I am a lesbian and would like to share my story with the United Church.
I came out when I was studying for ministry in the late 1990s. I had kept this a secret for such a long time and it was destroying me. The very first person I ever told was one of the teachers at my school. I was terrified but knew I couldn’t keep it to myself any longer. After lots of sweat and several starts and stops, I finally said the words, “I think I’m a lesbian.” My news was received with love, compassion and even *joy*. Her response gave me the courage to tell someone else, and someone else, and so on. Throughout my studies I became more confident in myself and began to celebrate my sexuality.
In my last year of school I attended an event where I encountered a small group of gay and lesbian folks. Believing I’d found my people, I joined them for a meal. During the meal I mentioned that I was studying for ministry. One of the women at the table, an ordained woman, said, “Run, run for your life. Get out while you still can.” While I understood that she was mostly joking (everyone at the table laughed), I felt devastated. I loved the church. The church had been my primary source of support and encourageent. I had thought these people would be an extension of that support.
I have experienced the anger, pain and even hostility of other gay and lesbian people in the church since that first encounter. I was once told that I needed to learn to appreciate that my freedom today has come on the backs of all those who suffered in the 80s. I’ve also been told that it isn’t fair that I have been able to find regular employment when many gay and lesbian people who were out in the 80s continue to not be able to find ministry positions.
I *am* grateful.
I *do* understand that my experience of acceptance, support and encouragement has not been shared by everyone. But I am also hurt and frustrated that I have experienced the most negativity from those who I thought would be my allies.
It is my hope and prayer that an apology will help those most impacted to let go of anger, hurt and resentment so toxic situations, like the ones I mentioned, will not continue to happen.
I would love for us to be able to honestly acknowledge the past so that we can celebrate the progress that has been made and seek ways to move forward together.
From, Laura Fouhse
(Shared with permission. Photo credit: Wix stock photo.)