It is perhaps appropriate that I begin this project in the penitential season... the season of ashes smudged on the forehead, of desires curbed or denied. The season of self-examination, which I so regularly urge in others, and which I so studiously avoid myself.
I am an ordained minister in a US Protestant denomination that, so far, does not accept the gifts of gay and lesbian persons. I was ordained while I was married to a man I deeply loved for more than twenty years. But when our marriage ended I knew that if another relationship was in store for me, it would be with a woman.
I first fell in love with a woman shortly after marrying, in my early twenties. I was in the chorus of a Sondheim play, and there in the alto section was a woman who looked like Jessica Lange and invited me, on a summer night, to her converted loft for chicken florentine and cold, spicy white wine. Her bedroom was painted a deep rose-- "It's my womb," she said. I fled. I was overwhelmed with desire for her. I quit the play, demoralized and shocked that my heart could wander so far away from my new husband. I never saw her again.
We had children. We moved around. In my thirties, I met another woman, more Delta Burke than Jessica Lange. We began as friends. As the days and months passed we swam together, we ate dinner together, and, abruptly, I realized it had happened again. I wandered around in a haze of misery for months, nursing my love and attraction for her by writing bad poetry in the middle of the night. For reasons having nothing to do with me she moved to the other side of the country. The night before she left I confessed my feelings for her. We agreed to remain friends, though my confession added a dimension of pain and fragility to our now long-distance frienship. Again, shocked, demoralized, I went into therapy, where my nice therapist assured me that I wasn't a lesbian, only unhappy about my childhood, my relationship with my mother.
After my marriage ended I deepened a friendship with a longtime acquaintance, a woman who has been out for nearly all her adult life, and who had recently ended a long relationship. We were seeing one another within a month. Partners? No. We can't live together, nor can we marry. My children love her, and know the nature of our relationship. In many parts of the local gay community our relationship is acknowledged. But if the leadership in my local judicatory were to learn of it, if a parishioner were to make an accusation...
I don't know what would happen. Or, I do, but I would prefer not to think about it.
I don't want to pretend I am a victim. I am an educated woman with money in the bank and a roof over my head, and, the truth is, if I were to lose my credentials, I would find other work.
But I love preaching the gospel. I love Jesus, and I love to tell his stories. I love the Holy Spirit, brooding over me with ah! bright wings. I love God, Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver. I love God's good news, the news of welcome, of the open table, of inclusion and healing. I hope to be able to continue to tell the story. At the very least, in this space, I will tell my story.