essays, faith, queer

What do we do with all this grief

Today, Sarah Bessey asked her readers on her Substack about all the losses that come with deconstruction/faith evolution. It made me think of a related, often simultaneous loss when that deconstruction is part of coming out as queer:

There’s something I tell queer people when they come out and lose so much (or publicly identify as allies). Yes, you will lose belonging and comfort. Maybe your job, church, friends, family, sense of stable identity, certainty, easy acceptance into your communities, even safety. But by being vulnerable, that courage opens many doors as well. You are not alone in this. You are welcome to grieve together with others who have lost the same. You are now part of a free, inclusive, authentic family. It is so so so painful, and there is so much to mourn and lament in the rage and tears. No, it isn’t fair. Yes, it would have hurt so much less if people saw and loved the full, real you.

But you are part of a very long human history of people who have gone through this. Your queer ancestors fought for this and you will too for someone coming after, so it isn’t so hard and so lonely for the next one and on down through the ages. Some nights, when the apartment is too quiet and the ache burns at the friends who no longer speak to you, the events you’re not welcome at, the churches advertising to you that would encourage you to change to earn God’s love and approval, the family you have to lie to and hide from and put on a smile for… some nights… there will be a post about an LGBTQIA+ meetup group. An affirming church trying to scrape together two nickels to buy Christmas gifts for a foster family inviting you to their fundraiser. A trans pastor will pray for all like you to find found family. A gay therapist starts a Facebook group for others like you to share your story and maybe one of them is in your area, so you meet up for coffee.

Some nights you scream inside and write sad poetry and plan on what to tell your therapist in words that convey this hole in your heart where all those people from your past who loved you when they thought you were cis and straight used to be. But some days and nights light up with rainbows. Some days and nights your willingness to be open and say “me too” and seek community and even post online under a pseudonym or go to a church with a Pride flag on the sign or click the Zoom link or bring your lunch to a park with the LGBTQIA+ group in town or volunteer at the homeless shelter where kids like you go when their parents kick them out…

Sometimes that makes it worth it all. Every tear. Every stomach ache and bout of nausea as the words left your tongue and hung in the air: “This is me.” Every pioneer who came before you. Every DEI meeting you will sit in and future ally you will educate and lie you will debunk. Every table you sit at and gently correct and hold boundaries. They will be worth it. Because you will tell your story and it will help someone else get free too. It will help them show their true colors and you witness it burst forth, slowly at first and then in full spectrum, as they embrace who they are and stand up for themselves and bloom into something spectacular.

And I’m just speaking from one experience, but even if queerness or allyship that costs something doesn’t resonate so much with your story, maybe you can replace those words with your own: neurodivergent, antiracist, a faith shift, progressive/liberal, disability pride, body positivity… whatever works for you, I hope you have those moments when that vulnerability cracks the clouds wide open and the light gets in.