I found out today five teenagers in the LGBT community committed suicide in the last month and knowing the general statistic that homosexual youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth, I have something personal to share on this subject. To stand quiet while they suffer the insolence of this world is unjust and unlike me in my own nature. I can’t be quiet, nor should I be silent on this matter. It is for this reason that I am writing this special blog entry this week. Yes, an extra post.
Unfortunately, I am writing it to pay these teenagers the respect they deserve. I can’t help but think that if they had received honest loving respect while on this earth they might still be here with us, sharing their gifts and talents, and adding a little light to a darkening world.
The questions that follow these types of tragedies are usually, “Why did it have to happen? And how could it have been avoided?” They are very real and valid questions that make an honest attempt to get to the heart of the matter. I think it’s about time to start digging into the ugliness. We need to discover why these events happen in order to know how we can eradicate the evil that pushes down on the hearts of these victims and makes them see no other way out then to kill the beauty that is the spirit of their own life. The tragedy is and will always be that we let them down. We are responsible for their deaths. To say we are sorry is to reach down into our own souls, search our hearts and minds and discover the “why” in order to see the source of the “how”.
For me, this process of reexamination would have to start when I was in high school. In honest reflection, I could go as far back as elementary school, but high school is a perfect starting point since I was at the age where sexuality was an exploration of who I was and what I felt. Everything was new, exciting, and a little confusing. It was an age where soon I would have to face my feelings toward my own gender, but I wasn’t ready to face it then, not when I was already learning so much about myself. I had feelings for some of my friends, but I wasn’t consciously aware of it. I knew it, but didn’t look at it. The power of denial is so great that when you are in it, it is hard to see anything other than what you don’t want to see. I saw homosexuality. I didn’t see it in me. I saw it in everyone else that I “suspected” was gay. I made it a point to ask other people if they thought so-and-so was gay. I would ask in a way that made being gay seem disgusting and wrong. As time went on my feelings were growing. It was then that I rediscovered my Christian faith. It gave me an anchor for my denial. I used my religion to support my belief and I pushed with it.
Around the height of my denial, I was dating this boy Jeff. We dated for a couple of years. When we first started dating I was in my senior year of high school. I was working at a local store in town. I had gotten the job with a few of my friends. One of my friends was named Connie. Unbeknown to her I had a huge crush. I mean ridiculous to the point of pathetic. She was dating this kid Chris at the time. I would find any reason at all just to spend some time with her. The feelings that I had were wild. I had never experienced those types of feelings with a boy. I now understood what all my friends were feeling when they would talk about boys. I mean I liked guys. I loved them, but it wasn’t butterflies in my stomach kind of like. It was more like, just “like” I guess. I enjoyed their company, but I was missing that deep long lasting attraction.
As I continued to date Jeff, I found myself more and more attracted to Connie. I remember one time when Jeff and I took a trip to my grandparents’ house on Long Island; I couldn’t stop thinking about Connie. I remember writing a poem about her and it was this poem that made me ever so slightly start to face what it was I was actually feeling. I remember I was tucked in the back bedroom writing this impassioned poem while I had Jeff waiting in the living room. He didn’t know what I was writing. I never shared it with him or Connie. It was written as an outlet for my honesty. It was the birth of this: writing with honesty and not being afraid of the end result.
Unfortunately, the closer I got to looking at myself the more rigid my religious views became toward homosexuality. I have vivid memories of driving around with Jeff and getting into these long monologues about how homosexuality is against nature and immoral. I would ramble on about how you can’t create life through homosexual intercourse. Of course, at that time I wasn’t having intercourse. I rationalized it by saying I wanted to be in love. And yes, that was true, but it wasn’t the total truth. Subconsciously, I knew there had to be more than what I felt. I did play around, but could never allow myself to go all the way because it just didn’t seem right to me. I prided myself on my restraint. However, I guess I had an unknown advantage next to my hormone love stuck friends. I hadn’t experienced what they experienced. I wasn’t drunk in love.
I was on my own journey of discovery. I had to discover myself for myself, but how? I grew up in a conservative leaning house hold. My father was a Republican. Before I knew politics, I knew being a republican was good. Ronald Reagan was the best president ever and wearing a yellow ribbon was the highlight of the first Gulf War. Capitalism was good and welfare programs bad. This is how I was raised. Clearly, there was no room for being openly gay in that list of values.
