Our Stories

I Didn’t Know I Was Different – Carlene

I grew up going to church – perfect Sunday school attendance and Lutheran summer camp.  My grandfather & uncle were both ministers.  I didn’t get any messages about sex one way or the other.

I didn’t know that I was different.  I thought all girls liked other girls.  I liked boys and I knew other girls liked boys.  I knew that if you were a girl and you liked boys you were straight, so I knew I was straight.  I just thought all girls liked other girls, too.

I didn’t know I was different until a friend was having difficulty because guys made fun of him for being gay.  At that moment, I felt profound sympathy and realized that maybe I was different, too.  But I was a senior in high school and I chose not to think much about it.  I kept assuming it was the same for everyone.

In college I was working for Lutheran summer camp when I started wrestling with the question of my sexual orientation.  I wanted to see what the Lutheran church’s and camp’s positions were on homosexuality.  The camp director explained the Lutheran church’s policy and coached me not to say anything.  I felt alienated from my church. I realized I couldn’t be ordained as minster even if I wanted to be one and I couldn’t admit who I was on staff.

Deep down in my heart I believed I was a child of God, that I was born how I was and there was nothing wrong with me.  I thought God had given me a gift because I could love people regardless of their gender.

That experience helped me empathize and have compassion for lots of different people across racial and class lines.  It helped me see people who were marginalized simply by being in the middle.  As much as I struggled with it on a political and church politics level, I was able to separate church politics from what I believe is the actual message, that God is a loving God and we are created in his image.

As the Lutheran church has worked on its policy on the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy, my participation has ebbed and flowed.  But I’ve never lost my faith and have found inclusive places of worship.  I’ve learned to separate formal religion from spirituality.  Church politics don’t have to affect my faith in God.