationship AND opening worshiped, prayed, and learned about God!  I became part of the teaching staff, and was slowly healed to accept my faith and not basically hate Christians.

(I’m rushing a little sorry, but this is getting long)

One of the things I learned there was that being gay was not as bad as we were told.  A great resource of this is Shaw Ministries, one of the women I met and worshipped with.  She had an excellent dvd that breaks down the scriptures.  I am not sure if she updates her site, but you can find it at https://shawministries.org/  She also has a blurb at our old church here http://www.crossroadscommunitychurch.us/homosexuality-and-the-bible.html

The Story of My Life Thus Far Part 2

Gina 1986, bad perm 🙂

My teenage/high school years were rough, I am not going to lie.  On the surface, I had a great life; I was outgoing, did well in school, had many acquaintances and friends, had the trust of my parents, and appeared to be very, very happy.  But inside I was dying.  I was still very different from my friends, and I was actively fighting my attraction to girls.  While I don’t want to blame this on the depression I suffered, it certainly added to the pain of it.  I often missed school for days at a time due to my depression (untreated), though I kept my grades up.  My parent’s “hands off” approach to my schooling, especially as my grades were often A’s and sometimes B’s, seemed to extend to them not really wondering why this occurred and we never addressed it.  I am type A and a perfectionist by nature, and in later years they shared that they just assumed that I was dealing with that at the time.  And they were partially correct, but a bit and undiscovered reason was that my entire life was a lie.  I was “on” 24/7, presenting to the world what I thought they wanted to see, and inside I knew (even if I didn’t acknowledge it in words) that what I presented was not authenticity, but a complete lie.  I was NOT happy, I was NOT perfect, and it became clearer with each day that I was NOT straight.  I talk about this a bit in my blog here.  I would encourage you to read this blog entry as it touches, at a high level, what I had intended to share with you via these “entries”.

I accepted Christ when I was 16, and He changed my life in countless way.  I believed at that moment that my struggles would end.  That I would be whole, and that meant I would no longer be attracted to women.  I felt as though being saved and loving Jesus would create a new Gina, and He did, but I soon realized that this new vessel still very much was pulled to women.  When I realized this truth, I immediately felt as though I was doing something wrong; I was not faithful enough, I didn’t work hard enough at church or on my walk with Christ, maybe when I accepted Him I didn’t really give Him everything…….the list went on and on. Bottom line, I believed there was a deficiency in me that was holding me back from everything Jesus had planned for me, and I needed to fix that.  I remained in that realm for the next 19 or so years.

I married a godly man at 20 and we were uber active in ministry.  Worship band, marriage ministry, children’s ministry, were in a traveling Christian band that ministered all over the state.  I tried to be selfless, I tried to be so many things.  I cried painfully in my prayer life to God, begging Him to heal me, begging for direction on what I needed to do to move from my attractions.  Through it all, I was an empty shell, while continuing to present to the world the perfect wife, perfect Christian, eventually tried to be the perfect mom, and always stared at the mirror knowing I was none of those things.  Worst of all, I was a liar and a fake.  I couldn’t be saved and serve Christ when, really, I was gay.  Even when other’s met Jesus through my actions and ministries, they felt like failures, because I REALLY wasn’t a “true Christian” because of my sin.  And I hated myself for it.

At 25, my husband, 3 year old daughter (my only child at the time), and I moved to San Antonio, Texas.  He and I began to work at the same small company, where a very out and “butch” lesbian worked in the kitchen (it was a fresh food vending machine company).  I was dumb struck – not because I was attracted to her, but it was the first lesbian I met in the flesh.  We couldn’t be more different, but I was drawn to her out of curiosity and maybe because I felt like I was not the only one on the earth like “me”.  She also fully embraced her sexuality, which was something very new for me.  We became friends and she awkwardly fell in love with me, which was very flattering but also terrifying.  I also was going through a very real life crisis, as hearing about her life made me want to be honest and open, too.  But the truth at the time was that was impossible; I was a Christian, I was married, I was a mom, I was a daughter, and everyone in my life would be SOOOOOO upset and/or disappointed if they found out the truth about me.  And, truth be known, I was also very ashamed that I was gay.  VERY ashamed.  I wanted to be able to embrace it, but I really thought it was wrong.  My husband and I were also having marital problems; I knew I had married him for the wrong reasons (I wanted to be straight and needed a strong, church loving man to keep me accountable and also help indirectly make me appear to be normal) and we were also struggling financially.  I also resented very much moving to Texas.  It was the perfect storm of horribleness.

