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I grew up in rural Montana. The discovery of my own sexuality amidst the highly conservative political and religious environment of the mid-90s left me exiled from the world that I had spent my whole life inhabiting. If there were other queer people around, they were deeply closeted. 

Eventually, I came out in one of Montana’s small cities and lived openly. Our community of LGBTQ+ people, before the digital and internet age, was tightly knit and fiercely protective of one another. We were living openly, in resistance to almost everything that surrounded us. 

The loneliness I felt was transformed by a sense of home that the queer community offered me, when I could claim it. Community became a holiness, a grace made visible for my long years of loneliness. How true has this been for so many of us? I found that I, too, was worthy of love. Because I was loved by all of you. 

That’s not to say my community then and our LGBTQIA+ communities now are perfect. It took me years to comprehend the racism, misogyny, classism, and ageism deeply imbedded in the queer culture of the 1990s and now. I noticed how queer men and women didn’t mix — how clubs and bars enforced this gendered separation through the practice of “men only” entrances and charging higher covers for women at dance clubs. I noticed that white gay men didn’t cross some invisible line in a gay bar in Eastern Montana and meet or make friends with Indigenous queer and two-spirited people. It took years to understand how my own privilege allowed me to benefit from and made me complicit in these wrongs. I am still learning. 

And, the Holy One is at work among us. Transformation requires the willingness to be broken open. Queer people of God are gifted with the ability to transform ourselves and our lives in special ways. We were broken out of the tomb of our closets, out of the bondage of our old ways of living that kept us separated from others. 

George’ Michael’s, “Freedom” remains an imperfect song, but it continues to remind me that I am liberated, set free in Love.

Jory Mickelson (he/they) is a mission developer in the Northwest Washington Synod. They are currently looking for ways to build connections and imbed service to the LGBTQ+ community in the life of the church where they live. A writer and educator, their first book Wilderness//Kingdom was published in 2019.

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