LGBTQ in Obion County – Kate

kate

Kate Surr, 28, Bisexual

What was it like for you to live in a rural community?¬†Some days it’s difficult. The best thing you can do is surround yourself with people who love you as you are. It feels as though there is one in a hundred people who know and understand you. It’s hard to find those people but they are out there. Sometimes it takes you being outwardly honest for other people to be honest with you. As I’ve gotten older I’ve cared less about what other people think in this small rural town. (What is it about these small towns that give individuals the feeling of entitlement to share their opinions as the law ūüėú)

What do you love best about the area?¬†The people who are here and have open hearts and minds are the best in my opinion. Think about it, you get the southern hospitality mixed with all the love in the world with zero judgment and full acceptance. You couldn’t have better friends in your life.

What would you like for local residents to know about the LGBTQ community?¬†We are people. Just like you. The same children you are fight for against abortion are the same children and adults that you are badgering now. (And I only give that example because, commonly, if you are against abortion then you are generally against LGBTQ.) You love these children unconditionally? Then accept us for who we are no matter who we turn out to be. We can’t be changed. We’ve been this way our whole lives. Nothing you can do will change that. However, loving us all, even though we are different from you, can make the world more beautiful place. It’s already difficult enough, why make it even harder.

What advice would you give to those in the area who may feel alone?¬† Be true to yourself. You don’t have to tell anyone until you’re ready. I promise that as you get older it will get easier. There are so so so many people out there just like you and me. If you have access to the internet you can find those people in a matter of minutes. Social media is a great place to find groups and events supporting us. Also, updates on lawmakers fighting for our basic rights as human beings. (If your interested in what’s going on the country… its good to know who’s fighting for you, even though they don’t know you).

Photo/Essay project highlighting the LGBTQ and Ally Community in Obion County (a rural area in TN). Some participants still live in the area, while others have moved away after growing up there.

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LGBTQ in Obion County – Jae

Photo/Essay project highlighting the LGBTQ and Ally Community in Obion County (a rural area in TN). Some participants still live in the area, while others moved away after growing up there.

Source: LGBTQ in Obion County – Jae

Am I choosing sex over God?

Since starting this blog about my journey¬†of reconciling my Christian faith and sexual orientation, I have received my fair share of praise and criticism. I had expected it, and it really doesn’t bother me.

The most common question asked and comment posed relates to the commenter’s ¬†assumption that I’ve have chosen sex over my relationship with God. This usually comes from a straight person who has never even had to think about these things. I received one of these comments again this week.

I know this may come as a shock to people, but sexual orientation means more than just having sex. When I say I’m gay, it means that I am emotionally, mentally, and physically drawn to women. It tells you NOTHING of my sexual practices or behavior.

LGBTQ people are often accused of always thinking about sex, but it often seems that straight Christians are the ones reducing us LGBTQ folks to sexual acts.

So, am I choosing sex over God?

Absolutely not! As a Christian, I strive ¬†to place my life under the lordship of Christ, even my sexuality. So, what does this mean for me? At this moment in my life, I am trying to discern whether or not I am called to the vocation of celibacy. Please, please don’t run with that last line and say that I think that all LGB people must either marry someone from the opposite sex or live a life of celibacy. I don’t believe that at all! I affirm monogamous, committed same sex relationships.

But for me, I am trying to figure out whether I’m called to celibacy. Is God truly calling me or am I scared of intimacy due to my rape?

Regardless, I believe sexual intimacy is reserved for a marriage relationship. So, if I do not pursue celibacy, I won’t be having sex until I marry a spouse. Guess what? There are many other LGB Christians who are waiting to have sex within marriage.

As you can see, I’m not having sex. Coming out as lesbian had nothing to do with my wanting to choose sex over God. It had to do with wanting to live an authentic life and not hiding significant parts of myself.

Straight Christian, please stop assuming that we are choosing sex over God when we tell you we are LGBTQ. Honestly, look around you. Our televisions, radios,magazines,and computers are saturated with heterosexual sex.

Maybe, us LGBTQ Christians should be asking you, “Are you choosing sex over God?”

 

 

How a Transgender Lady Helped Me Not Walk Away from my Christian Faith

Six¬†years ago I entered seminary, pursuing ¬†a Master’s of Divinity with the hope of¬†ministering within the United Methodist Church. Attending¬†theological school was a dream come true. When ¬†asked, “what would you do if money wasn’t an issue,” I answered with ‘attend seminary.’ I loved attending classes and reading the many, many books required for each of those classes.¬†Sitting in lectures and soaking up the knowledge from my professors was my idea of a great time.