As we were losing our apartment, the electricity having been disconnected for non-payment, I refused to go to his parent’s place and remained alone in the apartment.  I called my dad crying (I was super close to him throughout my life), fully intending to tell him the truth about my struggles, but I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t be honest.  I was so afraid of losing his love, and his comments throughout my childhood about gays resonated in my mind.  He begged me to come home, but I refused.  After hanging up, I sat in the dark room, where no furniture remained, and for the first time thought about suicide.  I mean, Jesus evidently didn’t love me enough to heal me and I was sure it was because even He knew I was not worth it.  My parents would hate me if they knew about me.  My husband would be devastated.  And I believed I would damage my daughter.  I went all the way to actually slitting my wrist about 2 inches, but then I had the horrible vision of my daughter being told when she was older how I died.  Despite having no desire to continue in the struggles I was facing, I just couldn’t bring myself to do that, and stopped right then and there.  I still have the faded scar from that night that reminds me how close I came to ending my life.

Instead, my mom (who was by now separated from my dad, and whom I was not very close to – another long story I will skip for now) called me and said she was flying me to live with her.  She didn’t really give me much of a choice.  I resented that really, and had no desire to open up to her at the time, but the idea of putting on my mask with my husband and his parents seemed much worse of a burden to bear.  So I flew back to California and stayed with her.  I actually opened up to her within days, as described in this blog entry, though it is less important to share at this time – so if you want to skip it for now please do!  Well actually, it IS pretty important in that it was the first time I told anyone and, though I was looking for her to “scare me straight” instead of sitting at her house and doing nothing to fix my situation, she instead loved me and accepted me.  It was a big moment.  My life didn’t come together for many years in regards to my sexuality, but it was the beginning of me not seeing Jesus with an angry, disappointed face when I begged Him to heal me.  Instead, He slowly began to take on a face that showed love despite my situation……

I returned to my husband out of “Christian guilt” and a newfound strength to get through my thorn in my side and become the straight woman I was intended to be.  I also didn’t want to impact my daughter negatively with a divorce.  We “worked things out”, but I still was very good at pretending most of the time and I can’t say I was overly happy in the marriage.  But he was a nice guy, a kind man most of the time, a pretty good father, so I toughed it out and did what I thought I needed to do.

Gina and Deana circa 2003
Gina and Deana 2003

Jump forward about 9 years; I was starting a new job at a Christian Credit Union and I thought God would be pleased.  I was excited to be back in a Christian organization (I had worked for a few others over the years) and I was excited for my future.  Suddenly, this beautiful woman came into the lobby to meet me and the three other new hires to tell us that the Orientation Manager was delayed in traffic and would be with us shortly.  It was the first time in my 35 years of life where the attraction I felt was overwhelming, and as I was sure I heard angels singing behind her, I thought for the first time “this could be the one” and then proceeded to nearly throw up.  Imagine me, beginning to work at a CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATION, and be hit with a love at first site moment WITH A WOMAN!  The dissonance in that moment almost killed me.  In fact, I was so scared that I called my previous job and begged them to take me back.  While they actually agreed, in reality my desire to get to know her overruled the part of me that wanted to run away from sure fire and brimstone.

We slowly became friends as I unofficially pursued her for nearly a year.  Throughout that time I knew I loved her and I knew I’d like nothing better than to be in a relationship with her, but there were many problems with that idea; first of all, I was married.  Second, I was a Christian and same-sex attraction was wrong.  Third, she came from a very conservative religious background (Independent Baptist, where she didn’t even wear pants until she was almost 28 and caused an uproar when she finally did).  Finally, dang I could lose my job if this came out!  If you asked me then, I had no intentions of acting on my attraction with her, I just wanted to be friends even if I knew I would love to have more if it wasn’t so wrong.

