The video was called Saltwater Baptism.
Someone had tweeted it, or blogged about it. I don’t remember who or how, but very early in the morning, I sat at my desk and I watched a New York Times Documentary Short called Saltwater Baptism, and the floor dropped out from under me.
On October 19th it all made sense.
I watched this video, and I watched this kid, who went to Point Loma Nazarene, talk about being gay and Christian.
And he was just like me. He was going to a conservative Christian college (like me), he was Mexican (like me, like me) and he was gay.
And he had a boyfriend. A boyfriend who was Christian too.
And they were normal.
And I felt this chill run through me and these prickles tingle at the back of my neck.
All my life I’d seen gay couples. They were alien, and strange and unnatural (they were wrong). I saw a couple at the Portland food trucks who wore sparkly shoes and limp-wristedly held hands with their fingers barely touching. I saw flamboyant, squabbling old queens on sitcoms and in movies. I saw and read porn about couples who cheated on each other as if it was barely worth being concerned about, or had threesomes to “spice things up”. I saw "normal", deeply masculine couples who looked like they played football and who made me feel nothing, because when they looked at each other it didn't seem like they felt anything either.
I saw gay couples, and either they were all about sex, or they were unnatural and strange; an alien thing that didn’t match who I was or wanted to be.
And I always watched them, and I told myself (nervously, sternly, desperately), “that’s not love. It’s lust, it’s infatuation, it’s some kind of toxic codependency or rebellion, it’s not actually love”. Because it couldn’t be real. It wasn’t allowed to be, it couldn’t be, because if it was love, if it was actually love—
But now, for the first time, I saw a gay couple, and—and they were normal.
They were just like me.
And they were in love.
And I watched them. I watched them talk, and look at each other, and touch, and something in me cracked, and then broke. I watched them sit next to each other, their bodies fitting together like puzzle pieces; I watched them hold hands at a baseball game, while actual fireworks lit up behind them; I watched them fall asleep, entangled on a couch like puppies. I watched them, and I fell apart. Because every part of me, every piece of my body, tingled and screamed: I want that. Every part of me, every inch of my skin: I need that.
I need to have someone—a man, I need to have a man—look at me like that. This is what I was built for, I need to feel our bodies fit together like that, I need to feel his hand on my shoulder, feel his arm around my waist and behind my neck. I need to turn my head and know that he will be there, that he wants to be there, that he wants to be with me.
Both of the guys in the video were graduating, and that meant their families would both be in town. And one of them wanted his family to meet his boyfriend. Just for dinner, nothing that was a big deal, something small, to start. And his family agreed, to have dinner and to meet him.
But then later they called again. And they walked it back. And they said they would meet for dinner, but just to convince them to break up.
And then later they called again. And they wouldn’t even do that.
They said the boyfriend would never be welcome in their home, and that if that meant their son wouldn’t be home for thanksgiving, or wouldn’t be home for Christmas, then that was what it meant.
And everything I wanted, and everything I was afraid of, came floating up to the surface like grease.
Because I wasn’t just unable to think my way through being gay and Christian.
I was scared to.
I knew what the cost could be. I was terrified to pay it.
I knew what I would have to leave behind.
I knew what would let me go.
I knew what would let go of me.
Because if I chose this— if I chose this man— this imaginary man and this imaginary future, it didn’t mean my family would chose it with me. It didn’t mean my family would accept it. It didn’t mean my family would continue to accept me.
And I still wasn’t sure what I believed.
I didn’t know. When I summoned up the idea “God says it’s wrong”, I couldn’t feel it stick anymore. It didn’t hold, anymore, against the doubts, against the desperate yearning in my heart, and, truthfully? When I thought “God says it’s wrong”, I had to acknowledge that I had never heard that spoken from Heaven. That God had never moved in my heart to condemn it. I had never asked him to before. I'd been too afraid He wouldn't.
But He hadn’t endorsed it either.
And maybe the thought “it’s wrong” didn’t stick, but I couldn’t break it either.
And then I read an article. That same day, just a few hours later.
