Still Stace YA book

SheLoves Webinar and Video Workshop: Owning My Gay Christian Story

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Wow, what an incredible day today. I am buzzing with gratefulness after spending an hour sharing my story with this beautiful community at SheLoves. I felt celebrated, supported and safe. I could not have asked for anything more! This was also the same day I was meant to share the original workshop, so it felt extra liberating for me.

I really wanted it to be public and accessible for anyone afterwards, so they graciously agreed to post the entire webinar to Youtube here: (it’s just over an hour including the Q&A at the end)

If you just wanted to see the workshop itself (which is about 27 minutes), that video is here:

Owning My Gay Christian Story from Stacey Chomiak on Vimeo.

Please, if there is someone you know who needs to hear this, share this with them. I want us to keep talking, keep sharing, keep trying to love each other better. And please reach out if this touched you in some way! I would love to hear.

Thanks friends. I continue to be amazed at this life that I get to lead.

LGBTQ Workshop Event UPDATE – Partnering with SheLoves!

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Jan 22 UPDATE: GIVEAWAY! I’m going to sign a personalized Rainbow Boy for someone who comes tomorrow! I hope to see you there, grab your ticket before 10AM PST!

You may have seen my post about recording a video workshop telling my gay Christian story, for a Christian conference, and then them dropping the LGBTQ speakers. (Original story here.)

I am SO excited to share I have a NEW PARTNER to share my story – shelovesmagazine! This event will be open to EVERYONE whether you are in Canada or the US (or beyond!). So PLEASE friends all over, come join us Saturday, Jan 23 @ 10AM Pacific Time! We will all gather virtually, screen my video workshop and have a Q & A time after. I would LOVE to see some friendly virtual faces so it’s not just me alone in a Zoom room. 😀

Tickets are available on Eventbrite – fee is a sliding scale, so if things are tough, please don’t worry about paying anything and just come. More info is below.

About this Event

LIBERATION STORIES: Join us for a powerful personal story from Artist Stacey Chomiak on Owning Her Gay Christian Story (Plus Q & A)

WHAT: LIBERATION STORIES: Owning My Gay Christian Story, with Stacey Chomiak.

WHEN: Saturday, January 23 at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 6pm GMT

WHERE: Register on Eventbrite and hosted on Eventbrite.

COST: Tickets available at a sliding scale, starting from free through $20 plus fees. (Limited quantity.)

“For 13 years, I fought against my body and my heart and its innate desires,” says Stacey Chomiak, an artist in the animation industry. “I grew to hate them, because I was taught to do so. I believed my desires were bad and therefore I believed I was bad. I had to finally admit that I couldn’t pray my gay away any more than I could change the color of my eyes. I didn’t want to leave my faith, because Jesus and I had a very deep relationship.”

Join us for this powerful hour of Liberation Stories.

ABOUT SHELOVES:

SheLoves is a global sisterhood conversation on personal and collective liberation. We focus on deconstructing faith, practising allyship, antiracism, decolonization and the Jesus kind of feminism.

Being asked to leave the table.

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(Trigger warning: LGBTQ Christian voices being silenced)

In September, I was invited to speak at a Christian conference out of Vancouver. I was really excited, because they wanted to include LGBTQ Christian voices, and I love speaking about such things! Their conference is in January 2021, and due to Covid, all virtual. Because of that, they asked the speakers to film their 30 minute workshops so they could stream them the day of the conference.

In October, I wrote what was on my heart to share: owning my gay Christian story. They approved and were really encouraging about my outline. In November, with the help of my pastor and friend Bradley, I filmed and edited the workshop (no small feat), and sent it over.

Filming the workshop in November 2020 at my home church, Open Door Church, in Maple Ridge, BC

In mid-December, the founder of the conference reached out to me to say that they have come to a very difficult decision: they have to cut the LGBTQ workshops out of their conference. (I believe there was one other one besides mine.)

Since then, we have exchanged emails, and had a very honest and lengthy conversation on Zoom. (Which was tough – but encouraging too. People these days tend to not want to have hard conversations, so I really appreciate that openness.) They are a fairly new conference, and I know this has not been an easy decision for them. It has caused grief and heartache. I say this because I want to point out that I don’t believe there are clear cut “good guys” and “bad guys” in these situations. We are all imperfect people, trying our best to love each other and navigate this journey of life. But yes – this still hurts. 

I want to be really careful about speaking on their behalf. So I’m going to share their official announcement in regards to cancelling the workshops here: (this was posted on their Facebook page)

The reasons they decided to cut the LGBTQ workshops are not the main focus for me here. The focus for me is this: I was invited to the table to share because of who I am. And then I was asked to leave for the same reason. In December 2020, in (liberal Canadian) Vancouver, this still happens. LGBTQ Christians are still being asked not to share.

As a gay Christian, this strikes a painful chord that resonates deep, almost like that feeling when you bite on tinfoil. Like so many gay people, I have a long history of being hurt and silenced by “the church” and by some “Christians”. This situation brings a lot of that past trauma to the surface. 

