Spirituality doesn’t dissolve.

It makes me sad that so many people in our community walk away from their faith because they feel like there is no other choice for them. It is incredibly isolating and sad to have such a familiar environment turn on the drop of a dime.

I see you and you are valid for any choice you make to handle these types of matters. For so many years, I found myself sneaking into the back of churches for an Ash Wednesday or wondering if anyone would notice if I was gay in a religious crowd. I was terrified that somehow God was watching me commit this “sin” despite how much love was coursing through my veins as I lived my truth in my true identity and eventually in my current marriage to my wife.

From a very early age, I found a strong connection to God. Religion was always a comfort for me, a moral high ground that I used to justify the right from wrong as I navigated my years of growing up. I was baptized a Lutheran because the Catholic Church didn’t consider my parents’ marriage valid because they got married in City Hall and not a church. I was eventually converted to Catholicism in the 5th grade because my dad’s “Catholic guilt” got the better of him. However, my profession to Catholicism only furthered my connection to God and my bonds to family. Coming out brought great conflict in my spirituality. No matter how much I prayed or did the right thing, I was sinful because I found romantic attraction to both men AND women.

I didn’t know how to process the fact that one part of myself would cancel out the other. The idea of putting my true self and my religious convictions felt impossible.

As much as 2020 broke me, it also presented great change. Organized religion had always made me feel dirty and unwanted because I was the big old oxymoron bi-sexual Catholic girl. None of it could ever mesh together, or could it? My first therapist sent me out on the hunt for LGBTQIA+ affirming churches. My homework was to find one that had a mass that I could attend virtually. I wasn’t convinced that this would end well. The only other time I had saw a stroke of religious representation and LGBTQIA+ mesh together was a Pride float in NYC. This float resembled what looked like a club for ostracized Catholics like myself which was comforting but also horrifying at the same time. I began the search with little to no expectations and was blown away by what I found. I came across gaychurch.org which presented an entire database of churches from all faiths that welcomed LGBTQIA+ people. I cautiously searched Catholic and was blown away but what I saw. I found at least a dozen churches in NYC that welcomed our community. I went to every church website for the proverbial proof in the pudding and saw some mention on some sites but nothing that stuck out. It wasn’t until I saw St. Ignatius Loyola that I was sold that religion and my bi-sexuality could mesh together. There was an entire ministry of people made up of people like me and allies in this Catholic church. I was blown away by this and quickly joined their Facebook group and began to watch their interactions from afar. I was painfully shy and wanted to wait before I made myself known. After listening to a few sermons that impressed me and watching the Facebook group, I eventually attended their Zoom meeting and felt like I was home.

The marriage of these parts of my life has given me more comfort than I can explain. For years I felt like I was being tugged in two different directions and felt like I had no choice but to choose. I know that my story isn’t always the happy ending for everyone but I hope to provide some hope for anyone who wants to have a relationship with God in a church setting and still be their truest selves. It is very possible to do if it’s something you want to pursue. It is also perfectly okay to maintain a private spiritual relationship with whatever God you believe in. The choice is yours and whatever you choose is valid and great.

My first NYC Pride.

Credit: NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Facebook page.

Up until 2014 my experience in the LGBTQIA+ community was limited. I met my wife on MySpace. Some of you may have even been Tom’s friend too. Our presence in the community remained mostly digital even after meeting in person. There weren’t many resources in our youth, beyond Hillary Duff defending our identities as more than a slur. June 2014 marked our first Pride together. It was one year after Edie Windsor struck down DOMA. History was alive and witnessed before our own eyes. We were both eager to be amongst the community to celebrate history being made but also the intense love that was growing between us. The last Sunday in June came and we got up early to get a good spot to see the parade in Midtown and waited for it to begin. Our experience quickly started to turn from a patient waiting moment to immediate excitement. while we stood waiting for the parade to begin. 

The Grand Marshal’s that year were Laverne Cox and Jonathan Groff. I am a huge fan of both so when my wife asked Jonathan Groff to take a picture with me I was speechless that he agreed. He was as handsome and good natured as I imagined and I was on cloud nine. As a millennial and Gleek, my heart exploded at the encounter and the day only continued to get better from there. 

The parade started and we were engulfed by the community and its openness. The streets were packed with people like we have never seen before. Despite being out both of us remained passive in public in fear of being hassled for being openly affectionate with each other. To see so many people simply being free was a life changing experience for me. It gave a younger me the strength to live her truth as openly and as often as I could. The fear still presides but the memory of literally THOUSANDS of people walking up and down the streets of Manhattan with confidence in a parade of love of themselves and each other remains the North Star to me every time I want to question my ability to be open. My relationship has always been something to celebrate and be proud of and that experience will always engrain a sense of bravery and pride inside of me.

