Changing My Mind

Aug 1, 2011 | 2011 Summer - Faith and Spirit, Articles

By Larraine Wilson

I had two dads growing up, but I didn’t know it. I honestly had no idea. None. I moved in with my dad and his “roommate” when I was twelve. I had no reason to question their situation. They kept separate bedrooms and were never affectionate. Looking back, it was sad in so many ways. I didn’t know then what I know now and neither did they. We’ve all learned a lot along this journey. As much as it hurts to admit, religion played a large part in our shroud of secrecy and lies.

My brother leaned over during our Urban Literature class in tenth grade and told me that our dad was gay. The rest of the class was busy debating the finer points of Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas, but I was lost inside of myself. I cried, and after class I found my boyfriend and told him my father was gay. I then dropped another bomb: so was I. He was dumbfounded and I was devastated. Perhaps I thought it was somehow contagious. Surely, my world was turned upside down. At that moment in 1993, my heart ached deeply. In fact, it felt broken.

Later that night, I confronted my father in the kitchen. I told him I was angry. I was upset about being lied to. He told me that he didn’t tell me because he knew I wouldn’t approve. That was true. I grew up thinking that that homosexuality was a sin and a choice. I believed that it kept you separate from God and grace. My most progressive idea about being gay at that time was that I could love the person but not their choices. I prayed for my dad to change and I believed it was possible. I feel a profound sense of shame just writing this down.

When I think of how much my religious views interfered with my own coming out process, I am furious. Although my experience was complicated because I had gay parents, religion played a large role, too. By the time I got to college, I knew for sure that I was bisexual. I had told very few people up to that point. At college I found a Christian community. I felt that I belonged there. Except for one thing. My secret, my lie: my sexuality. I could talk about my dads and I think people really tried to understand, but they also held deep and longstanding views about the sin of homosexuality, particularly in the lives of Christians. I felt alone and afraid. My attraction to women was growing, but I continued to stifle it. I was worried people would blame my parents. I knew that my community would shun me. I feared I would lose the privilege of being a leader and I wasn’t willing to risk that. I did share my feelings with a couple of people and there were definitely rumors afoot about my attraction to women, but I just tried to pretend to be the straight girl everyone thought I was. I felt like a coward.

I remember going to a conference called “Dating, Sex and Relationships,” hosted by the campus group that I was a part of. I’d find answers there, I figured. I went, praying that I would somehow be shown the light. I went thinking I would come back and I would have the magic answer to what had been haunting me. I went to one workshop I had really been looking forward to. More than a dozen years later, I can’t remember the name of it, but it was a married male-female couple in which both had previously engaged in “homosexual activities.” They admitted it in front of a room full of college students and they told us of their healing. I began to pray that God would somehow find it fit for me to meet a man, get married and never have to worry about these other feelings—these wicked desires for women—again. I prayed and prayed. I hoped. I wished. The answer to that particular prayer never came. I was never able to “conquer” these feelings. I asked God a million times to take this away, to make it stop, to make me feel whole.

I now know that there was nothing to conquer. I was already whole. This is how things were supposed to be for me. At some point, I realized that I never wanted to be bisexual. I never wanted to have my first crushes on Katherine and Seth in elementary school. I never wanted my heart to skip a beat when a pretty girl in seventh grade paid close attention to me. It’s just the way it was, so how then, could my feelings be deserving of contempt?

Acknowledging the fluidity of sexuality has freed me. It has allowed me to love my fathers in a way I never thought possible. The rift that my narrow-minded judgment had caused is no longer there. We are all better for it. I try to tell my progressive friends (while simultaneously reminding myself) not to give up on people who express conservative views about sex, sexuality or gender identity and/or expression. I was once one of those people. I believe in hope and progress. I believe that changing minds is hard, but not impossible.

I still, and most often proudly, identify as a Christian. I worship with my partner and our children at the First Presbyterian Church in Waltham. I am a member and an elder there. It is a close-knit, “more-light,” open and accepting Presbyterian Church. It took me a long time and much personal evolution to come back to my faith, but I am very happy that I have. I believe that I love a God who loves me right back – daily and without fail. I believe that I am living my best life and that there is no limit to the love of humanity or the love of any deity figure(s). My heart has expanded and so has my mind. I have a family of origin, a family of choice and so many amazing friends. My life as it is now would not have been possible had I not been open to change and I thank God for that.

Larainne is a 34-year-old bisexual woman living in the Boston area with her fiancée Sheri and their beautiful family.

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