A week after writing my post on coming out at 57, I find myself reflecting on my recent journey. I came out last year and can say it was a bit by bit journey, internally I had done a lot of soul searching, having known forever that I had never been comfortable in my own skin, something was always out of kilter. To finally say the stumbling words that sexuality might not always be so easily defined, or as neat as many may think was a huge relief, and I can say that at the time and in that place I knew that I was safe, and that the friend I told would not judge me. After that I told a few others, working out for myself where it was within the LGBTQI+ rainbow I found myself, and I tend to swing between lesbian and queer, queer because it feels odd to name myself a lesbian when I was married to a man for so long, although the truth is that is the truth! Also queer because it feels a bit more fluid, and I like fluid, as it speaks to many other areas of my life too. From that point I have been very open because for me at this time being semi-closeted did not and does not feel like an option.
So for the last few months I have been living with this new truth about myself out in the open and not as it had been for most of my life under wraps, and that is both empowering and terrifying, safe and unsafe. I have received a huge amount of support for which I am very grateful, but also unsurprisingly I guess, been on the receiving end of some quite hurtful comments and questions, often from well meaning people who lack understanding. So no my 30 year long marriage was not a lie, and no I don’t wish I didn’t have my 5 amazing children, and no this isn’t a phase ( I am 57 for goodness sake), and no being LGBTQI+ is not like being on the autistic spectrum, I could go on, but you get the picture.
For years I was partly invisible, and yet visible, and now I am experiencing that visible invisibility in a different way. I feel visibly invisible when I lead the Methodist Churches “God In Love Unites Us” conversations, because over and over I find my very humanity being brought into question, comments such as “those people” make me “other”, then there are those who point to Scripture while very often cherry picking verses out of context, which while revealing a deep seated misunderstanding and ignorance that runs through the churches historical teaching ( and some of it recent history) wound so easily with their certainty, and yet strangely all of this is deemed acceptable because we are working towards the holding of contrary convictions.
Now please hear that I do know that I am not going to agree with everyone on everything, but when I find myself being a topic of conversation, and so often without the real chance to speak up I feel visibly invisible. I feel that while I am in the room I am not in the room, and when I challenge someone on their mad assertion that the next letter to be added to be LGBTQI+ will be P (for paedophile) I feel drawn out, naked and vilified, I add that I have heard that suggestion twice now, and know from conversations with others that these are not isolated instances of hurtful ignorance.
As much as we try to create safe spaces and respectful conversations there are instances when for some of us these conversations become VERY, VERY personal, and they are hard, and we may need to take time out to recover from the impact of them. I know that I am not alone in feeling like this, many of my friends have voiced similar concerns and feelings, and I am not asking for special treatment, perhaps just a heightened awareness that this is about our identity, our humanity, about our relationships, our feelings, and yes that means all of us…
So let’s go gently along this road, let’s be kind to one another and let’s try to see ourselves, all of us as fearfully and wonderfully made, loved, chosen and cherished by God.