Today we celebrate Coming Out Day! Today I honour all those who have had the courage and strength to come out of their closets, especially my two children. You are an example to me! And to those who are still in the closet, I hope that my love and support can bring some light, warmth, and hope in that small space. I am working for a world where everyone can be out of their closets, living fully who God created them to be, without fear or harm.
I wrote this piece a few weeks ago, but saved it for today. Let’s sell all the closets!
Yesterday I was driving with my 13 year old non-binary child. We drove by a sign that said, “Closet Sale, Saturday, 10-5.” Xavier said, “That’s rude! What if someone needs it.” And I said, “I guess I could sell ours because all my kids are out of them.” We laughed. This is where our family is.
Twenty-three years ago when my oldest children were newborns, I could not have foreseen this place, this life, this way of looking at the world. Ten years ago when we entered our first experiences of parenting teens, I could not have imagined myself in this way of thinking, this way of seeing, this way of believing.
And yet, God has brought me to this place where I laugh about my children being out of the closet.
I grew up in a conservative evangelical church tradition. I knew a God that required perfection and punished those who did not perform. Sin was moral, and choices for which you were eternally responsible. I would say I lived in fear, but that wasn’t my conscious state of being: I lived in self-righteousness. Like Paul, I could claim a high and mighty heritage. I was born a pastor’s daughter. I had known God all my life. I had followed all the rules. I hadn’t gone through a rebellious teenage phase. I went to Bible college. I wanted to be a missionary (if Dad was a pastor and that was virtuous, then I would take it one more step to get in God’s good books). I married a good Christian young man. I knew without a doubt that I was going to heaven because I’d said some words of acceptance and tried my best to follow through.
I also knew other people were going to hell because they didn’t follow God. I knew that people outside the church were judged. I knew that the version of Christianity practiced by Catholics was suspect. I knew that smoking was not only a sin, but indicated that you were a bad person. I knew that sex before marriage was wrong and led to God’s punishment. I knew that people who chose alternate sexual lifestyles were condemned by God. I knew right from wrong, good from bad, Godly from ungodly.
And yet, there was another voice.
The other voice told me that the system didn’t hold together as I was taught. It told me that you couldn’t have it both ways: you can’t say Jesus did everything necessary for my salvation and then tell me that “all” I had to do was accept it. Then Jesus didn’t do it all! It told me that surely even Catholics had hold of some truth. That smokers still love their children and are kind. That babies born out of wedlock shouldn’t be condemned. That gay people are still human. That if Jesus really did do everything, then it has to be true for everyone. It told me that I couldn’t do enough to measure up.
Thanks be to God, the Spirit heard the faintest of voices, my voice, wanting it to be true, wanting to know another way, wanting to know a different God, wanting to be loved, wanting to be free to love. I have come to recognize the voice of my Beloved Spirit, as I have come to better recognize my own timid voice that calls in response. That other voice was the voice of the Spirit, nudging me to see beyond, to see outside, to see more. She called out to that part of me that yearns to be loved because She knew that being loved cannot be selfish or self-righteous or exclusionary. And my voice was the timid whisper in response, “Can it be true?”
So we come to yesterday, in the car with my non-binary 13 year old laughing about not being in the closet, enjoying the relationship we have. What lies behind that is years of work by the Spirit softening my heart with love. Today, I have a transgender son, Jasper, whom I love with my whole heart. I am proud of him beyond expression. I love his partner, Micheal and am so proud of who is becoming. And I know God loves them. I have a non-binary 13 year old who is on a journey of exploration of their gender and sexuality and is on their third gender expression and their fifth name. I love them fiercely. And I know God loves them. I have three grandchildren, all born outside of any legal marriage, and I love them to bits. What joy they have brought me! And I know God loves them. I have close family members who are recovering alcoholics and not only did I not die of shame, but I still love them and support them and know that God loves them. I meet regularly with my community, with whom I can be honest without judgement or shame. And God still loves me. I believe in a God who loves all and includes all, and I have found others who believe the same, so I’m not alone.
I used to believe in a God of anger and punishment, and I tried to live up. But in the closet of my secret sins and failings, the Spirit met me, loved me, brought me life. I have stepped out into a life of love, joy, acceptance, and inclusion. So I guess my kids aren’t the only ones who have come out of a closet.