I was less than a year old when I was crowned as a child of God. Though religion hasn’t always been a dominant presence in my life, according to Him, I will always be one of His children. My father attended Catholic schools in the Saint Louis area and even attended a Jesuit college. My mother attended the same Jesuit college, was raised Lutheran, and attended mass every Sunday with her family. I have always wondered why I was baptized Catholic. I rarely go to Church, I didn’t even know what Ash Wednesday was until last year. I celebrate Christmas, but just for the gifts and family gatherings. So… why? Why was one of the foremost decisions in my life made for me when I had no say in the matter?
When I was five years old, I decided I wanted to play soccer. I went to a smaller school that did not have sports teams, so I had to join a CYC team. The closest was a Catholic school, Saint Joan of Arc. It’s difficult for me to remember practices or games, I just remember how I felt being the only outsider. Since I was the only girl who went to a different school, I was always the last pick, always had to partner with one of my coaches- who was just one of my teammates’ fathers. The only other thing I remember was praying before our games. Taking part in a circle with the refs, my teammates, our opponents, and the coaches, and reciting a piece of scripture I had never heard in my entire life. I always had the internal debate of whether to stay silent or to mimic their words of prayer.
Little did I know, for the next eight years this would be how every sports game went. I ended up playing basketball, volleyball, and softball with these same teammates who excluded me and made me feel like I wasn’t actually a part of the team. Over these years, I learned the prayers with the help of my dad, who knew them from his childhood. Another thing that took place over these eight long years was my parent’s divorce. An important thing that I learned during this time was that parents gossip and kids repeat it. My teammates would ask me why my parents wouldn’t sit next to each other during my games, or why I would only go home with one of them and not both. When my stepmom came into my life, the biggest question became “Who is that?” As a nine-year-old, I could barely even define who my stepmom was. She was just a new woman who was in my life, and there wasn’t anything I could do to help it. I knew I liked her, and even started to love her, and I knew that’s what was most important. It only started mattering after my teammates started asking more and more questions about her. “Is she your new mom?” “Is your dad married to your mom and her at the same time?” I started to take my frustration from these questions out on my parents, which put an even further strain on my relationships with them. I wanted to know the answers to these questions just as my teammates did, but how was I supposed to ask my parents knowing it would make them feel even worse than they already did.
Learning about my religion through my teammates was a game of telephone, and I was the person at the end of the line. The most crucial thing I heard at this time was that “Gay people are bad.” I asked them what gay even meant, it being a word I had no previous knowledge of. They told me it was when guys kiss each other. The idea of this threw me for a humongous loop. I had never seen this on TV, I had never read this in a book, let alone seen it in real life, so was it even real?
That’s when I met my mom’s friend Jeff. I had known Jeff for practically my whole life, but I didn’t know him. One time when my mom and I were leaving his house, my mom told me he was gay. I was surprised that my mom would ever be friends with such a bad person. He committed sins, didn’t he? Why did he act so normal? He had always just been my Uncle Jeff, now he was going to Hell. But, I knew he didn’t deserve to go to Hell. That’s when I started questioning things.
The second gay person I ever knew was my hairdresser, Emily. She has been the only person to ever cut my hair. Being in her chair and having our quarterly meetings, created a special bond between us. My mom told me Emily was getting married to a woman. Woah. And I mean, Woah. I knew that guys could kiss each other, but girls kissing each other could not be a real thing. That means that I had a possibility of going to Hell. If I ended up being gay like Emily I would be going to Hell right?
School became a place of sanctuary to escape these questions from my teammates, and the questions I was wondering myself. I had great friends who never asked me about my parents or questioned my religious views. I got good grades and threw myself into schoolwork to escape the rest of my world. When middle school came around I made my first gay friend. She knew who she was in just sixth grade, and a part of me envied her for that. I would tease her about liking girls, when in reality I started to develop a crush on her myself. I was so conflicted about these feelings. I was so scared of being like Jeff or Emily that I hid who I was from every single person in my life. I wouldn’t talk about it, and even if I would think about it I would immediately shut those thoughts down.
Not being allowed to accept Jeff and Emily for who they are, and my parents being judged by everyone, made me really resent my given religion. All of these people were important to me in one way or another, and I did not like the fact that I couldn’t accept them for who they are. But at the same time, I knew my dad was baptized Catholic, but he still liked Jeff for who he was, so I knew I was able to too. I knew I could prove to my teammates that gay people aren’t bad. They are just like us.
I can’t remember the exact moment I knew I was gay. My crush I had on my friend had faded away, so I thought the gay had went away. For a long time I was pretending to be straight, it even got to the point where it was easier to lie about who I was than admit to being my true self. In middle school, if I was friends with a boy, most of my friends automatically thought I liked him, which gave me good evidence to prove my ‘hetero-ness’. But I remember when it got to a point where I couldn’t handle lying anymore. Even though this was a few years after I stopped playing sports for Saint Joan of Arc, and I hadn’t spoken to barely any of my teammates since our final games, I was worried about what they would think when they found out. I was the odd one out for eight years of my life, just because of the school I went to, now I would be the “gay” one. Looking past my insecurities, I decided that their opinions did not matter to me. I finally knew who I was, and I didn’t deserve to hide who I was because of that. I didn’t owe my former teammates that, I didn’t owe anyone that.
Jeff had moved away a couple of years ago so my mom and I didn’t see him too often anymore. One day while he was visiting, he was talking about how hard it was for him in high school because of his sexuality and how my mom was the only person he was truly able to be himself around. After Jeff left, I came out to my mom. The catharsis and vulnerability I felt during this moment was unlike anything I had experienced before. She reminds me all the time that no matter what she will love me for who I am, not who I love.
Coming out to my dad was more of a challenge for me. Even though he was raised Catholic, he definitely would not identify with that label any longer. So his Catholicism was not something I had to worry about. As much as I didn’t want it to be, it was still in the back of my mind. He could think of me, just how my teammates would, and that terrified me. I came out to my dad in a letter. More than anyone, I think he knew. Just like my mom, he accepts me no matter what.
The last parent I had to come out to was my stepmom, Shannon. My past experiences with God and my sexual identity have made me assume that I can only have one or the other. I knew it wasn’t wholly true, but a part of me believed if you loved God, then you could not love me, just for who I was. The whole time Shannon has been in my life, I’ve known she was a Christian. She has a relationship with Him that I admire and sometimes wish I could have as well. But, because of her religious identity, I had those feelings of first-grade soccer practice all coming back to me. Coming out to her, and finally being out to all of my parents, I felt like the most honest and true self I had ever been.
My relationship with religion has been on the backburner for the past few years, and I really don’t know what I believe in yet. No matter what I was baptized as I will always have the freedom to explore my religious identity and I find peace in that. I probably wouldn’t have chosen to be baptized into Catholicism. If it was up to me, I would try to find some weird Lesbian Jesus that I could believe in. But, there’s a certain comfort I find in being His child too, knowing that if He really is out there then He could be looking out for me. Like everyone says, God is good. But, Gay is good too.