Disclaimer: This story contains mention of self-harm that may be triggering to some.
“There are chapters of my life I can tell you about. Like the time my mom saw me kiss a girl when I was about 14 years old. She pretended she didn’t see anything, and never talked about it again. I can tell you about the time I was outed on Facebook by one of my mom’s friends during my senior year of high school. Or just recently, when my mom found out I was in an LGBT group chat and threatened to kick me out. But I’m not going to tell you any of that. I’m going to tell you about high school— most importantly, freshman year where the whole journey began.
I am a Haitian-American, first-generation at that. I grew up in a small town in New Jersey. I went to a predominantly white Christian private school, which was also the same church I went to. My mother and I would do devotionals before I went to bed and pray together. At school, we learned about the Bible and God, memorizing the Bible’s different books and verses. A lot of what I know now is because of that, and I’m so grateful for it. But at that time, it was all I knew. Then my parents got divorced, which was inevitable, really. My father was never around. When he was home, I was sleeping, at school, at Awana, or better yet, at home. While the divorce was going on, my mother took me out of the Christian school and put me in public school.
Now I was in public school, and I have been for 4 years now. I moved, so I was still in the same town but in a different school district. A different district meant a brand new high school, so I was going to a different high school with no friends. I didn’t know anyone; I barely even knew myself. We had a peer leadership group to help us make new friends and adjust to high school. That was all fine… until they asked the class if we support gay marriage. You were supposed to go left if you do and right if you don’t. This is where the instant panic hit me like a truck. All these thoughts going through my head a mile a minute, knowing I need to make a decision! It was all too fast because I like girls. Yes, I’ve noticed that. But if I say yes…what does that mean for me? All of this and so much more was going through my head.
No one wants to talk about the LGBT+ community UNTIL they bring up sin and how wrong it is. If you’re part of this community, they say God does not love you, and you are going to hell. At that moment, I thought, ‘What does my mom believe?’ and I went right. A few weeks went by and there was this girl in my class. She’s funny, overly dramatic. I liked her voice and lisp, and I thought she was cute. We somehow became friends, but she was in love with her friend who walked all over her. Soon, we were talking, flirting, when she started to bully me. Her excuse was, ‘How can I say I don’t support gay marriage but have a thing with my friend?’ She would text me on her friend’s phone and say such harsh and cruel things to me, and then delete them so when she gave the phone back, she didn’t know.
This was hard for me, because I was on this journey of self-discovery and figuring myself out. And here comes some girl, bullying me. At the beginning of the year, I said I didn’t support gay marriage, but I didn’t know any better.
The bullying was harsh and cruel. I battled myself every single day about who I was. I would deny it because if I denied it, it wouldn’t be true, right? I would look myself in the mirror and hate the person I was. How could I possibly be gay? I grew up in the church, learning about the Bible and scripture. I knew what the Bible said about homosexuality. And most of all, I knew my mom would never accept me, which hurt more than anything in the whole world. It still does sometimes. Between religion and my mom’s beliefs, this darkness slowly crept over me. I felt trapped, isolated, like I was in this darkness with nowhere to go but down. I was alone to figure this out by myself. I had no one to go to, no one to talk to. Even if I did, I was too scared about what they would say and if they would tell my mom.
I was so numb, so empty. I struggled with self-harm during middle school because my parents’ divorce was hard on me. I was constantly put in the middle to the point where I felt like a pawn in their game of chess. I hated myself, and my life, or at least what I was going through at the time. I had been a few months clean without self-harming and that urge just ran into me. I just kept hearing a voice inside my head telling me to ‘cut myself… it’ll take the pain away’ over and over again. It felt good to do it, to just watch the blood drip down from my wrist, as if I’m not me, but someone else. Fighting that urge was one of the most difficult things I had to do.
Imagine going through all that while getting bullied. I hated myself and I hated God. I would cry myself to sleep every night and I asked, no BEGGED, God to take this away from me. I didn’t want it. I did everything I could think of. I even bargained with him to take my life away. I didn’t want to wake up the next morning, because death would have been better than going through the pain and suffering.
When I woke up the next day, I was disappointed, to say the least. This continued for a while. I remember thinking, ‘God does not make mistakes so how could this be? How could he put me in a situation (a house) that is not accepting?’ I told God I was the one mistake he made, and he needed to fix it. But I am still here and I’m still queer.
After that, being gay was something I knew, but didn’t really do anything about. It was just this information I held onto in private. During this time I realized more and more I was gay and I started to stray from God. I thought the two do not coincide with each other, and I was in limbo. I was one person, but somehow at two opposite sides of the spectrum.
