After two+ years of weekly counseling, I am finally able to say that I am unapologetically queer. I am able to say confidently that LGBTQ+ can have a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus. Never have I been more sure that I am following the command to “come as you are” in my daily life (was that God…or Nirvana?).
The concepts of Sexuality and Spirituality have haunted me since childhood. I grew up in a community that is overwhelmingly straight and overwhelmingly Southern Baptist. For me, there was no escaping mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional distress. I’ve said before that there were nights that I would lie awake, fearing that if I fell asleep I might not wake up. I was afraid of death because I was terrified of Hell. I was terrified of Hell because deep down, I knew that I would go there. I had unexplainable feelings and attractions inside me that I was too afraid to talk about, so I didn’t…for years.
I became obsessed with the comfort of those around me. It was a way to ignore my own discomfort and hide the truth about my sexual identity. I felt like I had so much to lose from coming out. What would my friends, my coworkers, my family think of me? Would they talk to me about it? Would they write me off as a heretic and a false teacher? Would I lose my job at a conservative Christian organization? Would people be comfortable around me? Obviously, this led to lies and omission of truth. I’m not sure exactly how long it took (other than YEARS) to ask myself a much more important question: am I comfortable around me? The answer was a resounding NO.
Because of my anxiety and depression, it’s not easy to feel comfortable. I am constantly worried that something is wrong or crying about the stupid things I said 10 years ago. While I may never know where exactly my mental illness came from or why it exists, I have been in therapy long enough to know that my religion and sexuality have had something (a lot) to do with it. I had built the foundation of my faith and moral compass on a theology that condemned me. Many of my close friends worked for a ministry that removed me. I was conflicted about who I was versus who God had made me to be.
I am slowly working my way to a place of comfort. I am learning to be comfortable alone, I am learning to be comfortable as an “out” queer person, and I am learning to be comfortable with the uncertainty of who God is, what God wants from this world, and what God wants from me. I am learning how to process my thoughts and emotions. I am beginning to understand how beautiful and perfect and fearfully and wonderfully made I really am.
Today is National Coming Out Day. I long for the day that there is no need to “come out” of the closet. Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. I long for the day that we can openly and unapologetically share about mental illness with no fear of repercussion. There are so many people who feel like they will never be able to “come out” as LGBTQ+, and there are so many people who feel like they would rather hide in their discomfort than “come out” about their mental health struggles. Know that you are not alone. The closet door is waiting to be opened, whenever you are ready.
Life is a beautiful, messy journey, and I am thankful.