Friday, October 26, 2018

A Coming Out Story

So... last night I and two other queer colleagues of mine shared our coming out / faith journey stories at the monthly gathering of the women's group at the church I work at, in honor of LGBT History Month. I thought you all might find what I shared interesting.

It's a very particular perspective, narrowly focused on the intersection of my church-going experience (vs. my actual faith, which I don't broadcast widely and especially not in that setting) and my identity as a queer person (and not all of that, either). But I had the opportunity and thought my story could be of use to others, and so far the feedback I've received suggests that it is. So here you go.

Happy Belated Coming Out Day (Oct. 11)! Maybe next year I'll write a less heavily redacted version.

Annie

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I first came out in 1988, 30 years ago, when I was 16. I’d known before then that I felt different but I didn’t have words to explain how – it was the 80s and all we heard about was gay men and AIDS. Then I was reading the alumnae journal of a college I was considering attending and the then-president of the college was talking about the “lesbian problem” there, and I knew, quite clearly, that that’s where I wanted to go.* I went to college that fall, promptly came out as a lesbian, and once I’d been there a while longer and knew more words, came out quietly to myself as bisexual.
            But the language still didn’t feel right. Back then that word didn’t seem to include trans people, or people who might now describe themselves as nonbinary, and I knew I was drawn to them as well. So I chafed. Then I came across the word queer – as a word nerd I just loved the word itself, the sound and its history and its connection to Queer Nation – and that word felt big enough, broad enough, queer enough to include me and all I was interested in and attracted to.
On to faith.
I grew up unchurched but seeking (and with a strong Catholic bent thanks to my cultural background) – and then angrily atheist when at first I could not find a faith that made sense to me, and then again when it seemed Christianity had nothing but condemnation for me. For years I was happy to turn my back on organized religion – though not entirely on faith – only to first be turned upside down by multiple experiences I can only describe as mystical, and then the growing conviction that I needed to explore my faith within a community. So I started seeking again, reading, praying, and trying to find a welcoming church home in any of the cities I found myself during my twenties. And I’ll tell you, none were a great fit. In some I felt at home liturgically, but not as a queer person (and unbaptized to boot). In others I felt safe if not exactly welcomed, but my spirit was dissatisfied. Eventually I found a church home where both my partner at that time and I felt welcome and invited to contribute to the life of the church, and if my spiritual needs weren’t entirely met, it was made up for by that congregation’s place in New England transcendentalist history.
And then I moved. And I needed to find a new church home, which was complicated by my growing desire to be baptized – which I didn’t understand, but knew was important to listen to. I started my search again, and again didn’t find any place that felt right. In the end, as I was already working at Fourth Church – another decision that didn’t make sense at the time but felt like the right one – and it was as much a community as any I’d found, I decided to be baptized here and to become a member.
But it wasn’t enough. Quite aside from the serious lack of saints, there’s a world of difference between not feeling unsafe and feeling welcomed. And in 2004, still seven years before the PC(USA) would pass Amendment 10-A, and with the lack of any kind of visible effort to invite LGBTQIA+ folks in, I didn’t feel as if there was room for me to bring my whole self to the life of the church. So I continued my search, and ultimately found a smaller Episcopal church on the Northside, near where I lived, with a rainbow flag prominently displayed, and I have continued to worship there since.
So that is my coming out in faith, and I feel that the two are intimately connected. In part because both my understanding of myself as a queer person and as a person of faith are absolutely foundational to my understanding of myself. But also because I see these two journeys as parallel, not just intertwined. My thinking on faith continues to grow and change, and it’s important to me to have a church home open to that – and my queer identity continues to grow and change as well. For instance, in the last few years it’s become more important to me to claim myself as bisexual and not only queer. This has grown out of changing use of the word – as people insist on its inclusive nature rather than exclusive – and also the knowledge that the bisexual community, while statistically the largest component of the LGBTQIA+ community, has, with the exception of trans and intersex people, the worst health and domestic violence outcomes of that same community. So it’s become a kind of political act for me. And my understanding of gender continues to expand as well.
And with that I want to say something about language. It should be clear from my story that language is important to me. It should also be clear that language around sexual orientation and gender identity continues to evolve, sometimes very rapidly. For example, there are definitions on the vocabulary sheet we provided that I’m not wild about, and that’s only four years old. So while language is important and I think it’s hugely important to keep learning, I would encourage us to let go of expectations of getting it “right”, especially if that means we don’t dare say anything at all. Respect and openness are what’s most important – and then listening to what one is told and respecting that.
I imagine the question is out there – as a bi person in a heterosexual relationship – that is, I could “pass” – why come out? Why put myself out there? And my answer is twofold and also intimately connected to my faith.
First, I come out because I can. I’m secure within my family, my workplace, my church – I don’t risk anything by coming out other than other people’s opinion of me. By doing so, though, I may make it easier for others to do so, and I may also make it easier for others to advocate on our behalf. I live out my faith through service, and through trying to “be the change I wish to see in the world”. Coming out is one way I do this.
Second, if I don’t come out, if I keep some of myself back, then I lose opportunities to be of service, and I am not being who I believe God called me to be. For example, a year ago I was asked to lead a workshop at a women’s event at the Presbytery level. And I was flattered, and interested, but without knowing who would be there, and without being publically out, my gut feeling was “But you don’t know who I am, and I can’t trust that I will feel safe”. And I turned it down. I have faith that I have contributions to make in this world, and I don’t want anything to limit them, especially not my fear.
So that’s why I’m here, tonight, speaking to you all.

