I met Monique a little over four years ago. Knowing her has been one of the great blessings of my life. I have only known a handful of people who radiate the love of Christ the way she does. When I’m around Monique I feel the love, joy, and peace of the Holy Spirit. She’s one of those people from whom the Spirit of God bubbles up like a spring of living water, and I am not the only person who has felt the presence of God within her.
Monique wrote this letter for her more conservative brothers and sisters in Christ.
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This is my love letter to you my unknown friend. I respect your views and I deeply understand them, for I too believed such theology. I choose to write to you in peace and love and share with you my personal journey.
The Church’s Spiritual Nurture
I grew up in a strict evangelical home. Our family never missed a Sunday at church, which was deeply grounded in traditional beliefs and practices. There is where I learned about Christ and his love for me through the caring words from my Sunday school teachers and pastors. There my hunger grew to serve Him, love Him, and worship Him.
As I grew older, I knew I was a little different from the other girls but was not sure exactly what was different. As early as fifth grade to when I was in junior high I really did not know what it meant to be gay or lesbian, but one thing I knew for sure is how I felt about other girls. I really didn’t think my feelings were wrong, and I was so naive that I thought everyone felt that way towards their girlfriends. Despite the fact that I was a bright student, my naiveté could be attributed to the fact that my family shielded me from the world, and television watching in my household was heavily restricted. It was not until I got a bit older that I realized that what I was feeling was not something that my girlfriends felt, and that there was a term for people like me: the dreaded “H” word- HOMOSEXUAL.
James Dobson and “Them” — the Abominations
Even though I learned about this, I did not identify with that word because as I grew older I started to hear pastors speak of “them” as “abominations” and my mother, an avid Focus on the Family listener to Dr. James Dobson, I had heard similar rhetoric of intolerance on our local Christian radio station. And I thought that I was not an “abomination” because I loved Jesus and Jesus loved me. When I was in high school I did not have an interest in dating anyone even though I had a couple of really big “crushes” on a couple of girls. I never acted on these feelings. I just ignored them and kept extremely busy by becoming engaged in a variety of clubs and sports on campus.
Campus Life Leader in High School
As a person who felt called by God early on in life, I was heavily engaged in the Campus Life Club on campus at the high school and helped lead the club in the junior high as a high school student. The club had its largest membership when I and a friend of mine were active leaders (after we graduated, membership severely dwindled). I believe that membership was high because we shared the love of Christ with others–everyone, even the “social outcasts” or, as some referred to them in high school, the “un-cool kids.”
My sophomore year of high school I had fallen hard and fast for a beautiful and smart girl who happened to later become the president of the Campus Life Club at our high school. I knew instantly of my feelings for her and there was no denying them. In high school I never acted on these “feelings.” I just kept them repressed and felt great shame. I remember throughout high school tearfully asking God to take these “feelings” away from me. I became even more aware of the rhetoric against “homosexuals” on the Christian radio station my mother listened to and felt scared to tell anyone at home or in the church what I had been feeling because I felt ashamed and scared that I may be somehow no longer accepted in the Christian community that was a part of my everyday life, my identity.
Even though my parents did not allow my sister and I to date, my sister did have her secret boyfriends and she would tell me about them or I would find out about them (we are only a year a part in age and attended the same school). All the while, having, but not acting on, these “feelings,” I had secret crushes which I could share with no one. My friends would ask me when I going to get a boyfriend or if I though such-and-such a guy was cute, and I would just smile and turn shyly away hoping the conversation topic would quickly change.
Doodling Love Hearts on the Church Bulletin
However, I think my mom knew about my “secret crushes” even before the time she caught me during church service writing a girl’s name on the back of a church bulletin. I drew hearts around her name, as many adolescent girls and boys do with the name of their sweethearts. I remember vividly the look the look she gave me. It was one of disappointment and one of “this better not be what I think and you better stop what you are doing right now.” I quickly stuffed the bulletin in my Bible and looked forward at the pastor. My family, every once in a while, would have family devotion sessions where my parents would read the Bible and my sisters and I would listen and have an opportunity to ask questions.
Soon after the “bulletin incident” I heard my first anti-homosexual devotional given by my step-father. He quoted Leviticus, Romans, and made reference to Sodom and Gomorrah. I remember feeling a little intimidated and scared, thinking, “Why are we covering this topic, do they know about my crushes?” But all the while thinking, I’m not a homosexual, an “abomination,” and became even more insecure with my sexual orientation and my faith. But once again, I repressed who I am.
Things in my parent’s house were never quite “home” for me, and that “spare the rod, spoil the child” thing was taken a bit too far at times. So I decided to move the day after I graduated from high school. It was the summer before going to college and I had moved in to my friend’s house for a couple of months. This was the same friend in which I had a massive crush on since my sophomore year of high school. This was the same friend who was the Campus Life president.
Love at a Christian University
My feelings for her were mutual and we were soon in a relationship, an awkward one. Throughout college we were in a secretive relationship that was poorly defined. Moreover, both of us have a background in religion and a deep love for Christ, and would often find ourselves remorseful for our feelings for one another, and too ashameed to expose our relationship to anyone. I was attending a Christian University at the time and it was quite difficult to find anyone to talk about this. We would always stop because one of us would feel so guilty and afraid that someone would find out.
We would always ask our selves, “When is this going to end?” I loved her deeply and I knew she loved me deeply, but we were deeply conflicted because of our faith. Our church, our parents, and our greater Christian community had taught us that to be gay or lesbian you are not in God’s grace and not following His plan for your life. Furthermore, when I attended the Christian University, I was not “out” and felt really alone and sad because I did not know of any support networks in which I would feel safe to talk about this without being “encouraged” to leave the University and without feeling ashamed. This made my depression grow. We had an on again off again relationship for six years. It came to an end when I moved to another county for an internship after grad school.
