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the daily taryn - advice for the church-going baby gays

I've been so excited to answer this question sent in by a reader. I edited out some details to keep t
the daily taryn - advice for the church-going baby gays
By taryn arnold • Issue #19 • View online
I’ve been so excited to answer this question sent in by a reader. I edited out some details to keep things anonymous:
“Ok, my question is based on sexuality and religion. I am involved in my church’s high school ministry and I have several girls who have come out to me over the past couple years. 2 lesbian, 3 bisexual, and 2 trans friends (all sophomores in HS) have shared their stories with me and each person has shared a genuine concern that if they are out at church, the church will shut them out and some have gone as far as thinking that God might not love them. Our church is a Methodist church, which is a little more progressive historically, but our congregation is still very conservative and tends to shy away from welcoming and embracing the LGBTQ community. I wonder if you might have any advice for these young ladies who aren’t necessarily struggling with their sexuality, but struggling with other people in the church community accepting and affirming them for who they are. Although it appears that you’ve been blessed with accepting and loving parents and family members, can you speak to any experience you may have had in your relationship with other Christians, for better or worse?”
This question means everything to me, as it addresses things I have thought about for hours and days and months and years on end. To answer it well, I will address both parties — these brave young ladies, then all those with opinions to share about their lives. My hope is that you read all the way through. I think you’ll learn something, from someone who has been on both sides. 

Part 1: A note for you beautiful young ladies.
Hi. My name is Taryn. I’m 27, have a serious girlfriend, and was, in so many ways, in your same position (here’s proof).
I have a few things I want to share with you. 
1. You are the bravest.
Truly and honestly. Being a teenager is terrifying. Then, being a hormonal teenager is a whole new mess of scary. THEN, being a hormonal teenager who has feelings for other teenagers is just so, so much. THEN, being a hormonal teenager who has feelings for other teenagers that are of the same sex… oh gosh. Hide me now. It’s so much to figure out, it’s debilitating.
And here’s the kicker. It’s even more debilitating when you have to figure it out alone, because people around you don’t approve. Gosh. This weight, this crushing weight of experiencing true, honest, rom-com feelings for another person — all the goosebumps and butterflies and please text backs — then being called “wrong” for it… only you and I know this feeling. It’s hard enough to get out of bed, but you are the bravest of them all — you put on your shoes, leave the house, then walk through church doors towards some people who actively disagree with your feelings. Your choices. Your beliefs. You.
You, my friend, are the bravest. 
2. It gets better.
Yes, the gay people slogan. But it’s true. I know that realizing that you’re gay or bi or trans or anything other than “the norm” is downright the scariest moment of your entire life, until it’s not. It gets worse sometimes (i.e. being told you’ll go to hell, which is, I believe, so stupidly untrue it’s laughable), but for the most part, it largely gets better.
This is the part where I use the stock market (my girlfriend will be very proud) as my metaphor to the first few years of coming out.

