Being gay, to me, was never a big deal. I "came out" when I was about 15 and was fully honest about my sexuality with most people in my life by the time I went to college. It was as simple as my hair being brown or my feet being unusually small for someone my height. I never felt the need to hide it or explain it. That is until I started serving in my local church.
I moved to LA in 2007 with my girlfriend at the time. We enjoyed our life as new transplants and soaked up our sunny beach days. We held hands walking down the street and kissed under streetlamps. In early 2008, I felt a calling to start getting involved in church again. I grew up with southern Baptist grandparents, so I had some interesting views about religion but I wanted to know for myself who God was.
I connected immediately to the messages of strength, forgiveness, love and finding wisdom. I got involved in the vocal team and started singing during service on Sundays. It wasn't until a few months in that I realized I had never mentioned I was gay or living with my girlfriend. I had somehow subconsciously allowed myself to go back into the closet. No one at that church had ever told me they don't allow gays, that I couldn't or shouldn't be gay, or that I would be ostracized yet I had allowed myself to believe that this would not be a safe place to "be out."
For years, without even realizing it, the thought had been drilled into my head that no religion or religious people accepted homosexuality. I can't pinpoint exactly where this thought originated but it festered under the surface for years and planted itself permanently in my heart. For a woman who had always been proud to hold her girlfriend's hand, it was a strange feeling to suddenly be afraid to be affectionate in public out of fear that someone from church might see us.
Six years later, I had broken up with the woman I moved here with (for a multitude of reasons including church). I dated off and on, now becoming more and more cautious of how I presented myself in public. At this point, I had become a leader in the church and had convinced myself that not being open about my sexuality was best. I was there to serve and to learn and I told myself, "if people don't know it doesn't matter." I didn't question my relationship with God. I knew who I was and I knew that God loved me and that my salvation was not in question. But with all the messages I was hearing about love, acceptance and reaching out to the hurting, I still could not persuade myself to believe I would be accepted just as I was.
In the beginning of the year, I met the most incredible woman I have ever known, Kriss Marr. Truly a gift made just for me. We began dating and learning more about each other. She grew up in a more conservative family and went to a Christian high school and college. She experienced many of the same feelings of needing to keep her sexuality unknown to certain people out of fear of judgment or not being able to continue serving in church or missionary groups. She struggled with this for years as I had. You see we weren't ashamed of being gay, but rather we were fearful that the friends and family who we loved would turn their backs on us if they found out.
On September 15th, 2014, she asked me to be her wife by surprising me with an entire musical of our relationship performed by our friends.
Over the next few days after the engagement, we talked about how we were going to reveal the news. We would basically be coming out for the second time. So, with Kriss by my side, I typed up an announcement stating I was getting married... to another woman... I'm gay. I posted it on Facebook and prepared for the worst. To both of our astonishments, we received message after message after message congratulating us and commending us on being so brave. People who I thought for sure would shun me have embraced me with love. Kriss has had people who she lost contact with years ago reaching out to her with their support. It has been overwhelming and truly inspiring to receive this kind of outpouring. That's not to say that there haven't been people who have said they don't understand or agree. Even still, most have quickly followed up those statements with "we love and care about you"! The heart of Jesus is exhibited in the greatest commandment given; to love God and to love people. This is what we have received and we are going to hold on to this outpouring as we journey into this next stage in our lives.
For years, we both had convinced ourselves that we would never be accepted and kept people at a safe distance so as not to let our sexualities be discovered. Unknowingly, we were counting people out and deciding for them how they would react. This is why I am telling our story. If I had read an article like this six years ago, I might have saved myself a great deal of grief and stress trying to keep myself in the church closet out of fear. As a teenager, I believed that my sexuality was no big deal because it didn't define me. As a 20-something I, without truly realizing it, had put myself back into the closet out of fear that it would be a much bigger deal than I originally thought. Now at almost 30, I have a new found freedom, a new found fearlessness and a new found hope in the world and in people.