The Risk of Authenticity…
Recently I was asked to consider being open to relationships, being open to love and being loved. My answer was that for me it is too dangerous – I can’t take the risk. ‘Why does it matter?’ I am asked. My answer – because I stand to lose everything – my friends, my family, my faith.
Let me try and explain why I would say this, even though by doing so, I risk you walking away, ‘unfriending’ me, writing me off – but I’m hoping you won’t. I just want to be authentic and loved for who I am – the real me not the me I have let others see. I am hoping that sharing part of my journey and struggle will help those in my life understand me a little more; that I will still be loved despite my flaws. This is hard because my faith and my community are important to me. I have some incredible people in my life and don’t want to lose them and their friendship.
Being separated from my parents between the ages of 2 and 7 and enduring severe abuse for over a decade have contributed to me growing up without clear gender distinctions. Being raped shortly after my 20th birthday did nothing to change that. It was tough growing up in an environment that had very clear gender roles and not feeling like I fit in either. I didn’t like the normal girlie things – dolls, makeup, fancy dresses etc – and I was not good at being a boy either.
What does this lack of gender distinction mean for me? It means that gender does not enter into the equation for me to love someone – it is about personality and character. I have had times in my life when I was attracted to men and times when I was attracted to women. I have dated both in my younger days but the inner conflict it caused has driven me to the brink of despair. I have been unable to reconcile this with my faith.
The result of this conundrum caused me to make a decision in my 20’s not to seek intimacy in any shape or form. I have kept people at arm’s length to ensure I don’t compromise my beliefs. But in doing so, I have forgotten that the basis of my faith is that God loves me. I have traded love and companionship for loneliness and an incomplete faith. I believed I had no other choice.
I have felt that this is something I am not supposed to admit, or feel, or talk about – especially as a Christian. I have also felt it disqualifies me in some way from doing some of the things I love to do like leading the singing in church. But it is true and trying to ignore it, not face it, not deal with it has pushed me close to taking my own life on occasion. So now I am confronting it head on. I have been very conflicted about it. It is at odds with what my faith teaches. But it is also complicated and real and me.
I have never considered myself to be gay or bi-sexual or any other label you might choose – I don’t find these labels helpful anyway – as if I am being defined solely on the base of gender or sexuality when each of us is so much more than that. Let me quote Hannah Brencher – If someone you love dies, you are never going to thread through your issues on abortion to make it better in that moment. If someone you love leaves the family without a note, you are never going to need a debate of sexuality and the church to mend your heart.
(Read her whole post here http://hannahbrencher.com/2015/08/04/take-me-to-church/ )
I haven’t wanted to delve too deeply into this side of myself – to take a long honest look at it all. What if I landed on the ‘wrong’ side of this issue – what would it mean for my faith, my current friendships; how would my family react? Could I still count on the fact that God loves me? It has made me re-evaluate my view of God and what he is like because I have been fearful God would reject me too.
I don’t believe I am alone in my struggle so maybe it’s time to start having a conversation about it. I have prayed to be different. I spoke to a pastor friend of mine recently and she helped me to understand that many of us struggle with one thing or another. For me it happens to be in the area of gender but it could just as easily have been with alcohol, drugs, porn or even gossiping. I may have these attractions, but I also have the choice what to do with them. Her perspective is really helping me. She did not make me feel condemned or ashamed and for that I am grateful.
Where to from here? I am not sure I know the answer to that but just maybe I am becoming more ready to that openness I was asked about that got me thinking about all of this in the first place. Who knows, maybe I will be all the better for having had an honest look at the question; for being willing to risk authenticity. All I know is that after months of wrestling with this issue, I still have this lack of gender distinction. Proverbs says this ‘Above all else, guard your affections for they influence everything else in your life.’ I know this to be true.