“Do you think you will ever date women again?” My new therapist asks. We’re on a get-to-know-you call. I’ve been in therapy for over a year now. I’m doing exponentially better than I ever have been in my life. But I know I have a lifetime of deconstruction ahead.
I tell her that I am not sure and that I’m strategically dating men in hopes that I will fall in love with one. “Are you attracted to men?” She pushes. I tell her yes. I’m attracted to men. And women. But I have a hard time becoming genuinely intimate with men. And when I think about spending the rest of my life with one, I am afraid I may be lonely. “So, what is stopping you from dating women?” I know what it is. It’s my sister.
I’ve lost and become estranged from every other family member, (except for my dad), and frankly, I’m in a place in my life where I don’t care what they think. It’s just my sister, my little sister. She’s two years younger than me. I love my sister so much. She’s different; she always has been. She’s beautiful, strong, and brilliant. She’s defied many expectations of our upbringing. She became a pilot when she was 17. She is a lawyer and works a high-paying job while also doing her duties as a pastor’s wife and running a church. She is funny, she is kind, and she is strong. She works harder than anyone else I know.
She’s been married for nine years, and she just found out she is pregnant. She’s over the moon. We were best friends when we were teenagers. We often shared a bed and listened to Adventures in Odyssey* together before falling asleep. We stayed up late into the night talking and laughing. And as we got older, we traveled together — our first trip was Hawaii, where we rode around in a convertible and gorged ourselves on tropical fruit. We were sixteen and eighteen. My heart aches when I write this.
I explain to the therapist: I’ve lost so much of our relationship in my journey. I haven’t been the older sister that she needs or wants me to be. And I feel guilt and shame around that — we both lost our mother. Our relationship now is friendly. We talk often. But we can’t talk about anything serious because it always comes back to the church. When I told her (in little detail) about my anxiety and how I decided to go to therapy last year, she responded with: “Well, when I feel anxious, I pray.” I said nothing. Because if I told the truth I would have said: I’m having a nervous breakdown brought about by some serious mental health struggles, trauma from mom dying, losing almost everyone and everything in my life, (and never quite dealing with it), and, oh, I’m queer.
She disapproves of my lifestyle now, I explain to the therapist. And if I came out, she would disown me. She probably wouldn’t let me near her kids. If I fell in love with a woman, my partner would never be welcome at birthdays, Christmas, any holiday. I’d lose her entirely. Forever.
“What is this lifestyle of yours that she finds so appalling?” The therapist asks. Everything, I say, I don’t belong to the church anymore, and I don’t adhere to the rules. So nothing in my life meets her approval. “What rules?” I explain how I cut my hair; I wear pants, watch TV and movies, go to bars, drink, and have sex out of wedlock (fornication). I wear jewelry. I don’t go to church. I listen to secular music, I believe in evolution, and I’m queer. I don’t take the Bible literally. “Wow.” She says. It’s annoying how many times I’ve gotten that response in therapy. “Wow. Well, that’s a cult.”
In recent years I’ve become more comfortable with the c-word. When I first started to explain, I tried to compare my upbringing to Amish. Somewhere along the way, I began saying “culty.” But in recent years, I started saying “cult.”
Lesson: Homosexuality 101
Presented By: Evangelical Pastors Everywhere
“It was Adam and Eve in the garden, not Adam and Steve!”
*Adventures in Odyssey is a kids radio program produced by Focus on the Family that touts Biblical themes and concepts through radio drama.
Due to the sensitive nature of this topic, the author has decided to remain anonymous.
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