Today is the 51st annual Pride Parade in NYC. While I’ve decided not to go, my heart is with those young, old, and closeted and all, who could have the same experiences as I did that day. Whether it’s meeting your favorite LGBT celebrity, or finally being in person doing all the things you never thought you’d have the guts to do. Enjoy your time, be kind, be respectful to each other and HAPPY PRIDE NYC!

Sometimes it really is about location, location, location.

It feels different when you gain the same rights as your fellow peers; like a fresh coat of paint on an old house. The bones are good but it could use a few upgrades. That’s the state of the LGBTQIA+ community then, when we gained the right to marry but there is still room for improvement as so many continue to face discrimination of the rights most Americans are privileged to have. As our community continues to fight, I want to reflect on the milestones we now celebrate.

June 24, 2011, New York State signed the Marriage Equality Act becoming the sixth state of the fifty to allow gay marriage. I was 22 at the time and newly involved with my wife and I was ecstatic. I can remember getting serious with her and having thoughts of marriage come up with a cloud of uncertainty. How would we do it? Would it ever be legal? Would I have the same legal rights in our union that everyone else I had ever seen marry have? We were nowhere near ready to get married but we were both elated to have the option to dream freely and not question the loopholes we’d have to find to have the progression of our relationship like everyone else could.

Image Credit: Politics Outdoors (politicsoutdoors.com)

Despite, the federal law for Marriage Equality being passed in 2015, the reality is still very much that the states often decide the quality of lives that our community has regardless of legality that lives in the black and white. People still continue to face discrimination in too many daily settings, leaving a lot of us to have to continue to plan our lives around the likelihood of acceptance of others. When picking a living situation, we have to search for gay-friendly spaces, what the politics are, and how organized religion plays a role in the place we may want to live. The states still sometimes have the subtle control of how the law is received and it makes me sad to think that so many of us have to go through this leaving us to question if we can live openly or have to hide out of necessity for safety or need. My hope is that one day that our community can take ownership of the cherished American Dream.

As a New Yorker, I find myself in a place of privilege and freedom to live my loudest truth. Often our rights are championed, the acceptance is apparent. This law helped the path to a federal decision and remains some of the earliest examples of victories in our fight as one family. It is this law that allowed my marriage to be valid and my freedom of choice to remain regardless of who I loved. I’m feeling especially thankful today to be a bi-sexual New Yorker and proud to be married to my beautiful wife for the last year and a half.

Self-Discovery in a digital age [My coming out story]

It baffles me when I hear some of the stories from people who bravely declare their truths only to lose everything they’ve ever known. Parents disown them, relatives not speaking to them, their churches turning them away; all because they had the courage to live as who they really are. To anyone who has had such a horrible loss, I am sorry but I am also incredibly proud of you for loving yourself in a way that no one ever could. I stand with you always.

My personal story of coming out was an exceptionally lucky one when it came to sharing my identity with my family and friends.

I was 17 years old when I first started to realize that I didn’t identify as a straight woman. At the time, I was heavily into on-line roleplaying on Myspace and began writing characters that were romantically connected to both males and females. My attraction was matched for both of the sexes which was a new thought to me. Experimenting on-line was my quiet way of figuring things out that didn’t require me actively going out anywhere or talking to anyone in person. I lived a very sheltered childhood so my ability to go out to different places to explore this idea in person would have been difficult. Being online was my own private world where I could be whoever I wanted without the need for anyone’s approval. After a few months of writing relationships with both sexes, I found myself needing to tell someone in my personal life. The first person I came out to was my-then boyfriend. He was understanding for the most part but quickly grew jealous at the potential of my leaving him for a female or him not being included in the scenario should I ever decide to try it. It was a hard thing to manage because at the time I was still very much in love with him but his jealousy was so prudent it was hard not to want to remove myself from the relationship in the search for more. We eventually split up. Young love wasn’t meant to last for me this time.

The majority of my experimenting remained on-line until the story jumped off the page and I met my now wife in person in January 2009. We went on our first date and I had my first experience formally dating a girl. It was nice for the most part but the date wasn’t much to write home about. She was still figuring herself out just as much as I was and we ended up parting ways as friends for the time being. Her on and off again relationship with a woman prevented anything from flourishing until she decided it could, when she finally broke up with the woman she was seeing. We started seeing each other more that summer and that’s when I knew that it was time to tell my family my true feelings because I could no longer pass her off as the girl, I met at college in an Anthropology class.

