When I was 16 a friend of mine approached me at my locker with a smirk on his face. "Amelia, today at lunch somebody at the table asked if you were gay, and it made me laugh so hard!" he said.
As my heart skipped a beat and my voice cracked, I squeaked out one of those panic-attacky, faux giggles of the deeply closeted and replied, "Oh? What'd you say to everyone?"
"Well, I thought it was funny, because you're a Christian, you know? So that's all I had to say."
Sadly, this wasn't an isolated incident. Perhaps it was my starting position on the softball team throughout high school, or the fact that I was, you know, a same-sex-attracted woman, with all the flannel and boots to prove it, but I would deflect those rumors like it was my job and spend nearly a decade writhing over the dichotomy I felt between my faith and sexuality. The problem with that dichotomy (which says that someone must be either Christian or gay but never both) is that it kept me from feeling at home in my skin as I watched both The L Word and The 700 Club (like anyone ever really feels "at home" watching Pat Robinson). I felt like I had to choose between my faith and my sexuality, so I chose my faith.
Years of counseling, desperate attempts to pray my gay away, countless hours reading resources and seeking solidarity through the infamous Exodus International and a biblical theology degree later, I found myself crumbling under the weight of an existential crisis. What the Clay Aiken do you do when you're moved by the gospel of the historical Jesus but your faith community, with almost complete unanimity, maintains that you must reject an inextricable part of your identity as a human? I had tried to pick between the two options before, and that only led me into to a tangled mess of accidental make-out sessions with very cute but very conservative, straight evangelicals and anxiety-inducing cognitive dissonance.
So I came to terms with the need to create or find a third option, one that didn't treat consuming a chicken sandwich as the means by which the message of God's love permeates society, but also one that didn't treat protesting the consumption of chicken sandwiches as the means by which the message of ending bigotry, discrimination, and exclusion permeates society.
And that was when I discovered blogging. Well, not entirely. I technically gained exposure to blogging when I was in the seventh grade and used it to try to online journal my way into heterosexuality, describing to the Internet just which 14-year-old boys I found aesthetically pleasing and what I admired about them athletically. (If that didn't scream "butch," I don't know what did.) But that wasn't real blogging, the first-person style of writing by very real, generally transparent humans who, more often than not, find themselves internally conflicted and doing what they can to make desperate sense of the various nuances and ambiguous shades of reality that frustrate, perplex, and cast the mind ablaze with thought and quandary.
Right around the time I felt like I'd finally found true solidarity in the ideas and experiences of writers like Justin Lee, Matthew Vines, and Brandon Ambrosino, and just when I had begun to learn how to tread this middle ground of identifying as "both/and" when it comes to my faith and my sexual orientation, I was given a call from a friend, Aaron Jackson, the founder of Planting Peace. Aaron had just purchased a home across the street from the notorious Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., painted it the colors of the pride flag, and dubbed it the Equality House, the fifth initiative in his international humanitarian organization. Knowing my interest in nonprofit work, and having an acute awareness of my whole faith-vs.-sexuality debacle, he offered me a PR position with the charity. Although this caused me regular outbursts of vocalized exclusion, scrutiny, and endless Facebook messages from people alerting me of my theological error and transgression, I somehow managed to graduate from Bible college and, as Aaron likes to say, "gas up my car and drive from the right wing to the right side of history."
Lo and behold, here I am, publicly and openly finishing the sixth season of The L Word on Netflix, still uninterested in The 700 Club but no longer having to feel as though rejecting my faith has to be part of honestly accepting my sexual orientation.