Yesterday I wrote a post entitled My fearfully unveiled face it documented some of my coming out story, you can find more here in my post Coming out at 57 . I wrote it a number of years ago in response to some of the criticism Philip Schofield encountered when he came out at the same age. It was just before this that I had written to all of my adult children to tell them what I was going to tell others, and while their responses have been mixed they have been largely supportive, and in the case of two of them very unsurprised.
I wrote about a deep knowing at the age of ten, and how I had tucked that knowing away, it was not log after this, that my parents took the decision to move from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to England, for them it was a coming home, for me it was a very disorientating upheaval, and a complete change to the life I had known. This was followed by their divorce soon after that, which involved more upheaval and disorientation, between the ages of ten and fourteen I moved home three times, including the move from one continent to another. To say that I was a confused and mixed up teenager is to put it mildly! When I tell my story I now recognise that I do what the wonderful comedian Hannah Gadsby describes as tucking it away into jokes ( her show Nanette is powerful and revealing and helped me a lot). My life was not full of the trauma that hers was but I do tell the story of having moved from going to school with the Sultans daughter to living on a pig far in rural Essex. I don’t talk about the impact of the move across continents, the sudden change in lifestyle, the impact of my parents divorce, the reality of my fathers alcoholism. I also rarely talk about my life in Kuala Lumpur where my escape was the swimming pool, the only place I felt comfortable in my own skin. I was a big child, tall and big boned, probably more athletic than fat when I look back at the photos, but I thought I was fat, and I struggled with fitting in, in any way. It was a privileged life and came with all manner of unhealthy expectations.
So, I landed in rural Essex, hurting and confused and expected just to get on with life, I suddenly had a stepfather and more siblings, and frankly felt like a square peg a round hole, or more likely a round peg in a too small square hole! My sex education amounted to a book left on a shelf, and an instruction not to get pregnant, and some awful mechanical biology lessons at school. Relationships weren’t talked about ever so I took my longings for love and channelled them in two ways; 1. confusing love and sex, and 2. looking for God somehow, I began to go to a local Anglican Church in the middle of nowhere, where the liturgy became like a balm for my soul. Sadly though I felt that God required me to earn His love, and I knew nothing of grace, God was definitely a He and removed from my life, requiring me to be good and to behave properly, given the confusion of love and sex, 2+2 did not add up well! My confusion with sex and love did end up in the forbidden pregnancy, and that thankfully is where things changed. I refused an abortion, and eventually married the babies father, we had four more children, and were married for 32 years. They were difficult and wonderful, but in honesty mostly difficult. We were too young, and too mixed up. But. we met with God in different ways, and slowly and gradually my image of God shifted from a God of love to a God of grace, but for me it took a long time. I look with wonder at my adult children and wonder how they have managed to turn out as such well balanced and amazing human beings!
Life was still full of challenges and changes, we walked through the diagnosis of our middle son with congenital heart disease, we moved for a few years from rural Essex to Houston Texas, we then walked through the diagnosis of our two other sons with type one diabetes, with the angsts of teens who were coping with parents who were barely coping. I was suffering from depression and anxiety, developed a peri-menopausal thyroid related condition and just kept struggling on, sometimes drinking too much to numb myself. By now we were working for the church, which led to being accepted to train for ordination. My studies led to an engagement with liberation theology, probably most particularly feminist theology, and my world changed because my image of God changed. God became one who was interested in my and one that I could really relate to, and I mean really relate to. Of course I could articulate and had a living faith before this, and was able to articulate it well, but something in me shifted, and I knew I wasn’t satisfied with myself or my life.
Sadly but inevitably our marriage came to an end, it was a messy complex end, but I am not going to apportion blame and I know that my coping mechanisms and growing sense that I had been trying to be someone I was not had set my life crumbling. It was as it turns out the ending of our marriage that set me free to discover myself, to re-find that ten year old, and to take her knowing as a gift. I can vividly see where I was, and the two friends I was with! It is that well imprinted in my mind. told a few friends and received their support, and love given and received was so much more than struggle and sex, and God, being God who delights in all that he has made probably breathed a sigh of relief and said “finally”. In a sense I was like St Paul, I had been blinded to myself, my needs, and my desires, even seeing them as bad and unacceptable, and with the scales gone I saw myself finally created and named as good…
I finally saw that in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, all are one, and I am one with them, hidden in Christ with God!