Monday, June 09, 2008

Pride Reflection

I am a rare and mythical creature. No, I’m not talking about being a straight ally. But if possible, I may be even rarer than that. I am one of those rare and mythical beings that actually enjoyed high school. It’s true. I loved high school. I was on both volleyball teams, and the dance squad, I was involved with the drama troupe, and attended every dance the school hosted. Not only that, but I was heavily involved with my church. St Rose of Lima Youth Group was my second home. St Rose was an extremely liberal Catholic church in Maryland. If I wasn’t at school doing any of the activities previously mentioned, I was at St Rose either running the drama program, being one of the back up singers for the ‘house band’, going to youth group or religious education, or helping plan for the retreats and service camps we ran.

St Rose was a huge part of my high school experience, and also a huge part of helping me really find myself. Or at least, part of myself. St Rose was the first place in my life that I finally felt like I belonged. That I wasn’t the loser, or the outcast, or the ‘new girl’. It was the first place that I felt I was accepted for being me, and I never had to be anyone else. And like I said, it truly felt like my second home. Even when I went off to college, for the first couple of years, I would joke that it wasn’t a trip home unless I went to St Rose. But, as I started to discover more of myself at college, St Rose started to feel less and less like home, and more and more like foreign territory. It wasn’t until I figured out that I was gay, and that St Rose was unique in its welcoming nature, that I really figured out why St Rose was starting to feel less like home. Once I figured out I was gay, I realized that I was an outsider at the one place I felt accepted and safe. None of my friends from home were gay, and none of my friends at college understood my connection to St Rose. Not only did I feel alone, I felt abandoned. Abandoned by the one place I thought would always be there for me. And without a religious support system outside of St Rose, I felt like I had no where to turn but away.

So I turned away from my affiliation with religion and replaced all the love and pride I felt for being Christian with bitterness, shame, and sarcasm. I started to join my friends at college when they made fun of religious people, even though on the inside I felt like I was making fun of myself. Once I graduated from college, these feelings didn’t go away. I desperately wanted to find a community that would accept both my relationship with God and my desire for a relationship with a woman. I moved around a lot, and not only did I move to places that had no gay community, but also I never made friends with people who were religious. So I was constantly struggling between these two aspects of myself. I still maintained contact with my friends from St Rose, but they all stopped going to church either during college or afterwards for a variety of reasons. So our once yearly get togethers were the only time I was around people who accepted my relationship with God and understood it.

And then, about two years ago, I moved to Boston. And a week after moving my roommate from college was killed in a car accident overseas. I was grateful that I still had a relationship with God, but now more than ever I desperately needed a community to support me and help me cope with my grief, but was unwilling to admit that to myself. I started to withdraw into myself and not talk to anyone because I knew they wouldn’t understand. The only times I really interacted with people was at my job, and it was through that I met Mark. He would casually bring up his church every so often at work, and my initial knee-jerk reaction was, I don’t want to hear about church. I don’t need it, and don’t want to experience that abandonment I felt before. But Mark kept bringing it up. And how great everyone there was, and how open and welcoming his church was. And then he mentioned that his pastor’s name was Tiffany, and I started listening a little more. Growing up Catholic, I always wondered why women couldn’t preach, so hearing of a female preacher was intriguing to me and eventually Mark convinced me to come with him to a Cambridge Welcoming service. And from that first service I knew I had found my community. One that accepted me for who I am, and one that not only understood my relationship with God, but encourages me to strengthen that relationship, and understands when that relationship gets strained sometimes. Cambridge Welcoming opened my eyes events like Pride and other gay communities in Somerville and Boston. Pride was the first opportunity I had to publicly reconcile two previously disconnected aspects of myself, being gay and being Christian. For the first time I was part of a gay Christian community.

I started my journey similar to the colors at the beginning, very separated and lonely and angry and hurt, but through God’s love found a community where I can feel whole again. I am proud again. Not only of being a Lesbian, but also of being Christian. I watched a movie recently and the opening line was “A lot of people ask me when I first knew I was gay. Fact is, I don't know. But what I do remember, what I can recall, is when I first realized it was Okay: It was when I met these guys. My friends.” This community helped me realize that it was Okay. And are not only my friends, but my family. And I am forever grateful for that.

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