Sunday, June 8, 2008

Making Plans

Beloved and I had dinner the other night and I told her that I have been thinking long and hard about coming out.

Before she and I had dinner, I had lunch with a local colleague and friend, and floated the idea to her. She is someone who is very supportive and sympathetic to the cause of full inclusion for LGBTQ folks, and we have known one another for a long time. But, suffice it to say, she was hesitant. "Why?" she asked. "It's really pretty 'Don't ask, don't tell,' isn't it?"

I explained my feeling that really, in a community as small as ours, it feels inevitable that I will be out sooner or later, of my own choosing or not. There is a certain strength to the thought that, perhaps it would be better to do it of my own choosing, and at my own pace. There is some control in determining for myself when and how it happens. Of course, there are significant risks. My friend seemed to feel that my loss of my credentials in my denomination would be a given. I am not as sure as she is, but I respect her opinion. And I do believe that I could become credentialed in another denomination. In fact, it might not be a bad idea to begin that process sooner rather than later, perhaps to try to gain dual status.

She and I brainstormed what other colleagues in my local governing body might be supportive. I have decided (thanks to input from thoughtful blogging friends) that I need to form a circle of support now, in advance of coming out. In fact, as another friend suggested, this could be a kind of clearness committee for me, assisting me to think through all the ramifications, timing, manner, etc.

I told Beloved all this over dinner the other night. She was stunned. She didn't expect this from me. She was... thrilled. And proud.

All of which causes me to say, I don't know when and how this will happen. But I do know that, the greater the honesty in my life as a whole, the greater wholeness, the greater clarity, the more open to God's spirit I believe I will become. Don't misunderstand, I am terrified. I don't want to hurt the congregation I serve, for one thing. I have grown to love them, and I know they love me. But they love what they know of me... it would be so good to have them know me more fully, and still to love me. Like God.

So, I'm making plans. And praying for clarity.

28 comments:

Choralgirl said...

It's like falling off a cliff, isn't it?

**there's no "undoing" it, once it's begun
**chances are excellent that you'll bounce around and bruise (maybe even break something)
**the view will be broad and brilliant, and it will sometimes just whiz by
**in my experience, God WILL catch you before there's a "splat," spiritually speaking
**you'll be forever changed by the experience

Praying for you and wishing you well, friend. I understand the "why" piece, as much as a new friend can, having lived some aspects of it. I can see the risks, too.

I hope for you all the truest and best of things, and I think you're doing brilliantly.

Choralgirl said...

One other thing--(and you don't have to post this one) by doing it as a choice, you maintain a different kind of moral leadership...a strength that is harder to hold onto if you're outed; the question of "shame" at your "behavior" is answered by your action.

Not saying that there aren't good reasons for closets; just seems like you're outgrowing yours. :-)

Songbird said...

Praying for you.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

This is such a big step that you are contemplating. I have believed for a long time in living with as much transparency as possible. Having said that, I realize that as a straight person, I don't have to deal with any situation that is comparable to this. I so admire your thoughtfulness and courage as you go about discerning this possible change. I'll be holding you in prayer.

RevDrKate said...

May God who knows you the fullest and loves you the mostest bless you in this discernment. Prayers!

Jan said...

I cannot advise you. I am praying for you.

I have a friend who is a former Presbyterian, but is now a minister in the Metropolitan Community Church. She says she likes this because she can be out while she could not be as a Presbyterian minister.

Anonymous said...

My beloved partner and I were discussing how our most personal decisions cannot help but have political overtones.

WHether to be out at work or not. Whether to use "we" instead of "I". Whether to mention a partner. All those teensy steps taken that led to one BIG step out of the closet a few years ago. And for us, now (we're in California), whether to get married.

It's not "real" because it doesn't "count" federally. It complicates our lives enormously. In every personal way, our marriage began when we exchanged our rings and our vows together, alone, 5 years ago. and yet...

We have decided that unless our lawyer makes a very compelling case not to, we owe it to our community and the future to claim our right to marriage, to stand up and be counted. One atheist and one Catholic, who will insist that this belongs to them. That the personal IS political.

October, we think. When a slight crispness seeps into the enveloping warmth of Southern California, and the sun sets directly to the west. When the imported trees dress in the warm colors of harvest and the winter migrant birds come back from the north.

And before election day.

Hugs to you, C, and may you embrace the personal-as-political too.

IT

Suzer said...

Oh, Cecilia, this is so, so difficult for you. I'm wishing I could keep you safe, even though I know you only virtually.

However, having known a closeted pastor who tried so hard to live "authentically," while finding it impossible to do so because she was always looking over her shoulder, I know how hard it must be for you to remain where you are. The closeted pastor I knew ended up hurting many people and becoming a stumbling block for their faith and relationship with God before she finally chose to move to another denomination. I'm so glad you can see things so clearly, and are aware of the pitfalls and possibilities, apparently without the paranoia which could accompany the place you are in.

Currently, you are safe, but NOT safe. Hard place to be in. I wish the world were different. But perhaps it will take courageous people like you to make it different. I agree especially with ChoralGirl's statements, the second one in particular. By taking control of this, you avoid much of the "shaming" that might occur if you were outed unexpectedly.

Sending much love, support, prayers and good thoughts your way...

FranIAm said...

Oh dear Cecilia - wow. I remember reading your blog awhile back, before I became a regular reader.

You were so secretive - understandably so. If I were to describe what I read/saw then and now it would be this...

Then I saw a tightly clenched fist, longing to extend its fingers and expose its palm.

