Two years ago, my world came crashing down around me. Over the course of the next 4 months, my ever evolving world took an unexpected turn.
All it took was one question.
“Daddy, why do you like to wear girl clothes?” my oldest daughter asks via a FaceTime chat.
I was stunned. I wasn’t ready for this.
Even though I knew it was coming, I wasn’t prepared. I had delayed out of fear. I also wasn’t ready to deal with the aftermath of telling my church.
“Are you gay?”
“Were you molested as a child?”
“Why aren’t you seeing a Christian counselor?”
No. No. Hell no.
It was a tense exchange. No matter how much I tried to explain this was a good thing, I was met with a never ending stream of conspiracy theory laden reasoning and staunch opposition.
“Maybe Satan is using you.”
“Maybe Satan is going around you just to get to someone else.”
“Maybe you’re mistaken’”
Prayer begat promises of friendship and refuge.
Acting outside the boundaries of church doctrine, I was basically stripped naked and left out in the cold. For the first time in my church life I wasn’t allowed to participate, teach, or even advise. I wasn’t even allowed to explain why.
As much as this was pretty much a total suckass, God had other ideas.
I have always been a strong believer that the right people come into your life at the right time. Through a rather heated and emotion-filled conversation with my pastor, I was inadvertently introduced to someone who would give me guidance a therapist never could.
“You are okay,” she said.
“There is no need to feel guilty.”
“There is no need to hide.”
“You have done nothing wrong.”
Growing up in the church, guilt was a major influence in my life. The slightest bad thing could cause you to be left behind. As a child, I remember breaking down into tears at a department store. I couldn’t find my parents anywhere. I panicked, working myself into a tizzy thinking the rapture happened and I had been left behind.
Eventually, Beth and I would leave the church. I was asked to stand up in front of the church board—yes, the same one I was asked to resign from a couple months prior—and tell them “my story.” We stated we were exercising grace and dignity and that we would be leaving the church. Tears were shed, but it didn’t seem to last very long. We were soon to be “ghosted.”
The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone.
I was angry and hurt. But I was liberated. I had read about these things happening to other people, never thinking it would ever happen to me.
To be perfectly clear, leaving the church was the best thing to ever happen to me. Yes, I miss the church and also I do not miss the church. What I thought of as a void is now a well of happiness. What I once considered family is now an unspoken memory.
As a kid I loved the TV show Knight Rider. You had KITT, KARR, Goliath and all those cool gadgets. Knight Rider was cool, so the moment I learned it was available in DVD I bought a set.
My best friend warned me not to watch it. He said I would ruin childhood memories.
He was right, the show, according to today’s standards … is really cheesy. I’m not sure I will ever look at it the same way again. Sigh.
Through a mature eye comes a deeper understanding.
Like Knight Rider, my childhood memories of the church came crashing down. Behind the facade was a reality I willfully ignored for years. I believed in the “us vs. them” mentality. I listened to conservative news and views. I was in deep, and found ways to justify where I was in order to make sure I was “church savvy.”
But it was all a front. I hid the truth from everyone, including myself. This “outing” was the 1.21 GigaWatts needed to propel myself forward in time. (oh yeah, two pop culture references in one post … win!)
Leaving the church has brought me closer to the real person of Jesus.
Leaving the church has brought me a new understanding for those who have been marginalized.
Leaving the church has allowed me to find my voice.
One of the first songs I can remember is Barry Manilow’s “I Made It Through The Rain.” I used to sing along with Barry, trying to imitate his incredible voice. The lyrics have always held a special place in my life.
Looking back over the past two years, I can truly sing this chorus.
I made it through the rain
I kept my world protected
I made it through the rain
I kept my point of view
I made it through the rain
And found myself respected
By the others who
Got rained on too
And made it through
It’s been the best of times and the worst of times.
I’ve learned … a lot.
I’ve cried … a lot.
I’ve cursed … fuck, I’ve cursed a lot.
What initially hurt me has instead made me a better and a stronger woman. There are still many obstacles to overcome, but two years ago was the catalyst for today and hopefully many years to come.
Photo via Unsplash.
Dana Stinson: Dana is a mid 40’s woman making her way through a post-evangelical world. She grew up in the church as the child of two pastors. Dana is the parent of two amazing daughters and is married to a die hard Flyers fan (Let’s Go Pens!). After over 30 years of denying her very existence due to guilt and shame, Dana came out to friends and family as Transgender. In the past three years, Dana has risen from the ashes of a crumbled world and has found peace. Dana has tuned her hurt and frustration into words of new hope and isn’t afraid to hold the church accountable for the pain inflicted on many in the LGBTQ community.