Making Sense of Life as a Celibate, Partnered Lesbian After Marriage Equality

A reflection by Sarah

It’s June 29, 2015. I just got back from the vet with our dog, Gemma. She has a bacterial infection on her two front elbows, which should clear up with antibiotics in a week or so. I’ll spend the afternoon lying down to regain some energy before going out this evening for some ASL practice. I’ll spend the next two weeks counting down the days to a surgical procedure that could either give me some quality of life back or make my balance problem worse. It’s a pretty typical Monday for me…except for the fact that now, I could marry Lindsey legally in any state in the U.S. if that was what we wanted.

I woke up this Monday morning from a dream that a member of our former parish had broken into our apartment, taken photos of our living quarters, and sent them to our bishop. Of course this didn’t really happen. All that happened is last night, Lindsey received a personal email from an anonymous troll in our Christian tradition, threatening to report us to our bishop simply for being gay. I can’t decide which is worse — this, or the mixed bag of messages we’ve gotten over the past four days from other members of the LGBTQ community and allies.

I don’t know what to feel today. I am truly happy for my friends who no longer have to worry about whether marriage to their partners will afford them equal legal rights across the country. I understand the stresses associated with wanting to care for someone you love and living with worry that you will not be permitted to do so when it matters most. I’m worried about the behavior I’ve seen from members of my Christian tradition on the internet and how their vitriol will impact LGBTQ people of faith. I’m grateful that Lindsey and I are now part of a parish where we can blend in without worry, and even make friends and be an active part of the community with no one gossiping about what sins they imagine we are committing. I’m also grateful that so many people in our lives truly support us and respect our commitment to celibacy whether they understand and agree with it or not. I spent the weekend exhausted, but today I’m mostly weepy.

Being a celibate, partnered lesbian after marriage equality means being pressured to marry my partner legally even though we do not consider our relationship a marriage and are committed to obeying what our faith tradition has asked of us. It means that I have to explain over and over again, “Yes, I believe that civil and sacramental marriage are two different institutions. But my bishop sees it differently, and we are not going to disobey him.” It means being prepared upon saying that to be dismissed by the other person because he or she sees me as suffering from Stockholm syndrome, being brainwashed, contributing to the oppression of the LGBTQ community, caring more about “man-made religion” than I do about Lindsey, and being closed-minded or just plain obstinate. About 90% of the time, it means watching the other person laugh in my face or roll eyes when I say that obedience is a gift freely given — it can never be forced.

Being a celibate, partnered lesbian after marriage equality means knowing that the majority of the LGBTQ community would not lose a moment of sleep if Lindsey’s workplace were to decide to stop offering domestic partner benefits. It means working harder than ever to make sure that the two of us are protected, having awkward conversations with the powers that be at Lindsey’s places of employment, and running to the Department of Health as swiftly as possible to get an official certificate of domestic partnership before such things inevitably go the way of the dodo. It means living every day with even more uncertainty than we faced before, since no one seems to have any idea at this point what marriage equality will mean for those of us to will not be marrying for whatever reason. It means going into a major surgery in two weeks wondering whether I’ll have access to health insurance at this time next year. It means coming to terms with the fact that if I lose access to Lindsey’s health insurance, we’ll end up in dire straits financially because even the best of plans on the exchange will not cover enough of my medical expenses for us to make it financially.

Being a celibate, partnered lesbian after marriage equality means avoiding people in my faith tradition unless they are close friends or part of my wonderful parish family. It means living in fear of someone accusing Lindsey and me of scandal and doing everything possible to force our priest into not communing us. It means being Church with people whose hearts are filled with hatred for people like me, and with people who want to love me but have no idea how to do that. It means doing my best to accept what comes my way as a cross that can unite me to the suffering of Christ. It means I have been given a backhanded gift in the form of an opportunity to learn more about living the two great commandments. It also means being hypervigilant: you may think I am speaking from a place of paranoia, but I have already lost count of how many times within the past four days I have seen on Facebook that people like me are abominations, lustful perverts, and child molesters who are unworthy to darken the doorstep of any church.

Being a celibate, partnered lesbian after marriage equality means accepting my current reality as a test of faith. It means focusing on my relationship with God and trusting that no matter what happens, he will provide for Lindsey and me. It means staying strong in my knowledge that we are doing what he is calling us to do, and that by living our vocation we are responding to his invitation to unite ourselves more fully to him. It means being just as vulnerable as ever with my spiritual father and encouraging Lindsey to do the same. But most of all, it means that when I am weary I will take off my hearing aids and sit in silence with the one who gave his life for me — the one with whom I am passionately in love, the one whose presence in my life has begun a radical transformation.

