I am a child of God.
For most of my life I was taught that this was the only identity that mattered. I later found out that the church looks at my social identity map like a teacher grade a term paper. They have their red pens out ready to cross off and take off points for wrong answers. So, what are all of my social identities.
I grew up in Bapticostal churches hearing sermons about the fires of hell that would burn my soul if I was gay but I also believed what I was taught that being a child of God was enough to save my soul. Around the same time that I came out I started attending a large burgeoning church in Long Beach. This church was attempting to resurrect its youth department and recruiting young adults to be youth leaders. I eagerly volunteered because I literally grew up in my mother’s shadow building youth ministries. I was excited to at the opportunity but I was scared because I knew that people would judge me if they found out about my sexuality.
So, I hid.
I wore gender neutral clothes to church. I decided not to accept any invitations to hangout outside of church. I even gave fake email information so that no one at church could plug in my email address can come up with my hella gay Facebook page. My mask worked for a couple of months and worked closely with our ministerial advisor because I was one of the older volunteers.
But I guess that my mask started to slip because one day that same ministerial leader indirectly called me out. Her exact words were “You have to make sure that you are leading a Christian life. If you aren’t leading a Christian life, then you can’t lead our youth or teach them about a Christ.” My face grew hot. Even without all the eyes on me they were on me. I didn’t know what to do so I left and didn’t return to any church for over a year.
I have a lot of identities that I may not be the best at fulfilling. I may not be the best teacher. I may not be the best sister or daughter or girlfriend. One thing I was always good at being was a child of God. Growing up in southern black churches I learned how to “do church” at an early age. By the time I was 12, I was president of both my church youth department, choir and usher board. By the time I was 17, I was a leader in the California State Baptist Youth and Young Adult Convention. Everything I am as a leader today I credit to my training in church. All of that was on top of being a great Bible student. If there was a PhD OF BTU (Baptist Training Union) I would have certainly attained it.
Yes, in my own way I was delusional. I was openly gay but I foolishly convinced myself that if no one at church found out I would be okay. I could still be the good church lady that I had been raised to be. I could have even decided to do a complete code switch and worn dresses every Sunday. And I don’t want this blog to sound like I was so brave that I never considered that as an option. At some point that was the only option. Everything I thought I knew about what a child of God looked like had been completely thrown out of whack. Was I still a Child of God with a necktie and Steve Maddens on?
I struggled for a long time. Even after I joined Unity Fellowship church where my own Pastor was a masculine of center lesbian my up-bring kept bringing questions. Not only was my view of how I saw my own identity changing but I saw gender in the church itself was changing. Could a butch woman be a preacher? Yes. Could a butch woman be a deacon? Yes. Could I still be considered a child of God in a button-down shirt, bowtie, and tapered fade? Yes. As long as God and I are in agreeance then yes, I can.
So, that’s my identity in the Kingdom. A Butch Lesbian Child of God.
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