As a former evangelical Christian, I remember the days of feeling deeply concerned for people who were unsaved – especially those who were in direct opposition to God’s word. This remembrance came up for me when I read this article on HuffingtonPost.com about a lesbian couple who, while recently dining at a restaurant in North Carolina, received a handwritten letter from the restaurant owner asking them to reevaluate their lives. Amongst his many warnings, the owner wrote that being homosexual was against God’s will and that their lifestyle was hurting everyone around them (which he said he knew about firsthand since his daughter was gay).
This story reminded me so much of my youth. Being a saved Christian teenager while attending a secular high school wasn’t the easiest of tasks. Growing up is hard enough with school, family responsibilities, part-time jobs, hormonal changes and college considerations…let alone lobbying for a holy entity who threatens to send you to eternal damnation unless you pledge allegiance to his son. But that was my life then, invisible chastity belt and all, and I felt a sense of honor and duty to tell people about God’s word.
I wonder if the owner of that restaurant can relate. Perhaps not to the teenage part of my story, but to the fervency with which one of great faith may feel compelled to convey Biblical truths. I can’t call his letter crazy, or even judgmental, really. He felt it was his call to duty, his responsibility to his creator, his savior and the salvation of his fellow humankind. I actually get that. And I remember it well.
If I could have a conversation with this man, I’d tell him that. That I get why he wrote that letter. I understand why his heart felt so full that he had to communicate this message to complete strangers.
But I’d also let him know that no matter what God-inspired words are written in any holy text, some of us know what it feels like to be in direct opposition to those words, merely by existing. Not even through deed have we gone against the ways of the Word, but through mere existence do we contradict the great message.
During the beginning of my coming out process, I attended some co-ed LGBT support groups. I remember, so vividly, one young man who was shaking from his very core as he spoke to us. He talked about being gay and how terrified he was to come out to himself and then to his family. I sat in silence, in compassion and in familiarity, while witnessing his truth.
At a certain point in my own coming out process, my teenage desire to be a missionary resurfaced.
It was a wild and strange self-reconciling that I went through to go from being a religious faith warrior to a sex explorer, performer and educator. I’ve stripped away layers and layers of teachings from my former faith, my culture and my family so that I could touch what I knew was authentically mine. My mission to empower others in finding their own truth is one that I take on with the same fervor and honor I possessed in my youth. Indeed, in some surprising ways, my path now is not so different from my days in the church.