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I had the family over tonight- not the family who birthed me and then wounded me so deeply and with whom I am once again trying to give birth to something new- but rather the family I met here just over two years ago. I sent my wayward words out in the world and they answered and became something tangible and stable and beautiful for me to bump up against as I found my way into myself. It was beautiful to see them all, and to celebrate the engagement of two members of our group and the many beautiful lives and relationships that have emerged among the rest. But still somehow as I am left in my empty house after their departure I find tears in my eyes. These are not tears of joy, although there have been plenty of those too these past few years. It may seem like a ludicrous thing to say at 25 but lately I have been feeling so very old. So old, in fact, that I was deeply surprised when I got carded at the grocery store today, although I know they card anyone who looks under 35. It’s just that it seems to me the past two years have aged me so deeply I cannot seem to fathom that the rest of the world might not notice. It seems that we were children when we met, just embarking on an adventure in a world where we had never believed we could fully live. We were giddy and terrified and hopeful and probably drinking a little more than we should have. We had parties long into the night filled with laughter and ranting and at the center of it all there were the war stories from our first forays into love, our schools who would kick us out in the name of Jesus if the were given just one opportunity to see us for who we truly were, and worst of all from parents who sometimes wanted never to see us again if they couldn’t hide any longer from who we had become. It is these things that aged us. There was laughter tonight, but there was also sadness. Almost, even, a hardness. There is only so much of other people’s distaste, judgment, and misunderstanding of you that you can take before you begin to get angry. Mostly though, lately, I am just tired. And counting down the months until I can put behind me this chapter of my life where I have to constantly look over my shoulder. Where I constantly have to worry that if I tell too many people the truth about myself, I will no longer be welcome in my own school. That has been worse even then the most difficult times with my parents, or the best friends I have lost, or the fact that when we think about what city we want to move to next we always have to pause and consider what our chances would be of being injured or even killed there because we are together.

Looking around the faces in the room tonight, we did not have any wrinkles or gray hairs (or at least not many) to show for the past few years, but I think that you could hear it in our voices. Sadness, yes. Bitterness? Perhaps a little. But also wisdom. We have traveled weary roads and we have learned to survive. Not just to survive, but to live and breathe to speak up and out and over their noise and their silencing. We have found love and friendships and success in its many forms. And we have dug down deep within ourselves and found that we will keep fighting to make a place for ourselves in this world and insisting that our voices are heard so that there are spaces and voices for all the others who will come after us. We have reached out our hands to an ever growing network of people who have walked roads much like our own and said to them: come, walk with us… you are not alone, and there is space for you too. And for that very reason I would not change one single moment of it. I mean this. In class this week a teacher asked us what we were grateful for this year as Thanksgiving approaches and I said I was grateful for my friends who have become my family in these most difficult of years. But what I would have said, if I could have said everything, was that I am deeply grateful to be a lesbian, because it has connected me the most beautiful group of people in the world who have truly become my family even when my own family could not stand by me. Even as we all begin to drift our own ways and find our own corners of the world in which to settle and begin our families, I will never forget these years that we shared. And most of all, I am grateful because being gay has opened my eyes to countless other LGBT individuals from Christian backgrounds who have stories much like my own to tell. I cannot believe that I am lucky enough to have a story to share with them and a life to share with them and that I get to make maybe just a little bit of difference in their journeys. I wouldn’t trade that. Not even for all the love and simplicity that I have lost.