I am in my third semester of my Counseling Program and am currently enrolled in a Group Counseling class that provides an overview of how to run a therapeutic group. I have learned a great deal in the class – everything from the stages of a group, the skills required, and the basic process of facilitation. Our culminating project has been to develop a Group Proposal on a kind of group that we would like to lead in the future. I chose to research, design, and present a group called “Gay & Lesbian Premarital Counseling” to provide a space for gay and lesbian couples preparing for marriage.
In my research, I was reminded that marriage is not wholly welcomed in the gay and lesbian community. Certainly, gay and lesbian commitment ceremonies and other rituals to celebrate relational milestones have existed for great lengths of time. However, because marriage has not been accessible for the community, it is received with sometimes mixed reviews, often referencing the idea that marriage is a product of a heteronormative society.
My group, then, postures an opportunity for gay and lesbian couples who DO want to express commitment and to do so through marriage, to reclaim this rite of passage. The reclamation process – among many other reasons – is a guiding force behind Chelsea and I’s wedding planning; not only do we want to signify our love, but we want to showcase the relatively new reality that gay and lesbians can (and should) participate equally in society.
Historically, and even present today, marriage includes sub-steps that all work together to create what we know it to be (i.e. engagement parties, bridal parties, rehearsal dinners, etc.). Chelsea and I, of course, are looking at all of these steps, and are careful to decide which ones we would like to incorporate and also, which ones we would like to do-away with.
An important step that we did want to include was engagement photos. Photos, we recognize, are like tangible artifacts that represent a season of life. We wanted to honor this experience, and we wanted a way to remember this exciting season of not yet married, but very much committed.
We decided that because our wedding is going to be outdoors and have a classy but “earthy” vibe, our engagement photographs could showcase the more artsy and urban side of our relationship. Prior to the shoot, we mapped out several stops that highlighted our favorite murals downtown. Most of these were in the RiNo area of Denver and it was energizing to decide which designs and colors would be the backdrop for our shoot.
Our photographer, Steve Tinetti, did an incredible job. He mastered the art of capturing both us and color while still creating perspective in the photographs. In addition to his immense talent, we also had a lot of fun and felt very comfortable in his presence. For nearly three hours, Chelsea and I snuggled, smiled, and ate ice cream (true story) as he snapped away with his camera. We had a blast.
Some old idioms do have meaning and wisdom – don’t they?
And hey, I’m all about public discourse, enriching conversations, and working to find spaces for disagreement. However, when it comes to a person’s individual life, I have yet to figure out why it has become culturally “okay” to offer unsolicited commentaries.
I won’t dance around the elephant in the room – I am speaking specifically to my experience as a lesbian. I came out several years ago and even today continue to encounter pushback in the form of texts, Facebook messages, and the like from individuals who are affronted by my “choice” to be gay.
The most recent message just came a few weeks ago; a scathing, loaded message that, quite literally, was “a message from God” from the person who wrote it. Included in this long note was comments about the surprise and shock that came with realizing that I was gay, specifically that I was touting myself as both gay and Christian.
This person wrote, “I was once again surprised and devastated to see on one of your recent posts that you still consider yourself to be a Christian even though you’ve chosen a lifestyle of homosexuality. That is not possible, Heather. Please believe me that it is not my desire to preach to you: my utmost desire is to obey God in reaching out to you in love and truth, and I do so because I care for you as a person.”
You can imagine I had lots of thoughts about this. One, I didn’t choose this identity. What I did choose to be was a Christian. Also, homosexuality is not a lifestyle. IT IS NOT OKAY TO SAY THIS. A lifestyle is how a person chooses to live (i.e. “a lavish lifestyle” would imply lots of vacations and luxury travel). It is problematic to assume that an LGBTQ+ person has a specific kind of lifestyle. LGBTQ+ people are not robots and certainly do not live in one particular kind of way.