netflix stock over 3 months
netflix stock over 3 months
When you look at a few months within your coming out journey (aka netflix stock over a 3 month period), you see that, while it’s slowly getting better, there are so. many. dips. along the way. Those dips (bad days) can be hard convos, people telling you they don’t understand, Bible verses ringing in your ears, tears lost in the shower. There are valleys, but there are also peaks. Good days, with good convos, people telling you they love you, tv shows featuring gay romance, smiles in the shower. Regardless, it all feels like you’re taking each day at a time, wondering if there’s any progress.
netflix stock all time
netflix stock all time
If you look at your coming out journey over a few years (netflix stock all time), you see that it’s trending up, drastically. The hard days are just hard days within good weeks, good months, and good years.
So when you feel like things aren’t getting better, I urge you to zoom out. Even on the days when people in your church do everything they possibly can to tell you that they (and God and all the religious folk of all the days before) do not agree with who you are and how you feel, I am here to tell you that you are, in all the ways, beautiful and special and okay. You just are. It gets better.
3. Some people never change.
Some people will never accept you. They will always look at you weird, and make you feel like you shouldn’t be in the room. Like you shouldn’t take up so much space. Like you don’t deserve to be in the church. Like the church is a safe space for them, but not a safe space for you. They will take any opportunity to tell you these things, because unfortunately, they feel it’s their duty to. Maybe because that’s what their parents or mentors told them to do. Maybe they think they are helping you, by guiding you to God or the “right” thing, or saving you from yourself. Unfortunately, some people just won’t change their mind. Their belief is set in stone, because maybe they had parents whose beliefs were set in stone, whose parents beliefs were also set in stone, whose parents are probably so fuckin’ old they invented stone. All to say, you might not find the home you’re looking for at this church. This is the reality of it.
4. Some people will change.
I am living breathing proof of this. Many of the very people that told me that I was going to hell for liking girls have since come back to apologize, saying they’ve changed their mind. They’ve just… changed their mind. I want to you sit with this sentence, and feel it to your core. They’ve changed their mind. Just like that. I hope it opens your eyes to how people work, and how you should never, ever kill yourself (figuratively or literally) over not getting someone’s approval, because they can just change their mind. 
5. Some people will celebrate you.
There are more people on this planet than you can even conceive of. Right now, while you are reading this sentence, there were 5 more little people brought into the world. There are so many people. And of those people, some will look at you funny. Some will tell you you’re dirty or sick or wrong. But guess what? Some will accept you. Some will celebrate you for who you are. Some will love you to your core and back. Hell, some will feel the exact same way you do. At this moment, there are others JUST like you, looking for you, like you’re looking for them. They are gripping to hope, holding their breath at the thought that someone like you exists. I know this to be true. Ask anyone who has been at this gay/bi/whatever thing for a minute and they’ll promise you this. 
7. God accepts you.
In my eyes, God accepts you. A lot of people believe this, too. Sure, many don’t. But many do. And many don’t believe in God. And many believe God is nature, or God is Oprah, or God is within you, or God is thing we all made up to make us feel better. I can’t tell you who God is. I also can’t tell you whether your definition of God accepts you or not. Only you can. No one — me or your friends or your pastor — can tell you this. Believe what you believe. It’s easy to run away from thinking about God or a higher power or anything bigger than yourself, because it can be scary and hurtful. But don’t run. Dig in. Think about what you really believe, regardless of what people say. There is no rush to figure it out. Just believe what you believe. 
8. The most important piece of the puzzle:
Okay. Lean in, because this is the most important part of them all. The need for community and acceptance will never go away — I’m 27 and still desire to be liked and wanted and needed and approved every single day, by strangers and coworkers and friends and God and all those much holier than thou. This need never goes away, which is why you must meet it. You. Yes, it is 123098123908x easier to wake up every day knowing that there is someone who accepts you but I promise you, you will never get there if you don’t start with you. Accept yourself. Be on your own team. Be your cheerleader. Be for yourself what you want other people to be for you. Start with you, my friend. Start with you. Because the ups and downs are real, but knowing that you always have a teammate, a friend, a home within yourself is the best thing you can have to ride the waves to the top.
All that said, I am with you. I am for you. I accept you. I love you. And I’m so freaking proud of you. You’re the bravest of the brave. Keep it up.
Part 2: A note for the people who disagree.
Now, a quick note for the people who disagree and really want us (the gay people) to know what you or your community or your church or your God thinks of our lives or our relationships or our love:
We’ve heard it all before. We’ve read every verse you’re about to tell us. We’ve read every article you’re about to send us. We’ve tried the therapy. We’ve prayed every prayer — twice, then 10 times over. We’ve cried more tears over this than you could ever, ever know.
We know how you feel. I want you to take comfort in that. We know exactly how you (and your god and all the angels and saints and idk apostles) feel. Trust me. I can’t say this enough. The burning desire you feel to share your opinion or pray over me or save me — you’re not the first to feel this way, and you won’t be the last. I’m sorry that you feel some uncontrollable duty to share those things with me, but we are not the sounding board for your convictions. We do not tell you how much we don’t agree with your clothing choices, your relationships, or your judgements. Please, don’t tell me how you feel about mine. We know it all. We’ve heard it all. Please, take comfort in that. Take the burden off yourselves, that you need to break the news to us.
We don’t need to hear those things, and we don’t want to hear those things. We want to be told that we’re loved. That we have a reason to live. That all that matters is that we love each other and ourselves.
Okay, cool.
See you tomorrow, 
Taryn
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