Today I see a gentle hand, opening to both give and receive in a most beautiful and loving way.

You are a light, just as we all are. Be who you are, God will not forsake you. That said - it could be quite the ride.

You don't make the ride alone.

Diane said...

praying for you, too.

I don't know the policies of your denomination on this, but you are proceeding with such grace.

don't eat alone said...

Cecilia

I've been praying with you since the day I found your blog. I think the biggest thing in your coming out is the possibility of integrating your life in ways you have not been able to do so far. That said, I've also learned from you that the patience found in listening to your life as you have is so very valuable. You will know the right time when it comes because you have prepared your heart well to recognize it.

One small plug: you'll be welcome in the UCC. :-)

Peace,
Milton

Ruth Eliz said...

May God's grace and Spirit guide your path. I recently came out and His presence has always assured me that it was truly His will for my life. And He will show you His will for your too. (I think He already has)Prayers girl. :)

LittleMary said...

oh we need to talk more. to write this so clearly...makes me so proud and so scared. you are a tremendous person, just unbelievably amazing. i love you so very much.

3ThingsI'veLost: said...

you rock.

Em said...

The sense of relief I experienced when I finally left my closet for good was completely overwhelming. I hadn’t fully realized how much of me I hid along with my sexuality. The benefits I’ve gained in being able to be open and genuinely me since coming out far outweighed the few negative repercussions I experienced. I have so much more to offer now because I’m not expending so much energy worrying what will happen if people find out I’m a lesbian. I don’t believe God expects you to hide your light either and that when you do come out, you will find yourself to be less reactive and much more responsive and proactive in your personal as well as your professional life. Some of your congregation will be upset and you may suffer some negative consequences but you will overcome them and come out lighter and brighter. As food for thought: Perhaps you are doing a disservice to your congregation by not being who you are in your totality and are missing opportunities to serve them more effectively than you already are. After all, God made you who you are!

Hidden in Christ said...

yes! how awesome it will be for people to fully know you and fully love you! i will definitely be praying for clarity C. i'm proud of you! you are shining bright my friend.

jledmiston said...

Everybody's full of advice -yes - but here's a little more:

Have people lined up to support you.

If you decide to come out during worship, be sure that many friends are in those pews to be there for you during coffee hour.

If you do this at a denominational gathering, again, have supporters present to stand up and attest to the fact that you are awesome. (i.e. "Can anyone in this room say that they have NOT been ministered to by C.?")

Make plans for afterwards: a small supportive dinner for you, etc.

Blessings and let us know so we can pray for & during the moment.

Stephanie said...

Wow, that's a big step, I'm praying for you and cheering you on Cecilia.

"But I do know that, the greater the honesty in my life as a whole, the greater wholeness, the greater clarity, the more open to God's spirit I believe I will become."

Amen. Amen.

KJ said...

I will add my prayers to those already offered.

Prior to my coming out to my church family, I knew, as others have commented, and as you know, these are words that can't be taken back. Remember Gilda Radner's "Emily "Latilla? (I can just hear the set up -- "What's this I hear about thespian beasts?") Sometimes, the phrase, "Never mind," is not an option.

I knew my experience as taking a dive into the loving arms of a savior -- Plenty of risk and terror, but I knew I was safe. It is quite possible to be terrified and at peace at the same time. The fact that many Christians often don't get to experience that makes me feel a little bad for them.

Peace of Christ

Kate said...

Deep breaths. I'm so proud! And praying for you that this will go well, and all to God's will. Ideally also relatively painlessly for you and Beloved.

And IT? Congrats! I want to see wedding announcements and things!

Mother Laura said...

Go Cecilia! We are all here for you and waiting eagerly for the full revelation of Godde's glory in you. Also knowing that the Spirit will guide you to the time that is perfect and right for you, Beloved, your kids and your congregation....

Zillions of hugs, dear sister; gratitude for your prayers in the recent joyous and life giving embrace of my own cross; and I *will* email with what's been going on here when I get caught up with my life. (Though a phone call might be faster--if you're interested, shoot me your number or ask for mine).

(((Cecilia)))

Anonymous said...

Wow, Cecilia!

I can't say that I really know what it feels like to be officially out, because I really am not. Somehow, making an announcement without a reason to (ie, a partner) seems superfluous. I mean, is there anyone who doesn't suspect that a middle-aged never-married non-dating woman is lesbian? Does the sun rise in the east?

So, I think your congregation is in don't ask, don't tell mode. I daresay a significant percentage of the congregants have figured it out and aren't having conniption fits.

NancyP

Anonymous said...

nancyP,
you need to get out more.

;-)

IT

Cynthia said...

I'll be praying with you.

KJ said...

LOL, Nancy,

But one can't underestimate the degree of naiveté in conservative Christian circles, given the horrible amount of misinformation regarding matters of sexuality. I was a thin, 40 year old, Olivia Newton-John loving, never dating, single guy, and no one in the church where I was playing the freakin' organ (!) had a clue (Typical response: "Aaaaggghhhhh!").

Now, my work associates and friends on the "outside", that was another thing altogether (Typical response, "I'm so happy for you! Why did you wait so long to come out?").

Anonymous said...

I'd get out more if people would stop quitting at work - we are at half staffing now.

NancyP

Anonymous said...

Well, I fell in love with my beloved at work, NancyP, so there's hope!

;-)

IT

Counselor in Process said...

I don't really know you're denomination, but I do know that life is short. I had a health scare this past winter and having my life partner, now wedded partner with me make all the difference. As it does every day, and has for 17+ years out loud. Good luck and God bless you.