Why I'm still in the closet
While I have found a supportive queer community at university, I worry it won’t be the same within the church
This First Person article is the experience of Kitty C., a university student in Vancouver, B.C., who is writing under a pseudonym to protect her identity. For more information about CBC's First Person stories, please see the FAQ.
Immoral. Unholy. Sinful. Destined to burn in hell.
These are all things teachers and staff at my Christian high school said about the LGBTQ community.
I graduated from my Metro Vancouver school less than five years ago, and as far as I can tell, nothing has changed since, and those individuals have not faced any repercussions for their words.
It is not a safe space — not for anyone, but especially not for queer individuals. If it were, I wouldn't have felt the need to hide who I am.
I learned at a young age from my family and school teachers that same-sex relationships were wrong. I didn't question it; I trusted that the adults in my life were teaching me the right things. They didn't say that LGBTQ people would go to hell, nor did they teach me to judge and condemn this community, but the disapproval in their voice told me everything they didn't say: they were uncomfortable with the thought of gay marriage because it was wrong.
These attitudes still haunt me.
I was around 11 years old when something shifted in me. I was talking to my friend Anna when I began wondering what it would be like to kiss her.
That thought terrified me. It wasn't because I hadn't kissed anyone before or because I didn't know if she liked me back or not.
I was terrified because I wasn't supposed to feel this way.
But I did. I really, really did.
In my terror, I pushed away my feelings and locked them in a far corner of my mind. They remained unacknowledged for the next six years.
'I'm in a world where being queer is normalized'
I've been out since my first year of university.
For the first time ever, I am attending a secular institution, one where my professors and friends are largely pro-LGBTQ.
I'm in a world where being queer is normalized and not a scandal or shameful.
Many of my friends are openly gay or bi, and they are comfortable with their identity. I envied them, because I wanted to be as comfortable with my identity as they were with theirs. But I knew I couldn't, because my Christian community disapproved of the LGBTQ community.
In my second semester, I met a girl named Alice. She was openly gay and Christian. She had been out since middle school, and her family accepted her sexuality. I began talking to her, looking for guidance on accepting myself and coming out. She encouraged me to come out to someone I considered a brother, someone I looked up to and grew up with.
She was friends with him and he knew she was gay.
I remember I was so, so terrified when I told him in a message. I knew he was accepting of Alice, but a small part of me doubted whether he, as a practising Christian, would accept me too.
His answer made me almost cry: "Cool. Okay." It was such a normal, non-reacting answer that was so like him, that I felt a huge burden lift off my chest.
"Maybe he's not the only one. Maybe not everyone will react badly," I thought.
His answer gave me the courage to come out to my childhood best friend. The next time we saw each other, she gave me a hug.
"You're still my friend," she told me.
Their acceptance unlocked a freedom to be who I am without worrying that I will be judged.
But this freedom is defined by the borders of my university. I cannot be free with the adults in my Christian community, with my former school teachers, or with my parents.
I don't know who will accept or reject me. I cannot trust that I will be looked at, or treated, the same as before. So I hide, pretending I am as straight as they believe me to be.
It's not my faith holding me back, it's the people. I'm not ready to be judged and be met with disgust or even hate by the people who decided that God gave them the right to judge and condemn. I know that God loves me; I don't believe for a second that He hates me because He made me who I am and He doesn't make mistakes.
I'm tired of playing a guessing game, trying to see who in my life is an ally. I'm tired of the war raging in me, where my desire to be happy and free fights against internalized homophobia and self-hatred.
Just because I've accepted who I am and embraced my identity doesn't mean I've left the things I was taught all those years ago. A lot of what I learned is ingrained in me so deeply that I don't think I can ever get it out.
One of the two Christian adults who accepted and supported me once said to me, "I hope you can keep embracing who God made you to be." It's a line I constantly come back to whenever I'm feeling terrible about myself.
I really hope I can completely embrace myself one day, that I can finally banish the hate that tears me apart inside. But I won't do it alone; I'll be with the people I know who love, accept, and support me.
People like the two aforementioned adults.
They have shown me something I hadn't known existed in my community: allyship. And this gives me hope. Hope for a better, safer, more accepting community.
And maybe one day, I can share this story with my voice.
Some names have been changed to respect the privacy of individuals in this piece.
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