Even so, I would grow into myself. I would discover who I was outside the set of values handed to me. And it would come in the most unlikely of places. I will never forget the moment it hit me that I might be gay. I had just gotten back from hanging out with Jeff. I remember we were just driving around. I noticed that it was a clear night and you could see the stars perfectly. As we were driving, I recalled that Connie said she had never seen the Little Dipper. I remember thinking that it would an amazing gesture if I went there to show her. All fine and good, but her mother scared the life out of me. She had her own things going on, so needless to say, she wasn’t the kindest person at that time. So what did I do? I had Jeff call for me! He called and Connie came out. I remember everything important about that night, like how cool the air felt, how I was standing next to her pointing up, showing her something she had never seen before. Being able to do that made me the happiest person on the earth for that moment. It was so simple and so pure for me. It was the catalyst for my awakening.
Later that night, I was taking a shower. In the shower, I was washing my hair and reminiscing about showing Connie the stars. I had a big smile on my face and then literally in mid scrub, I paused. The first conscious thought of “What if I am gay?” hit me hard in my gut. It wasn’t a “What if I’m gay?” as if I didn’t know the answer. It was more like “What if I am gay because I am gay?” if that makes any sense. I think I sat in that shower until the water turned chill. I probably sat down in the tub and let the water run over me, because that’s what I do when a big revelation appears in my life. I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I was gay and I had to face it, but I still wasn’t ready.
Graduation came and gone. Connie had gone off to college and I was commuting to UMass. I was still dating Jeff, but more and more I was conflicted inside. I had these passionate feelings for girls. I still had a crush on Connie and would look forward to my letters from her. I went to visit her once and it was after that visit that I decided I was going to tell her how I felt. She was coming home for Christmas break and it was during this time I set my sights on telling her. Until then, I waited patiently.
Finally, when Christmas arrived I went to her house to tell her my feelings. She was going to be the first person I admitted my feelings to; she was going to be the first to know I was gay. That was the plan. What ended up happening was I sat there awkwardly for what felt like an eternality trying to get the words out. It never happened and I ended up leaving with an awful feeling inside. Worse then her knowing I was gay was her thinking I was a weirdo for how I was acting, but I let it go and moved on.
Eventually, there was another girl who came into my life to distract me. I had a total puppy dog kind of crush on this girl. It was one of those crushes where none of your words come out right. Your tongue all most seemingly wraps around itself and you’re left speechless. I felt like one of those cartoon characters who float with angel wings and hearts in their eyes when she was around. However, she gave me a reason to go to class. At least the classes she was in! Her name was Darcy. During this time, Jeff and I were having major problems. He was going to UMass too. I remember we would be in these fights on the stairs. It seemed to be our spot to argue and Darcy would walk by, pinch my cheek or something and then that was the end of my fighting. I liked how it made me feel inside. It just reinforced that I needed to discover the answers, was I gay for real?
One summer Darcy and I decided to go rollerblading together. We drove up to Hampton Beach and on the way there Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” was on. Now looking back it was sort of Ironic for me. Here I am sitting in this car with the girl that I was dying to make out with or something! And she was singing along with the song and tapping on my thigh while singing. She would look over at me and I swear to you she knew my feelings and liked the attention. It drove me freaking crazy inside. Well, all these years later it was confirmed she did know. It’s just an assuming subtext to my life. Oh, Darcy.
Well, she was the reason I had to find out the truth of who I was inside. If I didn’t find out, I really felt like I was going to explode. I couldn’t contain how I felt any longer. I did what any rational closeted homosexual does, I went online!
I discovered my first girlfriend there. Her name was Bobbi. She was from North Carolina. At first we just talked. It was nice to talk to someone else who was gay. Jeff and I were on the outs at this point. I remember one night I was talking to Bobbi on the computer. I told her how I had never kissed a girl and how kissing a guy was just OK. She said to kiss him and imagine it was her and then let her know how it felt. We had been sending letters back and forth so I had a picture of her. Later the next day, after not seeing Jeff for awhile I kissed him and it felt so different. I discovered what was missing from the equation and that was my desire for another.
In ever relationship I had up until that point, it was always about me. It was always about if I was “in the mood” or if I wanted to go here or there. I was selfish in my relationships because I was missing the desire to do for another in love. In my relationships with men, it was about sex: it was about me getting off, not about them. I would soon discover that desire to want to touch and please another. I would discover love.
It sounds romantic, but the truth is to get there I had to take a bunch of lumps. I still do. When my mother caught on to my relationship with Bobbi through my 300 plus dollar phone call bills and impulsive trips to North Carolina, she confronted me on it. She asked, “Do you have feelings for Bobbi?” She said that it hit her because it reminds her of when she was a teenager and that it’s the only thing that made sense to her. I admitted to it in tears. She held me and there was that moment of relief.
After that moment pasted, it became something not talked about in the house. It was out of sight, out of mind, but never really was gone. It was the elephant in the room. At family gatherings, as my girlfriends changed people began to ask questions and it would just be denied. This hurt. It cut like a knife, but I never said anything. I just wanted to be loved by my family.
The love I desired became a point of contention as my family became more involved with the Pinewood Lutheran Church in Burlington, MA. There Pastor Fox would share his invaluable wisdom about the truth of homosexuality. He would share bible verse and handouts ultimately meant for me. I could not tell you what was on the hand outs said because I never looked at them. Thankfully, God shared personal wisdom in my heart and I didn’t need Pastor Fox to make me right with God. I had God to heal the wounds that people like Pastor Fox inflict when they try to play God.
It was this time in my life that I found the simplest of truths: Love is never wrong. All I wanted, more than anything in my heart, was someone to love, to express my love, to share in something beautiful. I wasn’t a lust filled creature preying on the weak minded. I wasn’t overcome with depravity. I was the same person I am today just a little bit more confused and a lot more naive. I couldn’t understand how people could not see that I just wanted to be happy and love the people in my life. I loved my family and now I felt like an outcaste. I was living a duel life, not by choice, but by fear. I was afraid I would lose my family, so I hid as much as I could from them.
However, as much as I tried to keep my love life a secret, I was constantly reminded of the fact that my relationships would never be accepted by my family. This became painfully clear when my sister-in-law was pregnant with my nephew. They were searching out God parents. They wanted me because of my religious beliefs, but couldn’t have me as Justin’s God Mother because of my “lifestyle”, so Justin has none.
I could go down the list of how often I have been reminded that because I love differently I am somehow immoral, but that’s not the point in writing this. I am not writing this to attack the people in my life. The bottom line is that they are my family and I love them without condition, even the condition of acceptance. Does it hurt? Of course, it’s real honest to goodness pain I feel over the rejection. Yet, I understand it.
Where I am today is on the other side of the mountain. My mother is my best friend, who accepts me without condition as I do her. My father has faced his own revelations. My brother still does his thing. We spend time, but there is distance. I think he feels comfortable that way. He’s never been comfortable with closeness. My sister-in-law and I will probably never be close. I am all right with that because I have so many people in my life who love me for me.
I believe acceptance is a two way street. I accept that some people will not be comfortable with homosexuality. However, I don’t think pushing to change other people so you can feel comfortable works either. We need to come to an understanding. I believe that understanding can only arise in love, not judgment.
My life has seen me shift from one side of the spectrum to the other, so where am I now? Truth be told I am somewhere in the middle. If someone feels more comfortable calling me gay then so be it, but even though I have been calling myself gay for sake of this post, I don’t see myself as gay. It’s really not a part of my definition for myself. I’m Christa and I love who I love. Right now, it may happen to be a woman. Or it may happen to be a man, but truth be told, I can’t answer for tomorrow. I can only speak for today.
Today, I’m just Christa and I’m focused all loving myself and those around me to the best of my ability. This is where I am here and now. I don’t think we do ourselves or each other any service by labeling the world to death in hopes of making ourselves feel more comfortable with our surrounds and the people in it. We only aim to hurt each other because now we have to live up to the definition of gay or straight, Christian or Muslim. If I’m a straight Christian and start having thoughts about another man then I might be gay, if I am gay then I’m sinning against God, and if I sin against God then I could go to hell. Wow! All of that worry because you might be attracted to another guy. Would it be simpler to explore openly and honestly your feelings or ignore it and hope that you have the strength to suppress it? Well when we ignore something, it only grows stronger. It comes out when no one is looking. Guilt and shame are powerful motivators for fueling secret desires. And it becomes an addiction. What if I get found out? It just dirties our moral compass. Yet, we force each other into it through expectation within our labels.
Pressuring each other with standards that are unrealistic is never going to solve anything. All through my early to mid twenties, I craved the acceptance of my family. This caused me to have a fair amount of unstable relationships because I had them in secret. I hid who I was and in doing, I lost my sense of self in a very real way. My esteem plummeted. I drank a lot more than I would have otherwise, because I was pushing down the hurt. I lost the voice of who I was and it was only through writing that I discovered it again; this time stronger and wiser. I am thankful I found myself. And out of it all I have found purpose and ripped all the labels off of me. Thousands of labels over 34 years worth are gone and I like the naked feeling. I like being free to just be me. I am OK with being Christa Lamb. I like her.
I am fortunate. I battled through the pain. I still have battles here and there with people who use the bible to support their label of me. I still get into arguments and afterwards wonder why I even bothered? I know better than to try and change another human beings point of view, but it’s hard when the wounds get picked at again and again. I don’t think people will ever quite understand how we hurt others until we are truly in their shoes. Maybe that’s why in life we tend to wear many hats. Maybe the goal is to reach the end carrying a bit of everyone in our hearts. Maybe this truth is the meaning of being humble. Perhaps, the ability to understand all the pain through all the experiences, and still be able to walk with a smile hold the truth to our inner most conflicts: we are the same. We share the same pain and experience the same joy. It is our persistent need to label everything that divides us.
I want to get married for the same reason as you. I want the same acceptance. I am a human being and I have spent the better part of 34 years facing who I am and the conclusion I have come to is that I am you.
When we rip each other apart because of a perceived difference, we rip apart the foundation of our collective human happiness. When I point the figure and declare someone a homosexual, I am calling myself one. When a 13 year old child hangs himself because he is afraid his family won’t love him because he is gay, we all get hanged.
We live or die together in heaven or in hell. There is no difference between my happiness and yours. If I suffer, you suffer. If you suffer, I suffer. You can call me a dyke. You can call me a lesbo. You can call me confused. You can call me a queer, a sinner, a depraved soul, but understand the mirror is always there. Your face is always staring back at you.
When I read the Bible before I came out, I felt judgment. I felt the fear of God in fear. I felt passion for my beliefs, and I wasn’t afraid to share it in righteousness. Now, when I read the bible, I don’t feel judgment. I feel love and acceptance. I feel God’s grace. I feel the love of God and it gives me reverence for all life. I don’t feel I need to make right with God. I feel the truth of God. I don’t feel righteous about my beliefs. I feel at peace with them. I feel the unconditional love I give and receive within my heart. I see the truth. It isn’t what we read, but from the point of view we read it. It is what is in the heart that matters. Without applied judgment, whether toward myself or others, the truth becomes clear.
The root of the ugliness is fear. These Teenagers, these children, died because a finger was pointed at them in fear. They died because they were being honest with who they are and we couldn’t accept that truth.
Look all around, what are they being told? You can’t serve openly to defend the country you love. You can’t get married to the one you love. You are not like me. This is the message they receive. And what if they can’t be you? And they can’t be accepted as me. What do they have left? They can’t turn to God because they are told God doesn’t condone them either. What do they have left?
Those who are religious seem to think that just loving God will bring them home, will erase the label as an immoral sinner, and rescue them from their evil ways. Well what if it’s not evil? What if it so happens that the very love they desire from another is what brings them home? For me, it was the answer.
For every law that passes in an attempt to put the true homosexual population in the closest is another law that brings another straight man into the dark. What is buried in darkness becomes the darkness of the heart. Nothing gets solved by denying those who want to live open in the light of truth their wish to do so. It only serves to create an underworld of darkness for those who seek to go against themselves.
To force a portion of the population to be in darkness (to deem homosexuality immoral) when they are screaming for the light (to be able to express their true selves) is only embracing the darkness. Perhaps, there is such a strong fight because some would be afraid. They may think, “If we give homosexuals what they want it might expose me.” It might expose their true depravity because there are those who don’t want to be found out. The latest news story about Bishop Long shows this truth. For them it pays off to vilify the gay person. If they keep the homosexuals in the dark then he can work in the dark. He would have something to hide behind. Without oppression, the oppressor is exposed.
We have to stop pointing fingers at others for our own benefit. I did it many years ago. I pointed my finger in an attempt to push myself further away from the truth. What I should have done was just to look in the mirror without judgment.
I guess these stories really hit home because I was 16-20 when I went through my struggle. I never right out called someone a fag to their face, but I did say it behind their backs. I promoted this idea of superiority. I was right and they were wrong.
Well, no one is right, or wrong. We’re just growing and learning about our selves and life. It breaks my heart to know that those children never grew to the point of acceptance inside themselves because the pain was too great. I’m writing this to share my story because I believe somewhere in my story is your story, our story together.
Please, just love each other because this is the root of healing. A finger pointed in judgment, judges all. A hand out stretched in love, loves all.
I love you. Come out of the darkness and join me in the light.
Light &Love to all,
Christa A Lamb.