I still loved her deeply, but no longer wanted to engage in a poorly defined and secretive relationship. However, I soon found myself in yet another poorly defined and secretive relationship, a mistake which a deeply regret. During this period of time as well I “dated” a man for a short time. I was encouraged by my friends to do so. He was my friend and I liked our conversations, but it was nothing more than that. It felt kind of good for the first time to engage in “girl talk” with my friends and divulge what we talked about over cappuccino. It was really the first time that I had ever talked to my friends openly about a relationship and it gave me a sense of “normalcy,” even though I knew I was being someone I wasn’t. I wanted to talk to someone. I wanted to ask them questions. I wanted to know if who I am is ok? I wanted someone to love and accept me for who I am. I wanted to reconcile my faith and my sexual orientation. I wanted to still serve God. But most of all, I wanted God to still love me.
At the time, I lived in a rural part of California. I was 25 years old and had kept secret who I really am and had carried around so much sadness for all those years. I went online and searched for any local support groups or organizations that helped people searching for answers, but most of all searching for acceptance. Since I lived a rural and isolated region in the state, I did not come across any local centers or resources for the LGBT community. The closest LGBT support networks were approximately 120 miles west of my home. I left messages for several people at these LGBT support networks hoping that I could have a safe place to finally talk of which I had been silent about since my youth. Two people returned my call. The first stated that there were no support networks in my area. That was the end of that conversation.
Coming Out at a PFLAG Meeting
However, a second person called me back and he took the time to listen and talk with me. He shared with me that he is a father of a gay son who had been very active in church and who loved God. He also shared with me that his son had attempted to commit suicide in high school, partly because of the lack of acceptance from his church community and the depression he felt. The person I talked to on the phone, like me, had a love for God, was a part of the evangelical church, revered the Bible and knew it well. Because of that I was able to talk to him about the theological texts that I had heard used to inflict guilt and shame on the LGBT community.
For the first time in my life, I engaged in an open conversation with someone about God, love, the Bible, and who I am. I truly believe that God had purposely put this individual in my life to help me accept myself and to affirm the love and grace of God for me. I know if I would have spoken to someone who didn’t have an understanding of the Bible, but most of all the love of God, I probably would have still been depressed, kept secret who I am, an not fully been able to feel the full love that God has for me as one of his children.
I was invited to attend a PFLAG meeting. So, later on that month (September 2007) I drove approximately 100 miles to my first PFLAG meeting. There were about five people present at the meeting. They were all older adults who had gay or lesbian children. We went around the table and everyone told the story of their children who had “come out” and how they felt and reacted. They all spoke in peace and love. Smiles and tears were on the faces of these individuals because they loved their children very much and supported them. It was time for me to share “my story.” It was the first time I had really shared my story to a group of people. I started to speak as tears flooded my cheeks. The parents comforted me, hugged me, accepted me, and loved me. For the first time I was who I am and I was truly loved for me.
Coming Out to Mom
This experience gave me the courage to let my mother know who I am. I had written my mother a short letter letting her know just in case I was too emotional to finish what I had wanted to tell her. I wanted to tell her on October 11th because it was “National Coming Out Day.” I carried the letter folded in my back pocket all that day and never found the courage to go to her house and tell her. That night I took the letter out of my pocket and read it over and over again until I feel asleep.
I woke up early the next morning restless and knew I had to let her know. I drove to her house that morning and knocked on her door. She answered the door and was the only one home. I sat on her couch and told her that there was something that I needed to tell her, something she probably already knew. And then, I was overcome by emotion and could no longer speak louder than my crying and see past my tears so I handed her the letter that had been folded in my pocket. I sat there crying, not looking at my mother, as she read the letter in silence.
I am going to tell you something that I am sure you have known ever since I was a child. I am a lesbian. I have decided to tell you because I would rather you hear it from me than someone else and thought that it would be more respectful if I told you directly. It has been a long and emotionally torturous journey trying to deny how I really feel for so many years and hide who I really am. I can’t pretend anymore to be someone I am not. I don’t want to disappoint you as a daughter and have always tried to make you proud. I don’t want you to feel guilty because you think that you have failed as a mother and that is why I am a lesbian. Under the circumstances, I know that you did the best job that you could do and I acknowledge and appreciate that. I don’t want you to feel sad for me, because I feel very happy now with the person I am. I love you mom and I know that you will continue to do the same to me.
As soon as she finished the letter she kept asking me if I was sure, if I had given much thought about it, and how long I had felt that way. Soaking up the tears with kleenex, I answered her questions. My mother gave me a hug and said that she loved, “but I don’t agree with what you are doing because of what the Bible says.”
My purpose was not to change my mother’s theological thought on this issue. Neither is that my intention to do to you today. I want to let you know that today I truly live in peace that passes all understanding and am free from the bondage of depression. But most of all, I truly know and feel the grace of God which has been poured upon me in love through His Son, Jesus Christ. His Son Jesus who healed and loved the outcast, the outcast like me and you my unknown friend.
Peace & Love,
If you liked this, you will probably enjoy Todd Clayton’s posts, too.
- “Breakfast” is the powerful story of Todd’s coming out to his father, a Nazarene pastor.
- “Marble Eyes — Pt. 1” focuses on an incident with Todd’s mother (a Nazarene pastor), and how she came to understand that being gay “is not a choice.”