The Fear Is Real

“Don’t try to be fearless or pretend you aren’t impacted by fear. Just try to prevent fear from making your decisions for you.”
-Chris Buillebeau

I used to say that I was afraid, but I don’t think I really understood what that meant for much of my life. For me, fear was something like, “I’m going up the hill of the big roller coaster at Six Flags, and now I’m afraid.” Sure, there were some times in life when I was scared. 9/11. The plane crash that happened in my parent’s neighborhood when I was nine years old. The day I almost lost my wife during a horrible miscarriage. But fear? I remember coming out to the people around me. To my wife. To my parents. For me, fear seems to be a part of everyday life. Will someone say something when I go to use the bathroom? Will someone say something to me when I’m out and about? I don’t think I ever understood the struggle so many of my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters feel when they left the house until now. For some, it’s easy to hide. For others, it’s written all over who they are.

The fear and reality that I struggle with most is the fear of what it would mean to step through the doors of any one of my former church homes. “Sanctuary,” they called it. But, just like Esmeralda found in the Disney retelling of “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” for many the church is anything but a sanctuary. I know. I was once inside. I once sought safety and refuge within the walls of our local faith communities. And while I have a wonderful faith community around me now, it breaks my heart that there are so many who seek that shelter. Seek comfort when dying. Seek answers in times of loss. And while many churches would deny that they would ever deny an openly LGBTQ+ person through the doors of their church, many times it comes with the caviat and hope that “hearing the Gospel would change them and help them turn from their wicked ways.” Perhaps I’m projecting, but I know that’s the mentality I kept in church. Let gangbangers in? Sure! The Gospel has the power to change their hearts. Drug addicts? Alcoholics? “Let them come unto me,” the church says. All the while, the people around them are all praying that through the service that those people would respond the moment the altar call is given. That the person around them would be one of the testimonies we would hear the next year during the year-end recap video. Yet is that really what God calls His people to?

I don’t know what the answer is. As much as I studied the Bible, I’m not a Bible scholar. I’m not naive. I know that there are places and interpretations of the Bible and some people - maybe even you - might disagree with how I view Scripture and my current beliefs on how I was created in the image of God, even as a trans woman. The Bible, especially when you get into the historical background, original languages, and commentaries, offers a wide array of understanding. But here’s what I do know: God calls us to love Him and love each other. Period. End of story. And so every law, rule, doctrine, teaching - it all must be filtered through that lens. When held up to that lens, how do your views and actions stand up?

It is exactly the lack of communication that drove me into the depths of despair throughout much of my life. The more I struggled with who I was - what I felt and believed myself to be - the further into the “sanctuary” of the church I tried to climb. Until there was nowhere else to go. Admitting that I was struggling was to admit weakness, and we all knew what happened to those in the church who were weak - Lonnie Frisbee, Ted Haggard, Bob Coy…. Truth is, even while I was praising God on Sundays in church, I was seeking so desperately for a “healing touch” - something that would cure me of the feelings that I was sure were sinful. And when respite never came, despair set in. I felt betrayed by God. I burnt out on church. I lost my faith. I felt like I had to choose a path - God or who I felt I was. And by the time I reached that fork in the road, I felt like there was nowhere else to turn. The God I knew from church had turned His back on me. And so there I was, alone, despairing…. Hurting.

I spent ten years suffering from what the doctors would call clinical depression. Even in my anger towards God and the church, I still struggled to be open about my struggle. Church was all I had known - and I couldn’t risk losing that in case I ever decided to return. Where was I to turn? Where was I to go? The LGBTQ+ community, as much as it does for the community itself, struggles with people of faith. The faith community struggles with people who identify as LGBTQ+. As much as I couldn’t talk with people of faith about the struggles I was facing, I couldn’t talk to the LGBTQ+ community about my struggles with acceptance by God. As the reality of this sunk in, I found myself relying on my own family to get me through. For many years, it was the idea that I couldn’t let my kids grow up in a world without me that kept me moving forward, and kept the suicidal ideations at bay. Others aren’t so lucky. If this is you, then I urge you: people who understand are out there. I’m here. It’s one of the reasons why I share what I do.

All in all, it is my hope that this entry helps you, the Christian who sits in church every week, to begin this dialogue within your church. It’s my hope that it helps you, the person struggling with LGBTQ+ issues and your identity, to know that you’re not alone. That I believe in a God that loves you and cares for you - after all, I believe He created you this way. It is my hope that we begin to mend the bridges that have been burned for way too long.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *