Coming Out in the Midst of the Storm

Today’s reflection is by Allison Connelly, a Bondings 2.0 contributor whose bio can be found here.

Today’s liturgical readings can be found by clicking here.  

Today’s liturgical readings, which share images of water and storms, remind me of my coming out experience. Like many queer people, I made the transition from being an “LGBTQ ally” to being an LGBTQ person.

On the morning of Election Day 2016, I posted on Facebook that I voted for Hillary Clinton because she supported my “LGBTQ friends.” I was not yet identifying as queer myself, but was a strong ally to my many LGBTQ friends, coworkers, and family members. That night, however, at an election watch party, I reconnected with my now-fiancée. Little did I know, she had seen my Facebook post earlier that day about being an “ally,” and she was disappointed.She was interested in me, and was hoping I was queer.

After that night, she and I began spending a lot of one-on-one time with each other, going out to restaurants, watching TV shows in our apartments, and attending protests together—which sounds a lot like dating, except I was still identifying as straight. Finally, in mid-February of 2017, I realized that my feelings for my now-fiancée were more than friendship. That’s when I came out publicly as a queer woman, and my partner and I officially began our romantic relationship.

Both our first reading and our Gospel today tell us of God quelling raging waters. In the first reading, God tells Job how God controlled the ocean at the dawn of creation. In the Gospel, we witness Jesus calming a powerful storm while on a boat with his friends. When I was in the earliest stages of coming out and was sorting through my feelings about my sexuality, I felt as though there was a stormy ocean inside my mind, heart, and body. What would coming out mean for my relationships with my family? With my friends? With other Catholics? What would coming out mean for my job prospects, especially for jobs within the Catholic Church? What would dating and loving a woman mean for my own self-understanding, my political commitments, and how I operated in community? These questions were overwhelming, and threatened to overpower me at times—just as the ocean would have overpowered the land if God had not set limits on it and just as the waves of the sea threatened to overpower Jesus’ boat.

Coming out was a massive transition for me, as it is for many people. I lost and gained friendships. I changed churches. I went to my first Pride decked out in glitter and rainbows. For me, coming out was the end of one way of being and the beginning of another. As today’s second reading says, “the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” I know that I had a privileged coming out experience, and that many LGBTQ people never get to experience coming out due to safety concerns. I also know that coming out is not a one-time experience, and that every time I disclose my sexuality to a colleague, a hiring committee, or an audience those waters start rising in me again.

I would be lying if I told you I survived (and continue to survive) my coming out experience simply by relying on God through prayer and petition. However, I did survive because of people and supports that I believe God put in my path: therapists, friends (Catholic and non-Catholic), the support of my family, queer clergy, women religious, theologians, and the broader LGBTQ community.

I imagine the LGBTQ community to be on the boat with me in the middle of the strong storm of coming out, just as Jesus’ disciples were on the boat with him, journeying through many of the same experiences. By placing these people and supports in my life, God did help me quell the at times overwhelming waters of confusion, doubt, anxiety, and anger that were raging within me during my initial stages of coming out.

My prayer this Pride month is for all who are in the beautiful, messy, complicated journey of coming out, whether for the first time or the hundredth time: may you experience the calm of God even in the presence of overwhelming emotion, may you find refuge in the community who is in the same boat with you, and may you rest in the knowledge that you were created with love and for love, even in the midst of the storms.

Allison Connelly, New Ways Ministry, June 20, 2021

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