It was by Justin Lee, and it was a little surprising that I hadn’t found it before. He was a really well known writer, this was probably his defining piece. I’ve seen it referenced a bunch of time since: in tweets, in other blogs, in other articles—but this was the first time I saw it. Just now, just in this moment. When I could hear it best.
And I opened it up and I read it, not expecting much, mostly just arguments I’d heard before.
And most of it was. He talked about translating the words for “homosexual”, he talked about cultural lenses, he talked about loving relationships, but, this time, it was different.
It was starting to make a little more sense, it was starting to feel a little more real.
And I kept reading, and he kept saying things that made sense, and this tantalizing feeling started to creep up my spine, and hope started to rise within me.
It felt like for a decade I’d been living, wandering, in this stale labyrinth, and now, as I walked down this passage, for the first time the air started to feel fresh. And for the first time I thought: maybe I’ll be free.
I kept reading. And as I read I realized something. My whole life I’d heard about slippery slopes.
Anytime anyone had dared to suggest that maybe part of the bible was written for different people in a different time, and shouldn’t be applied the same way now, someone, someone had always said “if that’s true here, when do we stop saying it’s true? What's to keep us from saying it everywhere?”
If we say prohibiting divorce was just for them, what’s to stop us from saying prohibiting fornication was just for then too? What about adultery? What about murder?
And we’d all nodded along. It was too risky. What if everything came crashing down.
This whole time we'd been sitting timidly, trying to figure out the rules, as if God had nothing to say, as if He were silent and the only voices that could speak were ours. The only minds that could guide us were our own. And that wasn't true.
“When do we stop?”
When God says to.
And I suddenly realized that was my answer. When God says to. And I suddenly realized,
God hadn’t said to.
And I looked at this commandment, this rule that had hounded me for 10 years, ever since that first day I wrote that note for my Dad, ever since I first said “I’m gay”, ever since I first downloaded that app, ever since that first man touched me, ever since I slept in that other man’s bed, and ever since I felt that first yearning rise in my heart and ever since I looked at these two other men and thought, “just like me”.
I looked at this rule and thought “maybe this wasn’t meant for me.” And God said: “Go ahead.”
And I opened the door, and I took my first steps outside.
It felt like I’d stepped out of a prison, and all of a sudden I could see in sunlight and smell fresh air and feel the wind on my face and look out and see a whole world that stretched out in front of me, as I stepped out past the door of the prison I had built for myself.
I was free.
And it all made sense.
On October 19th, it all made sense.
And it was a very good day.
I couldn’t stop grinning, I couldn’t stop screaming in my head “I’m GAY. I’m gay and it’s FINE, I’m gay and God still loves me. I’m gay and it’s alright, I’m getting married, I’m going to have kids, I’m going to get old and fat with someone, I don’t have to be scared anymore of myself and these, broken, disgusting urges, because they are good for something, they can be used for a good thing, I can be free in this world.”
And I also can’t stop shouting “God, God, GOD GOD GOD GOD!” Because I can’t think of anything else to say to Him, I’m so excited, so happy, so relieved, so goddamn giddy.
And I can finally focus again (mostly, hey, this is exciting) on what people are saying to me, I can participate again in life, but every now and again I think “I’m GAY” and it feels great.
And I can’t stop thinking—rejoicing— “This is a GOOD day.”
And I finish work, and I work out, and I go to GCF, and I read an opposing viewpoint which, thank God, is not satisfying and doesn’t make sense, and then my day ends, and I go to bed.
And—God is silent.
I’ve been screaming all day, my brain exploding with the realization that this. Makes. Sense. And now I calm down, try to open up heavenward, to be silent, and I hear… nothing.
No rush of joy, no condemnation.
And I deflate like a slow released balloon.
I don’t really know what to do now.
It still makes sense.
And maybe I need a period of silence to really think it through, because that part of me—my intellect, my reasoning—is still important, and needs satisfaction.
And maybe then I’ll feel peace? I hope so.
Or maybe. Maybe this is a calm before a rejection that would have crushed me if it’d happened earlier. I hope not.
But either way I was waiting.
Waiting on the silence to break.