I would describe my childhood as midwestern and suburban and my family as conservative and… well, conservative. I was a normal teen girl: loving to hang out with friends, being on sports teams, and going on missions trips. I fought with my parents about chores and grades. When I turned 16, pulling into the driveway 10 minutes after curfew seemed like the end of the world.
My upbringing was also heavily involved in the church. Some of my first memories are of watching my uncle preach while I tried to be quiet and patient in the front row. Some of my best memories are of spending summers watching God work in all the ways he does at church camp. And yet, some of my worst memories are of people of the church discriminating and degrading myself and my friends.
I am Bi. I figured it out the hard way by falling for my best friend in high school and since then, I have been taking the journey toward figuring out who I am despite that the people around me saw it as wrong.
It was a Tuesday night in September when my parents sat me down at the kitchen table. From their faces I thought someone had died. They explained that they knew something was going on that I was trying to hide, that what I was doing was wrong. I was given an ultimatum: cut all ties with my girlfriend and never see her again, or be forced to sit down with her parents, mine, and my camp director and explain our actions to all of them. I obviously, yet unwillingly chose the former and was sent to my room with two strict orders: to have no communication with the outside world and take the neatly written flash cards with bible verses on them and memorize them.
I was so broken and angry I don’t even remember most of the next week. Days later I was able to find a phone during school and call my girlfriend to tell her everything. I heard her voice break on the phone as if someone had kicked her in the stomach. We told each other how much we meant to and loved one another, and that was the end of it all.
My parents did everything you aren’t supposed to do when you find out your child is gay. I was angry at them for using my God, the God that loved the WHOLE world and brought my relationship together, against me. I was angry at how I was supposed to sweep a year of my life under the rug. They selfishly asked me to pretend I was happy so that everyone in our lives, including them would think that they didn’t have a messed up kid. Throughout all this, I kept quiet. Not to tend to my parents wishes, but because I started to believe them. For over a year, I didn’t tell even my closest friends. I sought after God and had to convince my parents again and again that I could be a “good Christian girl” and be in love with one too.
The rest of high school was a blur after that. I didn’t have a doubt in my mind that I wanted to be able to live in the community of a Christian college. Growing up in northern Indiana and longing to live in the city, Chicago was an obvious choice. Leaving the familiarity of home and my parents was surprisingly healing for me and North Park felt like a new home rather quickly. Then, almost exactly when I felt I could go back home to work at camp that summer a new person, I got a phone call.
The coming summer was a whirlwind of explaining my past to camp elders while they juried on whether or not I was suitable to work there. In this situation though, I wasn’t the main victim. My friend that had grown up going to this camp with me was being interrogated because although she put her personal life on hold every summer, the parents didn’t want a gay staff member working with their children. I stood behind her as we fought with all we had to work the rest of the summer at our favorite place in the world. That July, it all came crashing down as we were fired and told to leave the premises within the afternoon for “endangering” the morality of camp. If our parents not approving of our lives wasn’t enough, our second family was kicking us out as well.
I think after everything that I have been through I have been blessed. Blessed that I have had a whispering voice inside me time after time telling me that the hate I see in the world is not of God. And although my story is probably similar to a lot of people out there, the one thing that I think sets it apart is the fact that out of all the communities I have been a part of, the Covenant denomination, and specifically North Park have been the most affirming and I have met so many people that stand behind me whether I am gay or straight. There is a long way to go, but I see Light and Hope in this place, and while I am here, I want to fight to nourish that and make it grow.