“The thing about truth: once you see it you cannot unsee it.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert
There are those moments in your life you never forget; either because they bring tremendous joy, like the birth of a child, or unspeakable pain, like a betrayal. But what about the chronic pain from wearing the shackles of self-loathing?
Since I was a child, I bought into the idea that my attraction to a person of the same gender is an abomination in the eyes of the one I loved most and the one who loved me most. God himself.
I remember reading A Passage to India as a teen and being introduced to the paradox of the subjectivity of truth. I grew up in a home believing there was only one truth, so the idea of truth being subjective stuck with me, and was critical to my coming out later in life.
About ten years ago I was at an financial advisors’ conference. One speaker said he was going to shorten his talk so he could leave early to take his teenage daughter to a Katy Perry concert that evening.
In response, our area vice president sang Perry’s famous line, “I kissed a girl, and I liked it.” We all laughed.
Though she was an out lesbian in a committed relationship, she never brought her partner to any of the office functions. While the world was getting comfortable with the idea, it was not ready to witness it in action.
I laughed, I was also ashamed. The first thought that entered my mind was, “she’s brave!”
The simple lyric brought back the memory of when I kissed a girl, and I liked it. I was thirteen, and the girl was my friend Sarah, on whom my older brother had a massive crush. She had those full luscious lips that are impossible to resist. My brother begged me to invite her over to our home. After a few visits and he was too timid to make a move, I kissed her. Why waste a good set of lips?
At that point, I just thought my feelings were just temporary and hormonal. Coming from an all-girls school, I thought I was just practicing on girls before boys show up. My brother’s classmates never appealed to me; they were just nerds. Then I entered college, and there were many virile boys, but I still liked girls. Then at eighteen, I fell in love with my best friend. Then there were others, like Jessica from my university, Sarah, my colleague at the school I was teaching at and finally things came to a halt when I fell in love with Erin, my subordinate.
My cousin suspected I could be gay and mentioned it to my mother. When my mother took me aside, as he said I’d be a shame on the family name and an abomination unto God if I ever were to “be that way.”
I was a Christian. I believed in God. I believed my mother.
I focused on being straight. I thought if I prayed hard enough, God could change me. If God could raise the dead, he could surely ‘cure’ me. I believed that it was like smoking or drinking. If I just refrained, I’d be okay. I never smoke or drank, and I stayed away from attractive women.
If I became a mother, I’d be ‘healed’ from this ‘aberration’ – that’s how they referred to it at one of the churches I attended. If I got married, I’d be okay. So, I did. Twice in fact.
My second husband was fit, handsome, and attentive. Most of all, he was a great stepdad. My friends envied me. He was what women wanted! I thought; surely, there was no way I could possibly go astray!
So, what is the truth? Truth is what you feel in your bones! I felt it in my bones since I was thirteen.
Coming out may have hurt me and others, but I needed to escape from from my prison. Losing friends and family was nothing compared to being in the closet.
Truth has a life of its own – it begs to be set free. Coming out has not been easy; there are still many
who believe that loving someone of the same gender is ‘not natural.’ I left my church. I had to make new friends. I hurt a very loving husband. I lost some friends and all the privileges that come with being in a heterosexual relationship.
For me, breaking the shackles and releasing my pain cannot even compare to the prison of inauthenticity of almost fifty years!
Yes, the truth does set you free!