The Walls Are Down
It’s been a hard week.
Christmas makes me tremendously anxious. It’s dark and cold outside, and this year’s multiple storms have made my daily commute much more treacherous. I’m worried about creating an enjoyable holiday for my immediate family, and about my estrangement from my extended family. Even listening to Christmas music is difficult because it triggers so many memories from my past.
So when the media flared with the news of an interview with “Duck Dynasty” cast member Phil Robertson, I was already in a pretty vulnerable space. I don’t watch the show, but some friends are avid fans. I read the interview quotes, shook my head in disgust at the man’s ignorance, and let it go (or so I thought).
But the media didn’t let it go, and neither did a large number of people who identify as Christian and spoke out in support of Robertson. Day after day, I saw online articles about the interview, about free speech, about God and the Bible and Corinthians, and each article and its comments pushed me lower and lower to the ground. My relationship was compared to having sexual relations with a farm animal. I was reduced to a group: “the gays,” although substituting any other group in that quote (“the whites,” “the Jews”) would have been considered inappropriate. I was judged and labeled by people who have never met me, never gotten to know me, and it hurt. Every single time.
This hurt is new to me. I’m white, educated, and financially secure. Until I came out, I lived a life I felt was above reproach, and so to be the target of so much hate and vitriol is really painful. I wish I could have a thicker hide when it comes to this stuff, or that I could live a space of righteous anger about it. But all I seem to be able to do is return again and again to the online world, absorbing the hate until I am a walking open wound.
I keep looking for kindness from strangers. On my drive to work, I hear the topic discussed on morning radio, and all the people who call into the show support Robertson because he is speaking about his faith. I hope the next caller will defend me, but no one ever does, and I walk into my workplace with my head down and my heart aching from the hurt. I can’t stop myself from reading the online stories and clicking links to more comments, more words about how I am worthless, equal to a terrorist in the eyes of a God that hates me and my homosexuality. I finally break down in front of my wife, begging her to tell me that it won’t always hurt like this, that I won’t always feel so beaten and hopeless.
After several days of this, I happened to read an interview between my friend Marg and Reverend Audrey Connor, an openly lesbian hospital chaplain and all-around amazing woman. In the interview, Connor wrote this:
“I cannot overstate how thankful I am for those who take up their personal chisels to chip away at the walls— for me and those walking with me. That is how these walls will come down. I have chiseled some, and I am not giving up, but for right now, I feel a call to live as if the walls are already down.”
I couldn’t stop thinking about those words. “I have chiseled some, and I am not giving up, but for right now, I feel a call to live as if the walls are already down.”
What does that mean?
It means to know I’m okay. Ten, twenty, thirty years ago, this life I live as an openly gay woman would not have been possible. It’s because of the work of so many before me with their “personal chisels” that I am able to stand proudly in who I am without fear or shame, and I claim that space.
It means I know that I am loved by a force greater than myself, who calls to me to live a whole and authentic life.
It means that I choose not to participate in hurting anyone else, including myself. Not in the name of what is “right,” or holy, or in the name of God or Jesus or anything else. Phil Robertson’s comments hurt. They were unkind, and that automatically separates him from the God he professes to serve. I separate myself from God and from love when I judge anything.
It means choosing love over hate or ignorance or indifference. It means being vulnerable with people who are not choosing love. It means keeping fire for those who have been hurt by others, who choose to stay in an angry or confrontational space because it feels safe for now.
I’m gay, and I’m loved. I’m holy. The walls are down, and I’m still here.