And lastly, it is probably best not to make presumptions about my relationship with God OR how God sees me. Nobody can say this definitively. We are humans. I am tired of communities or individuals thinking that they have their market share on who or what God stands for. The entire premise of faith is that of mystery. Faith is expounding on certainty; it is finding solace in the inexplicable. Faith is trusting something bigger than yourself. Faith is vested in hope, love, and humanity. Yet, so many of these kinds of messages reek of self-righteousness, doctrine, and a prescribed kind of religion.
I wanted to share some other comments, words, questions, and conversations I have had to have in the last few years since coming out. Many of these have been so uncomfortable. And so, I write this with the hopes that if you do know someone struggling with their identity or someone who has already come out, please please – don’t ask them these questions. I’ve listed them below for reference.
Whatever you think about LGBTQ+ people, understand that your opinion does not carry more weight than the right for that person to exist. Their story is just as important as yours. It is tempting and often the norm to feel as though you MUST share what you think about a person’s life experience. Here’s the thing: you don’t.
All you need to do is listen. Hold space. Make no assumptions. Be curious (but respectful). Be open.
“Why can’t you change?”
This question assumes that a person a) should change or b) hasn’t already asked this question. I prayed at least a hundred times for God to change my identity. I wanted it so badly. I even tried to be straight. It doesn’t work. At one point, I even considered trying conversion/reparative therapy. The “therapy” works on a premise that having a non-conforming gender identity or same-sex attraction is a mental disorder. Conversion therapies are largely discredited by governing associations the psychological and psychiatric realm. Countless studies show that the therapy is ineffective and harmful.
But to the point – how would you feel if a core piece of your identity existed and someone asked why you couldn’t change that? Could you help that you were born with a particular skin color? Could you help what nationality you have?
It is offensive to postulate that a person must change to be “better” or accepted.
“Have you tried to pray or talk to God about this?”
See above. Yes. A million times.
LGBTQ+ individuals who also hold a faith tradition have likely explored this within a faith lens. It’s no wonder that many LGBTQ+ individuals leave or shift away from the church as an institution – if they are not welcome there, why would they go?
And after all, how do we know God hasn’t already created us as the people we are meant to be?
“But, Heather, it’s not possible to be both Christian and Gay.”
If you believe this, then fine. That’s your prerogative. However, your experience and understanding of faith and Christianity is bigger than you. Leave room for other ideas. Leave room for experiences you can’t necessarily understand. Christianity has not and could not look the same across the world. I am telling you – Christians in Rwanda do not look like Christians in the United States.
It would be important to then ask (to yourself), well, why do I believe this to be true? Why couldn’t a person have a different sexual identity and also be Christian?
Perhaps this will conjure up the six bible verses (known as the clobber passages) that mention this.
Is it possible the text was written for a different context? Is it possible that the writer could have been speaking to something else? It is possible that the text does not hold up today? I am not suggesting the answer to these questions, rather, these are the kinds of exploration a person who would make a statement about someone else’ faith should be asking themselves.
“You have so easily fallen into this lifestyle…carefully consider the choices you are making.”
To say that a person’s exploration and understanding of their sexual identity has been easy is ludicrous. More than anything, it’s also dangerous. According to the Trevor Project, LGB youth are 5 times more likely to consider suicide than heterosexual youth. That’s a big number. And, we’re talking about lives. We have to be more delicate than assuming the road for an LGBTQ+ person has been “easy.” It is anything but that. It breaks my heart to think about the isolation, anxiety, depression, fear, shame, and loss that comes with this process.
Stick by your person. It’s scary. They need you simply to love them, regardless of what you think.
“How do you know your gay?”
To that question, I can only ask: how do you know you are straight? Exactly. You just know.
I remember as a young girl thinking I was different because I wasn’t attracted to boys the way others were. I pretended, and of course I can objectively recognize a man’s beauty, but I was not drawn to it the way I felt I was supposed to be. I know I am gay because I am attracted to women. In the same way, I know I am a vegetarian because I don’t eat meat. I know that I have green eyes because I was born with them. Much of what makes us us, isn’t easily extracted with explanations. It just is.
“Maybe you just haven’t met the right guy.”
Oh boy. I tried being straight for a number of years. I believed this. I thought that maybe I just hadn’t met the right one. And so, I went on a dating blitz and had dinner with boys from all over the place (Denver, Centennial, Parker, etc.) I dated some more seriously. And trust me when I say, it was not a fit. Even when I met someone who was everything I would want on paper, when it came closer to physical intimacy (or really, any intimacy at all), I balked big time. It felt so, so wrong. This is not about meeting the right man, it is about knowing which gender is the one I am attracted to.
Full transparency: this was hard to write.
It is hard to revisit these painful wounds that I have experienced. Yet, when they keep happening, I know it’s then time to say something. I still struggle the residual impact of coming out. I wrestle with anxiety and shame. I fear I am doing something wrong, sometimes. But I am happy to say, that BECAUSE of my faith and trust in God (and myself) I know who I am is good. I know I am worthy. I know I am loved. No matter what questions or words come my way, this truth cannot be altered.
I am flying back from one of the most beautiful, genuine, and enjoyable weddings that I have been to in quite some time. This wedding ceremony and reception was for my dear friend Ali (college roommate, friend, and field hockey teammate) and her long-time partner and love, Mike. The wedding took place in Connecticut, near the shore, against a stunning backdrop of water, clear skies, and a perfectly crisp fall evening.
Better yet, to celebrate this momentous occasion, many of our college friends were able to attend. Reunions like this are some of the best – we get to celebrate love while also feeling the love all around too. I laughed, danced, chatted, took photos, and felt an ease that is familiar when you are with people that you have known for a really long time. We cried happy tears when we saw Ali in her dress and celebrated when the announcement finally came: husband and wife!
As I fly back home to Denver and reflect on a weekend full of emotion, friends, and love, I cannot help but think about Chelsea and I, as we move forward and continue to plan for our own wedding in 2019. Sure, it is next year. And sure, it is not until August. However, for anyone that has planned something of this size, you know that logistics, details, and everything in between has to be discussed far in advance.
Chelsea and I have been engaged for a while – in many ways, this has made the engagement seasons have its own place (which I highly recommend). We did not jump into planning and dates and dresses. Yet, now that we have turned the corner of a double engagement, it is time to get to the books. And so, we have.
Chelsea and I have at least 10 excel sheets with information – everything from guest names, vendor ideas, budget items, and timelines that we have carefully curated from a variety of existing resources. What is unique, though, is that we are planning a wedding that does not fit a traditional mold. I mean, after all, we are two women and inherently, that creates difference (good difference, without question). Because of this, in many ways we are able to re-define how and what we do. And more than that, because there are few “models” for what an LGBTQ+ wedding entails, we are free to integrate old (or new) traditions as we wish and to re-think what a wedding even has to be. Let’s be real – that’s kind of awesome.
What exactly does that mean? Well, below are a few questions we have received here and there as we have jumped head-on into this adventure. This is only the beginning and I look forward to writing more about this journey of preparing for marriage and eventually, becoming Mrs. & Mrs. Oglesby.
Who asks who?
We had a double engagement. That means that we each proposed to one another at different times. However, for couples that are looking to get engaged, you can literally come up with any combination. Maybe only one person asks. Maybe both ask at the same time. Who knows! There are many variations and I think it is about what reflects the couple and what feels right.
Are you doing your bachelorette parties together? Your bridal shower?
When there are two brides, you have the opportunity to shift and explore distinctive ways to celebrate the upcoming nuptials. Chelsea and I decided early on that we did want to do a bridal shower together, however, we wanted to keep our bachelorette parties separate. We want the space to be with our friends separately while also joining together important women in our life, too. We look forward to planning these in the coming year.
Are you both wearing dresses?
Yes. Is it always that way for lesbians? No. Of course not. Anything we do is not necessarily the “lesbian way” to do it. Just like how opposite gender couples do not reflect ALL of that kind of relationship, the same goes for us too.
How in the world do you organize a bridal party?
Rule of thumb: invite the people you love to stand with you on your wedding day. Instead of thinking about bridal parties as composed of only a group of bridesmaids and a group of groomsmen, we see our bridal party as simply our bride tribe. The gender shouldn’t matter. For us, it doesn’t. We’ve chosen our most important friends – male and female – to stand with us during the ceremony and to dance with us afterwards. For us, this idea of community and inclusivity is what guides us.
Who walks you down the aisle?
Again, the important thing is that someone important, meaningful, and supportive is the person that escorts you into the ceremony. For Chelsea and me, this will be each of our dads.
We know that this is not always the case for couples – particularly LGBTQ+ couples that are not supported by their parents – and so another alternative is to walk each other down the aisle or to walk yourself, too. If there is a person that means that much to you, then of course, you can ask them as well.
What about the vows thing?
In addition to writing our own vows, we’re also planning to incorporate recited vows that we’ll say together. We like the idea of adding our own creativity while also making a sacred commitment.
However, LGBTQ+ couples can also use traditional liturgy – if they want. I think this is less common, but it does happen. Again, it’s about what feels right and reflects the sentiment and heart of the couple.
What do you do about non-affirming guests?
Ah, this is tricky. We are still diving into this, but Chelsea and I DO know that we want our day to feel full of love, acceptance, merriment, and joy. It will be absolutely essential for us to surround ourselves with people who love us for us. Should individuals feel uncomfortable attending a lesbian wedding, then it’s worth a conversation about whether to attend our not. We want a peaceful, blissful day, one that is not tainted with differing opinions, ideas, or thoughts about the sanctity of our relationship.
Do you have to follow all the typical wedding traditions or protocol?
So, while we’re early in the wedding planning process there are some traditions we already know that we will not be integrating into the ceremony or reception. These include the bouquet toss and garter toss. We don’t find these traditions to be particularly relevant – both from a gender and modern perspective. Also, we are definitely not planning a seating chart. The main reason we don’t want to do this? We feel like people should sit where they want to sit. We want our families and friends to feel open to connecting and meeting, and so a more fluid seating chart may help us get there.
However, there are some wonderful, traditional aspects of weddings that we plan on adding to our day. As we both have immensely important people that won’t be with us (i.e. some of our grandparents) we want to make sure we can honor their presence and influence on our lives. We’ll be having an empty chair and hopefully photographs in certain places to remind us of their life and memory. Additionally, we’ll absolutely be doing a first dance with one another and dancing with our dads. Both of these symbolic acts represent a transition in our lives and we feel that it’s important to call attention to. It might look different, but we are eager to explore the options that come with these acts.
Our wedding planning is really just beginning. To say that I am ecstatic is a major understatement. There is no other human that I would rather spend my life with. So, planning all of this with her is just a total bonus.
An old friend and I got together for dinner and a movie earlier this week. We met towards East Colfax, a bustling, growing part of Denver. I parked my car (admittedly, it was a bit stressful as I have only recently become competent at parallel parking) and made my way towards the restaurant.
As we ate our food and caught up on the small details of life (work, summer activities, and dating) she mentioned that on several dates she had gone through the now famous 36 questions that are thought to lead to intimacy between two people with recent suitors.
The study, led by Arthur Aron and a group of psychologists, found that “reciprocal and escalated self-disclosure” can be associated with the development of closeness. The research and findings became famous because they were featured in the Modern Love column in the New York Times. I first heard about the study while listening to an episode called “To Fall in Love, Do This” and was fascinated at the idea that interpersonal vulnerability could create such a strong bond.
My friend told me more – she shared that the last activity after asking these series of questions (there are three sets, designed to build in depth) was to stare into the other person’s eyes for four minutes. FOUR MINUTES. Immediately, I thought to myself, I definitely need to do this with Chelsea.
We haven’t tried it yet – but I want to. In the mean time, I have read a bit more about the questions and the study.
Some of the questions in the exchange include items like:
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time?
Why haven’t you done it?
When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
Better yet, I stumbled across this charming, touching, tender video of three different couples going through the process of asking the questions. I literally wept. There is something about watching love manifest between two people, especially in their interactions. It is both inspiring and soothing.
Check out the video below – you won’t be sorry. And, if you get a chance to start exploring these questions with someone you love (it doesn’t even have to be a partner!) who knows where the conversation might lead.
I have often found that the presence of the Divine is surprisingly subtle.
Experiencing, feeling, noticing, observing, communing (or really, whatever you want to call it) with God, for me, is typically an occurrence in the quieter, more reflective spaces of my life.
This is counterintuitive to many of the religious spaces I have found myself in over the years. Places where God is equal to loud praises, loud shouts, and loud songs. And sure, God can be found here too, in fact, I think that God is accessible anywhere and everywhere.
Yet, for me I feel God when my environment errs on the side of discreet and still.
So, it was completely “on brand” that when riding my bicycle this afternoon I felt the noticeable, pressing experience of God. Gliding along the paths near Crestmoor Park I was sorting through what felt like a million feelings. I had just returned from Rwanda. Even after two weeks, I was literally gleeful to be with Chelsea again. I was considering upcoming transitions. I was thinking about weddings, fall plans, and the end of summer. I was also recalling conversations with my parents, wanting to make sure that they were both doing well after not speaking with them during my travels.
A lot was on my mind. At one point during these thoughts, I turned the corner, touching on my brakes ever so slightly when –
I felt a need for all things to be quiet – mostly the noise in my head. And so, with resistance, I silenced my questions, to-do lists, and contemplations. I existed in the moment, amidst the vibrant, green trees and slightly rocky bike paths. Suddenly, a mantra –
You are loved. You are enough. You do not have to explain yourself.
These phrases came to mind – on repeat – like a song that you just cannot get enough of. I wondered to myself: how do you know when you are skimming the line of God versus when you’re giving yourself positive self-talk?
And, the real answer is that I don’t know. I literally have no idea. However, I do have a hunch.
When I am with God, everything is in balance. Everything is with perspective. And, any thoughts I have (positive or otherwise) feel exquisitely simple and yet equally profound. It is as though my spirituality is full of reminders of love, yearnings for compassion, and fierce dedication to hope. All of this, without any of my own internal baggage. It is quite nice.
Prayers, revelations, and messages come together – time with God is never so clearly sparred out and divided like we do with our church programming. God just is.
I kept riding my bike, sifting through this nugget of faith that I was greatly welcoming. You see, connecting with God in this way has been more difficult lately. There has been so much moving around, so much change, so much distraction, to be frank. Because of that, I have missed these still moments that allow me to push further, beyond myself, so that I can access God, the Divine, and explore life from a fresher perspective – even if it is just for a moment.
Connection with God, I am learning requires connection to self. One must take the space. One must understand their identity. One must be willing to find what is available to them in any moment. God does not require a church, God does not require a certain verse or saying, God does not require a performance.
God just desires you – me – us.
Realizing this is changing my prayers, too. Today, I prayed a simple set of questions, a kind of prayer of humility:
Thank you for today.
Thank you for bringing me home.
Thank you for the love I have in my life.
My hope is to steward this love well.
Where can I grow?
Where can I learn?
Where can I forgive?
Where can I hope?
Where can I give?
Where can I receive?
Where can I support?
Teach me how to explore these spaces – whatever my resistance, whatever my disposition. May I live well. May I love well.
God, help me to not forget the richness of this life. God, be with the hungry. God, be with the lonely. Be with all of us – regardless of belief, regardless of circumstance, regardless of anything. May your presence and experience be known. May your love reign.
I love you.
Faith is both incredibly simple and extraordinarily complex.