*I don't think I ever shared that with my parents before. Hi, Mom and Dad! 

Afterwards

It only just occurred to me that I didn't write any update here about the marathon. Probably because I didn't finish, and was okay with that, and had other things I was thinking about... But here's what I wrote to a friend who asked about it.

I haven't blogged yet, but when I do it won't be a play-by-play of the marathon as in the past - more a meditation on pain and privilege. Stuff I've been thinking about all season, actually.

This is what I wrote donors:

"If you were tracking me you'll know already that I didn't finish. I'd been in pain from the start and at mile 17 it was too much to continue and I dropped out. Nothing serious, just an unfortunate combination of long-term structural imbalances and unresolved past injuries - stuff I'd struggled with all season but just came to a head during the race.
      This experience has strengthened my resolve to "retire" from marathoning, so I'm especially grateful for a super-successful fundraising year - together we all raised over $1700 for Chicago Lights! (Or $100 for each mile I finished.)"

What made this year different (in terms of going on despite pain) is that 1) this year my back was hurting as well, and it was actually worse walking than running, and 2) I really didn't have anything to prove to myself or anyone else. Last year, once I realized I could continue, I wanted to keep going as long as I could. This year I realized the only way I could possibly continue was an extended break at the aid station, with no guarantee that I wouldn't have to stop again. And I decided that the pain was worse than my pride.

I'm putting a hold on marathoning, though oddly enough, the first half, despite being painful, went well. I kept an even pace and felt stronger than I had all year. But that made me realize how much I've missed that kind of racing (at distances of 15k - 13.1m), and how in the future, if I were to do a marathon again, I'd want to know I could run it that way - strong, steady, and able to push harder as I went along. But for that kind of running I would need to train for at least a couple of years - purposefully, eyes on the prize kind of training - and not until after I've gotten my shoulder and back taken care of. And honestly I don't want to train that hard, I have too much else I need to focus on.

So that's the marathon.

Some of what I plan to focus on - what I already am focusing on - is writing, and increasing my activism around anti-racism and trans rights. NaNoWriMo begins next week... *rubs hands*.

Still running though, I've been loving my short early morning runs in the dark, watching the sun begin to rise (it's still dark when I get back!) and seeing who else is up that early. A lot more people than you'd think.

Contentedly,
Annie

Monday, October 1, 2018

A Few Last Thoughts

Welp, the marathon is in less than a week. I'm as ready as I can be... which is to say I'm really not well trained for this one, but I'm in a better place for it than I was last year and I managed to finish then. So not feeling excited but also not feeling nervous... mostly curious. What will it be like? Each one has been so different.

You'll see plenty of articles talking about setting your A goal, B goal, and C goal for any race. Usually it has to do with time/pace but aside from a vague desire to finish under 6 hours that seems ridiculous for me this year. Here are mine:

A goal - Finish under 6 hours.
B goal - Stay present, be in the moment as much as possible.
C goal - Finish.

And now that I've written them down I see that my middle goal is really my first. At some point in doing these I realized that I can do them, I am physically capable of covering the distance. More than once, as a matter of fact. And so I think the reason I keep doing them (since goodness knows I'm not doing them faster each time) is for the experience of it. In which case my main goal needs to be truly experiencing it, to the best of my ability. All of it, including whatever might come up for me emotionally or mentally.

I think I need to take some time this week to meditate on this and set some intentions. :)

So, revised goals:

A goal - Be present and in the moment, with my thoughts/feelings and my surroundings.
B goal - Finish under 6 hours.
C goal - Finish.

Choosing my music will be a part of setting my intentions. I'm going to stay with what I've been running to all summer, these songs and rhythms have felt intensely personal in a way I'm not going to talk about here, but here's what I've been listening to:

Macklemore - "Genesis"
Michael Blume - EPs "When I Get It Right" and "cynicism & sincerity"
Bomba Estéreo - "Amanecer (Remixed)"
Nakhane Touré - "Brave Confusion"
Fania Studio - "Calentura: Global Bassment"

Plus a whole mess of singles I've found through Spotify over the last couples of months, a lot of club/dance/trance/trap and a lot of it fantastically queer, in all senses of the word.