I was a conservative, evangelical who specifically chose to attend a seminary¬†that taught homosexuality as sin. I ¬†chose this school over another one only because the latter gave benefits to same sex couples. I viewed myself as ex-gay and usually spouted the¬†jargon (lifestyle, gay agenda, etc.) when asked my views of this topic. Additionally, I refused to read¬†other books or listen to scholars who didn’t share¬†my same views. I did not want my thoughts challenged. (Deep down, I think I was afraid to have them challenged).

Two years into my program, I found myself depressed and broken. Aware of the numerous questions bubbling up within me concerning everything I had been taught about homosexuality, I tried to dismiss them and plunged myself further into my studies. But, you can hold a beach ball under water only for so long before it blasts its way to the surface. Although I still maintained the public facade of being ex-gay, my inner world was engulfed with turmoil and cognitive dissonance.

And I was afraid to tell anyone.

I couldn’t share my many questions at school; I didn’t want to be branded an outcast or even worse, a heretic. I still believed in the Trinity, the full humanity and divinity of Christ, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and that Jesus will return one day. I still believed everything that is in the Apostles’ Creed. My belief in those foundational Christian doctrines were solid. However, I didn’t know what to believe about the sinfulness of homosexuality anymore. Contrary to what others may think, my questioning wasn’t the result of my wanting to enter into a same sex relationship. That has never been my reasoning.

Those days were lonely and frightening.

Even after 10 years of therapy, conferences, and support groups, I knew I was still gay.¬†My worldview and environment couldn’t support the notion that one could be gay and Christian. So, I began to believe that I had no choice but to walk away from Christianity. Heartbroken over this decision, I begged God to forgive me and to know that I truly loved and wanted to live for Him. I told Him how sorry I was that I failed to overcome homosexuality. I stopped allowing myself to take Holy Communion and slowly stopped attending church. The only prayer I could utter was “please have mercy on me, a sinner.” I stopped my ordination process and decided that I was going to withdraw from my theological studies.

I found myself lost and afraid.

You know, I think God uses shocking and interesting ways to show His radical love for us. A couple of months after thinking that I had no choice but to leave my Christian faith, I found myself serving as a Fellow at the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, DC. While  there, I heard a presentation on being transgender from a woman named Allyson Robinson who worked at HRC.

I must admit I was prejudiced against the transgender community. I didn’t understand and assumed they were were all just confused. I had bought into the rhetoric spoken by Focus on the Family concerning this topic. Instead of compassion or even wanting to understand, I treated them with judgement and disdain.

During Allyson’s presentation, I found myself intrigued when she mentioned her Christian faith. I noticed that she spoke of her faith in the present tense. How could a transgender person still claim to be a Christian? I knew right then I had to talk more with her. Since I was too afraid to approach her in person, I emailed asking if we could have lunch together.

I’m so thankful she agreed.

For an hour, I listened as she shared her story of coming to terms with her faith and gender identity. I was amazed she went to seminary at Baylor and had served as a Baptist preacher. She listened as I shared my journey and how I was struggling. I learned we shared the same belief that the Bible was more than a book of literature. She told me I didn’t have to disregard Scripture. It was obvious she was a woman of vibrant, deep Christian faith.

Hope entered my life again. I was overwhelmed with God’s presence and tangibly felt His love wash over me. My life changed that day, and I began my journey of reconciling my faith and sexual orientation, whatever that would look like.

Because of the seed of hope Allyson planted in my heart, I went back to church, began taking Holy Communion and prayed again. I went on to finish seminary with my Master’s of Divinity.

I didn’t walk away from my faith.

To my¬†transgender brothers and sisters: I’m sorry for being a prejudiced A@#hole. I have a tender spot in my heart for this community, and you have an ally for life! God passionately loves you, period! There is nothing wrong with you, and you are NOT broken!

To Allyson: Thank you!

 

Note: Allyson is now the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC.

To hear more of her story, check out http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/watch/is-this-the-most-radical-preacher-in-america-335687235881#

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Questions I Would LIke Answered

You know me.

You know my character.

You know my love for people.

You know I would go out of my way to help someone in need.

 

You see my desire to please God above all else.

You see I love Jesus and seek to place my entire life under His lordship.

You see how I’ve dedicated my life to ministry.

You see me worship God and striving for a life of holiness.

 

Yet,

 

Your once good thoughts of me change the moment you learn of my sexual orientation.

Your speech to me changes from friendly conversations to  Bible verses as a way to show me the error of my way.

You now claim to love me but not my gay lifestyle.

You tell me that I’m no longer a Christian.

 

You think I’m trying to destroy America and the traditional family.

You say I’m promoting the ‘gay agenda.’

You say I am godless.

You have ‘special church meetings’ to discuss whether I’m allowed to serve in your church.

 

Please, I beg you to enlighten me…

 

What exactly is the ‘gay lifestyle’ you say I live?