It dredges up the same old fears: 

Is my voice not valued? 

Am I not valued? 

Do I not belong? 

Should I stop sharing?

On behalf of myself and the LGBTQ Christian community, I have this to say: I am angry. And that is good. Anger is necessary here. This is unjust. This is not okay.

But I refuse to use this energy to destroy, or to be malicious. I will let it fuel me towards the greater good, and I will forge ahead. Because I have and will make missteps and hurt people, and I need to practice radical grace for others, if that’s what I hope to receive. Even though it’s hard, I want to keep talking, keep learning, keep growing.

I will choose to forgive, because as someone who follows Jesus and not a specific institution, I believe it’s the best thing for my heart, my faith and my integrity. But I won’t rush to fix the hurt, because I need to feel this.

For those of you for whom this also brings up past hurts, please hear me: I am here for you. I will stand up for you. When I am quiet, and I let the fears calm, there is a louder and steadfast truth that reverberates from inside: I AM valued. My voice IS valued. I DO belong. God is – in fact – proud of me for sharing. 

But. Make. No. Mistake. 

I will not be silenced. I plan to release my video workshop in January when I am ready, and on my own terms. I think it may actually hold more meaning because of what has transpired. 

This has happened to me before, and it will no doubt happen to me again. This is why I wrote my book. This is why I will continue to speak when asked. This is why I choose to be visible.

I cannot call myself an advocate, and then shy away from these situations. I will stand up. Because it’s needed. Because many other LGBTQ Christian people are asked to be quiet, to leave, or to change who they are – and they may not have the energy or will to keep going. 

I DO.

There is still much work to be done. And I am here for it.

Thanks to MercyMe’s new song for coming into my ears this week: (lyrics taken from “Say I Won’t”)

“Not enough

Is what I’ve been told

But it must be a lie

‘Cause the Spirit inside says I’m so much more

So let them say what they want

Oh I dare them to try

I’m gonna run

No, I’m gonna fly

I’m gonna know what it means to live

And not just be alive

The world’s gonna hear

‘Cause I’m gonna shout

And I will be dancing when circumstances drown the music out”

Getting unstuck.

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The manuscript for my YA memoir, “Still Stace” is DONE. I can’t believe the metamorphosis this story has undergone since my very first pitch (and I am so grateful for my editor!)

The version I originally pitched in Feb 2019 (which got me my agent) was about 1200 words. I envisioned it as a picture book. Now, as a YA illustrated memoir, it’s over 43,000 words! I never planned to write so much, or so honestly, about reconciling my sexuality and my faith – but I am so grateful for this opportunity.

Now that the writing is done, the hard part begins. THE. DRAWING. It’s one thing to write about tough and vulnerable experiences – now I gotta draw them. This weekend I sat down to start my roughs for the first chapters, and felt the familiar spiral of doubt hit me. How can I do this? Am I good enough to do this? …I can’t do this.

I got stuck. This happens to me when I am working on something I feel a lot of importance behind. The only recipe that works to get unstuck, is:

1 – get outside, preferably on my bike, stare at the mountains, sweat, lip sync some amazing music

2 – come home and create a piece of art with no expectations or judgement

Here’s what I created to get unstuck. And it worked – I drew most of yesterday and got the first section of roughs done! (Sometimes it’s a combination of letting go, and just being kinder with ourselves.)

This is my fav street in Maple Ridge to bike down, and I loved how the late summer evening light was hitting these trees. I had to draw it. 🙂

This series of images came from listening to the lyrics of  “Be Alright” by @dantebowe and @amandalindseycook. I have found great encouragement from it, I hope you connect with it too!

Learning to be brave.

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Well, shoot.

Right now I am working on final revisions for my manuscript for “Still Stace”. I’m also reading Glennon Doyle’s “Untamed”. This is quickly becoming a tumultuous, beautiful, terrible, gut-wrenching, wonderful, life-changing gift.

I have to read it very slowly, digesting it in small bits. Sometimes in the bath (the only place to read where I can lock myself away from toddlers), I can only manage a couple pages. My copy of her book is already dog-eared, annotated and frantically underlined. I’m not halfway done yet.

I feel, as I know many people feel, it was written JUST for me in this season of my life. No but, really, it feels that way. Glennon, can you hear me??

Today was a rare day for me. I was taken to the spa for a glorious getaway. As I laid on a surprisingly comfortable wooden recliner outside, wrapped in one of their lush white robes, I tried to muscle my way through a good chunk of her book. I feel in my bones that I need to absorb what every page says, but it’s hitting (too) close to home. Once again I hit the “oof, that hurts” wall after just a few pages.

I folded it face down on my chest and stared up at the blue sky. The spa doesn’t allow technology on-site, so I was actually forced to notice things. The way the soft breeze rustled the leaves overhead ever so gently. I studied the way the clouds swirled and reformed their puffy shapes quickly and slowly at the same time. The soothing sounds of the spa music – all that was missing was a masseuse’s hands on my shoulders.

