This last week LGBTQA people around the country and beyond celebrated National Coming Out Day. Many friends posted with pride (pun intended) the stories of their coming out to family and friends. Then, another friend talked about the day when he officially changed his name from the one he was given, to the name of his heart. And I was moved by both.
These readings made me explore my own role in National Coming Out Day. I am a pastor of an ONA church. A church that welcomes LGBTQA people in full participation without question. Really. We do. I encourage others to boldly be who God made them and to celebrate the love that they have for others – which comes directly from God. I also fit into the LGBTQA community because I am a woman married to a woman. The odd part about that for me is that I had never been with a man before, and I suspect, if anything should happen in to my wife, I would start dating men again. But maybe not. I don’t necessarily identify fully as a lesbian. I am not bi either. Neither am I straight. What am I then?
I am Anissa: Wife of my spouse, daughter of my mother and father, sister of a departed brother and beloved child of God.
In celebration of this National Coming Out Day, I encourage all to come out as exactly who they are. I was blessed to grow up in a family that accepts and celebrates the unique people within it. As a pastor, seeing all the pain and hurt in the world, I have realized how lucky I am to have that family and not some others. But where I live now, I sometimes find it difficult to be myself. Instead I feel judged for the ways that I don’t fit, rather than for the uniqueness that I bring to the table.
National Coming Out Day is not just for LGBTQA people. It is about all of us who remain in closets – either ones that we build for ourselves or ones that were built for us. Those closets have many names and are painted many different colors. They may even be beautiful, but they are still ways that we hide ourselves from world because we are not confident of acceptance and appreciation for being our authentic selves. Come out – named and loved by God.
My job is to remind you that people will and do celebrate the effort it takes to come out of our closets. We may struggle to find our way, but the Holy is always reaching out to affirm, hold up and celebrate the best and help us through the worst of who we are.
I hope we can all remember – gay, straight or somewhere in between – that we are called out of the closet into the light of the world so that the Holy may move through us and help illuminate the paths of others still struggling to find their way.