One piece of info I missed – by this time my marriage was not great.  I was not a great wife, and my husband was not a great husband.  We went through the motions, we didn’t really fight, but we just sort of lived parallel lives, paid the bills together, etc.  He had several different views about finances than I did, and that on top of my suppressed sexuality really built walls that we no longer tried to break down.

Then one day, as Deana was at my house helping me color Easter eggs with my kids (I had 3 by this time; Kirstie was about 12, Kenny was 7, and Josh was 2) I received a call from my sister-in-law that my 20 year old nephew had been killed in a car accident and my brother desperately needed me.  I rushed to be at his side, and was with him until about 11pm that night.  Being strong for him while also dealing with my own loss and emotions, I drove home and felt sorry for myself.  I knew my husband would not be very productive in comforting me (even before our problems arose), and I resented that as the “strong person” for my family, I had no one to turn to where I could be the weak one.  In that moment I decided Deana would and could be that person for me, and she was very empathetic as we’d become very good friends at this point.  In the weeks leading up to this moment, I had also been struggling with the fact that I was a liar to her as well, pretending to be this friend of hers while hiding my true feelings.

That night, as I broke down over the loss of my nephew, I realized that life was fleeting and maybe the truth really CAN set you free.  And there was a strong need for me to be authentic with at least those who cared enough about me – Deana, of all, should at least know the truth.  If I lost her friendship, at least I knew I had some integrity left.  While I didn’t plan on it, I ended up telling her that I loved her.  The weird thing was, she didn’t freak out.  Well, she eventually did ha, but not enough to stop her from telling me that she had feelings for me, too.  That moment was so freeing and so scary and was the beginning of a road that was very difficult, but it felt very good to get it off my chest.

The Story of My Life Thus Far Part 1

I was raised in an “American Christian Household”, but I guess I should qualify that.  My family was a bit controversial before I was even born; my mom was 9 years older than my dad, divorced with 4 kids already, and was NOT Catholic.  My dad, who was only 23 at the time, had been raised in a very Catholic household even though is father was Methodist, was the only son to my grandparents, and divorce was a four letter word back then in the 60’s.  Ironically, though my maternal Grandma was Italian, she had converted to Protestantism, which apparently is a big deal as well.  My paternal Grandma was very against my parent’s marriage, though was a very big part of my life despite this rough start.  For my own life, I was never taken to church by my parents, although religion touched many aspects of my life; my dad read Luke each Christmas, held to many of the tenets of his faith such as not using the Lord’s name in vain, and would reference God in stressful situations or as thanks for good happenings.  My mom was less rigid in her beliefs, though both made sure we prayed before meals, were kind to others, etc.  They never withheld church from us, allowing us to attend with friends, etc.  And I always remember they both very clearly had an ethos that said, “we believe in Jesus, but your faith is your faith and we support you finding what that means for yourself”.

I have always considered myself protestant, though my paternal grandma made sure to take me to mass with her whenever she visited, or I visited her.  I didn’t mind it, but I was never baptized in the Catholic church, and honestly the horrible stories that my dad did share about how cruel the nuns were to him during his years in Catholic school didn’t make me interested in seeking out more.  I always remember “knowing” God through His Son, but at this point in my life it was more ambiguous and ethereal based on my limited learning.  But, sometimes I look back and think perhaps that was one of the most pure times in my interactions with Him, because I just KNEW He was there for me and many of the burdens religion brought to my shoulders did not yet exist.

