It was 1995. I was a student at the University of Iowa and ran into someone who told me something about “National Coming Out Day” rally on campus. I don’t think I was excited or defiant of any sort, but I was curious and wondering. I was wondering about myself and who I was for some time and not sure what to make of it. At this point, a horrible movie called the “Homosexual Agenda” as well as how some people were defining faith as incompatible with being queer. Was I everything that I read? When I think back, I question myself of why was I letting these define who I was because my agenda was getting to class on time and studying. Also, how would they know about being queer?
Yet it is hard to feel good about oneself (or even society) when people demoralize and degrade you for being you.
So I went to see this event to later realize that it was me literally “coming out” that day. There was uncertainty about even being there and what my presence would mean. Yet instead of the gross montages of that horrible movie or the evil finger pointing from church elders, I saw people like me and people that were – well just people. The distorted perceptions given to me about degrading lifestyles and people were not here at all, and still I questioned. In fact, I met friends, smiles and good people – but I questioned.
It would eventually take me years to come to terms with myself as queer, but I can mark this as a step in my life. Lao Tzu says, ”A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step.” Life lead me into challenges but also into liberation. Over time, I became honest with myself as being queer. I would become an organizer to fight queer injustice and support equality efforts. I became a proponent of more coming out demonstrations and Pride because what it did for me.
Still, over the years I would come out over and over to people, and each time would be a challenge – especially with my parents. There were moments where I questioned just being, but I found strength in people and I was not alone. Each time was a moment of truth and sincerity.
Spiritually, I believe that God was speaking but not by finger pointing. I found myself back in church with people that did less finger pointing, more welcoming, and more questioning. I eventually found myself with a theology and ministry that was grounded in the Gospel of Matthew with inspiration from Lao Tzu and Zen scholars. I have developed a theology – that does not deny queerness or degrade people for being the beautiful people that God created. God made me as a broken and imperfect person and loves me just the way I am. (I had to write that a few times to let it really sink.)
Sometimes, on days like this, I just have to remind myself to take the next step.