And then, if I hit a point where I need to not be present for a while, I have episodes of The Adventure Zone lined up. (I don't know how to describe this, it's a live-action Dungeons & Dragons game, yes, but good grief it's so much more. And terribly, horribly funny. I can't actually listen to this while running - I keep stopping and laughing - this is for those times when I can't do anything but walk for a while.)

See you on the other side -
Annie


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

I'm Running A Marathon When?

Oh yeah, in less than a month.

Maybe time for some updates. Even some introduction for those who haven't followed my running before.

First of all, I'm running it because I like training for and running marathons. There isn't anything noteworthy or inspiring about this, this is just what I like to do. Some people travel, some people play video games, some people take intensive classes in their area of interest. I run long.

Second, I'm raising money for Chicago Lights as part of the process because it's an organization I hold highly, all the more so because I get to work so closely with staff. (Not closely in terms of my work but rather physically - my cubicle is surrounded by Chicago Lights staff and I get to hear all kinds of cool stuff that goes on behind the scenes and most people will never even know was a part of the process. But trust me, these programs are in good hands.)

(And if you'd like to contribute to my fundraising campaign - every bit helps! - you can do so here.)

As far as my actual training goes this summer it's been... okay. Better than last year for sure, I've been able to hit all my recent long runs. They've been hard, much harder than in the past, and I'm pretty sure that's because I haven't been getting my midweek mid-length runs in until recently. (All due to scheduling issues - especially the challenge of scheduling morning runs when both The Dude and I are training for this and have similar mileage ramp-ups.) And I had a couple of old injury flare-ups earlier in the summer where I had to back off  of training for a while - luckily that seemed to take care of those.

I think this will be my last road marathon for a while. (I know, I know, I've said that before.) I'm looking forward to more trail running, and also to regaining some speed by training for shorter races. This will be my fifth Chicago Marathon (plus my "rogue" marathon as The Dude likes to call it), and that seems like a good number to pause on.

But first... there's a twenty-miler coming up this weekend and then the insanity of taper. And then...!

Always take the ice bath,
Annie


Friday, July 20, 2018

Little More Action

Midday through summer, and marathon training is going well. I've had to shift my schedule around plenty between travel, work, and family, but I've hit all my long runs and all my speed workouts, so I'm feeling pretty solid. Guess it's time to start fundraising.

Writing is feeling more solid these days too. I signed up again for Camp NaNoWriMo, this time setting my goal in minutes rather than words, since I needed to revise and research and brainstorm above all else. That's been pretty consistent too, and I'm getting interested and excited again vs. just confused and overwhelmed.

My summer is heavily fueled by music, as always. Some familiar albums giving new energy -  Macklemore & Ryan's "The Heist", and Grimes' "Art Angels". Then albums new to me - "Calentura: Global Bassment" (remixes of classic Fania releases), and BombEstéreo's "Amamecer: Remixed". Fantastic electro grooves, perfect for digging into words or steps.

And very grateful for Spotify for introducing me to new stuff I would not have heard otherwise:

Mona Haydar's "Barbarian"


Madame Gandhi's "Top Knot Turn Up"


Lulu Be's "Rude Tings"

FAKA's "Uyang'khumbula"

Hope your summer is treating you well!
Annie

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Where I Am

Well, I had been going to leave an update about my marathon training and about my writing since it's been a while since I posted on either... but then news about the detention centers broke and now SCOTUS and I'm just angry and grieving and have been angry and grieving. And am gearing up to go to small-town Ohio for our annual summer visit next week and having emotions about that.

So.

I don't write about politics here*, but I don't think it's news to anyone reading this that I am pro-immigration (actually pro-open borders but that's a conversation that's nowhere near happening in this or many countries), pro-choice, support Black Lives Matters, support trans rights, queer AF, and, oh yes, have a keen interest in science...

...while also a believer and seeker who worships and works in not one but two religious communities, even though my adherence to organized religion is often strained and my individual beliefs far from creedal.

Just so there's no question where I stand. ;)
Annie

And to leave you with something inspiring, 'cause I got nothing, not today...

Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. - Rep. John Lewis

*I write devotions for work and find I am unable to keep my politics out of my Bible reading and thus reflection... but since we're not supposed to get political in those I find ways to veil it. Today's felt especially pertinent (and we write these weeks, if not months ahead of time), but I was apparently feeling more hopeful then than I am today.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Yup, Doing It Again

Marathoning, that is.

This time with The Dude (first time ever).

He's under the impression we're going to run it together... mhmm, we'll see.

But it's fun to plan together and share the process.

I am over the moon happy about training again. No really, the feels are too big for me to get down right now, I just... sigh. Happy happy.

(I'll try to get more coherent about it as we go through the summer, I can't just wave my hands around and squeak every time I talk about it.)

We'll be running it for Chicago Lights - me again, him for the first time. I'll get our fundraising info up soon.

And now to map out this week's long run!

Gleefully,
Annie