On Coming Out

Hi. My name is Madison. You probably already knew that, but this post might be filled with some new information for you, so it can’t hurt to start with what we know. Without wasting any more words, let me tell you exactly what you’re getting into: this is me telling you that I’m queer.

This post has been in the works for over a year. Until now, I’ve never spent more than a few days writing a single post for this blog, but I wrote and rewrote this one, trying to find the best way to share this with you.

Originally, I wrote this as a true coming out post to everyone but a few trusted, close friends. When I first sat down to write these words to the world, not even my parents knew. Now I look back at the many shapes this piece of writing has taken over the past months, and I smile at the tangible reminders of how far I’ve come. Today, I share this with you more as a warm invitation to know one more part of me.

I’ve tried to tell this story as honestly and tenderly and authentically as I can. I’ve also questioned why I feel like I should officially come out to the world. It’s 2021, right? Who I’m attracted to should be non-news.

But I am not that naïve. I am a pastor’s daughter, born and raised in the church sanctuary.

I know that I grew up in a fairly conservative Christian environment. High on the list of “writing rules” is knowing your audience, and with a little blog like mine, I quite literally know most every person who reads this. Because of that, I am familiar with how many of you are feeling reading this news. I repressed who I was for so long that I have felt the same way reading other stories like my own. I am all too aware of the ways many of you feel I should act and exist as a queer Christian.

Now that you know what this post is about, let me tell you what it’s not: I won’t be offering you a theological thesis on homosexuality. I’m not going to try to convince you of the validity of my existence and choices because I don’t believe it’s my job to in this context, nor do I believe I’d ever be successful in such an endeavor (especially over the Internet). Most importantly, my seat at the table of the kingdom of God is not up for discussion or debate.

So why share this with you? It is not because I feel that I owe you an explanation for my sexuality. In fact, I have tried to stay far, far away from justifying of any sort in this post. I certainly don’t write this for attention. Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I really want people to like me. And with my background, that’s largely why I’ve stayed silent for so long.

But silence no longer feels like an option.

As I mentioned, my nearest and dearest have known this information for a while. Beyond that, in Spokane, I am no longer hiding. Not to say that I come out in every classroom or that I’m the president of the Pride Club on campus, but my sexuality is as integrated into the wholeness of my being as it ever has been. I have lived in freedom, and I am not eager for it to stop.

I also write this as the biggest possible virtual hug to any young queer person, especially those who grew up in the church. It can feel so unbelievably lonely and scary out there, and I write this to tell you that you are not alone, and you are loved wholly and completely as you are.  

This blog has existed since I was 11 years old. It was a more or less public space for me to process whatever things an 11-year-old had to process (for all two of my readers). My blog continued to be a space where I could periodically process major life events in the years following. As someone who wants to spend my life telling stories, telling my own felt like a good place to start.

So, despite all those other secondary reasons, I suppose that’s the real reason I’m writing this. Shame and vulnerability researcher, Brené Brown, writes that if we don’t own our stories, they own us. I’m annoyed at how correct she is. I am desperate to not have this story own me like it has for years. I’ve made many disclaimers in the past that this blog is much more for me than for any audience, and that remains the case today. I write this to you in order to release this story from my heart. It is still tethered to me, because it is mine, but now I extend it to you, because I believe we are meant to hold each other’s stories.

This is a truth that I kept hidden for years. While secrecy served as an important protector as I worked through my own shame, I don’t believe it serves me anymore.

I didn’t know I was queer until after I graduated high school. Looking back, every puzzle piece fits together so clearly, but nonetheless, I was clueless. There are a thousand reasons why that is, but I’ll primarily credit my lack of awareness to 1) straightness being the societal default and 2) my church background.

By western evangelical standards, I was a shining, gold star Christian throughout my youth. I’ve been serving in some form or another since I was 10, when I ran the slides for the church my family helped start. Since then, I have led kids and middle school ministry and served as a worship leader. I actively participated in small groups and genuinely loved it all. I loved (and spoiler: still love) Jesus. Church was my primary community, informing how I viewed the world and myself. Church was the first place I encountered real belonging.

During my senior year, however, I stepped down from all church leadership responsibilities so that I could attend therapy. I’ve written fairly extensively on this blog about what led me to seek professional counseling, but long-story-short, shapeshifting and adapting to every new environment in order to maintain my good-girl image was not only exhausting—it was detrimental to my health.

In therapy, I slowly began taking off mask after mask. I confronted shame I’d been running from. I even experienced some healing. Beneath all my facades of achievement, I encountered a terrified little girl who just wanted to be seen and loved. It was painful and transformational and beautiful.