How does my sexual orientation exclude me from the grace of God?

What is the gay agenda I’m promoting?

Why do you now look at me with disgust? ¬†(Make no mistake…I see it on your face).

If my kid turns out gay, he/she will no longer be welcome in my home!

Parents,

I just don’t understand why anyone would want to kick out their child.

The same child you waited for as she formed in the womb. The same child you snuggled and kissed the first time you held him. The same child you stared at as she slept peacefully in her crib. The same child who kept you from sleeping consecutive hours. The same child who melted your heart as he said ‘mama’ or ‘dada’ for the first time. The same child you hugged and kissed when she fell down and scraped her knee. The same child you loved with all your heart.

I’ve heard too many stories of LGBTQ youth who were kicked out of their homes for being LGBTQ. I have held too many hands of these beautiful people who cry as they tell me that they just want their parents to love them again. The pain is unbearable.

So, why do you choose to do this? Do you feel that you are providing tough love? Do you feel as if you are saving their soul? Has your church or religion made you think that this is the best way?

Please help me understand!

I don’t have children of my own, but my niece and nephews are just like my own. As I spent time with them during Christmas, I thought about this very issue. I realized that there is nothing that they could do to make me stop loving them. There is nothing that they could do to others or me that would make me stop loving them, even murder. There is nothing they could be to make me stop loving them.

I have to believe that you love your child. If you find out that he/she is LGBTQ, please reconsider if you have thought about kicking them out. Just love them because that’s the same child you have loved all his/her life. Just love them because they breathe.

If you need help or need someone to talk to about your child, there are many wonderful resources.

Just Because He Breathes

PFLAG

The Christian Closet – Parent Resource

Article by Founder of Christian Closet

TransYouth – Family

Faith In America – Family Resources

KidsPeace Institute

and many, many more!

This is a more common experience than you would think. I have seen it with my own eyes… homeless LGBTQ youth sitting together as a group on a street in Chicago, praying with a young man who was kicked out when his parents found out he is gay, etc, etc. I could go on with these stories. I have seen the tears pour from too many faces.

Please. I beg you… don’t discard your child!

I Don’t Understand How Anyone Could Stay in an Abusive Relationship…

I’m going to be honest; I have been harshly judgmental of people who stay in abusive relationships. When I watched guests on talk shows and stories on news programs like Dateline, I would be disgusted with the women or men who would go back to their abusers again and again. I would often say, “if my significant other hit me, then that would be the last time he/she would put their hands on me.” People like that disgusted me!

Until I found myself in an abusive relationship… and returned to it again and again and again.

This episode in my life hasn’t been something I’ve allowed myself to think about often. I guess I still have trouble believing that it was as bad as it seemed.

But it really was bad. I made excuse after excuse for the other person. She had convinced me that I was the one at fault.

Denial. Shame. Embarrassment.

These three things have allowed me to stuff any feelings about this relationship and helped me ignore my woundings from it. This past weekend, I have actually shared this shameful part of my life with others. I spent at least an hour processing with a close friend who witnessed the whole relationship. She had seen the warning signs and did everything she could to warn me. She begged me to leave when she saw the bruises for the first time.

During our recent conversation, this friend finally had the opportunity to share just how she felt during my abusive relationship. I found out that she turned her phone ringer up to its highest setting when she went to sleep so that she would hear it if I called for help. She told me of the fear that I would end up dead or in prison for defending myself and how she prayed like crazy for me. She told me of the fear and agony she felt. I told her that I didn’t realize how bad it had been.

My eyes are finally beginning to open. I became the very thing I judged throughout my life. I now understand the difficulty in leaving abusive relationships and have compassion for the others who find themselves trapped.

To those who were or are in an abusive relationship: I am so sorry for my judgment! I pray that you have the strength to find help. You cannot leave without it. I know it’s hard to imagine that life would be better away from that person, but it truly is. Here are some links to find help:
http://www.helpguide.org/mental/domestic_violence_abuse_help_treatment_prevention.htm
http://www.helpguide.org/mental/domestic-violence-men-abused-by-women.htm
http://www.thehotline.org

To the friends who helped me get out: I love you more than I can say or do! You are amazing, and I am so blessed for each of you.

To my close friend who prayed for me relentlessly: Thank you for not giving up on me, and praying when I couldn’t. Thank you for allowing me to come to your office the morning after a physical altercation to allow me to just talk and eat breakfast. Thank you for allowing me to come to your home to just rest on the couch for a moment of peace during this time. Thank you for still loving me when I began lying to you about the things happening in my relationship. You knew I was lying, but you knew not to confront me or else I would stop talking to you. Your gentleness in the midst of your agony inspires me. I love you.