An Open Letter

Dear Heather, Your letter was a gift, filled with such genuine kindness and layered with such vulnerability that I wanted to give back so I am writing this letter to you.

The truth is that I do have a fear of Christians. It seems silly to say that aloud when, intellectually, I know there are many good ones in the world but there is such a loud chorus from those who use their faith to deny others the respect and dignity they deserve that it is easy to forget that.

I grew up in Kansas, part of the Bible Belt, a state where people still teach creationism. I was baptized in the Baptist church before I understood what it meant and despite the fact that my parents weren't particularly religious. In junior high school, I read the Bible cover to cover because I thought I should, because I thought doing so would make me "good" -  though I admit to getting lost with all the begetting. I have family members who are born again Christians and some of them have accepted me and some of them have not. After coming out, there were people who stopped speaking to me and wouldn't acknowledge Luisa and used religion to justify their response.

In college, I took "Women in the Bible" because I wanted to understand how feminists could be Christians and then took "Christian Scriptures" because I wanted to study the verses that were so often used against people like me.

For most of my life, Christianity has been an ominous whisper, a voice that calls for my attention and startles me but when I turn around, I find no one is there.

I have seen what has been done in the name of Christianity and, while I know that it is a distortion, every time I meet someone who identifies as a Christian, I become guarded and prepare to defend myself.

When we met in August at BlogHer, I immediately felt a connection to you. It was a brief conversation but we laughed and there was that particular energy that makes you say to yourself, "Yes!" and do a little fist pump. I felt like you were someone I would like to get to know, someone with whom I wanted to work.

I came home and immediately went to check out your blog and the first post I read was one in which you referred to yourself as a Christian and talked about your faith in God. I felt that ominous whisper behind me once more and wondered what this might mean for us. I wondered, "Does she know I'm a lesbian?", "Is she conservative?", "How will I find the answers to these questions?" and "What will I do with the answers?"

But I never had to ask the questions because every word exchanged between us, every moment shared since our first meeting made me realize that the way I felt about you when we first met - that was the truth and the fear and worry had nothing to do with you.

Dorothy Allison wrote, "I would rather go naked than wear the coat the world has made for me." I think of these words often because I want so much to be seen in all of my complexity. That is one of the reasons I write - to show that I am more than all that society ascribes to me because I identify as a lesbian. Now, this quote makes me think about you too, about the assumptions I made and the fear I felt. We are both shedding the coats the world has made for us and, as we do, there is such beauty in the raw, naked truth.

Of course, this is bigger than both of us. We live in a world in which people make assumptions and judgments about others constantly based simply on race and culture, religion and class, gender expression and sexual preference. With so much anger and frustration in the world, I often wonder how we can build community and create a culture of respect and I always come back to this: sometimes, we do it one person at a time, with honesty and a willingness to be vulnerable.

So, thank you. Thank you for your words and your faith and all that you do in the world.

We are going to do amazing things together.

With love,