I will forever fall short of describing my faith. I mean, how does one describe that which can only be felt?
Here’s to finding God in all kinds of places, in the most unexpected of ways.
A friend asked recently how I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Chelsea.
Reflecting slowly and wanting to give a full, thorough answer, I still found myself rendered speechless. Articulating the ways in which one falls in love or has the necessary intuition to know the person to spend their life with is a lot like putting words to picturesque mountain views, laughing without restraint, or times when pure, untamed joy strikes. It’s nearly impossible.
There are some experiences that transcend words and explanation; they just are.
Chelsea is the woman I choose because of who she is. Chelsea lives life, welcoming all experiences, while opening the hearts of people around her. She laughs fully, explores freely, and loves without reservation. She is intensely intelligent and is uniquely self-aware. Though I have known Chelsea for many years, she is the kind of person that you can learn something new about with each passing day. One of my favorite parts of Chelsea, though, is that she is silly and makes me laugh. She holds space for profoundly important conversations and ridiculously silly moments. The balance between the two is the key to a keenly rich life.
I also knew I wanted to share life with Chelsea because of the kind of woman she encourages me to be: my full, real self. I can be who I am without reservation. In our life together, there’s an ease, a grace that is immensely refreshing. It has been in this ease where we have found a rhythm and the space to let love grow.
I trust her when we drive together at night. She celebrates my dreams. We share duties in the kitchen. We discuss our strengths and weaknesses. She rubs my shoulder when I’ve had a long day. Big or small – there are corners of my life that are now forever different because of her.
For these reasons – and at least a million more – I said “yes” when Chelsea asked if I would marry her.
Certainly, “double engagement” was always a part of our plan. Our initial discussions of engagement in the summer of 2017 included the core agreement that we both wanted the opportunity to ask each other in marriage (and say “yes” too). Plans came to life. I asked her to be my wife just days before our 1st year anniversary. And, as snow turned to Spring, I wondered if Chelsea would be asking the same question soon.
Turns out, she was voraciously planning. Thick in preparations for the end of my first school term and working full-time, I was not caught off guard by the few signs that the proposal was coming soon. Randomly, I noticed that a particular mid-April weekend was loaded with special occasions: a massage for me, a day at the park, and a romantic dinner for two. Chelsea shared that because she had landed a big design project that she wanted to treat me. Cool, I thought.
I had no idea of what I was getting into.
On the morning of Saturday, April 14th, Chelsea and I slept in as the sun crept into our bedroom. We smiled as the day began. It was going to be a great day.
We grabbed a casual brunch with a friend before making our way to Washington Park. We go to the park all the time, so I thought this was just another standard park Saturday. In addition to wearing my go-to Patagonia jacket, I decided to wear my very loud Colorado hat. Additionally, I had packed a football and frisbee in the car but decided I would grab them after we finished our first lap around the park.
Ironically, as the walk began, I prompted an entire conversation about wedding planning. Washington Park is one of our top choices for a wedding venue and so it seemed fitting and appropriate to start dreaming as we took a stroll around. Oblivious to Chelsea’s nervousness, I suggested we stop at a bench near the North end of the park to take a closer look at the boathouse. Quickly, and probably with some surprise, she obliged. We sat, and I drank a free sparkling water that we picked up along the way.
After a few minutes, Chelsea cleared her throat.
“So, I thought I could show you some of the prints I told you about earlier this week.”
I was confused: why would we be looking at her prints at the park?
I asked, “are they on your phone?”
“No, I brought them with me.”
Opening up her backpack (which now, seemed completely out of place given the fact we were just taking a walk) she pulled out a black book with four prints inside. I opened the book and began taking the prints out, one by one. I tried to let each one sink in slowly. By the third one, I was pretty sure that something special was happening. I could feel it. And, the third print included a short lyric from one of “our songs” that we want to use at our wedding.
Chelsea prompted me on the last one, saying that, “there’s one more,” while turning it around (it was facing backwards near the end of the book). As she flipped it over, I read the simple, but powerful, emotion-laden words, “Heather, my beloved, will you marry me?”
