The first time I outright challenged my parents on our views, I was twelve. At school, there was a thirteen year old girl who was forced to change for gym in the separate handicap bathroom.
I watched this girl after each gym class as she parted ways with the rest of us. In the classroom, she had been known as the beautiful brown eyed smart girl, one of my only rivals for the top spot in most classes who obnoxiously raised her hand to answer every question the teacher asked. Other kids poked fun at her like they did myself and anyone else who consistently received As, calling her the “teacher’s pet” or “smart kid” as if somehow that was an insult. This didn’t seem to bother her at all which I admired because the teasing did bother me. After one of her friends outed her in the cafeteria in front of most of the school, none of those labels were used to describe her anymore. From then on out, she was The Lesbian.
Being treated as less than, separate from, & deviant caused her to turn quiet in class and to hang her head in self-reproof. It scarred her so deep, you could see the embarrassment pouring out of her face like blood pouring from an open wound.
I felt horrible. I didn’t want to watch her because I didn’t want to add to her discomfort, but I couldn’t help myself. She was publicly transforming from a self confident young woman to a sad girl embracing self-hate. My heart mourned for her dissipating confidence. I did not feel different from her. I knew I wasn’t supposed to feel compassion for her and her sinful ways, but I was overwhelmed with it. I kept wishing I was allowed to be her friend.
After one class as she headed in the opposite direction as the rest of us, another girl called out to her, “yeah, get away from us, you dirty dyke.” She picked up her pace and did not look back. On the bus ride home that day, I cried. I could not stop thinking about her and how much pain she must be in. I made up my mind to question my mom about it when I got home.
“If God is love and wants us to love others and treat them well, why do we shun gay people?” Although I was quite certain I would get in trouble for asking, I had to.
Mom shushed me. She sent Hope & Hannah into their room to play and then shut the door. She covered herself in her patchwork quilt blanket wrapping it tightly around her belly. Looking back, I think she was subconsciously trying to shield my unborn baby brother from hearing my disobedient thoughts. She called Bill in from the adjacent room and asked me to repeat the question.
“If God IS LOVE and loves all, why do we shun gay people? Even Jesus hung out with lepers and prostitutes.”
The response leapt from his mouth like a gator jumping out of the water to devour its prey, as if his answer had been patiently sitting just on the edge of his lips waiting for me to ask that very question. “Homosexuality is disgusting.” A well rehearsed phrase in our community, “It is the most vulgar thing a person can do. Once a man lies with another man or a woman with another woman, it perverses them so that all they think about is sex and they want to have sex with everyone and every thing they see.” He was even repulsed by his own words.
“I don’t understand though,” I said, “We are all sinners. I’ve sinned, you’ve sinned, Mom has sinned. Why do we embrace each other and even drunkards, adulterers, and cheaters, in our church but not women who love other women or men who love other men?”
My insistence in continuing to show disagreement shocked them. Mom interjected, “It’s not love. It’s lust and perversion.” Bill added, “Homosexuality is not like other sins. It is the worst of all sins, perhaps even worse than suicide. In the Bible, the sentence is Death.”
He proceeded to read to me from the book of Leviticus. I asked why we still believe being gay is wrong but we think it’s okay for women to wear pants or makeup and why we still eat pork (although soon after we gave up both pork and shellfish). We argued back and forth for what felt like hours before he got so disconcerted he walked away.
The very next day when I got home, Mom asked me to sit next to her on the couch so she could share something with me.
Isaiah was one of her very favorite books of the bible. She read it through dozens of times, making notes in the margins & highlighting her favorite verses. She handed me her leather bound book of life and told me to turn to Isaiah 55 verses 8&9 and read them aloud.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
I didn’t need her to explain the lesson to me. It was one I knew better than I knew myself.
God knows best. Do not question Him or your parents who are his mouthpieces and sent to teach you his ways.
In that moment I knew I could never bring this up again.
I wish I would have, but I also did not try to befriend that girl. I never stopped watching her & my heart never stopped breaking for her.
I did not question many other things after this either, at least not out loud. This silent gnawing memory of that girl would not simply disappear. It went on to help me better understand myself and my sexuality and to help me open my eyes to the concept of one collective humanity.
In fact, this whole incident would become the catalyst in my mind to encourage the challenging of many “truths” I had been told. It would become the incident that provoked me into THINKING FOR MYSELF.