It didn’t have to be this way. We spent way too much time squeezing bright yellow mustard onto Costco hot dogs while you told me about how your dreams of becoming a pastry chef or a dentist never came true. I spent way too much time wearing pastel-colored, lace-trimmed dresses to your Sunday school classes to learn about the word of God. While I secretly watched Youtube videos titled “I think I like girls”, you taught me that Christian girls must get married to a man of God. That they should dedicate a “sex schedule” to them because “even though we don’t feel like it sometimes, men have needs.” Still, I was enamored with your loud personality, the way you became my immigrant mother’s only friend, and how fun you made going to church. I thought of all people, you might understand. Might understand my sudden fascination with girls who wear patterned button-ups and play softball.
While I secretly watched Youtube videos titled “I think I like girls”, you taught me that Christian girls must get married to a man of God.
You always sat in the front row when I danced on stage during worship and you always let me stay in your cabin when we went to summer camp. But then we had that argument that one night. It wasn’t even about the queerness you didn’t know about yet. It was about immigrants. You told me kids needed to be put in cages when they cross the border to pay for their parent’s actions. That hurt. You told me that the reason my country, Brazil, had so much poverty and sickness was due to the sin of the people who lived there. My people. That hurt even more. Your sick husband with anger issues shadowed you, making me feel like a little girl with dumb opinions that could never refute yours. That night was our predictable dismantlement. I had known you for years, but not this version of you. I felt a gash in my heart open as big as the Amazon river as you filled it with burning salt.
Then came the provoking. A youth group class dedicated to the doom of debt just because I wanted to go to an expensive private liberal arts college. Stabbing hints at who you were voting for in the 2016 election. So I brought my girlfriend to youth group. Just to spite you. I basked in the satisfaction of you not knowing. While you taught us about staying pure until marriage, I held her hand under the table. My pride was soon to be dissolved. Somehow you figured it out. You had eyes everywhere. I think I knew this. A part of me wanted you to find out. Wanted all this hiding to be over.
While you taught us about staying pure until marriage, I held her hand under the table.
Then came the shaming. I remember the way my stomach sank when you asked me to stay downstairs instead of joining my friends upstairs for Sunday service. You said you knew and that was all you needed to say. You made me recite bible verses out loud. I have never felt more humiliated and as I write this I can feel the familiar sting of atonement. You called my family into a room and outed me. I wasn’t ready, but you didn’t care. You eloquently destroyed almost all the relationships I cared about. Even living in my own home became awkward. My childhood friends from church performed an intervention letting me know we couldn’t be friends if I didn’t “straighten up”. I wasn’t allowed to see my girlfriend and she lost all financial support from her family to attend college. You were the person that used to bring me endless amounts of laughter, but you quickly became the source of all my tears and all my pain.
I remember it was my last Sunday before I would go off to college. Although my relation to church at this point was shaky at best, I grew up here. You had joined the church only recently compared to my time there. My parents had held me at the alter when I was a squirming baby, I spent every Thanksgiving eating casserole under that big tree, and met my closest friends in the stale confines of that stupid building. Yet you were the one to kick me out. You told all the deacons about my “sin.” I wasn’t allowed to dance on stage. “You can’t be on the stage if your life is full of sin,” you said.
I don’t know where you are now. I haven’t seen you since. I don’t know what I would do if I ever ran into you again. It’s been so long and I’m so happy. So happy with who I am and who you never wanted me to be. Sometimes I cry for you. Cry that you don’t know this freedom. That you gave up your dreams for him. Because you could be baking croissants in Paris or giving a 6-year-old a lollipop after you fixed their cavity. Cry because you spent all your energy bruising me and I mistook it for love. It might take me some time, but I hope one day we can grab a coffee. I’d love to catch up.