A reflection by Lindsey
This week, I’ve found myself reflecting a lot on my experiences growing up. As a kid, I was different. It was rare for me to find places where I perceived that I fit. No matter what the metric, there were ways I frequently experienced a strong sense of otherness. I constantly looked for opportunities where I was like the other people gathered, and by the time I hit fifth grade, I realized that these opportunities required that I travel outside of my typical geography.
You see, early on, I realized that I was smart. I was that nerdy kid, incredibly enthusiastic about seemingly random things. When I discovered science camps at my local university, I was in my element. Finally there was a place where it was okay to be that geek.
Consistently being different is hard, especially when we live in a world that values conformity. I think nearly every adult can identify acute places in his or his childhood where, no matter what, feelings of difference were a constant companion. Feeling different can be excruciating. I remember some of the questions that used to run through my head when I was younger: Why must I salivate over logic problems instead of waiting with baited breath for this week’s basketball games? Why would I rather bury my nose in a book than chat it up with the “cool” kids? Why is it that I can’t wait to get home to do my science experiment instead of play video games? And yes, I would have used the word “salivate” to describe my relationship with mathematics.
Regularly, I use concepts of otherness when discussing my personal comfort with using LGBTQ alphabet soup to describe myself. To me, LGBTQ simply indicates that I experience the world differently than cisgender, heterosexual people. To make sense of cisgender, heterosexual people, I try listening to them describing their experiences. However, the more I learn about said experiences, the more convinced I am that mine are different. I’ve accepted that there is an overwhelming majority of straight, cisgender people around me. But, just as science camps afforded me a place to relax and be myself, spend time around LGBTQ Christians gives me yet another space to experience a deep sense of belonging.
With some frequency, I find myself wishing that more conservative Christians could appreciate my desire for room to relax and just be me. When I was a kid, I learned that virtually every school had smart kids. The way to get a bunch of smart kids together was to create opportunities that acknowledged how our smartness could be used to create community. Similarly, I believe that it’s absolutely true that virtually every church has LGBTQ Christians. It’s worth creating space for LGBTQ Christians to gather, to have an opportunity to feel less different and more at home.
I remember the huge sense of relief when I walked into my first Gay Christian Network conference in 2008. All of a sudden, I was with 200 other people who were like me! However, I almost couldn’t work up the nerve to go. I had heard so many conservative Christians completely bashing any and all LGBT organizations. If these organizations claimed to be Christian, then they were certainly distorting the truth of the Gospel and merely parroting what itching ears wanted to hear. I didn’t feel like I had any space whatsoever to affirm an event like the GCN conference as a good thing. I have since attended five GCN conferences because GCN is one of the few LGBT Christian organizations that has any space to walk alongside me as I journey alongside Christ. To be sure, it’s only one space, but it is certainly a space where I feel an absolute sense of being at home.
In many ways, I felt that same sense of home when I first went to science camp. As I have grown older, I have heard many arguments about why schools should stop providing programs to gifted students. While I’m confident places like science camp will continue to exist, I hope every student has somewhere at school where he or she feels a sense of being accepted. Why are we so quick to tell people who find themselves in a minority demographic that nothing can be done in their backyards to help them feel more at home?
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