I Fell in Love with My Best Friend: Achsah’s Story

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Achsah” is a pseudonym.

I remember attending a wedding. I was maybe eight or ten at the time and the pastor’s oldest daughter was marrying a young man in the congregation. The only real detail I can conjure up is that they made it a point to let everyone know that the couple had saved their first kiss for the wedding.

As I sat watching this first kiss, I remember thinking that it was a beautiful thing and decided to save my first kiss for the marriage altar.

I grew up in a church that was affiliated with Joshua Harris’s church. His books were at our little bookstore, in our homes, and taught like gospel truth. Couple that with my parent’s odd obsession with Vision Forum Ministries, and you have a young girl that knows nothing other than courtship.

When I was about seventeen, my mom realized that I was old enough for the boys to come after me. Or something like that. So, she bought three brand-new copies of I Kissed Dating Goodbye. She kept one, gave one to me, and one to my younger sister. For a few weeks, we would meet in the living room and discuss a chapter. I don’t remember much about the book, looking back. I remember that my younger sister hated everything about it and tried to push back against it all. But I was the example. I had to be the one that agreed with everything my parents believed.

Besides, it sounded good. My younger sister liked guys. But they terrified me. I didn’t want to have to try and navigate a relationship with one of them. Courtship promised a formula that would keep everything in neat little boxes. If I didn’t have sex and saved my first kiss for marriage and made sure to cover up then I would not get my heart broken. If I let my parents lead our relationship, then I would have the perfect marriage. And I wanted it. My life plan consisted of children and my world revolving around them, and, by default, that included a husband. But a man in the picture was just a minor detail in the grand scheme of things.

And then.

Well, then I fell in love with my best friend. Suddenly, all of the songs made sense.

The skies were bluer. I walked on clouds. Everything made sense. But me falling for a girl was so confusing. There was no formula for this new development. I wasn’t able to talk to my parents about it. My heart, it seemed, was not something I could hold on to. It gave itself away before I knew what was going on. And it wasn’t only that. I never knew what attraction was. Or consent. Or that I would actually want to engage in sexual activities. Honestly, the thought had never occurred to me.

My wife and I began dating the month after she came out to me, which prompted me to come out to myself. By then, I knew I would spend the rest of my life with this woman and that it would be good and full of happiness.

Neither of our parents were thrilled. I remember my dad saying that if I had only talked to him about what was going on, he could have talked me out of it.

We moved shortly after that.

In the year-and-a-half since we married and moved across the country, I have been slowly extracting myself from the conservative mindset. As I am trying to figure out how to be a wife, I am realizing how much I don’t know. I have found that instead of wanting me to be self-sacrificing for our family, my wife wants to pamper me and ensure my happiness. I found that instead of demanding my respect, my partner gives me hers. I found that instead of worrying about lines and how far is too far, my wife and I have been able to communicate our thoughts, concerns, worries, and desires.  Previous crushes were supposed to be a big deal; part of my wife’s heart was supposed to be missing. But past crushes didn’t take something from her; they gave her something.

To me, courtship was about putting on a mask and conforming to a list of rules. It was giving someone else complete reign in my life. When we stripped away those rules and took off the masks, I found that I could finally breathe. I understand the concern our parents had when they decided to raise us with courtship in mind.

But it ended up being a cage.

Queer in a Courtship: Charis’s Story

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Charis” is a pseudonym. Also by Charis on HA: Hurts Me More Than You: Charis’s Story.

Sitting around the table surrounded by a beautiful family, someone passes me a slice of pie. I’m celebrating Thanksgiving with my boyfriend and his family, some of the most genuinely caring people I know. I’m happy, having a wonderful day with wonderful people. We played a card game later, laughing and enjoying the fun of competition. His family embraced me with open arms, loved me, wanted my company, and were supportive of my relationship with their son and brother.

This story is as I remember it,  but it isn’t only mine. There are many people who were involved and observed; our friends, family, and community. This is the relationship the way I recall it, and is likely somewhat different than others would remember. I don’t pretend to write everything in perfect accuracy, but simply my experience.

So I’m gay. Like super gay. Discovered boobs and my-life-was-changed-forever gay. 

How in the world did I end up in a heterosexual, super religious courtship? 

Unlike most fundamentalists, my parents were not pushing for courtship. They didn’t really approve of my relationship, but I had just moved out so they couldn’t do much about it. My dad made it clear that he didn’t consent to me getting married. He told me he wouldn’t come to the wedding, let alone walk me down the isle. He said I wasn’t worth “ruining any man’s life.” And all this when I hadn’t even come out. Jeez. You needn’t have worried dad, I have no intention of marrying a dude, and you’re not invited to any ceremony.

How did it all start? I met the young man whom I would get to know at a homeschool speech and debate competition. There were many of these throughout the school year, and the third or fourth time I saw him we talked for several hours. Hitting it off and connecting on a lot of the same angsty issues that young people have, we talk about our values in life and anything and everything else. He asked for my email address. I said yes. We continued our conversation through email, lengthy letters about our thoughts and happenings of life. I was thrilled to have a friend with whom I could be relatively honest, few and far between at this time in my life.

