Since we began our series of “People of lgbt-BJU.org” posts, we have been hearing from a number of people who may not yet be prepared to tell their stories publicly for various reasons, often involving sensitive family situations. One frequent commentator on our blog posts wrote us with a little more information. With her permission, we are reprinting her letter here. We encourage anyone who needs a person to talk to about similar circumstances to write to us. Your inquiries are confidential and will be treated with compassion and dignity.
I grew up in New England, in a conservative church environment and home. My family joined an Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) church about the time I was in middle school. As a teenager, we got a new pastor that was pro-BJU. As a senior in high school, I visited Bob Jones University. I chose BJU because I looked up to my pastor, and since I was a perfectionist their idea of excellence in everything appealed to me. I was a legalistic fundy through and through at the time.
I don’t remember hearing of anything gay or lesbian growing up. At BJU I heard the rants and raves against homosexuality. It was just something foreign to me that was taught as worse than murder. At one point in my sophomore year I had a friend ask me if I was a lesbian. I was shocked and wondered why she’d ask such a thing. I told her no, of course. A good Christian would never be THAT. And I was trying my best to be a good Christian by living up to the list of dos and don’ts, as I’d been taught.
After graduating from BJU I moved back home for a couple of years, then moved to Greenville to be near my best friend. During that time, I had another mutual friend ask me if I was gay. He mentioned something he noticed in my behavior. Again, it surprised me, and scared me. If he was right, I was heading down a path towards ending up with a woman and not a man, and that was not acceptable in my BJU-infused mind. So I figured I’d better be sure to find a man to marry. After all, I made it all the way through BJU without my MRS degree! Not for the lack of guys trying; I just wasn’t interested enough.
I had always played the straight role, because that was what I was taught about life. I soon met my husband to be, and we married in 1989. I ended up in therapy as the results of childhood abuse issues became evident within my marriage. I entered therapy and started the long journey towards emotional health. Early in this time, I got a new job and met a woman that turned my world upside down. Long story short, we had an affair, but I struggled greatly with guilt over it. When my husband found out, we separated.
I went back home for a summer, into the arms of more typical conservative Christian advice: the litany of “it is wrong to be with a woman.” At the same time, my husband decided to take me back, so I moved back with him. I entered an ex-gay group for a year of further anti-gay agenda. I soaked up whatever I could hear or read because I truly wanted to rid myself of this “abomination” and be the good Christian I felt God wanted me to be. The group shut down and I was left by myself. I read books and did what I could to try to make the lesbian desires go away. I prayed; I was prayed over. I did the ex-gay thing; I read the ex-gay books. Nothing worked. Fifteen years after my one gay relationship, I was still gay.
I did learn along the way, the older I got, of a world beyond my extreme Fundamentalism. God brought me out of my box and into His real world. Having to LIVE in a real world after spending five years at BJU took some adjusting, but I made it beyond.
About five or six years ago, I decided that I should try checking out the “other” side of the argument regarding homosexuality, so I researched some pro-gay material. I read up on all the Biblical “clobber” passages. I struggled with reconciling my spirituality with my orientation towards women. And I found a big surprise. God wasn’t so upset about it as He was made out to be! I could not accept myself that way, as a lesbian, unless I was assured that God would accept me that way, too.
Looking back on my life, the pieces fell together. My life made more sense. My lack of real connection with guys, my desire to be closer to my friends that were female. I realized being lesbian isn’t all about sex, as it’s portrayed in the fundy box. It’s about your inner self. What makes you tick, and what fulfills you as a person.
I came out to my best friend first. She was very accepting of me, and remains so to this day. A few coworkers became aware of my orientation. Coming out to my husband was another story. That didn’t go over so well. I had rose-colored glasses on, thinking that would go agreeably. He ranted and raved, preached at me, and threatened me regarding custody issues, since we have two children together. He pressured me into telling my sister by threatening to inform my parents. All his family knows. He’s a preacher’s kid, no less!
To shorten a longer story, I decided to stay in the marriage to protect my children. At the time I came out, they were just three and six. As time has passed, hubby has stopped preaching. We run the household and just keep going. My husband is committed to his marriage commitment, and apparently hopes that some day I will “repent” of my sin.
I am now at a crux in my life. I have one foot in the closet and one foot out. I feel it is time to step out further in the process. What that process will ultimately produce, I’m not sure. I know what I hope and dream for. Despite the questions, and in the midst of the occasional turmoil of my daily life, I feel God’s gentle peace and urge to move forward in my life.
The fears and shame that haunt my BJU-infused memories have tried to shut me up, and shut me down. But God’s peace is more powerful. So I step forward each new day in the person and integrity of who I am. Who God wants me to be, not what other people want me to be. I am a lesbian Christian woman who loves God. I thank Him every day for showing Himself to me, so that I don’t have a false image of Him in my mind. And I carry His great love for me in my heart.