Kaitlin Park

Kaitlin Park.jpeg

I first became aware of my sexuality around high school. I didn't exactly know that I was attracted to women because I was taught that attraction to the same-sex was "disordered" and sinful. What I did know was that I felt awkward about relationships. I knew I was supposed to desire a relationship with a man, but I struggled with extreme anxiety when I would picture myself in those relationships. My fears centered around advice I received from many people throughout my lifetime: You should marry your best friend. I would always think to myself “but what if my best friend was a woman?” I had boyfriends all through high school and even one in college because I thought that’s “what I was supposed to to do.” I wanted to get married so badly because I thought that would make me a better Christian. That I would be holy first and happy second because that's what mattered to God. And if I could just get a man to say "I do" then my romantic feelings towards my close female friends would disappear.

I didn’t have any role models that identified in the LGBTQ community. I certainly never heard of LGBTQ Christians. I was taught that those identities were diametrically opposed. My mother would listen to Christian radio hosts that would get huffy with fear and arrogance around Pride month which always resulted in a rise of listeners. However, the message year-round was that you could not be gay and be Christian. Because I was Christian, I most definitely wasn’t a lesbian. 

It wasn’t until my first year at a conservative Evangelical college that I heard the phrase “I believe you can be gay and be Christian,” but the qualifying statement attached was, “as long as they don’t act on it.” The use of the word “they” meant, “not here, but elsewhere,” “not us, but some people,” and as much as it could have hurt me, it was a door opening. It was the beginning of my own journey.

My second semester at college there was a mandatory evening chapel. I cannot recall who the speaker was or the topic they preached on, but that was the night I went back to my dorm room, eyes brimming with tears, feeling like I was at the end of my rope. My roommate had left so I was all alone. That’s when I began to cry out to the Lord, and in the gentlest way, He responded. Not the echoing voice, burning bush, type. Just that quiet voice in your head that speaks directly to the heart and brings with it a peace that doesn’t come from any worldly source. It said to me, “I know you. You’re hiding something from me.” It’s true. I was holding my attraction towards women behind my back like a child because I thought that would be the only way to present myself as holy before the Lord. But that’s when everything changed. He said, “Hiding it is not surrender. Give it to me and I’ll show you what it’s for.” 

Not only was I able to accept myself as a lesbian beloved by God in that moment, I had hope for a purpose behind it. I had peace that God didn’t write the story this way just for me to be a character that everybody ignores or shuns. To God, I was visible, and I was beautiful. I quickly adopted affirming beliefs and have stayed true to them since. I fully believe that my LGBTQ identity is beloved, affirmed, and blessed by God.

As soon as I began telling my story to close friends, they offered books. Love is an Orientation by Andrew Marin was recommended the most. I bought it at the end of summer so that I would have a source of relief as I went back for my third semester of college. This book was the first of many that I would tear through with highlighters and annotations in the margins knowing that my life would be full of people questioning my identity, relationships, and of course my faith. I read blogs by people like Caitlin Stout inspires me to this day. And who could forget how important all of my friends at college were to me. So many of the people I found through a stressful process of testing the waters of their ideology first have turned out to be the most life-giving friendships I have. Their courage to be themselves has helped me find my voice through all these years. Their dedication to Christ and building a space that reaches into the margins reminds me daily that this is all for God’s Kingdom first.

I am now 23, a graduate from SAGU, working as a barista in rural Texas. I work for and with some of the most wonderful people and I cannot be happier. They all fully embraced me and gave me space to truly flourish with authenticity. I have met some of the most amazing LGBTQ people through the coffee shop, and building relationships with them has proven to be one of the best sources of joy and community in my life. Everyone there has touched my life in ways I cannot thank them enough for. 

I’m also in a committed relationship with a woman I adore. Our relationship has been pressed on all sides. About a year ago, we were asked to step down from our leadership positions in our church because of our relationship. The healing process for both of us has been a long and painful journey, but as with all things God is drawing us closer to Him. She has been my rock through everything.

My life is nothing like I imagined it would be. I take life day by day knowing that I am who I am and God celebrates with me. I am learning to find my voice after so many years of keeping silent, I am using my story to be the woman I needed to see when I was younger. This is for you, young Kaitlin; your life is so precious and it is okay that you’re not like your friends. I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you for a long time, and I’m sorry for the fear and shame you lived in. If you could see us now, I know you would cry with joy. I will be there for others in the ways I couldn’t be for you.