I was the youngest of four children. My sister struggled to fit in. She struggled so badly she ran-away and got involved in some very bad things along the way. She was a ‘problem-child’ and when I was a child, I resented and distanced myself from her. Watching my parents go through the pain of not knowing if their little girl was alive or dead was a very, very difficult thing to watch. It forever changed us.
Then one day, some years later, when she was actually putting her life together she called and said, “I’m gay.” At first I wasn’t sure how to respond. I wondered if this was just another “phase” she was going through; something to once again, disappoint my parents with. But as we talked and she told me her story, I grew to ‘somewhat’ understand. She was telling me how she always was gay and this was at the root of all the other things that happened. She explained she thought she didn’t fit in; she thought she was unacceptable so she began to act out. She hated herself and tried to run from who she was. The pain she was going through was mirrored in the pain the family went through trying to find her and the on-going grief and despair of not being able to.
I decided, right there and then, “If this is what you need to do to be happy, who am I to say anything. Perhaps I will finally have my sister back? Maybe she will finally stop all this nonsense and be a good girl?”
I still did not understand. I didn’t understand what she was really telling me. She was telling me who she is, not something she had decided to be. To me, what she was saying was incomprehensible…I’ve never faced being a person on the inside, being forced to hide it, because of the world around you…
Sometimes when I read about the disciples. I am reminded of our conversation.
The disciples too spent all that time learning from and walking with Jesus; seeing all the signs and miracles; listening to all his words and they still were not able to comprehend who he was, what he was saying and what it meant to the larger picture. Like them, I was inept.
Rather than asking questions to further my understanding. Rather than opening my mind to engage life from the new perspective her words offered, I was trying to “fit” who she was, what she was saying into my ideas and notions of what is a sister, what is a daughter and what it means to be female. I was trying to fit her into my worldview, I was not stepping into hers.
By this time I was married and having children of my own. I had two boys and one girl. One was about 5, the other 2 and my baby was around 1. My oldest was active and really very smart (he still is). The second was very creative and preferred to play dress-up, cook and was extremely expressive (he still is). The family observed him being different than any of the other boys in the family. He was very different than his brother.
No one in the family really said anything about this, we just loved him for who he was. But we all observed him as being different… While my husband and I encouraged him to play with trucks and be rough, we also encouraged his brother to calm down and play with the cooking toys and role-play with his brother (and sister). Being progressive parents, we wanted our children to be free to play and discover regardless of societies gender conformance expectations; however, we were aware of the differences surfacing and worked to “balance” all their development. They all played sports and had access to all toys, regardless of any societal stereotypes.
By the time my second son was 11; he began having problems at school. It wasn’t anything he was doing it was because the other boys were becoming aware that he was different. He would come home, crying to me saying, “they’re calling me really mean names.” I would listen and hold him and tell him they were bullies. I explained if it were money in his pocket, they’d go after that. But when he’d ask me if I thought he was what they said… I’d say, “what do you think?’ And then I would say, ‘who knows who you are becoming. You are still growing into who you will be. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You are going through a lot of changes right now. Everyone your age is.” And I would always close by saying, “regardless of who you are, or who you may become; I love you always. You are my son.”
Imagine if Jesus did not want to be who he was? Remember when he asked his followers, “who do you say I am?” Imagine if he didn’t want it to be so? We usually do not think of this scripture from that angle but what if, in that moment; knowing what lay ahead, he resisted? Didn’t he ask others to keep things a secret? Didn’t he tell his mother it was not his time? I think of my son when I read of this scripture. I think of his secret; not the one he absolutely knew but the one he resisted because it was deemed wrong by the world around him. I think of the one he felt he needed to work against, over letting it be.
I wonder if Jesus, in his humanity, worked against (desired to deny) who he was in the hopes that he would not have to endure what would come. Do you wonder if, at any point along his journey, he said………..no? I do. I think Gethsemane tells us he faltered (if only for a moment); why else would he cry out to Abba, as recorded in Mark 14 verses 35 and 36a saying, “he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, “Abba,for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me;…”
When my son was 17, he was like a lot of kids. He had a lot of friends, worked at the local theater and just got his driving license. He was a great kid! Very artistic, a graphic artist and editor of his high school’s newspaper and yearbook. He won awards and everyone liked him. One day he came home crying. He was beside himself. I thought he had gotten into a car accident; that maybe he had hurt someone.
He was absolutely distraught. Obviously, I could not hold back the tears. I started saying things like, “tell me what it is; its going to be okay. please, what is wrong? There is nothing you can tell me that we cannot fix, that we cannot get past. Please, tell me.” He cried saying, “you are not going to love me anymore. You are going to be ashamed of me.” I responded, “absurd! You are my son. I love you forever. There is nothing you can say that can change that.”
And then, all of a sudden, out it came….rushing and filling the room. He cried out, “I’m gay!”
He then looked at me boldly….waiting to see how I would respond. It was as if, in that moment everything is out, everything is sitting right there, in plain sight; no more secrets, here’s your chance… what are you going say…what are you going to do, Mom? Do you love me now?
I immediately responded, looking at him straight in the eyes, “I know.” Shocked, in disbelief but with a sudden stepping back…he said, “You knew?”
I explained, “I’ve always known. I was waiting for you to be who you are. It is not my job to tell you who you are, it is your job to become who you are.”
He ran to my arms, he cried for joy, he cried for release…he was finally at peace. He let go of all the things he thought he had to be. He died to all that he was hiding. He became who he was meant to be.
Whenever Easter comes, I think of our queer brothers and sisters. I think of their journey, up to the top of Golgotha. The burdens they carry; the things longed for, the acceptance they desire. They try to tell us along the way but we cannot hear. They try to show us but we refuse to see. Because of us, one more dies.
I think queer people struggle inside. I think they long to be seen for who they are, not what we think they should be. I think they want to be out, able to live freely but no one takes them seriously. Whether some of us think it as a phase or others call them names and ridicule; I think their journey is like Jesus’ and it is up to us to decide how we’re going to be. It is not them who needs to change, it is how we respond. I say, love.