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Sweatpants & Equality l LGBTQ+ History Month – Honoring My Own History

By Jerusha Gray

I am queer.

I’ve only felt safe enough to be open about my sexuality, and to participate in our community for a couple of years. It is as much a part of me as my blue-gray eyes and my graying mohawk.

I grew up in a tiny town northeast of Seattle, Washington. It is predominantly white, protestant, middle-class families. Homosexuality was talked about in hushed tones as a choice people made when they turned from god and delved into debauchery.  Being gay was commensurate with being sexually deviant and predatory. It was a choice one made. You could be healed from your selfish deviancy with prayer and supplication.  You could, after all, “pray the gay away.”

Puberty was hell.

Girls were growing intoxicating curves, and damn, they even smelled good. I chided myself each time I noticed the burgeoning curves of my female classmates’ bodies. I was weak. Something was wrong with me. I was ugly. That was it. If I was more beautiful, I would attract the attention of the boys. Attention of the opposite sex would trigger something in me that would make me want to be straight. All of this was my fault.

And then I saw him in the breezeway outside my math class, and the world stopped.

He was standing with a group talking and laughing.

He was clad in a purple hooded sweatshirt, jersey shorts, Adidas slides and socks.

His voluminous brown hair was piled up on top of his head with a messy bun.

He turned his head, made eye contact with me, and smiled.

I suddenly couldn’t breathe. He was stunningly beautiful, a showstopper to say the least.

Stick a fork in me, I was gone for this boy.

My love interest was a classmate who was assigned female at birth. He was living life as a teenage girl and deeply unhappy with a body that was seemingly betraying him.

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To meet someone for whom you have such a well of love and deep respect was both exhilarating and a complete mind screw. It threw all that I thought I knew out the window. This wasn’t dirty and deviant. The way that I feel about this person wasn’t an attempt to turn away from my faith and pursue hedonism.  It weighed heavily on me. I continued to hide my true affection and put up a front. I was ashamed of my shortcomings. I was ashamed that I was weak. My soul ached to be held by this person that I loved.

I was convinced that it was a phase. Clearly, I had been influenced by pop culture and the advent of the internet. Christina Aguilera in the Genie video was tainting my ability to toe the straight line. If I was strong enough, if I loved god enough, If I wanted it enough, I could be this person I was sure that I was born to be. Time could heal me.

I severed sections of myself in the name of holiness. The surgery to remove those bits of me was woefully unsuccessful. I carried the scars but the flesh remained. They were a stark reminder of my futile attempts to be reconciled, to be brought to wholeness, to be found faithful to some grand plan where heterosexuality is the standard to which we are all held. I had been measured and found wanting.

I can’t point to a single interaction or lightning strike of inspiration that freed me to give myself permission to live authentically.  There are certainly mile markers of influence, but no road to Damascus moment.  I realized over time that my faith and my sexuality are not actually at odds with one another.  Faith, sexuality, gender and expression thereof, are parts of me. They shape the way I see the world. They guide the way I respond to those around me. It is not shameful.

I’ve come to a place of gentleness. I dare to practice radical kindness with myself. It is a daily battle to quiet the influences inside my head that shout that I am choosing to put aside what is right and pursue wicked desires. I am being selfish. It’s true. I am being selfish. I have the audacity to choose myself over the dichotomous belief that there is but one way to love.

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I am still irrevocably in love with that boy from middle school. It hasn’t faded even a teeny tiny bit.  I’ve loved this man for over twenty years. Now I get to hold his hand and stand by his side with my head held high. I am consciously grateful for this time in our lives. We’ve tried to love others. It doesn’t work. I am for him and he is for me. I shudder to think  that I could have missed it all.

I’ve wasted much of my own history in trying to be something that I am not. I only have so many tomorrows. This day, and the tomorrows to come will be spent being who I am, who I have always been. I am not ashamed of being queer, not anymore.

I love who I love and I am who I am.

Amen

Author’s Note: If you are reading this and have a similar story, I want you to know that you are not alone. The LGBTQ+ community is vast and diverse. Many of us have been where you are now. There is nothing to hide. That being said, it isn’t always safe to be open about your sexuality and gender. There is no shame in putting your own safety first.

Need help? There are resources available to you right now. The Trevor Project is available 24/7 365 days a year. You can call or text them at (866) 488-7386, or reach them by going to their site here.  You can also reach out to the Trans Lifeline by calling (877)-565-8860 or by going to their site here .

You are worthy of love and have the right to express yourself authentically.

You are not alone.

 

Jerusha Gray

Jerusha Gray is insatiably curious. This curiosity, coupled with a brain that never shuts up, drives her to paint and draw, read prodigiously, make music, write, and sing in grocery stores.

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