One of the most challenging aspects of being LGBTQ over the last 40 years has been “coming out.” Until Stonewall and the Gay Rights movement, it was assumed that if one led “a certain lifestyle” that one would simply stay quiet about it. Rock Hudson, Paul Lynde, Langston Hughes and even people like Eleanor Roosevelt lived lives that clearly included same sex love, but they were not “out” in our modern sense of the word. This was a potential way of navigating the world that was shared with me early on and with all due respect, it was one of the more painful options presented to me when I did ultimately come out to my family. But we live in a different time now.
Right now, it is Easter for Christians and Passover for the Jews. This is a time of gratitude; gratitude for sacrifice and gratitude for liberation. It is the intersection of these two kinds of gratitude that I think makes the coming out experience of LGBTQ people the perfect Easter/ Passover subject for reflection.
In many ways, Christ was faced with coming out, time and time again. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus reveals himself and is revealed as the Son of God. I love this from John 4:25,26:
The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’
This simple private confession is not a grand proclamation. There is an intimacy here that reminds me of the kind of conversations that BFFs have where coming out can be matter of fact and really just a confirmation of what both people already know. This is the way we would love all of our coming out stories to go.
But then in Matthew 26:63-66:
But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, ‘I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you,
From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?’ They answered, ‘He deserves death.’
Frequently, this is how many people, particularly LGBTQ people of faith, feel like their coming out will go and unfortunately, too often this has been the case. Jesus cannot change who He is, nor does he want to, yet the non-believers wish to deny him his reality. When we come out, this is what questions and statements like “are you sure” or “how can you know” or worse “you are not my child/friend/ family” can make us feel. These are the attitudes that deny and condemn. They put us to death.
Ultimately, Christ’s “coming out” leads to the ultimate sacrifice. But it is this sacrifice that fulfills the prophecy and brings salvation by living (and dying) for a divine truth. Through the lens of the LGBTQ coming out experience, there is a death (of hidden ways and secrets ) that also brings with it the promise of rebirth and an eternal life and legacy in who we truly are.
The Passover tradition, of which I am less familiar, but have been surrounded by since early childhood, may also hold great inspiration for LGBTQ people. The entire story of the Exodus is one of great tenacity and dedication, but Passover, specifically says something. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, in its simplest terms, the Jews’ ‘first born’ are spared during the worst of ten plagues that are brought to test the Jews for their release from slavery by the Egyptians. The first born of the Jews are spared by marking their doors with the blood of the slaughtered spring lamb as a sign to the spirit of the Lord to “pass over” their homes. There are many lambs in the Bible (Old and New Testament). But I draw inspiration from the the symbolism of sacrifice in the Passover tradition where something has been sacrificed so that something else may live, whether the sacrifice be of good things or bad things (true or false gods.) LGBTQ people continue to have to sacrifice relationships, family, jobs, living situations and many other things to simply live freely as they must. These are the sacrifices that are in addition to those that are faced by all people and that remind us to be grateful for being led to our personal Exodus in addition to the historical Exodus of some of our faith traditions.
So this Passover/Easter season, a time of sacrifice, rebirth, gratitude and liberation is a perfect time to also embrace the journey and experience of coming out whether it is past, present or future; whether it is you or someone you know. What is your coming out story?