By Sarah Miller
This time last year, I was preparing for my next round of IVF after I had endured two soul-crushing miscarriages. I had two little boys already, but my husband and I wanted a third to complete our family. Correction: I wanted a third. It was in my plan. I wanted one more baby to grow in my tummy and one more baby to nurse.
If I’m being really honest, at the same time, I was also starting to fall in love with a woman.
My mind was reeling from this new feeling. I was completely caught off guard. “I’m straight. I’m married. I have two kids. I am not gay.” These were all things I kept telling myself. She was supposed to be my friend, not a love interest. I was so happy when we started hanging out. I was amazed at how quickly we clicked. It was truly instantaneous. I decided she was my new best friend. We hung out every single weekend with my husband and our friends. I shared things with her that I couldn’t tell anyone else. She understood me and listened to me like no one ever had. The feelings were growing, but I denied them and continued full speed ahead with my regularly planned life: husband, family, IVF.
Regardless of feelings, the plan for a baby was in motion. These feelings for her would not and could not last. I had a family, a husband, and I hoped this baby would snap me out of whatever fog my mind had gotten into. One year ago, I had a wonderful, loving husband. I had a great relationship with my family. I had amazing friends. My life group from church was one of the most genuine groups of Christians I had ever been a part of.
Today, my life looks much different. That perfectly mapped out life has been rerouted in a completely different direction. I’m going through a divorce. My relationship with my mom is deeply fractured. Most of my church friends are gone, and my closest friends are no longer a part of my life. What the hell happened in only a year?
I think most people would agree that 2020 sucked. There’s no way to deny the loss, pain, and isolation that the world has suffered collectively. COVID-19 threw us all for a loop. Add in an affair, a miscarriage, divorce, and the loss of many close relationships and you’ve got a small picture of my 2020.
(I also fell deeply in love, found a voice inside me that I didn’t know existed, and grew more as a person than I had my entire adult life…but that story can be told another day.)
One year ago, I think most people who knew me thought of me as a genuine, thoughtful, and honest person. And I was. I am a rule follower by nature. I hate hurting people. That is why I look back and think, “What in the actual hell? How in the world did I have an affair and cheat on my husband, with a woman? I thought I was straight! Sexuality doesn’t change, right?”
Well. Come to find out, my sexuality is fluid. When I first started sharing my story with close friends and family, so many of them asked “if I was a lesbian now” and had I “always been gay.” I never knew that was such a hard question to answer. I had always thought of sexuality as something concrete, not something that changed. Especially not something that changed after being married for 12 years. I thought so much about that question.
Am I gay? How can I be gay? I’ve been with men my entire life. I can’t be a lesbian, because clearly, I like men. So what am I? I was trying so hard to find a label for myself. Then I realized that finding a label was not for me to understand myself: it was a way for me to make others understand me and make sense of my life.
My concrete view of sexuality stemmed from my largely conservative, evangelical Christian background. I grew up believing that sexuality was a choice and that gay people decided to be gay. Thankfully, when I moved out and went to college, I started actually meeting people from the LGBTQ community. It took me a few years to be able to say that I fully supported/affirmed the LGBTQ community and that I believed they were fully loved and affirmed by God.
At the time, I didn’t know any gay or gay-affirming Christians. My first experience with a fully affirming Christian was Jen Hatmaker, a prominent author and speaker. Since then, she’s been blacklisted by conservative evangelical spaces because of her support of the LGBTQ community. She’s an amazing author who loves Jesus and loves his people well.
I also started reading and learning from other more progressive Christians who were inclusive and supportive of the LGBTQ+ community. I learned that I could be a Christian and support the gay community.
A lot has changed in this past year. That beautiful baby girl that started growing in my tummy stopped growing. My third and final miscarriage became the endcap of my marriage. The pain of leaving, losing the baby, losing my comfortable life, and losing relationships I treasured was hard to bear.
I look back at those first couple of months after I left and think, “You are a freaking badass.” I honestly have no idea how I got through that time. I spent my entire life trying to be seen as “good” and “sweet.” What kind of good person cheats on their husband? Knowing people’s opinions of me hurt more than I can say. I had to grow thick skin. I had to look at those people who walked out on me and realize that we weren’t what I thought we were. They were in my life for a season, but they were not able to look past my choices.
My friends didn’t leave because I decided to be with a woman. They left me because I cheated. They didn’t want to be associated with a person who did what I did. That was devastating. I had deep shame knowing that people thought I was morally bad.
In addition to losing so many friends, I lost the close relationship I had with my mom. This has been the hardest part. I was prepared for a “We disagree, but you are an adult and you make your own choices” type of discussion with my mother, but what I got was, “The bible is clear; homosexuality is a sin. I don’t want to meet the person that broke up your marriage.”
The person I love the most, besides my two boys, has been vilified by my mom. The person who has always been my biggest supporter is now praying for the failure of my new relationship. I don’t know if our mother/daughter relationship can ever come back from that.
I grew up hearing “God is love” and “God forgives” constantly. I know God loves me. Period. No question. I also know God has forgiven me for the mistakes I made a year ago. The hardest thing to deal with now is knowing that the same God is being used as a weapon against my love for another person.
How can love be a sin? Is murder a sin? Yes. Adultery? Yes. Lying? Yes. These are sins because they hurt people. But two people in a committed, loving relationship? No. There is not a bone in my body that can get behind that way of thinking. It’s hard to imagine anyone could see two people in love and see sin. Yet, a large part of the evangelical church does.
One year ago, I followed a different god. Today, I choose to follow a God that loves and accepts everyone.
My God loves love, period.
I am slowly learning that I can disagree with things I was taught. I am allowed to ask questions, especially when I’m questioning the harm and exclusion of other people. My girlfriend and I have disagreements, but I am not afraid of conflict. I want to work through it so we can get to the good stuff. The good stuff with her is the best stuff. The times when we simply look at each other and ask, “Do we really get to be this happy?” It’s an incredible feeling that I never knew I would experience one year ago. Today, I am stronger and more confident in who I am. I am becoming who I want to be, not who others tell me I should be. I made mistakes, as humans do, but I’m not living in shame any longer. I’m moving forward and focusing on the future.
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Sarah Miller is an overly optimistic, conflict-avoidant, newly queer educator and mom of two. She finds joy in writing, sunshine, good salsa, and coffee with too much creamer. She believes everyone has a story that’s worthy of being told.
“This life is mine alone. So I’ve stopped asking people for directions to places they’ve never been.” -Glennon Doyle