When I was about 7, my sister – who is 10 years older than I am – got involved with the Jesus Movement via Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa in California, where we lived.  It was a fun and crazy time, with all these people that looked like leftover hippies playing rock music, being friendly with each other, and being “on fire” or “Jesus Freaks”.  I can’t say that my parents resonated with it per se, but again they were pretty liberal in their approach to letting their kids find their own way in the faith realm.  My sister was definitely on fire; she did several local missionary trips, was very involved in church activities, made Jesus seem even more personal to me, and was very instrumental in bringing me into the fold.  I still have the bible she gave me in 1977 – The Way – the first time I had read the bible and it actually made sense!!!!  These years were foundational for my own walk with the Lord, though it was still very dependent on my sister, who soon moved out and began her independent life and didn’t consistently like having her little sister tagging along.

Another path of my life was my sexuality.  It would be erroneous to suggest I “knew” I was gay during this time, but I was definitely a bit different than my friends.  My parents were also very advanced (I believe) in avoiding gender roles, and never were ones to say girls or boys had to act certain ways.  I was encouraged to be myself just as my younger brother was (I can’t speak for my 4 older siblings really).  I was always a tomboy, very athletic, hated fancy clothes and dresses, would prefer to be playing sports, running and getting dirty, or building things with my dad than anything that would fall under the traditional female gender umbrella.  My brother, though athletic in his own way, preferred cooking, art, and such.  We never felt “weird” by this in our household, but as I got older and started visiting my friend’s houses, spending the night, etc. it became clear that our family – and my own way of living – was not the same as my friends or their siblings.  And even more puzzling, the girls WANTED to do “girl things” and the boys WANTED to avoid them in place for “macho” things.  I was internally repulsed and extremely confused.  Even still, I began to realize I was different, though was not aware of all the points until I grew older.  However, it is important to note that at about 9 or 10 was when I started to put on masks to morph myself into appearing to be “like everyone else”.  I toned down some of my tomboyishness, etc. 

As I moved into my pre-teen years and puberty arrived, it became clearer to me that my differences were much stronger than being a tomboy.  I distinctly remember having a crush on a female teacher and that caused me great concern.  While my mom’s oldest brother was gay and had been with his husband my entire life, it was not a huge topic of conversation and I had no other point of reference otherwise.  Additionally, my dad would make comments such as “Jodie Foster is a lesbo” whenever she’d come on TV and I picked up the fact that was not a compliment.  I had already established a strong “I must be compliant” M.O. in my life, and it was clear that liking girls would not meet that requirement.  So I kept it to myself and worked harder to act more like my friends.  I would talk about the boys I had crushes on, etc.  I really DID like boys, but more because we had more in common, played sports together, etc.  I would be lying if I didn’t say that I actually was attracted to some too, though in retrospect they often had longer hair, were not macho, etc.  But some were just pretty great guys that I enjoyed being around.  I was also very fortunate to have a very outgoing personality, so getting their attention was not very hard despite my proclivity of being more of a tomboy (and being super skinny, flat chested, etc.).

Some Exciting Developments

I am very excited to be partnering with Twitch Steamer and Discord Partner OOOSkittles and her Team of Awesome People to support Mental Health as well as LGBTQ Support! “Skittles” is my daughter and works very hard to create a safe online community that includes gamers, and much much more. I am admittedly new to this area/venue, and more information will be posted too, but I’d love you to be part of this exciting development! I hope to bring a level of support for LGBTQ People as they go through issues related to family, their faith, and other areas.

Check out her Twitch stream at https://www.twitch.tv/oooskittles

Her Discord is found at https://discordapp.com/invite/oooskittles

My Voice For Pride

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June is Gay (or LGBT) Pride Month.  Many of you know that, but I didn’t want to assume…..so there you go.  Many people, I’d venture to guess, think of men dressed as women dancing of floats or scantily dressed men dancing around poles, or dykes on bikes rolling down the road when they hear “pride” or “Pride Parade”.  Those images can be very accurate for many pride parades, and I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with any of them…..but to me “pride” is much more significant than “just” these images.

I also believe many, especially in the heterosexual world, wonder why we need pride anything.  I mean, some very nice friends of mine post quotes to say things like “why can’t we just have human pride and hang out and get along?”  Some even say, “why aren’t there straight pride months or events?”  Both are great questions.  Look, I don’t have all the answers, but as a lesbian I can share my perspective and heart if you care to continue reading.