We started meeting for coffee, and going on hikes together. It was on one of these hikes that he asked me about pursuing an intentional relationship, finding out if we were compatible for marriage. I agreed.

I found myself in love with the potential, excited for a bright future. I knew our life together wouldn’t be perfect, or even easy. My past had taught me that. But it was a wonderful feeling all the same. I was walking on air, he liked me! And I liked him too. I came to care for, and more importantly, trust this man. Being honest about my life and the things I was feeling became an incredibly healing and growing experience.

I was a wildly different person at the time from where I am now. I wore ankle length skirts and dresses, stayed covered up as much as possible. My long wavy hair went past my waist. I wore it up in a bun most of the time because I struggled with wondering whether wearing my hair loose was a “stumbling block” for men, or too sexual. Incredibly conservative in the way only an abuse victim can be, trying to protect herself from the world.

I was starting a journey of healing that I couldn’t begin to anticipate at the time.

Spending more time together, we developed our relationship over long walks, phone calls, and continued letters. There were conversations about marriage and parenting. What we believed, what we wanted. He speculated that our chances of a lasting marriage were pretty great. I thought so too. I wanted to do all of the right things, check all the boxes, start new. We would settle down and enjoy life together. It would be wonderful.

Together we visited my family. He took the opportunity to speak individually with my parents and siblings about his intentions for our relationship. I can’t begin to express how courageous this was, and incredibly respectful. Impressed my family, made interactions with them easier, and made it more than clear he cared for me.

We were invited to dinner by a couple from my church that were friends and mentors of mine. It was during this time that I had my first defining moment as a queer person. My friend’s husband asked us, and my boyfriend specifically, about how we would stay physically pure as a couple. I distinctly remember the first part of his response, and nothing after. He said “We will be tempted [sexually] but…” and continued. In this moment I realized I wasn’t “tempted” to be sexually active with my boyfriend. I didn’t want to mess around. “I’m not tempted…” The thought rang over and over in my mind. Thankfully the patriarchal culture I was raised in hadn’t too badly damaged my view of female sexuality. I understood that my lack of desire was a problem. That unlike some in the community taught, a wife should be sexually attracted to her husband. And I wasn’t.

Dear god, now what was I going to do? 

*****

Our courtship eventually ended. It happened suddenly, I don’t actually know what the reasons were, or understand the timing. I was in a conflicted state at the time, both worried about our relationship and comfortable with it. He spoke of desiring to do what was best for my well being, and that continuing to stay together probably wasn’t part of that. I don’t remember much from our conversations the weekend we broke up, but it was over. I took some time to process. Breaking up was a sad thing. But it was wise, I was somewhat relieved, and I didn’t regret it.

I moved forward, growing and exploring my sexuality. I was becoming more and more grateful that we were no longer together as I became involved in the queer community and found my place in it.Turns out a lesbian in a heterosexual relationship is not such a great idea. 🙂

Years later I am happily settled down with my domestic partner, a beautiful woman I love very much. We’re sharing life together, in a relationship of “mutual support, caring, and commitment” like it says on our registration. I’m working on my career, looking at going back to school, and completely out of the closet; all things I never dreamed possible.

I recently happened to see my ex on the bus, and not surprisingly he didn’t recognize me. My head shaved, wearing a suit and tie and a bunch of body jewelry, I look nothing like the person I was so many years ago. I sat there on my commute home contemplating how different life is now than it might have been. I could have been married to a man by now, with a child or two. Still the long-haired, dress-wearing, conservative girl that I was. But that’s not where I am. I’m sitting here on the bus, going home to my partner, happier and more whole than I’ve ever been.

The courtship was a positive experience in my life, but I am grateful it didn’t end in marriage.

I Don’t Want To Be The Girl Who Ruined Her Parents’ Lives: Deborah

I Don’t Want To Be The Girl Who Ruined Her Parents’ Lives: Deborah

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Deborah” is a pseudonym.

I am really sad tonight.

I feel like I can’t stay in the closet anymore, but coming out is going to be so freaking painful. It already hurts so much, but at the same time, I can’t live this way forever. I love my life and I love women and I want the world to know that.

My heart breaks because I feel that my parents and their friends will never know that. They will never get it or understand.  There have been so many people who weren’t even gay who my family judged very harshly simply for living the life they dreamed instead of the one their parents (or sometimes mine) had chosen for them.  Even when they made something of their lives and enjoyed what they had made, we still judged them.  If anything went wrong, it had to be a “consequence” of their “poor” choices.

I feel that I will be viewed the same way they were. I can pretty much count on it. By coming out, these people who I want so desperately to understand how incredibly happy I am with who I am and my life, will only despise me and think my life is crappy even more than they already do.