Brené Brown talks about how she knows a book is good when she wants to throw it across the room. Well, Glennon, your book has a lot of air miles in my mind. I don’t want what you are saying to be true, but dammit, it is.

She says:

“Brave is not asking the crowd what is brave. Brave is deciding for oneself. To be brave is to forsake all others to be true to yourself.”

That sounds easy.

That sounds logical.

That sounds impossible.

How is it, that at the age of 40, I am only now learning how to truly be brave?? How to  listen for my own knowing, not the mix of voices in my head that want to do the “right thing”, make others happy or do whatever it takes not to hurt them.

Guys, this is so tough.

As I write about my younger self’s struggles in coming out and finding peace with my faith and sexuality, I realize I am yet again on another excruciating journey of finding myself. (Not in the same way mind you, I’m gayer than ever.)

But then, that’s what life is, right? “Being human is not hard because you’re doing it wrong, it’s hard because you’re doing it right.” (Damn you, Glennon. Also, thank you Glennon.)

Okay, let’s keep reading.

This is 40.

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Yesterday, I turned 40. I’m not sure how that is possible, when inside I feel no older than 14!

Life is (real) messy right now, but I woke up feeling stupidly grateful to be alive, and convinced myself to take my first selfie ever because WELL WHY NOT. Are bathroom selfies still a thing?! (Revealing my age now.)

I know this:

I am loved.

My mind is smarter and clearer than ever.

My body is strong and healthy. (Working out almost daily is the best thing I have ever done for my mental health and self care.)

I am the closest today to who I was made to be, and I’m excited about that. I have screwed up big throughout my life, but dammit, I really like me.

I’m not certain I deserve this beautiful life I have, but I am trying hard to grab hold of every day, stay present, work hard, dream harder, and make the most of it.

40 is also the age I will be when books are published with my name on it. (Actual books! I still don’t fully believe that until I hold one.) So many of my dreams are yet to come true, so bring it on 40’s!!!! 💯🎉🌈

Yesterday was filled with my fav things – kitchen dance party with my kids, swimming in my fav lake and breathing in deep the mountain air, sneaking in a workout, and enjoying my fav foods with a few of my people (in our Covid bubble). Man, I am so damn lucky to be alive. I don’t want to waste this breath in my lungs.

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“I am a human being, meant to be in perpetual becoming. If I am living bravely, my entire life will become a million deaths and rebirths. My goal is not to remain the same but to live in such a way that each day, year, moment, relationship, conversation, and crisis is the material I use to become a truer, more beautiful version of myself.”
– @glennondoyle “Untamed”

BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT!

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Friends, I can’t believe I get to announce this dream come true. If you don’t mind indulging me, I will give you a quick timeline of how I got here:

I have always wanted to do a project combining my art and faith journey as a gay Christian. In late 2018 I thought of doing a kids book so that my kids, and other kids, could read it. I called it “Dear Younger (gay) Me”.

Nov 2018 – I had a call with Jennifer Knapp (childhood icon!) about an unrelated project we were going to collaborate on, and I brought up my book idea. She encouraged me to do it.

Feb 2019 – I started sketching storyboards & writing on the train to and from work. I was shocked at how quickly it all came pouring out of me. I reached out to Rachel Held Evans. (I wrote a guest post for her blog in 2014 and had kept in contact with her.) She wrote me back saying: “What a beautiful book, Stacey! I’m happy to share far and wide. Thank you for making this.”

May 2019 – I sent out my book idea on a whim to see if I could get an agent to represent me. Within four hours of sending it out, and to my total shock, I had two offers of representation. I signed with The Bent Agency in NYC a few days later.

July 2019 – My agent Claire sent out a formal book proposal to a bunch of editors and we wait. (I am learning publishing is a slow game!) Claire helps me evolve and expand my story from a kids book to a YA illustrated novel.

Oct 2019 – We are approached by Beaming Books who are very interested.

Nov 2019 – Beaming Books sends Claire a book offer to publish! Claire goes back and forth to negotiate the terms as I vibrate with excitement in the corner.

Feb 5, 2020I officially sign the book deal with Beaming Books!! They start a discussion about changing the name of the book to be more suitable for a YA audience. They land on “Still Stace: My Gay Christian Coming of Age Story (An Illustrated Memoir)”.

March 5, 2020 it is officially announced in Publishers Marketplace (above image) I can fiiiiiiiinnnnnnally share this with you all!!

I am beyond grateful for this opportunity. I am trying to do my best writing and drawing for the privilege to be able to represent a voice for the gay Christian community, and for younger me. ALL. THE. FEELS.

Children’s Bookshelf also shared my book deal in their list (below), and I still can’t believe this is happening. But it’s been a long road, so I’m going to celebrate each milestone! (In a perfect coincidence, I was having a dance party with the kids when the tweet came in! 😆) Click image for link.

 

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Stay tuned for updates as I continue to work on it!