Camp Pride: Coming to Terms with God and My Sexuality
About the Series: Camp Pride
Here at Camp Thirlby, Pride lasts year long—however, this month we want to especially highlight the stories of queer individuals, sharing how they came to terms with their complex stories and identities. Part of our mission during Pride is to feel proud of all aspects of our identities, no matter how messy they can be. These contributors not only shared their stories, but also spoke them, allowing you to listen and/or read their deeply personal, at times intimate, but always very exploratory queer journeys • Illustration by Geordon Wollner.
My sexual awakening was a long and complicated process. In a childhood filled with church services and Sunday school, the thought of being gay was a foreign one. I always assumed that one day I would find a good Christian guy, settle down, have a few kids. However, when I reached my sixteenth birthday without ever having had even the slightest whisper of a crush on a guy, I began to think that maybe there was something different about me. I told my mom that I thought that maybe I had a hormone issue.
“Oh, don’t worry Jocelyn,” she reassured me. “You’re probably just a late bloomer, that’s all.” I wonder now if she was beginning to have the same inkling that I was—maybe it was the boys that were the problem.
Growing up, my parents taught me that “gay” meant happy. Mom and Dad didn’t exactly deny the existence of queer people, they just never mentioned to myself and my siblings that there were families that looked different than our own. I found out the meaning of “lesbian” in middle school, when when a beautiful girl came up to me and whispered: “That guy over there thinks that I’m a lesbian! What a dick, right?” That night, after my parents had gone out and the babysitter was in another room, I typed LESBIAN into the search bar of the family computer. As I scrolled through the resulting photos, I noticed a strange warm tingling in my lower abdomen. Scared, but also intrigued, I triple cleared the search history and shut down the computer before the babysitter caught me. Even then, I knew that what I had seen was something illicit.
Years later, I was at a sleepover with two close friends when they began to talk about their latest exploits with boys. Their discussion both intrigued and disgusted me. As I listened to them talking about tongue kissing and hand jobs, I tried to picture myself doing that with a guy. The image just wouldn’t come; in fact, I shuddered at the thought of having to put myself anywhere near a naked male penis. Maybe I’m not into guys at all. (Of course, not all guys have penises, and not all penises belong to guys, but I wasn’t very aware of that at the time.) As I lay in the dark bedroom listening to my friends snore, I remembered a 20-something year-old I knew from church who confided to me that she had never been attracted to anyone. What did she call herself again? Right, asexual.
The very next day, I began to do my research. My google search history must have looked something like this:
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO BE ASEXUAL
AROMANTIC VS ASEXUAL
HOW TO KNOW IF YOU ARE AROUSED
That last search answered my question; I was definitely not asexual. And my world was about to fall apart.
It turns out that growing up attending a church that subtly—and not so subtly—drills homophobia into your brain makes it really difficult to have a healthy relationship with your own sexuality. In order for me to even begin to embrace my love for women, I had to first ensure that it was okay with the old man upstairs. I read countless interpretations of Romans 1: 26 - “Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones”- until I was finally satisfied that God didn’t care who I fell in love with.
This realization was like a weight off my shoulders. I wanted to share the good news, I texted my friends, even tried to discuss it with my parents. They didn’t agree with me, but for awhile, it didn’t matter. I was riding the wave of euphoria that comes with making a big discovery; I felt like I had just found the cure for cancer! Surrounded by friends who supported me, as well as a diverse online community of queer and queer-affirming Christians, I felt like I had finally found somewhere I belonged, even if I was still pretty much entirely in the closet. As crazy and backwards as it seems, in a time when everything that I knew about myself and my world was changing, my religion was the one thing I had to hold on to. It wasn’t necessarily God that I was clinging to, but rather the idea of the holiness of the love that I felt for other girls. I wrote a lot of poetry during this time, thinly veiled musings on my sexuality disguised as psalms:
to deny a person the ability to love
is to tell them to repress a sacred gift
given by the Creator of all things
as a reminder that we are made in the image of the Divine.
In a way, I think I was writing these poems and clinging to the last threads of my faith in order to protect myself from my parents’ disappointment. “This is the way that God made me,” I told them on the night that I finally came out, “And God doesn't make mistakes.”
They weren’t convinced. The months after I came out were some of the worst and best months of my life. Around my friends, I was a whole new person. I made jokes, my confidence grew, and laughed until I cried. However, I dreaded going home at the end of the school day. The atmosphere in the house was tense to say the least. Any time I heard them talking to their friends on the phone I worried that I was being outed, and I tiptoed around them, anxious not to start any conflicts.
My faith began to unravel. I began to notice all of the harmful ideology built into the framework of Christianity, or at least the Christianity that I was a part of. I was tired of going to church on Sunday and hearing sermons full of sexism, homophobia, and anti-semitism. Hesitantly, I brought up my concerns to my parents, and to my surprise, they supported me. “Talk to the pastors Jocelyn, we will stand behind you.” That conversation was when I knew that we were going to be alright. After that, I tried to enjoy church again, but something was becoming clear to me. My spirituality was no longer for myself, it was for my parents. It was time for a change.
So where am I now? Well, to be honest, I don’t really know. I still go to church every Sunday, but now it’s more of a way for me to connect with my family than anything else. My relationship with my parents is improving day by day. It’s still not 100 percent but we’re getting there. I’m so grateful to still have them in my life, especially as many other young queer people aren’t as lucky. It’s also so nice to be able to join in on conversations with my friends about crushes and relationships without feeling like an outsider looking in through a foggy window. I still haven’t kissed a girl, but I’m heading off to university in September and am keeping my hopes up. For now, it’s enough to know that I’m not alone in my sexuality; there’s a bunch of other girls out there who also get weak in the knees when they see a photo of Cate Blanchett. As for God, we’re still trying to figure things out. Maybe one day I’ll find a spiritual practice that feels right, but for now, I’m okay to just keep floating along, surrounding myself in that holy, sacred love.
About the Author
Jocelyn Diemer (she/her) is extremely excited to be heading to the University of Victoria in the fall, where she will study writing and English literature. An eating disorder survivor, Jocelyn loves to talk and write candidly about her complicated relationship with her body. When she’s not fawning over middle-aged actresses or writing a piece of top-notch journalism for her local newspaper, Jocelyn loves to annoy her friends with niche memes and random historical facts.