09/19/2013 06:53 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

On Having Faith, Watching Oprah , and Being Gay


What do lesbians do on a second date?

Rent the U-Haul.

It wasn't quite the second date, but after my girlfriend and I had been together for two and a half months -- that's a pretty short time in which to fall in love, decide to leave your husband, tell all the children, set up a custody schedule, and hire lawyers -- we moved in together.

When I told a bisexual friend that we would be moving in together, she said, "Two and a half months in lesbian time is like six years in straight time!"

It does feel like I have tapped in to some higher sense of faith, a vibration of love and commitment that lets go of all sense of moderation.

Aristotle wrote about moderation, the golden mean. My mother taught my sister and me about this concept at an early age. It could be applied to anything, she said. Eating, activity, emotion, rest -- moderation was for the well-being of the self and the community, she said.

And I took it to heart. Brushing my teeth in the tiny upstairs flat we rented when we first moved out of the house after her divorce from my father, I would wonder, "Am I done yet? Have I brushed a moderate amount of time?" I was afraid of brushing too little or too much, and walked the tightrope of moderation and balance in my mind.

I'm not sure if the role of God in moderation is something Aristotle also addressed, but my mother did. It felt to me, in my 9-year-old mind, that God was the arbiter of the moderation line. With a white beard and everything, he hovered over me as I brushed my teeth, a notebook in his hand to record the too-little/too-muchness of me.

I've always known there is a God. I haven't always known I am gay.

My earliest memory after my sister was born is this: My parents and I are at the zoo in Milwaukee. We have just arrived. I am in a stroller. I am 3 years old. The bird exhibit is the first thing after the entrance, and we stop. They are anxious about something to do with my 6-month-old sister, and they turn to each other behind my stroller to fuss about her, leaving me facing the bird exhibit alone.

A gigantic parrot swoops down over me and pecks me on the cheek.

"Bird bite Tassie! Bird bite Tassie!" I scream.

They look at me and laugh. The bird is long gone. There is no evidence of the event. They do not believe me. And yet I know what happened. The stroller starts to move forward, in that way that strollers start into motion from some force from behind that we find so miraculous as children, and we go on with our day.

My faith in God was born from that bird, because in my little-girl mind, God was the only one who could have seen what happened.

As I became an adult and entered graduate school, I stopped going to Mass. But I still believed in God.

It was just that God had morphed into a woman. I read feminist theology and researched goddess mythology from world cultures and burned sage and kept an altar and met in women's spirituality groups.

And I watched Oprah. My church took place in my tiny apartment in Atlanta at 4 p.m. on weekday afternoons when I didn't have a seminar to attend. A friend would join me, and we would discuss the show's topics during the commercials. We were the parishioners and the devotees and the worshippers and the choir. We were the Eucharistic ministers as we prepared our tea and sipped it slowly. Oprah was the priest.

I had started watching Oprah when I was in college. I remember the day during the fall semester of my senior year when, on my little black-and-white TV, she looked into the camera and said, "Child sexual abuse is never the child's fault. It is never the child's fault."

I burst into tears. No one had ever said this to me. No one. It had never even occurred to me that this might be true.

In fact, I had told myself, at the age of 8, that what had happened with that older boy in the neighborhood had been something that I'd wanted to happen. I blamed myself.

God knew this.

So when Oprah said that it is never the child's fault, I had been waiting 13 years to hear those words. And it cracked open something in me, something deeper than the bearded God, silently watching with a notebook, who had been with me all my life, something way beyond moderation. It was an open and wild space of tears and anger and terror and grief.

It opened me up to healing.

On the day after I realized I am a lesbian, I invited over the woman I was in love with (we hadn't been together in any sexual way; we had not even hugged or kissed) so that we could watch Oprah's Super Soul Sunday. The guest was Brené Brown, a Ph.D. and TEDx speaker whose new book was about vulnerability.

I sat on the couch as she sat on the floor, and during the ads we discussed the ideas of the show.

"It's so hard to be vulnerable," she said.

"Yes," I said. "I know."

We both knew we were talking about the feelings between us, and whether we would move forward by admitting the vulnerability of what would happen if we acted upon them, and how we would have to open our whole lives to vulnerability in a way we never had.

A few days after watching that show, I would tell my husband that I am gay. Two and half months later I would rent the U-Haul.

I don't know if I've changed since I was that 9-year-old girl brushing my teeth according to the golden mean. I still believe God is watching. I still want to do the right thing.

The last Oprah show I watched was that Super Soul Sunday episode on vulnerability.

And in my vulnerability I've started going to church again. The first time I opened my eyes while kneeling during Mass and saw my girlfriend kneeling beside me, I knew that there really is a God. Sometimes he lives in the compassion of Jesus with the woman at the well. Sometimes she dances in the moonlight on a sleepless night. And sometimes God is a U-Haul that brings you to a love without fear that you've prayed for all your life.