Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Be-coming Out

By Heather McDuffee

"Don't come out unless you want to. Don’t come out for anyone else’s sake. Don’t come out because you think society expects you to. Come out for yourself. Come out to yourself. Shout, sing it. Softly stutter. Correct those who say they knew before you did. That’s not how sexuality works, it’s yours to define."
—Dean Atta
, in The Black Flamingo

A vibrant colourful sunset or sunrise sky over limestone pavement landscape and a wind-bent English Hawthorn tree at Twisleton Scar, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, UK

I don’t quite understand why queer folx have to come out. Straight people just bring a person home and introduce them to their parents. And thanks Lady Gaga, but I wasn’t really “born this way.” I grew this way: like a bent tree, adapting to wind and water, salt and sun. Sexuality is more fluid than we thought.

I did not “come out” on my terms. I was a Christian pastor. I was married to a lovely man and we had two young children. Living my life as a lesbian felt like a poor life choice. Why would I sacrifice my image, my career, and my marriage to explore a thing that seemed immature and impulsive? And would I even like it?

Coming out was a long process for me. I filed for divorce. I broke my family. I moved out. And in the midst of this midlife awakening (or whatever), there was church being all up in my business: me, the lead pastor of a historical, progressive church who had never had a female pastor before. When I asked for privacy, they couldn’t do it. Magnificent stories were told about me (I kinda wish some of them were true). Alas, I was outed by progressive Christians.

I still don’t know what coming out to a congregation looks like. Do we come out in a sermon? Before the prelude? In the newsletter? No one gets to say what the right way is to come out, not even gay people. The power belongs to the one coming out.

What I want people to know about coming out is that it is deeply spiritual. Hetero people should try it. It is vulnerable, intimate, and holy. There were a few moments when I felt the holy safety of coming out to trusted friends. God makes holy what humans have distorted. Like, when I told my pastoral relations committee, a gay man told me, “I know that it doesn’t feel like it yet, but I’m so happy for you. Your life is about to be amazing.”

In be-coming out, I lost a lot: my husband, my job, my sense of self. But, thank God, I also gained a lot. Andthank you, John from the pastoral relations committeeI have an amazing life: a new girlfriend, a new definition of family, a new definition of ministry. Be-coming out has been a long process—but it’s my process. Be-coming out taught me about being human and about being spiritual. Be-coming out shows all people that we can adapt, grow, and emerge victorious.

Prayer

Glittery God, thank you for the vulnerability and intimacy of be-coming out. You were there the whole time, weren’t you? You are always there in those moments of telling trusted friends who we are. Thanks for that. Amen.

Editor's note: Rev. Heather was generous in sharing a homily-length version of her "be-coming out" story on WorshipWeb.

About the Author

Heather McDuffee

Rev. Heather McDuffee (she/her) is a United Church of Christ clergy who’s passionate about social justice ministry and action. She lives in Colorado with her girlfriend and her two smart and sassy tweenaged girls. Heather loves singing, talking about the Enneagram, looking for art for her next...

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