The closet is dark and suffocating, brightened only by tiny beams of light fighting through against all odds. A space cluttered with shame and the opinions of others, with bible verses and snapshots of youth group events and crying in pews.
Crammed up against memories of “counselling” sessions with pastors, sleepless nights on tear drenched pillows, and ghosts of girlfriends past, I take a deep breath and press my eye against the keyhole.
How do I get out there, from in here? Can it really be as simple as pushing the door and announcing myself?
This is what it was like to be held by religion’s chains:
Exhausting— constantly having to check myself. Wondering if this sin or that, this attitude or that, this wrong thought or that, are God’s punishment for what hurts.
Soul destroying— the words “unnatural”, “deviant”, “pervert”, “abomination,” branded across my insides like a tattoo.
Confusing— mind-bending, headache inducing, world breaking confusion. How could a god make me, declare me defective, then blame me for it?
How could something as innocent as loving someone require repayment with eternal torture? How could any loving, divine parent watch the suffering of millions of their children the world over, with cool detachment? Thousands of questions answered with a smug “Who can understand his mysterious ways?”
Not I, try as I did to understand the state of my life, the world, and the holy book that describe my so-called loving father as a mass-murdering psychopath.
This is how it feels to be finished with it:
Like waking up one morning after months of vicious illness and finding that you are finally okay.
Being told your whole life you required a wheelchair, and one day, on a dare, standing up to discover you could walk all along.
Letting go of someone you loved because you believed your relationship meant certain death, only to realize years later you were both immortal.
Up is down. Blue is green. Enemies are friends, and friends, enemies.
The devastating, giddy relief of the truth, cracking your heart to let in the light.
Can I open the door to that horrible, joint-cramping closet and announce myself? Can it be that easy?
There’s the day I tell my husband I’m bisexual for real. It wasn’t a phase. I wasn’t confused. It wasn’t a problem with lust or a trick of the light. And he tells me to go explore—that he will be there to cheer me on. Learning about polyamory and deciding that it works—we’ll keep it.
There’s the Pride parade, dancing so close to her I can feel her breathe, the kiss in the rain under rainbow umbrellas, surrounded by our people. Daring a reporter to splash our faces across the front page—thrillingly close to not giving a fuck.
Showing my kids pictures of same sex weddings, talking openly about sexuality, letting my son wear nail polish and makeup when he wants to, because being yourself? Not a sin.
The close circle of friends I tell, because my chosen family loves me no matter what.
Writing my ex-girlfriend to apologize for the self hatred I let tear us apart. She tells me to forgive myself, and then, I do.
There’s the tattoo, the word Brave inked into my arm, an incantation of what it takes to transform myself from a scared captive into a wild woman, joyful and free.
Am I ready to burst through the door and announce myself? Not quite. But no longer will I hide.
Freedom is calling, and I must go.
This is Story Spotlight #2 in the Far From Alone series, which features stories from people asking questions, reimagining tradition, and coming into lives they love.
It’s written by MJ Wallace, a wonderful woman who reached out to me after she resonated with my purity culture to polyamory blog post. You can contact her at MirandaJaneWallace@gmail.com.
I’m seriously so honored to share her story with you. It reminds me of what my journey working through religion to find pride was like, and I know it echoes the stories of so many people out there. It’s perfect for Pride Month, yeah?
If you’ve got a story to tell, please give me a shout over email, Instagram, or Facebook. Sharing stories and connecting with people is the whole reason I do this thing, so please go for it. We need to hear it!