This past month, something miraculous happened. I made a commitment to correct people whenever they misgendered me, and I actually followed through with it, and I didn’t go up in flames. I didn’t shake so hard that I felt like I would fall apart. Best of all, I didn’t poop my pants in terror, for which I definitely deserve a round of applause, lolsob.
I’m a tough old goat who isn’t surprised or intimidated by much at this point. I’ve worked for years in prisons and forensic psychiatric facilities. I’ve lived through homelessness, domestic violence, and life in the ELCA as a Black disabled person (if that ain’t scary, I don’t know what is!) So I didn’t expect coming out as non-binary/agender to be so damn hard. But it is terrifying. Still. Despite all the progress that’s been made, there is still a very long way to go towards constructing a world/church where queer people are safe, affirmed, and fully welcomed (Ngl, it still feels weird using the term “queer” to apply to myself, as though I haven’t earned my place. I will likely never know even a fraction of the oppression, and outright violence that those who came before me endured, and that so many, especially Black trans women, still endure today. But it feels better knowing that they probably felt that imposter syndrome too.)
When I first joined the ELM board, I identified as female and insisted I was there as “just an ally.” I thought that constantly feeling like your gender was an itchy sweater you could never take off was just part of the human experience, especially for Black women, whose lived experiences of femininity will never be enough for white culture to give them full access to the category of “womanhood.” But during my time with the organization, I met more and more BIPOC non-binary folks. I realized our experiences and feelings and struggles aligned, and that it was ok to test out different pronouns and ways of identifying and see which fit the best. I had my first of many “coming outs/inviting ins” in a board meeting two years ago, and received so much support and acceptance and love. There have been more since then, including the big hurdle that this last month has represented. There will be many more in future. They will not all go well. But when they don’t, I know that I have a beloved community in ELM to reach out to, where I will find others who understand, who have “been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt”, and who have paved the way for me.
My time serving on the ELM board has been intense, especially in the last few years. We have weathered the pandemic, massive funding losses, and huge questions and divisions around our mission and vision for the future, especially where racism is concerned. We haven’t always done it well. But I’m still here because I see and experience the constant desire to do better by vulnerable people, to cultivate healthier relationships, to lead from a position that affirms that queerness is not to be just tolerated, but celebrated. That’s why I serve and why I donate to support the work of this organization. It’s why I’m inviting you to do the same on this National Coming Out Day where we are so blessed to be able to have 400+ members of Proclaim and so many allies who remain committed to doing this crucial work. Will you join me in celebrating this moment in our lives together with a contribution of $4, $40, or $400? (Or maybe $400,000-somebody out there has got to have that winning Powerball ticket, right?!?)
Whether or not you are able to make a financial contribution, whether or not you are officially “out,” wherever you might be in your journey of the constant comings-out that is queer existence, that continual revelation of who God was and is creating you to be…You are loved. Mightily. Riotously. God has seen you and declared you (and me!) queerly beloved. Your picture hangs on Their refrigerator, and They wear the macaroni necklace you made in kindergarten as a crown, because you are Their pride and joy. Be safe this day, beloveds. If you’re ready to, be bold, secure in the knowledge that your queerness is divine and that you are not alone. Reach out to us at email@example.com if you need prayer, a listening ear, or cheering on as you embark on a difficult conversation today. God loves you and so do we.