The first person in my family that I came out to was my mother. My Mom and I had a rocky relationship in my teens and early 20s. She was trying to mold me into what she thought was a girl and I was everything but the mold she had set up. My coming out only furthered that. I was never going to be the mold she set up for me and she was going to have to accept it. Despite, being in shock her love never faltered. We may not have always seen eye to eye but I’ve always known that there is no fiercer a protector than my mother. She is the living example of lifting a car off of her children if she needed to. Her protection and good intentions knew no bounds for us growing up. My new found bi-sexuality would be a challenge for us because she would continue to challenge my feelings and call them a phase but eventually, she realized my wife wasn’t going anywhere no matter how uncomfortable she was in the new found thought of my romantic relationship with a woman.  My mother grew into the idea of the possibility that I would marry a woman and ended up being one of my biggest supporters of my relationship always providing guidance wherever she could.

I’m forever grateful that we didn’t have the tragic ending which could have cost us our relationship. She loved me fiercely through it all and I’ll always be thankful.

My father was next for me to tell my truth to. My Dad has never been one for big ordeals or a scene to be made. We were driving in the car and Katy Perry’s I kissed a girl came on so I just went for it and told him. His reaction was minimal as expected but loving regardless. The only thing he wanted to know was if I was happy and I promised that I was. He went onto to continue to enforce that anyone I dated needed to love me half as much as he did and continue to treat me with the same respect I deserved regardless if it was a man or a woman. I was told that just because I had changed the rules didn’t mean any exceptions would be made for any of my partners. They still wouldn’t be allowed in my bedroom with an opened door. It’s a funny story to look back on but it proves the consistency that my Dad posessed. All romantic interests would be viewed with the same scrunity and watchful eye for his baby girl. It was a sweet notion and my bi-sexuality was something he never challenged despite genuinely not understanding the concept of it at times.

After I told my parents which were the most important people at the time, I moved onto my brother and eventually my best friends. My brother never cared about who I was dating as long as they treated me well. He also confessed he had already known about it and was glad that I had finally come to terms with telling other people. It was a relief to not feel like I had to go through a whole explanation of my new found thought. I just was his sister and there was nothing else to say. My best friends all welcomed the new idea and they all offered their reassurance that nothing would change between us and they were eager to meet my newest potential girlfriend whenever I was ready.

I realize how lucky I am that my story doesn’t have a tragic loss involved. My family and friends never once changed the tempo of our relationship because of my identity and never stopped trying to be as present in my life as they could.

I wasn’t shunned or turned away, I was given the floor to have open dialogue about what I was embarking on and loved just as much as I was before they all knew who I was growing up to be.

Acceptance is the foundation of our pride. Love is our bravery, even when it challenges what is considered to be the norm. Your family are the people who should accept you with condition. I am so thankful to have all of this in my family and friends as my strongest allies who supported me from the very beginning of my journey to my true self.

Happy Pride 2021 – A weeklong SERIES.

Pride month was first acknowledged in 1999 when President Bill Clinton declared the month of June to be “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month”. Every year since then we have grown in knowledge of history and inclusion and it eventually became LGBTQ pride. This is a catalyst to the countless riots, marches, and protests by previous generations of LGBTQIA+ people fighting for themselves and their community. Rights for freedom of expression, safety and love were all something that so many people went without. The demand for change became impossible to ignore as our community took a stand for ourselves in politics, quality of life in our country and our abilities to express ourselves wherever and whenever we saw fit to do so. I am so honored to be a part of this community and grateful for those people who the stand for generations to come. Last year, I was admittedly sad that I wasn’t able to celebrate my first Pride month as a married woman and honor those that came before us. I wanted to celebrate and honor those who pioneered activism for LGBTQ civil rights which paved the way for a future where everyone can be who they truly are and love who we want without fear of harm to our community or injustices. I know we still have a long to go until total equality but I am so proud to be in the LGBTQIA+ community and thankful for those generations before.

New York City, New York, USA – August 24, 2019: Historic Stonewall Inn gay bar in Greenwich Village Lower Manhattan [IStock.com]

With that being said, I wanted to share some of my pride journey with you and highlight some of experiences as a bi-sexual woman in our world today. I’ve chosen to run this series at the end of June because the last week of June is always New York City’s usual time to host Pride events and have their annual march. I am not only a proud bi-sexual woman, but I am also proud to be a New Yorker where in 1969 the Stonewall Riots, launched the movement we know today paving the way for more change than any of us could have imagined. To be able to dwell in the neighborhoods of the birth of so much free thought and love is inspiring and motivating to continue the work of ground breaking activism that blazed our paths today.

I am considering this my very own personal celebration of sharing my truth, my experiences, and my own Pride in myself and the community in general. I will not be attending any in-person celebrations, but I look forward to sharing this series with you and hope that I can encourage and inspire in some way along the way.