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11 thoughts on “Making Sense of Life as a Celibate, Partnered Lesbian After Marriage Equality

  1. Dear Sarah and Lindsey,

    I’ve been following your blog for awhile now and have read current as well as older entries. I identify myself as a biblical Christian and consider my values to be rather conservative, including supporting “traditional marriage” – but I don’t discuss this with many people because I don’t really know what to think. Unless someone shares my religious beliefs I don’t see any reason why they would even consider agreement on what marriage means, and what’s more important… Showing people Jesus, or showing people a judgmental attitude towards LGBT communities? Your reflections have given me much to think about. I believe that the Bible teaches that sin is sin and am deeply saddened when my Christian friends hold up homosexuality as a “worse” kind of sin. Sin is sin and I bet most people who condemn homosexuality have themselves engaged in premarital (if not extramarital) sexual behavior which from what I understand in the Bible is on the same lines. I know I myself will not pick up any stones because if so the first person I should throw it at would be myself.

    I just wanted to explain where I am coming from when I say that I truly respect you both for what you have shared and how you have shared it online. I respect how thoughtfully you have considered God’s words, the leadership of your faith community, and the unique vocation God has given the both of you – as best as you can discern it. What a challenge, discerning your true vocation, and you guys seem to have worked harder at this than most of those that I both know and trust. I deeply respect your conviction. And you have worked hard at it in the face of persecution on all sides of the hazy faith boundary, and the LGTB ally/non-ally line. I feel for you in your struggle, in how this new legality will affect your lives, in whether this will affect how others see you. I am truly sorry to hear that Lindsey received a hateful message from a troll in your community. I pray that God will continue guiding you and giving you strength and encouragement. I make no claims to know anything about what God is doing through you guys, but clearly he is doing something and to me it seems good. I look forward to reading more about your journey. Thank you for helping me to grow. God bless you both.

  2. I have been overwhelmed by the comments on my Facebook page as well, and I am not LGBT+. The only encouragement that I have to offer is the knowledge that I pray for you both daily. I pray for your conviction, faith, strength, and direction for your lives. I’m not sure that anyone knows, yet, what this decision will mean for the future.

  3. I hope this may be of some encouragement:

    In the Catholic tradition, while divorce and remmarriage is not supported, seperated Catholics are explicitly allowed to get a legal divorce if necessary for legal reasons, which is often necessary. This principle would seem to apply in your case should you decide at some point that it is practically necessary to get married for medical insurance or other purposes.

    There is nothing contary to any Christian doctrine in a same sex couple getting married in a state marriage ceremony. All that is promised is a comitment to love each other faithfully for life which is a good, holy, sacred, and Christian act of love. There is no promise of sex in the state marriage ceremony so it would not affect your celibacy in that sense.

    The Catholic opposition to legalising same sex marriage is a prudential judgement on the supposed social affects of a particular law (which we could be wrong about) and the importance of recognising the distinctness of heterosexual marriage as the fountain of procreation (which may not be the major issue here). Catholics are not required to subscribe to that prudential judgement. It is not a judgment on the morality of particular same sex couples deciding to get married.

    Will continue to keep you in our prayers as you work out all this.

    God Bless

  4. Amen to all of the above. Lindsey and Sarah, you are inspirational. Thank you for posting this–I had been wondering how you were processing this week’s events.

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  7. I commend your self control. I hope you pray for me (heterosexual female) as I attempt celibacy without living with my boyfriend. You are so strong! There is nothing wrong with Love, just lust, And I don’t know how you feel about this, but I wouldn’t call you a lesbian. I would just call you someone who struggles with lust like the rest of us, just unfortunately not as understood. I pray God continues to give you strength and a heart full of love. But don’t let how awesome you are get to your head! Always humility.

    Pray for me a sinner,

    Susan

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  9. I just stumbled onto your blog and am so happy I did! I’m Orthodox, straight, but I’m really tired of the dismissive, “Well, they just shouldn’t have sex,” attitude that so many people in the Church have about LGBT folks (and that’s at the good end of the spectrum!). Right. Just don’t have sex. Check. Don’t need to think about that anymore! I have alot of friends in the LGBT community, and frankly I don’t know how to talk to them about Orthodoxy. When the question of homosexuality comes up and I don’t have anything to say beyond the unsatisfying rote answers. So I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts and reflections. Thank you for thoughtfully sharing your lives and your calling.

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