I was called brave once. I don’t think I was very brave. I had written about me. About how my family perceives me. About how my mom said I’m “not that kind of person”. I had written about the part of my life that wasn’t a phase, but was called a phase by those I thought loved me the most.
“That was really brave of you to say,” my teacher said after I finished sharing to the class. My voice was strong, but my hands were sweaty as I clenched my notebook between shaky fingers. I didn’t feel brave. These were strangers surrounding me, listening to the taboo words that rank with sin as they dripped from my lips. These were people I wouldn’t have to live with for the rest of my life. I didn’t do much for them, but share who I am.
There are moments where I wish I’d been brave. Moments where I could have stopped something from getting out of control, but I stood back and watched everything unfold like a bystander. A side character in my own life.
“It’s okay if your friends are gay,” my mom would say. “I had gay friends when I grew up. But they’re not the kind of friends you get close with.”
I wish I had been brave here. I wish I would have opened my mouth and asked, “Why can’t they be close friends? Is there something wrong with being gay?” I should have questioned her, but I was only twelve. I had yet to openly question my parent’s beliefs. Besides, my family was Christian. To question anything to do with gayness or those outside of heteronormativity was asking to be ostracized from the family.
I kept my mouth shut. I was not brave.
As a Methodist, I have been told all my life that God made women for men. The right way to love was between a man and a woman. To think otherwise was blasphemous. Being gay equated to constantly sinning, and did you really want to do that? I was told they were wrong in the head. The gay agenda was to thwart God and Christians and everything we believed in. But what exactly were we believing in?
“God is who we believe in,” the pastor would preach every Sunday, body half hidden behind a wooden podium holding his bible and sermon notes. He never lacked conviction as he gazed warmly into the crowd and declared, “God’s love is for everyone who repents from their sins.”
Psalm 139:14 says, “ I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” The church praises these words. We are made wonderfully. We are marvelous, and we know this because God did it. God made us!
But did God not also make those that are gay or lesbian? Trans or bisexual? Did God not make those that are asexual like me? Did he not make each and every person just are they are meant to be?
Psalm 139:13-16 says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” God knew each and every one of us before we were born. He saw us, and loved us, and made us even after He knew who we would become. In God’s eyes, I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
I feel brave when I hear these verses, when I read them by myself, bundled in blankets around a lit fireplace. It is only when I step inside the church that I know I am not brave. I see the low set pews, the blue upholstery on them worn down by decades of people sitting on them as they nod along to the preacher. “The altar is always open,” I hear every Sunday, always after the second song’s chords fade away into a slower, more prayer beckoning tune. “Lay your problems before the Lord, and He will provide.”
This is the part where I am not very brave. I watch those around me go down to the altar and pray, and I wish I was brave enough to go down and do the same. But I will look to my right, and I will see my parents standing beside me, their faces lit softly by the light of the screens projecting the worship lyrics. I will look at them and wonder what they would think if their daughter went down to the altar and prayed for God to tell me if I was really wonderfully made. I could imagine myself slowly walking down, my black boots scuffing lightly against the carpeted aisles. I would kneel down on the red cushions and place my hands on the wooden rail and look down at my lap before squeezing my eyes shut and asking for God to speak to me. My parents would come down after and lay their hands on me, but I would only feel trepidation as I felt them behind me. As the third song comes to an end, I would stand up and walk back to my pew, hugging those that have prayed with me and for me. I would hug my parents last as we finally sit down and listen to the preacher pray over the offering and those who have suffered in the past week. It is only after the offering and the message and the final song and the walk back to our car that my parents would ask me what I was praying for. I would not want to answer, and so after all of my imagining and wondering, I do not walk towards the altar and openly ask God for these answers.
Instead, I ask him in the quiet moments of my life. I ask him as I stare at my ceiling before I fall asleep, guilt and three blankets weighing me down. I ask him as I walk into church and see so many people who I love but know will not love me if I decide to be brave. I ask him as I listen to God through our preacher and wonder if those are really God’s words the pastor is using. I ask Him when I do not have to be brave.
There was once a time where I thought myself to be brave, but I was not brave. I was foolish. I thought that since I wasn’t gay, my parents might listen to what I said and accept it. I thought they might accept me.
After dinner one night, as my family talked about marriages and children, I began what I thought was as good of an approach into the topic as any. “What if I don’t want kids?” I asked. I kept my face devoid of any nervousness or fear. I could not be nervous or fearful if I was being brave.
My mom and dad paused and glanced towards me. “What do you mean if you don’t want kids?” my mom responded back. “Of course you’ll want kids.”
I knew where the conversation was going, could feel it in the marrow of my bones, could see it staring me down in the dark and desolate alleyway across from me, but I was feeling brave that night. I said, “I don’t think I will. I think I’m one of those people who doesn’t want kids.”
I had almost said it, but not quite. Not yet. The word was taboo as it waited on the tip of my tongue.
My dad said nothing, standing up and bringing his plate over to the sink. My mom laughed. “You’ll change your mind,” she said.
I almost didn’t have the heart to tell her how wrong she was. Almost. The words burst from me without a second thought. “I’m asexual, mom. I don’t think I’ll change my mind.”
My voice did not waver like I thought it would, but the word was softer, hesitant in its nature. In my mind, I was brave for saying it.
I felt a part of myself shrivel up and die as my mom opened her mouth and said, “Oh, you’re not that kind of person.”
Not that kind of person. I realized I was not brave for finally speaking up. I was foolish.
My mouth snapped shut, and the discussion died there. My parents never mentioned that taboo word again, and neither did I to them.
My teacher called me brave when I spoke about my parents and how they did not believe that what I felt was real. She leaned against the podium in front of the room, the tables around me filled with eleven other high schoolers, her blonde hair short in a pixie-cut fashion. I remember thinking she looked so elegant in her black jumpsuit as she smiled encouragingly at me and said, “That was really brave of you to say.”
I was called brave once. I am not brave, but I hope one day that I will be.