Indeed, it was happening.
Of all the things, I had to ask: “Do you have a ring?”
Obviously, she did. She even had it in the most perfect tree ring box. Every small detail was planned.
My stomach turned to mush, and my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest. Tears brimmed swiftly, and I said an emphatic, “YES!”
She smiled and remarked, “I’m not quite done yet…”
I breathed heavily in and out. I wanted to hold onto this moment. Everything was happening so fast. We locked eyes and I felt time freeze as she read a letter she had written for the special day. She read each word with such sincerity. She told me she loved me. She shared the kind of joy she felt in doing life together.
Getting on one knee, she opened the ring box and asked again – “Heather, will you marry me?”
This time, I said a louder “yes” while also kicking my legs back and forth and hugging her tightly. This was really happening. She put the ring on my finger and I gasped. It was stunning. The shock commenced: how had she pulled this off? When did she talk with my parents? Where did she hide the ring? How long had she been planning? Who knew what was happening?
With glee and joy, we called, texted, and messaged family and friends to share the news that we were engaged – again. Double time.
Double engagement is much more than two proposals. To me, the value of two individuals – already whole – coming together and proposing is that we both are opting in. We are both committing. We are both saying “yes.” This is not so different from the real-life reality of relationship: on the tough days, we each have to show up for each other in different ways. We make the choice to be together and we feel that a double engagement symbolizes this important aspect of relationship.
The rest of the day was a dream. Immediately after the park we went to get our favorite kind of ice cream at Sweet Cow. The ice cream shop has been iconic in our relationship; we went there at least 15 times in the first few months of dating in 2016. For the evening, Chelsea had booked a romantic dinner at Dazzle, a Denver jazz club downtown. Sharing champagne, we finally took everything in and celebrated. It was lovely, and I was simply, so happy.
So, now doubly engaged, we are beginning the formidable task of wedding planning. It’s a new step in our relationship, and we’re doing our best to adjust and figure it out.
What I know for sure is that Chelsea will be my human forever. She will be the one I marry.
Life will throw us challenges, difficulties, and hardships – I know this because it already has. And while our life won’t be perfect, I am sincerely grateful that our faith, our love, our hope, and our commitment will be what can stand anything. I am relieved to believe in this kind of love. Chelsea has changed my mind about what is possible with love.
Before, I thought love was an ideal to strive for and a way in which to live a life.
Now, I know that love is power – it can transcend anything, withstand anything, and hold up anything. Love is more than just something to hope for, it is something to be felt, to be shared, to be cultivated. I do this better with Chelsea in my life and if that isn’t a reason to marry someone, I don’t know what is.
Cheers to love and forever and for tree ring boxes.
I first learned about the development of Our Bible App after Chelsea attended the Gay Christian Conference in 2017 (now Q Christian Fellowship) and learned about the project. The creator, Crystal Cheatham, was looking for devotional writers.
On a whim, I submitted a devotional and low and behold, it got published.
Our Bible App is a “progressive worship and meditation experience” that offers multiple bible translations and additional podcasts, video, and writings from pro-LGBTQ+ individuals and advocates for interfaith inclusivity. You can download it here, and is available in Android or Apple format.
The mission of Our Bible App is broad; the app “…supports the belief that spirituality is a spectrum and that faith is a journey. At its core, the holy text was written to be inclusive of all of God’s creation especially those on the margins.” The goal of the resource is to “untangle the binds that Christian colonizers have spread across the globe over hundreds of years.”
That’s huge. And, I’m grateful to have some small, teeny, tiny part. I’ve included my devotional below (titled “from, through, to“), but if you are interested in learning more about this work, you can read about it in Sojourners and via PBS.
A closeted woman, I carried the secret of my sexual identity for over 15 years until my aunt bluntly probed during a late, wine-infused Thanksgiving evening, “are you gay?”