This is where my battle with my sexuality and Christianity began. All my life I’ve been told homosexuality is a sin. I’m 17 thinking, ‘I’m gay, so now what does that mean? I can’t be a Christian anymore?’ I very much do believe in God. Who I love is different, but that shouldn’t matter. I kept comparing my thoughts and feelings about what I know, and the Bible and what preachers and my mom have been saying. I began to feel worthless and angry. Angry at God for making me this way, and not taking it away when I begged him to. Angry at my mom for trying to put me in this box I do not belong in, nor want to be in. Angry at my mom for being close-minded, and knowing she will never really truly accept me.
I strayed further and further away from God and my mom. We would clashed all the time, especially when she made a comment or remark about the gay community. I think most of the time she said it to see how I would react. I would go to church because I had to. I quite literally closed one door (Christianity) and opened another (queerness). I could only do so much with a mother against homosexuality and the LGBT community, and also being in a small town. I found it where I could though. I had friends who helped me with that. I found it in books, podcasts, and shows that I would secretly watch. And most importantly, I did my research. A lot of what I know now is because I sought it out. I learned about the terms and history because I wanted to know, and I was curious about all things queer. In college, I did a work-study for the Gender Equity Center, which really helped me to grow and understand myself and my sexuality.
I didn’t fully start accepting myself until college. I went to community college first, so by the time I went to school, I was 20 years old. I could finally discover who I was, who I wanted to be, and who I was meant to be. That’s when I started openly dating girls and going where I wanted to, without anything or anyone stopping me. I was a caged bird in my small town with my religious mother, and now I was free, discovering my full potential.
I dressed how I wanted to. If I wanted to look feminine, I would. Not because I felt like I HAD to but because I felt like it. If I looked a little masculine, that was okay, because I wanted to. Looking ‘masculine’ was something I also struggled with. I had to correct myself about the thoughts I had based on society and my mother’s standards. I would always sneak away to the men’s section and have a zinging pain because I wanted to wear clothes like that but knew I couldn’t. At least not yet. I was afraid to because of what other people would say. Most importantly, I didn’t want my mom to make me feel small with her comments just because I happened to like men’s clothing more.
I eased myself into it by thrift shopping, finding items in the men’s sections that were passable. I saw this cute black and white button-down shirt with roses on it from H&M Men’s section last year. I loved it and wanted to buy it, but I stopped myself because I deemed it ‘too masculine.’ And quite honestly, I was scared. A few weeks later, I went back to the store saw the same shirt. I knew I just had to buy it, so I did. To this day, I have yet to wear it. I keep telling myself I’m saving it for a special occasion.
Some things came easier to me and felt more natural than other things. When I finally kissed a girl, holding hands with her just felt so natural, and it was nice. At this moment in time, not once was I afraid of people looking at me for holding hands or kissing a girl, or what people might say or do to me. Nor did I feel any sense of shame. I had let other people make me feel small, including myself, for too long. I was over it.
I’ve been fighting myself for so long. But I know now it’s time to let go of those limitations. There were times when I was home, and I cut relationships off because I was too scared of the outcome. I was afraid of what would happen if my mom caught us kissing in the living room, or if I got too comfortable.
There was this girl at summer camp. We became best friends and did everything together. We become a thing and it was great… but I ended it because of these fears. To make sure I didn’t go back to her, I set her up with someone I know, but I still got jealous. I was on high alert at all times, survival mode. But away from home, I can do things. I can learn and explore. And with that exploration, I realized Christianity and sexuality do not need to fight each other. They can live peacefully.
My journey has been long and hard, but I’m finally at peace with it now. I’ve realized Christianity and sexuality can coincide with each other. It doesn’t diminish the love God has for me. I’m still his child. I choose to not label myself because that’s just who I am. I love who I love, and because of that, I don’t think it’s anyone’s business. I’m constantly growing and evolving and I’m unapologetically myself. I stopped trying to fit into this model of other people’s expectations and decided to be who I wanted to be. I stopped caring about gender roles and gendered clothing, and buy things because I like them. I’ve definitely come a long way, and I still have a long way to go.
Being queer and a Christian is who I am. You cannot separate the two parts of me. I’ve tried to do that. There are so many queer people who have gone through similar experiences, or even worse things than I have. I want to help with that in any way I can. If you are out there struggling with your sexuality and/or faith, just know you are loved, valued, cherished, and certainly valued. I love you and most importantly, God loves you. You can get through this. You may be in a dark time right now, but just know diamonds are made under pressure, and you are rare.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Pascale Joseph from Hamilton, New Jersey. You can follow her journey on Twitter. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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