After the elders removed me from my ministry position, but before they evicted me entirely from the church, I complained to a close friend that the most malicious gossip in our church maintained her position as a head of ministry, and had done so for years. Although the Bible is pretty clear about gossiping, the elders would never ask her to step down, and she was probably at that very moment telling someone in a gleeful whisper about my queerness.
Yesterday I drove to the church that used to be mine, parked in the rear, and snuck through a basement door into the kitchen. There, I manned the chili portion of a potato bar, as quietly as I could. I never even walked upstairs, despite the lure of a holiday bazaar. I thought maybe, if I were quiet enough, and if I were lucky enough, I could escape notice.
Two or three hours later, Ms. Gossip walked by the kitchen door. Then she executed a perfect 1980’s sitcom walk-backwards-to-do-a-double-take maneuver. Yup, there was indeed a queer in the church kitchen. And off she went.
I don’t know who she told, but…what exactly would she have to tell them? That I was in the kitchen? I was! That I was cooking? Yup! That I was wearing a frilly apron? I made it myself, ya know. That I shouldn’t be there because I was queer? Well, I am, aren’t I? And I told the world myself.
Before I came out, one of the people I admire most counseled me not to. “It’s nobody’s business,” he said, “they don’t need to know.” While that’s true, it’s also not the point. They may not need to know, but I needed them to know. I needed them to know who I really am. And who I really am is nothing to be ashamed of.
Yesterday, after laughing at Ms. Gossip (and chatting with the elder who appeared shortly afterward), I realized that I no longer care if people are talking about me. Go ahead! Talk about how I’m queer. Talk about how I’m fat but refuse to diet. Tell people I swear sometimes. Tell them I lose my temper. Tell them I flunked Calculus. Tell them my car’s always a mess. I am who I am, and no, I’m not perfect, but maybe they need to know it’s okay not to be. Maybe they need to know they aren’t alone. And maybe they’ll like me anyway. The real me! How awesome is that?