The Reverse Rejection of 'Coming Out"

January 17, 2015 Candace Morris 0 Comments

I hadn't realized the full magnitude of the last 5 years until I read a succinct summary in a recent letter from a friend.  She would know, we've been friends for 15 years. I suppose I sensed a shift as I read new articles, learned new ideas, walked through my day to day, but looking back  - she is right. I've changed. I would say that I hardly recognize myself, but that would be untrue.  I know exactly how I got here.

But she doesn't, not fully.  Not enough to feel like she went through it with me.

Enter another challenge.  I am a proud introvert.  I love my own company and default to preferring predictably quiet days with Joel and Bowie. Connecting with people is absolutely not a struggle for me, nor is it without its life-altering rewards, but socializing goes down easiest when planned and when I've had enough time to reflect on my own beforehand.  Couple this with depression and top it off with an extremely fatiguing pregnancy and you have a recipe for hermitude - an isolation so severe that it pushes far outside of the scope of introversion.

Perhaps a downside for others (and one I've always wished didn't hurt people) is that I work best hashing through hard times alone.  Even Joel often knows only a piece of of my internal mash-up. I may reach out to the deep, real friendships I enjoy,  but even these gifted and intuitive women know a fraction of my internal pain until I choose to reveal it.  That reveal usually occurs post-tribulation, presented as a tidy story with beginning, middle, and end.  

I'm not hiding, and I'm not lying.  But I am not easy to know. I guess. 

But maybe that's bullocks. Maybe me hearing internal accusations that I am hard to love because I am hard to know is a tired, toxic, ancient story.  Maybe it's not even mine - maybe I inherited it.  Who knows.

Because the truth is no one can know 100% of the data any other human brain contains. Some humans are more expressive than others, but more words do not translate to deeper intimacy.  The words must be careful and self-aware for them to carry the potential of true connection. So maybe I am absolutely, profoundly easy to love. Who knows.

Out of the religious closet:

The change I speak of is that in the last five years, I somehow made the incongruous leap from Christian academic to atheist* feminist.  

*How I cringe to write that word. How it makes my heart skip a beat.  I've never written it before, not as a confession anyway.  I don't cringe because it's untrue, I simply dislike the limitation of the word. It is not precise enough.  It's too brazen, too ignorant, to full of hubris to claim that there is absolutely no deity.  I hope my perspective is more humble than such stubborn, limiting proclamations. 

I also cringe because I can feel it breaking my parent's hearts. I cringe because it hurts, confuses, and isolates friends who ascribe to that belief system.

So in what or whom do I believe?  I believe in questions - big, vast, painful questions. I believe my soul will die if it stops asking who, what, when, where, and why. I'm no longer able to be satisfied with answers that others fed me, answers that always felt incomplete somehow.  Answers containing gaping holes in logic, evidence, and human consideration.  So I chose to question it.  My pastors told me God encouraged doubt.  I believed them. Plus, I didn't chose to be a skeptic.  I have always, always been this way.

I believe in being brave, in speaking with near-shocking vulnerability and honesty.  As a conflict-avoidant, but still outspoken Christian, this was easy for me.  I believed what everyone around me believed.  But now, being honest with others about my worldview is wrought with shame and hidden in shadow.  I feel like I am standing naked, coaxing to be knifed by any passerby.

Please know that I do not equate changing belief systems to accepting and 'confessing' one's sexual orientation. Inviting anyone to the complex table of your personal sexuality is vulnerable enough when you don't have to fight societal norms. I never had to tell anyone that I was heterosexual, never had to confess how attracted I was to boys, never had to admit to anyone my bedroom secrets.  I consider coming out of the heterosexual closet an act of ultimate human courage.

Confessing that I was no longer a Christian was nothing near as painful nor did I suffer the loss of relationships.  My parents still love and talk to me. My friends still want to be friends. Further more, they all still want to listen to what I have to say.

Reversed rejection:

But there is something this recent correspondence hit me with. Over the years, I was so internally focused on my own evolution that I didn't consider how it would be perceived as a direct affront to relationships I have with Christians. 

I never considered my change as a full and complete rejection of my past. I never slammed a door everything I was. I didn't renounce Christianity because I was angry or because the church irreparably wounded me. Over 5 years (and for the rest of my life), my rich religious past will deeply inform who I become.  

I now see see how renouncing Christianity could be perceived as renouncing Christians. In my mind, I took a step away from a religious culture, not a step away from relationships. I never imagined that choosing into a new belief system would also send Christians the message that I though they were stuck, stupid, unenlightened, and small-minded.

I sprinted so fast away from Christianity, all the while assuming all my relationships were keeping pace there - or at least cheering on the sidelines. When I finally stopped, hands on knees, bent over trying to catch my breath, I realized they weren't there. When did they drop off?  Where did I loose them? I don't know. I don't even know if I could trace my steps back...the route got crazy twisted.

My rejection of their worldview in turn made them feel rejected by me.

But how could I fight these assumptions or extend myself to help them understand when I was simultaneously buried under the weight of a sad hermitude?

The compassionate middle ground where Lake Union and  Lake Washington connect

The realization of hurting her and others cut me deeply. I have a new seed of compassion for parents of homosexuals who didn't see it coming, who felt/feel rejected themselves because their child rejects heterosexuality. I have a renewed respect for those parents who grabbed their lesbian daughter's hand and refused to be left behind...even if it meant they fought all along the way.

I am deeply satisfied to internalize the realization her correspondence gave me:  the reverse rejection paradox. It forces me look hard to find new ways to know and be known, to understand and be understood. And mostly, to be patient and compassionate in conflict.

Perhaps human reciprocity is my real gospel.


You Might Also Like