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. We published one such letter a short time ago. Another reader recently wrote to us in a similar vein. 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 can’t recall a specific time in my life when I was first attracted to the same sex. It was as natural as the progression of owning my sexuality with the opposite sex. The only difference was I remember thinking it was a feeling I would have to hide from my community lest I become even more of a backslidden pariah. My sexuality was as much about learning to love myself as learning to love another.
Most of my time at Bob Jones Academy (BJA) seems like a blur when I look back. BJA gave me the opportunity to excel, to hone my speech and writing skills, and to be a part of community. On the surface the facade I was living was everything I could have hoped. I had friends that loved me, a family that loved me, an administration and support system that “loved” … me. Yet every day it seemed a piece of me was slipping further and further from my grip. I didn’t love me, and somehow in the midst of so much godly love I had never felt more unloved in my life. Throughout high school I could feel myself slipping into the depths of depression only to be pulled back out again by rigorous schedules and chapel services telling me that if I just loved, trusted, held, and knew God more that I would feel whole. Good enough. Unashamed. All I had to do was love God more and everything would be fixed.
Looking back, I know that the key to those feelings (for me) was coming to terms with my sexuality. Sexual development was not even a blip on the BJA radar. The more asexual I presented myself the more becoming I was to the organization. I no more identified with my sexuality or my gender than I did with the constricting panty hose that I drew up my waist each morning and covered with skirts and high heels. I did everything right, and yet I hated what I saw when I looked in the mirror and I didn’t know why.
I left the Bob Jones community after high school and went down the road to college. For the next four years I continued to struggle with my sexuality and with becoming the person I wanted to be. My experience was in some ways not unique to my time at Bob Jones, but the person I was becoming was very much a product of my past. Somewhere in the midst of community, love, and fundy babble I lost all sight of who I was. I was clinging to heterosexual relationships trying to have others define for me what I could not; I was holding to fundy truths and Bible verses that I thought could save me from slipping but it wasn’t until I let go, wholly and completely, that I began to find bits of clarity in my life.
I remember it so clearly the first day my therapist asked if I loved me. I couldn’t even respond because tears were streaming down my face so fast that they were forming wet spots on the couch. I had spent so much of my life being shamed (for being born female, for my sexuality, for my rape, for being selfish, etc.) that I didn’t know how to love me anymore. I didn’t know what there was to love. Years later when I left her office for the last time I remember crying again but not because I didn’t love me, but because for the first time in my whole life I knew I was good enough. I knew I didn’t have to bear the burden of shame. And I knew that I loved me, and that’s a powerful thing. Even if the rest of the world doesn’t love you and doesn’t know how to love you, if you know the simplicity of loving who you are when you look in the mirror in the morning then you have known great love.
Today I can write this letter as a confident queer bisexual femme (or as my friends affectionately call me–a sapiosexual). My current surroundings no longer dictate my sexuality, and while living in Europe, I’ve come to realize that my sexuality is not what defines me. It is a part of who I am but it is not all of me. My partners gender matters no more to me than the color (or presence) of their toe hair.
There was no big coming out for me (my parents and extended family are still in the dark), and I don’t know if there will always be acceptance on the other end of this story. But I know that today, here, in this moment, I have unbearable grace for my past at Bob Jones, for my current endeavors, and for my future–whatever that might be.
* a pseudonym
Letter to the Editor comment
Thank you Caroline for the courage it took to tell your story. You have inspired me to continue telling mine. I also attended BJU and I’m happy to say… I love myself now too.
I was particularly interested in what you had to say about being encouraged at BJU to be asexual. This is part of my experience as well. As long as I showed no tendencies towards sex at all, I fit in perfectly.
I pray for your parents and extended family–that they will come around. I now understand that our families acceptance of us is as much a part of their own acceptance of themselves as anything else. I pray they find self-acceptance as you have.