My earliest memory of being attracted to another girl was probably around 3rd or 4th grade when I thought to myself, "Kissing is SO gross... but if I had to, I would kiss Allie." I remember thinking her skin was so beautiful, and wanting to keep her safe. I knew this was a different set of thoughts, but had no idea what to do with them.
A few years later, my middle school "boyfriend" invited me to a non-denominational church for youth group. From the first night, I was absolutely in love with the place, with Jesus and with my new found faith. Throughout the years, I remember always feeling like the church, on a global level, treated the LGBTQ+ community terribly, but not knowing what to say or do about it. I just knew in my heart that my kind, loving God had no second thoughts about LGBTQ+ people, and neither should anyone else. At 15, I was taken away from my biological father (another story) and moved in with one of my favorite youth leaders at the time. From that day on, I lived my life in a fishbowl, especially after he became the pastor. The ever-present thoughts I would have about being so attracted to my girl friends, strangers, etc. were quickly pushed aside as I became a church golden child and spent my time "telling my testimony" to whatever group or ministry wanted to hear it. By the time I was 20, I had spent significant amounts of time with very well-known ministries and had experienced so much. And yet, always felt shame and lack of belonging.
After having left the church for other reasons, I found myself in my early twenties working as a restaurant manager, and one day seeing a woman walk by, and being so profoundly attracted to her that it shook me. I didn't speak with her, but I remembered her vividly. Still do.
In the same restaurant, I stood in a conversation where my best friend of 10 years told a lesbian co-worker of ours that yes, she believed she would go to hell for being gay. It broke my heart to hear that. For both of them, and admittedly, for myself. Hearing my best friend say that was almost like hearing her hammer nails into the coffin of who I was hiding inside.
It wasn't until I met Jennifer, the love of my life, that my heart started to unlock. And it did so whether I was ready or not. Without my permission. I couldn't help it. She was the answer to the question in my heart. She was kind, smart, strong, level headed, hilarious and wow–was she beautiful. I fell fast, hard, and all at once. Immediately, I knew–or thought I knew–that I would have to choose. I would have to choose my life with God, or starting a life with Jennifer. I would have to choose either to let this love come crashing in, as it was, or slam the door and never open it again. And when I finally told the closest person to me, I said, "Listen, I have real feelings for this girl," the first thing she told me was, "Well, then you just need to cut off all contact with her." That advice was quickly followed up by my best friend (the one I mentioned earlier in the story) telling me that she's "not worried about it because its just a sin issue and I just need to overcome it." So here I was, with the two people closest to me telling me that I needed to quickly shut it down, and yet, still feeling in my heart that love would win. My love, our love, and God’s love. I knew it would win. And I'm so grateful it did.
When I finally came out, to myself and my world, the incredible support I received far outweighed the painful abandonment of those closest to me. Love won all around me.
Jennifer and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary on August 17th, 2019. Today, we live a full life together as we walk through marriage, love, life and being foster parents to four incredible kids and parenting our one biological son. We raise our children in such a way that encourages them to pursue the kind of relationship that they want with God. We eagerly try to change the world around us by being the love that we see in God and have been given by God.
Every now and again, I find myself talking and praying about whether or not I can be both gay and a lover of God. Sometimes the panic of old religious tendencies sets in and I have to remind my heart of who I am and who God is: lovable, loved and a lover.
Because love always wins.