How can I even deal with the pain of my parents’ broken hearts and possible loss of their only source of income and their dreams for the future? They minister to a group that is mostly very, very conservative Christian homeschoolers.  They lead the charge in the whole geographical area against gay rights and for America to “once again become a Christian nation and follow God’s laws”.  (Which, for those of you who don’t know, includes literally taking people like me and stoning us to death.)  It isn’t a joke, and they don’t take it figuratively or think that this changed at all when Jesus died. While I know my parents would not physically harm me, I know they still believe this way.  They have always said that if one of their children didn’t follow “God’s desires” for said child’s life that they would leave the ministry.

It is just so, so much pain and anguish. I don’t want to be “the girl who ruined her parents’ lives just so she could ruin her own” to the whole home-school community in the area. I wish I could make them see the truth of how much my life sucks less since I am honest with others and myself about who I love.

On the other hand, even if coming out goes as badly as it possibly can, there will be at least one child from a family who hears about me and – maybe not right away, but someday – will take heart that there is a way out. They will know that living their dreams, being who they are, and loving passionately is possible and the way to go. I’m sure of it. When I find out that I helped them, this pain I feel right now will have done some good. I know it will all be worth it.

But dammit, right now it hurts like hell!

Tough Love: Susie

Tough Love: Susie

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Susie” is a pseudonym.

Hi, my name is Susie. I am a gay woman in my 20’s who was raised in a very conservative Christian homeschooling family in the South. I have been “out” for six years.

A few weeks before my 22nd birthday I had a revelation; I figured out what was “wrong” with me. I realized — I’m gay. And what’s more, even though I was a very conservative Christian, I had complete peace about my sexuality. I knew some within my circle probably wouldn’t accept my sexuality, but I thought my family would accept it. My mom started asking me if I was gay or if I thought I was gay when I was about 14 years old and a few of my siblings had asked me as well as I got older. I had shown little to no interest in the opposite sex, and we all know how abnormal that is in the homeschool community.

My family is very close-knit, so shortly after I realized I am gay, I told them. Their reactions were nothing like I had imagined. Honestly, I must have been totally naïve because I really thought they would support me and still accept me. Instead, my family totally freaked out on me. My mother cried and cried. My dad tried to comfort me by telling me that I am young and just haven’t met the right guy yet. My older brother actually had the nerve to ask me if I was just trying to eccentrically prove that you could have conservative values yet be gay.

My family was — and, I am sure, still are — well known in the conservative Christian homeschooling community. So my mom kept asking me “What will people think?” For her, what people thought about me being gay — and how that reflected on my family — was a huge concern.

Most conservative Christians are against psychology and therapy. Somehow or another its anti-God or whatnot. I am sure that is a topic in and of itself…anyway! My mom called around, found a ‘Christian Therapist’ and sent me to this therapist.

During this time, things were extremely hard for me at home. My family treated me totally differently. Every conversation was about my struggle. I was under complete surveillance; my every move and action was monitored. My mom kept track of the mileage in my car based on the approved places I was allowed to go, which was pretty much limited to my therapist. I was not allowed to go to the therapist without a chaperone, which typically was one of my siblings. My cell phone had been confiscated and I was not allowed to get on the Internet without — yep, a chaperone. At the time, I was a partner in the family business so my parents really controlled every aspect of my life.

After a few weeks of gay therapy, I was still gay so my parents did the unthinkable. They both, in my opinion, totally slipped over the edge of reason. I had gone to my therapy appointment and when I came home, as I was pulling in the driveway I realized my driver’s license was not in the console of the car where I usually kept it. So I went inside and asked my mom if she knew where my driver’s license was. Long story short, in an effort to “protect me from myself,” my dad had taken my driver’s license, passport, social security card, birth certificate, credit card and debit card and put them all in a safety deposit box at the bank. I had no legal identity!

I am trying to share enough details to paint the picture, without boring you. So I am going to cut to the chase.

My mom ended up driving me two hours away, in my car, with some of my things and dropped me off with $7 to my name. Tough love is what they called it. I was lucky enough that a friend had a house with two of his friends and they let me stay in an open room. I had no bed, just a pillow and a sleeping bag with some clothes. I didn’t even have a blanket.

Tough love.

I have not been home in six years. Three of my four siblings refuse to talk to me. Two of my siblings have gotten married; I was not at either of their weddings, nor was I invited. I have two nephews and a niece, I have not met any of them and I don’t think I ever will.

Sounds pretty sad right? Well it is. I am not going to lie, I miss them. I miss them so much it breaks my heart.

But you know what? That’s their choice, not mine. I may be missing out on their lives but they are missing out on mine, as well.

Within a year of coming out, I had been made homeless, put through hell, I am sure I had a breakdown. But I discovered who I am, what I am made of, what I can go through and I leveraged my stubbornness into becoming a hardcore fighter. And best of all, I met the love of my life. We just celebrated our five-year anniversary.

Coming out, for me, was a spiritual experience as much as it was a literal/physical one. Depending on feedback to this post, I can and will share more. Just let me know. I can go on and on about homosexuality and the Bible/Christianity.