I'm a Cedarville graduate, class of 2014, and I'm gay.
It took a long time and overcoming a lot of questioning to finally be able to say I'm a lesbian and I'm proud.
The first time I "came out" I was 15. I had returned home from a Summit Leadership camp where “ex-gay” Christians talked about how God had “healed” them. I knew they were talking about me and how I stole glances at girls, tried too hard to be interested in guys, and desperately wanted to love. I was deeply ashamed of what I had been taught was sin. I returned home after being “prayed over” and I was now determined to leave all my feminist thoughts and lesbian ways and flirtations with Marxist philosophy. I would now be a fundamentalist, ex-gay, capitalist, complementarian, Christ-following, submissive woman. I confessed all this to my best friend who'd come with me to the camp. I told my mom about my "struggle" and said she'd pray for me. We didn't talk about it again.
A few years later, I was at Cedarville. The inundation of pro-heterosexual, pro-celibacy, pro-patriarchal messages in daily chapel made me nervous about what would happen if I told anyone the truth about me. I had some great professors and made lifelong friends but there was still this weight and fear I couldn't escape. So much of the messaging at Cedarville reinforced this idea that no one who is Christian would ever truly accept me and it took a long term to unlearn that.
Even though it was a difficult time, I'm also glad I went to Cedarville because being somewhere so close-minded actually made me confront the fact that my identity and orientation isn't a choice. Honestly, it would've been so much easier if I could fit in. If orientation was a choice, I would have wanted to change and be accepted and question nothing. My time at Cedarville made me fight for my identity. I realized that being gay was part of me and real and natural.
Oddly enough, it was in one of my Bible minor classes where a Prof bemoaned shows like The New Normal and Modern Family normalizing LGBTQ people that I learned the value of representation. Naturally, I began watching those shows. I wanted to know what being treated like normal would feel like. I wanted to know what acceptance could be. Seeing LGBTQ people represented in a positive, even if still oftentimes stereotypical light, was a wonderful change of pace.
By my senior year I'd chopped off my hair to signal to myself at least that I'd accepted who I am. I “joked” with my friends about my "dyke haircut" to see how they'd react. They nervously laughed and some later told me they guessed what I meant, but the entire time I was scared of being rejected. I started living this life of half telling, not really hiding, just wanting it to all come out somehow without me having to actually say it. My senior thesis was an exploration of sexuality in Victorian England. I proposed the radical idea that gay people exist in history and so we should study their lives. I thought it was so subversive to talk about at the time. I wasn't exactly being subtle but I think we all pretended this wasn't me trying to come out.
After college, I went into grad school where I studied gender & sexuality in British history. I found people who were out and proud. I finally went to Pride and was so overwhelmed with joy. I discovered queer lit and gay comic con and the loveliness of rainbow flags everywhere. I could walk down the streets of New York holding my girlfriend's hand, open and unafraid. I finally met people who are Christian who are staunch allies and dear friends. I've seen that I don't have to fear rejection from all Christians. The community I'd so desperately wanted was out there this whole time.
I was living this life of authenticity and openness and pride, with one huge exception. I still needed to come out, again, unashamed this time, to my parents. Every time I visited I felt like I was filtering out all the important parts of my life. I was becoming less of myself. I felt that I couldn't talk about what I study. I couldn't talk about my relationships. I didn't even talk much about my friends. I'd downplay my politics so we wouldn't argue and fly on Sundays so I could avoid attending their homophobic church. I was out to my friends so I wondered if it was even worth it to come out to my parents.
The fear and the anxiety and hiding was no way to live. It wasn't fair to me or to them. Two years ago, I finally came out, again, for real this time.
It sometimes sounds trite to me to say “it gets better.” But I've found that it can get better because you make it better. Hiding and hoping to avoid a conversation was torturing me. I cried the entire time I came out to my parents. I could see their disappointment when I refused to say I was sinning or would choose celibacy. But then we cried and hugged and they said they love me and I said I'd love them no matter what. That's all that matters to me. I know that's not something everyone can say. I know I'm lucky when so many families reject their LGBTQ kids. Coming out to my parents, for real, unashamed, was the hardest and best thing I've ever done. I can now live openly and it's so freeing.
I'm sharing my story because I know I'm not the only one who has lived in this kind of self doubt, internalized homophobia, and constant state of looking over one’s shoulder. I'm not alone and neither are you! I don't know what your story or journey is, but I hope hearing part of mine helps you see that there is hope. There's a whole community of people who are like you and who will embrace you and love you for who you are.