As the United States Supreme Court hears oral arguments today challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents legally-married same-sex couples from having their marriages recognized by the federal government, we offer the following religious reflection on coming out, written by a friend of the blog:
The thing that I didn’t know about coming out was that it would help me learn the most important thing that I know about God.
I knew that coming out was a rite of passage.
I knew that my wish to have already done it prevented me from doing it for far too long: I wasn’t someone who came out in high school.
I knew—and knew that I was and am indescribably fortunate to know—that my parents wouldn’t reject me. But I thought I knew they would be hurt that I hadn’t already told them.
I knew that I didn’t always know that I was gay.
I knew that I was definitely gay.
I knew that I dreaded the conversation itself more than the aftermath.
I knew that my birthday was the right day to tell my parents, because I’d be home from school and the day was already about me.
I knew that there was solidarity.
I knew that other people sitting at other kitchen tables had known the same tight throat and pounding chest and light head.
I knew I wouldn’t be the last person to feel infinitely stretched in the moment between saying the words “I’m gay” and seeing my parents’ response. I knew that many others had made it through this black hole singularity of stopped time.
I knew, as we talked, that my parents’ awkwardness was just Catholic discomfort at considering, even for a moment, that their child might have ANY sexual feelings. And when—after an hour of awkward questions and answers—my father said “OK. We love you. Can we have cake now, and skip the after-school special?,” I knew that he was not dismissing me, and I knew that everything was fine.
And then, gradually, I knew more of God.
The most important thing I know about God is this: She gives us herself. She doesn’t give us information about herself; she doesn’t give us a rulebook or a map that tells us how to reach some other place where she can found. She gives us all of her own self, unreservedly, here and now through every person and encounter and thing you see. I know that’s what makes her God. She has no hidden interior life in a heavenly closet.
I know she gives her life to us.
I could provide you with theological citations, the places I had first heard this. But while I had heard it in theology, I didn’t learn it from theology. I learned it by coming out.
Because in that stretched moment that surrounds the words “I’m a lesbian,” I’m not giving you information about who I am. I’m inviting you into who I am. Yes, in some pale shadow of how God offers herself—but also in one of the very ways that God’s self-gift is given. That is what I hold onto when I’m overwhelmed and exhausted with how coming out isn’t a once-and-done thing. That’s what I hold onto when I think I can’t bear the awkwardness of it one more time. I hold onto the idea that in coming out, I’m offering someone the opportunity to see how I love, and to love me and be loved by me in a way that doesn’t hold anything back, that has no part locked-away and inaccessible.
Because that’s how I’ve come to know God. She doesn’t dole out pieces of information, one tablespoon to one person but three cups to another. She doesn’t give out information at all. She gives herself.
In one movement, she shows us how she loves; she loves us; she invites us into her love. And in the infinitely stretched moment, the black hole singularity of time that is our lives, God is constantly coming out to us, and waiting in vulnerable truth to see our response, and cutting the cake, and letting us know that everything is going to be fine, no after-school special required.