Tuesday, July 3, 2012

God is Love, and Gay is Okay.

It happens.

You think you know someone, and then out of nowhere, you realize you’ve been very wrong. I can’t even complain really. All the signs were there, I just chose to ignore them. I feel like I do that a lot.

When I was a child I was raised Southern Baptist. I went to church every Sunday and Wednesday for half of my life. The church van would pick me up in front of my house, and my sister and I would climb aboard with all of the other less fortunate kids whose parents didn’t attend.

Don’t get me wrong. My mother is a very religious woman. She’s just very sick with a lot of responsibility, so she would wash our faces, comb our hair, have dinner ready by 5:30 and then we were out the door.

My first summer camp was a religious camp. I can remember being so inspired by the love that surrounded us. Everyone there loved God. This figure that they had never seen before, only heard about through pages of the Bible. We sang. We danced. We shared stories. And all of it came back to celebration of him.

I was no more than 12 years old. I can remember the transition at that time. I was growing up. Other girls my age were beginning to find interest in things like make-up, hair and boys. I didn’t understand this new process. I loved what I had always loved, which was science, poetry, basketball and around that time a newly developed interest in music.

I couldn’t relate to the increasingly longer conversations revolving around Justin Timberlake’s smooth voice or the obviously necessary rivalry between N’Sync and Backstreet Boys. I didn’t care “who was cuter.” However I did have a strange fascination with Sporty Spice…

I joined the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Middle School, “dated” (sat next to) a few boys from church, and hung out with guys after school (they were the best companions to play Grand Theft Auto with). My daily attire of sneakers, ball shorts and t-shirts was common among all athletes, however my friends began straightening their hair, and buying each other body spray and panties for Christmas. Victoria’s Secret was a mystery to me, and I was dying for someone to let me in on it.

My world was changing, but I couldn’t keep up. I had no idea what to do with a flat iron, didn’t care if I wore black with navy blue and the thought of some guy’s tongue down my throat made me want to vomit. That’s when it happened. My freshman year I met a girl. She was a rebel from a Christian High School, and I knew the first time that we spoke that something about her felt familiar.

She was gay.

Obviously at a Christian School in the south, she was despised. It didn’t help that one of the girls she “Converted” was the principal’s youngest daughter. When we started dating I heard it from every direction. She got in trouble nearly every day at school for her attire or flirtatious behavior towards women. Her mother reprimanded her when she got home for her involvement at school. Even though I lived an hour and a half away, the new girl at my school knew my then girlfriend’s mother, so my secret leaked quickly.

The whispers leaked up and down the hallways, and pretty soon even though I still hadn’t kissed a girl everyone knew about my recent development in my sexuality. They took every approach. Some asked me to quit the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, others wanted to save me.

I went to a Christian Basketball camp in high school. The other girls from my high school were going, but it was an unspoken agreement to not discuss my sexuality. During my first year, I met a counselor who would change my life forever. She was just like me. She played basketball in college, always wore a pair of ball shorts, her hair was in a ponytail and her t-shirts were cut-offs. I knew she was gay. We never spoke of it, but I knew.

We stayed in touch. I went to that camp a total of three years, and seeing her every year just reminded me that one day I’d be older, and could be myself. Just like her. As I got older though, I began to notice that she wasn’t like me at all. She was very religious. Religious to the point that she devotes every action in her day to the lord and firmly believes that the Bible is her guide to life.

When I finally came out at home my mother clung to her bible for days, and my step father screamed to me that I was going to hell. I had received this reaction before at school. When I was around sixteen I gave up on religion, just as it had given up on me. A preacher commented on my sexuality and told me that it would be the death of me. He threw the bible at me, and I never went back. I dropped out of every religiously affiliated activity aside from Basketball camp. There I had a secret, and I could live normally in their eyes for one week.

I could see her. She wouldn’t judge me.

I almost went to her college (a Christian school) but instead chose Stephens. Thank God? I finally came out to her. Her reaction was completely unexpected. She was appalled. She told me repeatedly that it was a sin, and that God doesn’t condone that behavior. She reminded me that I wouldn’t be able to “join the Lord in heaven, unless I changed my sinful ways”. I was shocked.

Here is this college educated, strong and independent woman who doesn’t realize it, but is blatantly a lesbian yet she is telling me that I am going to hell because I love women. I ran even further from faith. Why would a god make me this way, and then condemn me for it? It’s like telling someone of a different race that they’re going to hell for their ethnicity. Whoops.

She admitted later that she had feelings for a woman, but it was just God’s test to her faith and strength so she withheld. I’m sorry. What? God isn’t sending love to your door step in the form of a same-sex relationship just so he can push you to hell’s fiery damnation. He’s sending you love because you’re obviously not interested in a relationship with Men and he wants you to be happy.

It’s scary how much of our lives are based on the impact of religion. Political Parties are basing their entire campaigns on what the bible says. If I do recall, Lot tried to prostitute his daughter to protect his guests (who were angels), Animal Sacrifices were a part of everyday life (PETA would be livid), and women were to carry two doves to the alter after the last day of her period to “cleanse her body and purity.”

The bible was written BY MAN. It has been translated so many times we can’t count (BY MEN) and along the way parts have gotten lost or been left out. King James had the bible translated in its most common version and had to approve it before it was released. What if Obama translated the bible? I bet a lot would change.

I’m not saying that I don’t believe in God, or that I disagree with all religions. I believe that it is important to maintain faith in something, because it’s that faith that allows us inner peace and comfort. What I don’t believe is that “God” hates gay people. I don’t believe he expects us to slaughter animals on his behalf, or avoid shellfish. I think that people who claim that they “Know God’s word”, are unbelievably proud and naive. Who are you to claim that you know and understand the inner thoughts of the most powerful being in the history of mankind? The capacity of mankind’s brain function cannot facilitate the thoughts of the “God” I believe in. I believe we are here to love and be loved, anyone and everyone. I have found spirituality over time. A belief in a higher power. I do not affiliate myself with any specific religion, but I have my own set of beliefs. I have based it solely off of what I know, what I feel and what I think.

That same woman who has mentored me for many years asked me a strange question the other night. She asked me if I founds her attractive. Apparently she thought that dating women might be easier. Here is my thought on this.

If you can’t handle being straight, you’re sure as hell not strong enough to be gay.

She became defensive when I shared my thoughts with her. I told her that I always thought that she might finally find contentment and happiness in her life if she went with her instincts and let herself experience the life and love that she so deeply craves. That I believed God did have a plan for her, but that due to her upbringing she turned her head at the opportunity presented to her.

She asked me if I was really prepared to go to hell for my lifestyle, and I told her that I am… If that’s what being gay means then yes. I never made a choice to be gay. I chose to be happy. I am who God made me. I’m a good person with solid morals and values. I love everyone and trust that he didn’t make a mistake when he gave me the fight and passion that he did.

I’m afraid that we will never speak again and it kills me inside…

I really hope that she finds herself, whatever self that may be. I hope she finds happiness and peace within her mind and heart. I will forever love this dear friend, but I simply cannot be reprimanded and brought down because of her beliefs. She in return cannot condone mine, so we are at a standstill… one that might destroy a friendship.

I believe that “God” has a special place in “Heaven” for all Gay people for the hatred and ignorance we have had to endure. I believe that when he sees the intolerance and the discrimination of this world  that he weeps. This is not the way that my God wants his children to behave.

God is Love….  And Gay is Okay.

 Remember me, I’m Tennessee.

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