First, it’s important to note that June was selected for LGBT Pride month to commemorate the Stonewall Riots that occurred in 1969.  And, incidentally, not all Gay Pride parades or events happen in June, but I digress.  LGBT didn’t always feel as open or safe as many do today, and in fact many were persecuted and violently discriminated against in years past. Many, especially in the “T” world (transgender), are still in a very insecure and dangerous space in our society today.  So, it’s important to note that Pride is an attempt to shine the light of said discrimination and tries to turn the views towards LGBT toward positivity, aiming for reduction of violence against LGBT, creates a call for dignity, equality, and attempts to celebrate their existence instead of hiding in shame.  I don’t expect many who are not LGBT to understand this, so I will try to explain.

Many of you may remember when you hit puberty and the awkwardness of the hormones taking over your body, which was changing in ways you’d never experienced before.  Consider also realizing for the first time you were very different from the other kids of your gender and that only made you feel more confused.  You probably didn’t freak out and think you were broken.  I did.

Many of you probably didn’t look at someone of your own gender and feel your heart skip a beat and then become horrified that someone noticed, and then immediately inwardly berated yourself for being this ugly, sinful thing.  I did.

Many of you probably didn’t spend almost every night crying out to God from the age of 13 to 35, begging to be fixed.  Because I didn’t “choose this lifestyle”, and in fact invested everything I had in me to change what I am.  Everything.  And I lived in self-hatred and fear that someday, someone would see the lie I lived as I acted like a heterosexual.

Many of you probably didn’t work with your whole heart to love a person society said you should, while hating yourself for being a fake and a phony.  You probably did not feel the added guilt of receiving the love from that person who was an innocent in all of this.  I did.

Many of you didn’t have to decide what “sin” to live – being honest about your sexuality or continuing to lie to everyone in your life.  I did.

Many of you, when you finally stopped running from the truth and met the love of your life, didn’t need to hide it for five years because you’d lose your job, lose many of your friends, lose some of your family, lose your church.  I did.

Many of you haven’t lost a job due to the person you love. LOVE.  I did.

Many of you who wanted nothing more to be monogamous, committed, and live forever with the love of you life in a legal relationship recognized by your country…..but  were instead told you were an abomination and that it was against the law.  I was.

Many of you who have tried to get a driver’s license with your legally married name and were told you could not because your marriage license was not accepted in that state.  I was.

Most of you will not wake up each day and wonder if someone will get in your face – or even attack you – for loving someone.  LOVING SOMEONE.  I do.

Most of you will not be called names or be accused of pedophilia just for holding your spouse’s hand.  I have been.

Many of you do not have to demand basic human rights such as the right to work, the right to see your loved one in the hospital, or the right to have your spouse on your insurance.  I have had to.

Most of you don’t have to be told it’s okay to love your spouse, or that it’s okay to worship in church, or that it’s okay to have kids and raise them in love.  I have.

Most of you don’t have to be assured that no one in this country will speak of death camps, or arrest, or insist violent groups will not be able to attack you for just walking down the street.  At times, I am assured of those things.

Most of you won’t be accused of having an agenda by just being open about LOVE.  I am.

So Pride, to me, is wanting to say “yes, I am a lesbian” today in the hopes that someday the topic won’t even come up.  I do not say it to shove it in your face, to recruit you, to gain special rights, to reject religion, to break the law, to promote sin, to insist you live like me, or anything else.  I celebrate pride to say, I am here, and I am just another human (yes, even an American) who just wants to live.  To marry my wife.  To call my Dad on Father’s Day.  To have friends over for dinner.  To get a flat tire and call AAA.  To go to work and wish I won the lottery instead.  To get the flu and act like a baby.  And in it all, I don’t want to be “Gina the Lesbian”, but just “Gina”.  And until that day arrives, I will gather and say “being Gina is not an abomination.  No.  I am me.  You are you.  And we are all better than this.”

This is my Pride.  This is my life.  Peace.