As I peeled back the layers, though, I discovered parts of myself I didn’t know existed—some of them wonderful, some of them terrifying, most of them both. One of them being that I was attracted to women. I wish I could say that I instantly leaned in and accepted that part of myself wholeheartedly, but that is not how this tale goes. Coming out to myself was by far the most difficult. I doubled down on suppressing my sexuality. I was the good girl who always did good things. And with all the grace in my heart, I will simply say that the messages I received in church as a teenager about sex and sexuality made it difficult to feel anything other than shame upon discovering my attraction for women. Liking girls was about the worst thing I could discover about myself.

Shame ruled my life for the better part of a year and a half. Only one friend knew about my sexuality until April of 2020, and I refused to attach a label out loud to that friend for months and months and months (both because I wasn’t exactly sure myself and because saying it out loud made it real). That period of my life was so incredibly lonely. Holding secrets is incredibly lonely. And by its very personal nature, questioning and discovering my sexuality was something only I could do. Unfortunately, the sheer amount of shame I had to work through ensured that process took quite a long time. I still experienced lots of joy and community and love, and like I mentioned, I experienced healing in many other aspects of my life. But beneath all of it, I always had a lingering voice whispering in my ear, “If only they knew who you really were.” Shame is so nasty.

I watched countless coming out videos in trying to figure out who I was, and without fail, every single one includes the trail of what one called “gay breadcrumbs” that, in retrospect, were obvious signs. I have plenty of those over the years—girls I felt flustered and overwhelmed by and so intensely drawn to, female characters in TV and movies that I was obsessed with, etc etc. The list could go on and on, but to quickly offer a summary, my body knew, and I was slow to listen.

Even once I felt fairly sure of who I was, accepting and loving all of me took quite a while. It didn’t occur to me to come out to more people while I worked through that shame. Consequently, I got terrifyingly good at talking vaguely about relationships with gender-neutral words and sidestepping around dating questions in general (I’m talking politician-level skills at avoiding answering questions).

But as I grew more and more confident in who I was, this game of hide-and-seek grew more exhausting. The parts of me that kindly protected me from my own shame and from people’s projected shame no longer served a purpose. I faced my shame, and just as before, beneath it all I discovered a girl who was deeply and wholly loved. I started to come out to more people. Close friends. Family. Trusted, safe people. My own narrative of myself continued to shift from shame to freedom.

It’s obvious looking back, but the more I told people, the less it consumed me. My sexuality and all the questions that come along with it (who am I, and how do I feel, and who do I tell, and how do I tell them, and will they still love me, and what if they don’t?) occupied so much space in my mind for so long as I uncovered who I was. But as I came out to more people, my queerness seemed to settle quite nicely and take up just the right amount of space in my being. It filled the spot it was always meant to fill– no more, no less. Eventually, I gathered enough of a support system to have my back when I decided to face the world (or, I suppose, the readers of this blog) with who I was.

So here I am, adding my story to the most beautiful tapestry of queer stories.

I am proud of myself, I am proud of my journey, and I am proud to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community.

This discovery process has taught me so much about myself and about God. In many ways, it feels like it was only an introduction to self-discovery and has allowed me to adopt a continual nonjudgmental curiosity about every aspect of myself.

I once clung so rigidly to ideas about who I thought I should be, and I cannot describe the freedom that follows from learning that I am far more complex than “shoulds.”

My sexuality is a part of me, but it is not all of me. Not even close. I happen to think it’s a really great and beautiful part of me, but I know that you might not feel the same way. That being said, we do not need to have a discussion on Biblical marriage ideals. You don’t need to tell me that you’re praying for me to find the right man. I’ve heard it all, and I used to believe much of it. I assure you that you cannot place any shame on me that I haven’t already placed on myself at some point or another. I appreciate your concern for me and my eternal future, but I’ll be okay.

This has been my secret for so long, and honestly? I’m just sick of hiding it.

However big of news this post is for you, thanks for joining me on this journey. Now you hold one more part of me. I ask that you hold it graciously.

11 Replies to “On Coming Out”

  1. This resonates so much with me….feeling like it should be non-news, worrying if people would still like you “if only they knew,” and just hoping that others get that it doesn’t change anything. I FEEL THIS. <3

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully said…you are loved unconditionally for who you are, just as you have been from the moment I met newborn Madison!! You are brave, courageous and strong! We love you!!❤️♥️💜

    Liked by 1 person

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