My beloved and I are tangentially connected to a documentary film project called “Out of Order,” which “is a feature length documentary following the journey of three queer members of the Presbyterian Church (USA).” She and I are not in that group of three, but have been trying to help support the Indiegogo campaign they have begun to raise funds for the next phase of filming (we also appear briefly on the trailer for the film).
The hope for the film is that, through the sharing of our stories, we might not only subvert some of the assumptions about lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, but also that we might offer a new paradigm for how to live into one’s call.
Below is a piece my partner wrote for the project. . . If you are so inclined, please consider making a donation so the filming can continue.
Some things in life are like ripping off band-aids; you have to rip them quickly, in one breath, before you change your mind. This is how it was for me when I first decided to share my story and a genuine part of myself, with a minister at a church I was attending in Chicago. “IwanttoquitgradschoolIwanttogotoseminaryandIthinkI’malesbian….”
There’s a physical response that comes with facing your biggest fears. Even as I was putting it out there, that moment of sharing me, I could feel myself sucking the air in, like I was being punched in the gut. You see, I was afraid to be myself, afraid that the genuine me was not lovable. I was 24 and on the run from my life. I’d left a job in a church I didn’t trust and moved to a city where I knew no one because I had no idea who I was. I ran away from everything I knew, and all the expectations others had for me, and I spent some time in the wilderness. Ok, maybe Chicago isn’t the wilderness, but it sure is cold, and for a city full of people, it can be painfully lonely.
You can learn a lot about yourself in the wilderness: in three months I realized I was gay, I didn’t want the degree I’d moved to Chicago to attain, and I was pretty sure God was calling me to seminary. Here I was, a girl on the run from her family, from her church, from her friends, yet I was visiting three to four churches a week. I couldn’t not go. I needed to be in the midst of a worshiping community, even if they were strangers. I was anonymous in those sanctuaries, and yet I was seen and accepted as a child of God.
It’s strange, how being accepted by strangers allowed me to accept myself. In accepting myself, I began to accept my call. In sharing myself with the people who loved me, I began to live into my call. In the nine years that have passed since I pulled off the band-aid and shared my story with a pastor I barely knew, I’ve come to see the value of sharing our stories and our genuine selves with one another. In that intake of breath, I was so afraid of the way he might respond. As I stood there, feeling sucker-punched, he smiled, and said, “That’s wonderful!” The way he heard and responded to my story was nothing short of a gift of grace.
This is my story. I had to stop trying to be what I thought the world, the church, my family, and my friends wanted me to be. I had to live into the person God created me to be. Shedding the expectations of others allowed me to listen for the still, small voice of God. It allowed me to see myself as me, for the first time. In embracing my story of being a lesbian alongside my story of being a beloved child of God, I was emboldened to stop running away, to take steps on the path of my calling, and to encourage others to embrace their identity as God’s beloved children.
One of the places where I have found support and care is through a community of LGBTQ individuals, organized by an organization called Presbyterian Welcome, who are pursuing ordained ministry in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). We gather together in an undisclosed location once a year for a retreat, where we share our stories, encourage one another, laugh, weep, and grow together.
One of the co-founders of the retreat, Mieke Vandersall, called before the 2012 retreat and said: “I want you to be a part of this documentary film, Out of Order, that will tell your story and the stories of a few others who love our church and want to serve it. People need to hear your story.” When she called I felt that intake of air, even as I was saying yes. This would be another band-aid moment… being vulnerable, sharing my story to a camera… to all of you.
But sharing my story and listening to the stories of others has changed me. It has opened my heart in ways I didn’t even know it was closed. Hearing the stories of Alex, Jessica, Kate, Mieke, and all of the people I’ve met through the retreat and this film project inspires me to live fully into my own story. I believe the Holy Spirit is at work within and among us when we speak and hear one another’s stories, weaving all of our stories into God’s story, emboldening us to live into our callings, to be the people God created us to be.