The world stood still. I froze. I knew. “Yeah, yeah. I mean, yes, I’m gay.”
In the aftermath of her asking, however, I wasn’t yet ready to fully “come out.” Yet, though my journey ofopenness began here, I was still so far removed from any ounce of a freedom to be me.
I was stuck on one repeated worry, “what would God think?”
Though I could verbalize my gayness, living life openly (and liberated from fear) would take a lot more time – and perhaps a lot more conversation (wine included).
The taste of freedom for my half-opened gayness lasted one week. Then, like a tidal wave absorbing each grain of the sand, I fled from the truth, using the following year to try and “fix myself.” I tried believing that being gay was wrong and in a twisted expression of love, that my faithfulness for God could be conveyed through a path of righteousness – shame and doubt as the main forms of transport.
Denial worked, to a point, until I came upon the intensity and depth of the gospel. Instead of ignoring questions about who I was and how I was created, I began to ask them to God. I slowly sought to remove the voices of my head, the sound of religiosity flowing from my past, and to hear only the voice of the Divine. I could be vulnerable – not necessarily yet for others, but first, for God and for myself.
The gospel is a story of God’s people returning to who they were made to be. Our God does not desire or expect us to hide from Him; that “god” is a man-made, offensive, and manipulated version of who God is. God is wide, vast, loving, and able to exist within tensions and complexities that we can hardly grasp. This God re-writes the narrative that humans are only evil, malicious, and sinful people. God made us in His image, and hence, there are fragments of His character everywhere.
A return to God is less about a perfection of righteousness, and more about the righteousness that comes from Him, God. God created us as free, open, and genuine humans. When it comes to our identity this is even more pressing: if we are unable to see that all of us come from God then how can we celebrate the lives we have been called to?
My aunt always assured me that “God makes no mistakes” and until I explored, acknowledged, and celebrated my whole identity, especially being gay, I was unable to proclaim that indeed, I was no mistake. I’m not; my roots and origins are abundantly from God.
What God wanted, was me to be me. For me to live as His daughter, unashamed and copiously open to His love. When we are released of living into the shell of someone else, we are free. We are given grace. Like our identity, this is from Him. My prayer is that we can receive it.
If all things, including our identity are from Him (God), then all things are also through Him.
Being a Christian who also happens to be lesbian is hard.
“Coming out” was arduous not because of the brave boldness that is required with others, but because an internal transformation of integrated identities is needed in asserting who you are.
Internal transformation shifts attitudes of fear to celebration. This kind of transformation occurs through Christ, the Messiah, that is God who meets us in human form. Repeatedly, I had to remind myself that as a woman, I was enough. I was wonderfully adequate. I did not have to change because an ideology or institution was telling me that I had to. I returned to the question, “what does God want?”
To live authentically with unyielding love for God and others – that’s the answer.
When I finally came out – to myself, most notably – I did not accomplish this through my own abilities. Christ’s love was flowing and alive in me. I could accept myself because I knew I was safe, and wholly loved with God. Christ infused belief and hope through me and brought me on a path I did not expect. I could be Christian. And, also, I could be gay.
Accepting each part of our identity is our life’s work.
We never stop this process. As we take a broader look at our existence, our lives become testaments and offerings back to God himself. Not religious sacrifice, but of loving, genuine devotion and gratitude.
When I reconfirmed to the world that I loved Christ (and that I was gay) I began to have conversations I never could have anticipated. People reached out to me, thanking me for my sincerity, and in turn, shared the deep corners of themselves that they had previously hid. I met someone new. I healed from a broken heart.
When we allow our identities (all of them) to stitch together and form one, unique, diverse fabric, we are presenting ourselves wholly to Christ. God can admire the work that has been done, the beautiful blending of His fingerprints and our choices, and know that are made to exude, proclaim, and propel love forward.
Let us bring our identities from God, through God, and to God, with hearts full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control and all good fruits that remind the world that being gay and being Christian are just one parts of a diverse fabric of God’s people.