How did I get to this point where I can boldly declare this without my heart beating a hundred beats a minute and my lungs feeling like they are running out of oxygen? Without the flashing images of the faces of my loved ones and coworkers contorting into disgust and disappointment?
To start with, I was the first black person, first female, and first person under 40 to sit at the executive table of the third largest evangelical ministry in the United States and worldwide. I am the first published author in my family, which I am extremely proud of. The first officially licensed minister of the Gospel because of the legacy of my African grandmother, who discipled and nurtured over 400 children in her small village in Liberia, West Africa. I built a company from scratch that touches over 5,000 lives every year. And now, the first openly queer person in my family.
I am no stranger to pioneering and would often delightfully accept being the first; except when it came to coming out. I struggled. I didn't want to be the first openly queer person in my family. The thought of being excluded from hopeful prayers for my future husband and family made my heart stop beating. Accepting that I could never plan the big colorful African wedding where my aunts would cook all of my favorite dishes, where we would sit around one of their dining tables and laugh and tease the night before my wedding. Or miss out on the matrons in my family with 70+ years of marriage put together handing down advice for my new journey with my partner.
I definitely did not want and really could not be an openly queer person in my executive position in an environment of right-wing conservative white men over the age of 60. So if I chose to accept all of me it would mean rejecting the community I left my entire family and job and drove 33 hours from the east coast to become a part of. I would and could no longer be trusted to set policy within the organization or faithfully handle employee relation issues. My entire history of what I had accomplished as a black female millennial would be thrown out.
But I did and let me tell you why.
When one Saturday I laid on the floor of my living room, with tears streaming down my face, having decided the night before I could finally end my life and no one would find me in time to save me, I did the last thing I knew to do to save myself. I picked up my iPhone, that I had used the night before to research the quickest painless ways to die, and called the suicide hotline. The lack of urgency in the voice on the other end shocked me into choosing to stay, not for me, but for anyone else that would ever need to call.
What if the ministry was wrong? What if my family actually would accept me and throw me the best wedding ever? And even if they didn't, what if I could still have a beautiful beach-side wedding? What if God really does love me the way I am? What if He actually did knit me together in mother's womb as queer? What if my life was bigger than my queer identity, but fuller because of it? What if the Son really has set me free, indeed? What if I could help rescue other people from giving up?
I learned that no amount of job security or belonging to a community is worth my peace. I learned that living authentically & fully integrated within myself is way better. And my goal is to help every person that struggles with finding peace with their sexual identity and spiritual identity; that causes them to often feel rejected and alienated from a relationship with God. I champion them to lovingly accept & celebrate all of who they are without abandoning their faith.
What has been your turning point in your journey to reconciling your faith and your sexuality?
Let me know in the comments below!