I stand at the crosswalk on the edge of Southeastern Baptist Seminary doning a crisp polo shirt and freshly pressed khakis. You might mistake me for a missionary.
Some students answer quickly, others silently rush past. A few distract themselves with earphones and iPhones.
And then he strolls over, responding to my “Good afternoon!” with a “Good afternoon!” of his own.
“How’re you today?” I inquire.
“Uh, just heading home,” and as he answers his feet settle to a stop and conversation begins.
Curtis is a candidate for a masters in music ministry on his way back from campus after morning worship. I am with the Soulforce Equality Ride, which visits some of the over 200 colleges and universities with policies that discriminate against LGBT people. I participated in the Equality Ride in 2007 and am back in 2010 as the Director of Web & Media, joining up with the riders briefly for this stop.
After a few minutes of awkward small talk, Curtis needs to get going. I tell him that we’ll be at a nearby park for a potluck later and he’s welcome to join. He says he’ll stop by. I wonder if he will.
I was 30 minutes into what would become a three hour conversation about Leviticus when I saw Curtis sidle up to the picnic table where we were sitting. He stood off to the side at first, eventually he sat. He didn’t say a single word. He listened as I talked with this other seminary student … about “the Law,” about Leviticus, about God’s intention for humanity, about the mission of Jesus, about my experience as a gay person, about my journey as a Christian.
By the time we finished, it was time to leave. Curtis and I exchanged numbers so we could meet up later and have the conversation we never got to have. He joined me and other Equality Riders near our hotel. We talked about faith, about his school, about our lives and loves, about justice and equality.
A few months later, long after the bus had rolled away, Curtis called me and came out as gay.
A few months ago, he bought a house with his longterm boyfriend (I’m sure if they could get married in North Carolina, he would be Curtis’s husband).
This morning, my dear friend Emily West reminded me “you must push publish. It’s how we save one another.”
I speak from experience a lot here. There’s a reason for that. It is because the personal is political. I speak to give voice to the experience I never heard. I speak from experience because it is the most authentic place I can speak from. I wish I could predict the future or tell you what to do. But I can’t, all I can do is tell you my experience—what’s worked for me, and what hasn’t, what I’m trying, and what I’ve learned. My experience reconciling my faith and my sexuality or my practice of everyday activism… everything is ultimately grounded in experience.
If something I write lands with you, run with it. If it doesn’t, discard it.
If you feel up to it, I invite you to speak your own experiences too. Write them in a blog or post them to your Facebook profile (you can post them to mine if you want to keep them away from friends and family).
Want to get those each week (plus some occasional, more private thoughts on sex & relationships)? I’d love to keep in touch. Drop your email address below and I’ll keep you in the loop!
P.S. hit reply to any email from me to start a conversation!