One year and one month ago I realized that I could no longer keep a secret from my mom. My mother, other members of my family, and myself were packing up my college dorm and I was about to leave for a 6 week trip to Europe. I figured that time was as good as any.
“Mom, I am bisexual”.
I remember my mom’s reaction when I came out to her clearly. She did not say much at first, but continued packing up the dorm. As we were leaving the campus and packed up the car, she began to cry, and then sob. At that moment I knew two things: 1) I did not know if I was going to have a relationship with my mother at the end of the day and 2) that we had to talk things through. My mother and I got into one car, and the rest of my family in another and we drove towards Atlanta. Not long after we started driving my mom pulled over at Sonic and ordered two limeades, located some tissues, and we began to talk.
As my mom and I talked about my sexuality and what bisexual means, my mom assured me that she would always love me.
The reason why she was crying was not because she was upset with me, but because I was not going to have all the rights and abilities to live my life and fulfill my calling to ministry.
This past Easter, I began to come out to my family and close friends as transgender/non-binary.
I was raised in a small town in Mississippi. Mississippi is known as being one of the most conservative states in the country, which can be seen from the 2016 election results as well as state legislation which has attempted to override Obergefell v. Hodges (see HB 1523). There are no legal protections for individuals that are LGBTQ+ in Mississippi. The state employees’ health insurance does not cover medical procedures and appointments for transgender individuals, and Mississippi does not recognize hate crimes based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
For a state that is deeply religious, the level of hate and discrimination towards others that do not fit into a prescribed mold is astonishingly high.
While living in small-town Mississippi had some benefits, for a person that identifies as LGBTQ+, living in that environment was similar to wearing a mask every day. Every day I would have to make sure I dressed “girly” enough. Every day I was careful with how I interacted with women that I liked. Every day I feared someone finding out. Every day for 6 years I was afraid. When I heard God’s calling for me to go into ministry, I became more afraid.
The Book of Discipline in The United Methodist Church does not allow practicing homosexuals to become ordained in the church (¶304.3).
This rule hinders myself as well as all individuals that are LGBTQ+ and called to ministry. I remember one of the Mississippi Annual Conferences that I attended, LGBTQ+ rights were one of the “hot button” issues. When the time came for the conference to vote on a piece of legislation the conversation on the floor became very heated and I had to leave the room. Not because I did not want to take part in the conversation, but because the level of hate that was directed towards all individuals from the LGBTQ+ community made me weep.
In this season of Annual Conferences laity and clergy are convening across the nation. Some conferences are committing to move towards inclusion, while others are reaffirming their commitment to exclude the very people that may need a welcoming and nurturing community now more than ever. As an individual that identifies as trans/non-binary, bisexual, is called to ministry, and calls Mississippi home, I implore everyone to take a step back and look at what they are doing.
Are the actions you are taking helping or hurting those around you that need your help the most?
“For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29).
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