Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Tale of Two Little Girls
my sister in blue on the left, me on the right in pink

This is a first person story I have needed to tell for some time. It’s a story of two little girls: me and my younger sister. 

We were two little girls who grew up in the South in the 1960s and 70s; two little girls raised by the same family, playing with the same toys, sharing the same friends, attending the same schools, worshipping at the same churches, and growing into two remarkably different women. This story is written to share my personal experience and is for you, regardless of whether you think that sexual orientation is influenced by nature or nurture. 

Boy-Crazy from Birth

family vacation at Watoga State Park in WV
I can’t remember the first time I was aware that I am heterosexual. I remember being crazy about boys from the very beginning. Boys were such a mystery and so fascinating to me. When I was around a boy I liked (and I think I liked all of them), my heart would race and my sense of reason would fly out the window. I remember wishing that my Barbie doll had a Ken so she could be happy. I remember putting my scratchy crinoline slip on my head and pretending to be a bride with a big veil.

My first crush was on a boy named “Chris” who was from England just like Davey Jones, and when I was around him I could not think straight. When I was not around him, I thought about him constantly. Chris had a younger brother my sister’s age and their play together was so different, not awkward the way I felt. When I look back on it, my interactions with boys were different than my sister’s because the way we each felt about boys was different from the beginning. My sister amazed me by the way she could be so cool headed and rational about boys when I was absolutely inept.

Our Favorite Christmas Present

in Gretna, LA, sister on the left,
me on the right, playing teacher
Christmas of 1967, we were living in Gretna, LA, a suburb of New Orleans. Santa Clause brought the most amazing doll/action figure play sets of Jane and Josie West. I got the Jane doll because I was older. The dolls came with everything a cowgirl would need for riding or making a home on the range. So we both dug in and loved them. When you removed the gear and plastic leather clothing, the dolls were dressed in denim and boots, not naked and busty like that Barbie. And they could be whoever they wanted to be, outdoorsy or homie, glamorous or athletic, or both. And that was exactly what these two little girls needed because we were both outdoorsy and homie, glamorous and athletic, just like the West girls.

Coming Out, 1981

sisters in cowboy hats,
just like Jane and Josie West
years before
So I got to be the first family member to whom my sister announced her special secret. I remember she phrased it carefully, as a question not a statement: “What if I told you that I was gay?”
My response was kind of neutral. I said “Well that would be all right. Are you gay?” 

I remember that what I was really thinking is that I wouldn’t be able to be her maid of honor or Aunt Viqui to her kids. Looking back on my response, what a narcissistic princess I am, thinking about how someone else’s situation would impact me before I thought about the reality of how hard life must be for my sister and how hard it must have been to share the secret out loud with me. I don’t remember if I hugged her, but I hope I did. I do remember laughing and feeling happy to have another secret to share with my sister. After we laughed together that day, I felt good, like we had survived yet another family drama and come out on the other side together and stronger.
sister, brother, and me,
posing on a family vacation
beside the Big Boy

I Was Born This Way

So there’s a piece of my personal story. How I grew up to be a flaming heterosexual, despite growing up in a house where the same environment produced different outcomes. I never made a conscious choice to be straight. I was boy-crazy from birth. My sister was different from me from birth, too.

I was born this way.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Witnesses, not Judges

It's the last thing Jesus said to us, before he flew back home.

Acts 1:8
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

I like what he said, and I've been doing a lot of thinking about how to carry it out. He's asking us to be witnesses. Notice how he doesn't ask us to be judges. For some reason, we like to get those two mixed up. Time to focus on being a witness - in my neighborhood, and beyond.

What is a witness?
So what does it mean to be a witness? A witness does more than just observe. A witness also testifies. A witness sits in the witness box, waiting for the right time to tell her story.

A witness has to get his story together, sort things out, get them in order, and be ready to share. A witness has to tell his own story, anything else is hearsay. It's OK to talk about yourself, to tell your own story.

I have many stories to tell and I love to tell them, when the time is right.

I am the mother of a brilliant college student. My story had a tough beginning, including the time when doctors told us our child wouldn't learn to talk or return our love. This story has such a happy ending now that I love to tell the story. It's a story of hard work, desperate searching, a mom's blind faith, and a boy's courage.

I am the wife for 23 years of a talented musician and entrepreneur. Our story has many tough chapters. We have been through things that have lead other couples to divorce court, even to commit murder. Yet our story has a happy ending now and I love to tell the story. Our story is about commitment, forgiveness, loving and letting God do the loving for me when I had no love of my own to give.

I am a worship leader to whom God gave a vision long before he gave me a job. The journey takes me on a path straight through churches that had issues with women in leadership, issues with musicians who also performed in the secular world, and issues about doctrinal uniformity. Still, this is a happy story and I love to tell it as it twists and turns. My spiritual odyssey takes me down interesting paths, into strange and wonderful places, and introduces me to the most amazing traveling companions.

So what is your story? Jesus asks us to tell our stories and to be witnesses. Tell the tough stories. Tell the happy stories. Tell all the stories when the time is right.

Be a witness, not a judge. Don't tear down the stories of other witnesses by judging them. Share your own story, your experience, strength and hope. Listen to others as they tell their own stories. Compare notes, laugh and dream. Tell your story.

So, what's your story?