Thoughts on LGBT + faith.

(LGBTQ) Marriage is hard.

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Today, Tams and I have been married 9 years. Together 17.

(LGBTQ) Marriage is hard.

(LGBTQ) Marriage with toddlers is harder.

(LGBTQ) Marriage with toddlers in an uncertain quarantine is harderER.

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This photo is one of our happiest moments from 2009. Standing in the warm water in Huntington Beach, CA, laughing as a wave hit us. It was just us, the open road, and adventure. This was a high.

I’m not going to pretend this hasn’t been our roughest patch yet. Parenting toddlers and marriage-ing in a pandemic is TOUGH. There have been many moments of beauty and hope. But this season is a low. Stress. Tantrums. Uncertainty.

Some days I feel so strongly tethered to this immovable love. Other days the winds of life whip the dust around me and I can’t see properly.

I’m not the perfect wife. Some days I’m not even a good wife. But that’s where grace comes in. That’s where the depths of unconditional love reveals its’ beautiful face to me, and I can’t help but lean into it. Every day I am learning how to love well, by being loved well.

Being an LGBTQ person comes with its’ own set of challenges.

Being a married LGBTQ person comes with its’ own set of pressures. To not take the right to marry for granted. To not fail like many expect.

Being a married LGBTQ person of faith adds a thick and interwoven layer of shame and guilt that requires a continual dose of therapy and self-reflection.

(If you are an LGBTQ person and you are struggling – I see you. I am you. I want to make a mountain of space and sit with you in it. Don’t give up. You’re doing great.)

Because… there’s always love.

Some days it feels buried. Some days it’s just looking at each other and simply saying, “I’m not giving up today.”

This year we planted veggies in the garden boxes in our backyard. We stood with the kids in the fresh sun & peered into the wet soil. Tiny, teensy bits of green push their way to the surface, exclaiming, “Life is here! New life is growing!” It made me tear up.

Love – like life – is so damn resilient, and it just freaking never gives up.

Tams, I love you.

Happy 9/17 years together. I’m choosing us today, and believing for the tenacious love that just won’t give up. I know that through this, our love will grow even stronger.

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!

Being a guest on “Blessed Are the Feminists” podcast

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A few weeks ago, the kind folks at the “Blessed Are the Feminists” podcast invited me to be a guest, and talk about my experiences with Christian feminism, having LGBTQ faith and being a gay Christian mama.

It was such a great conversation, and I think, so important to have right now! The episode aired Sept 1, and can be heard on their website here. Or look them up on iTunes & Spotify to subscribe! Follow them on instagram & twitter @holyfeminists!

Here’s a few tweets they put out about my episode:

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“Dear Younger (gay) Me” Book Update

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My agent Claire and I have been working hard on this for the last few weeks, and hopefully soon I will have more news to share!

This project has just poured out of me, like a pitcher full of water finally being emptied. In my 18 years as an artist, I have never quite had that feeling before. Usually I struggle with getting what’s in my head onto the page/screen. I’m really excited to finish it, and for everyone to get the chance to read it! I have a lot more work [drawing] to do, but I feel so incredibly grateful to work on it every chance I get. Here are the latest illustrations I have done – they will make more sense with the text. 🙂

Stay tuned for the full story and publishing updates!

LGBTQ Story Illustrations for OnePioneer

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I was asked to illustrate a little story for this great organization OnePioneer, who gives LGBTQ+ kids the same experience at camps as the other kids. Growing up in a very conservative Christian summer camp [which I loved!], I understand how important this is, especially now.

To read the full story written by Michelle Dowling and Emma Silverthorne, click here! See below the illustrations in order of how they appear in the story. I love doing little projects like this!

 

Working on “Dear Younger (gay) Me”

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Hi friends! Life is sooooooo busy [Mamas & Papas raise your hands!] but I am continuing to move forward on this book project. I don’t know what will happen, but I feel it in my bones that I just gotta do it.

Here’s an illustration that will be for the inside.

If anyone needs/wants a reminder of why I am writing this, read my original announcement here. I will also post my cover again to see the art together.

Stay tuned for more updates!

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**ANNOUNCEMENT**

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This project is a long time coming (out).

I love working in the animation industry, and I hope I continue to for many more years. But lately these words from Mary Oliver keep ringing in my ears:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do /

With your one wild and precious life?”

What messages do I want to leave behind? What messages would I want my kids to be proud of me for? I believe we all have talents, and I think it’s important to think about how we can use those talents for something bigger than paying the mortgage.

I want to tell people’s stories with my art. I want to tell of their triumphs, their struggles, and the priceless lessons they learned. And I think this time in history – maybe now more than ever – we need to listen to each other.

But if I am going to tell other people’s stories, I think I need to tell my own story first.

I have shared my story before of growing up in the church, and finding peace about being gay, and a Christian. For years now, I have wondered if I would have the courage to put some of my own triumphs, struggles and lessons into an illustrated book. For years I have been thinking about it. But lately, I have felt a need to do it. Maybe it’s just that now I feel ready to do it.

I really struggle with this, as I can’t stand the spotlight. Like all of us I wonder – does my story matter? I’m sure it will rock the boat in some of my circles. Putting my deepest and darkest struggle out there for everyone to read (in illustrated-form yet!) is… terrifying. But years ago, after God gave me peace about who I am, I felt Him asking me to be authentic about how I got there. I struggled so much for so many years, and if my story can help someone else, then I will tell it every chance I get.

We have come a long way with LGBT inclusion. But there’s still a lot of work to do, especially in our churches. There’s still (LGBT) voices to hear. I want to do this for that teen sitting in their non-affirming church, not sure if they can continue. I want to do this for that person struggling with rejection from family or friends because they just want to be honest about who they are. You are not alone.

So here it is.

This is my work-in-progress cover for the book I am writing & illustrating, entitled “Dear Younger (gay) Me”. The story will follow a present-day version of myself, going back to visit a younger version of myself, following the journey where I was struggling the most, and trying to leave encouraging messages in place of the hurtful or difficult ones I received at the time.

I will be posting updates, I need to figure out how to get it published, I am in the midst of storyboarding…. it’s all a messy work-in-progress – sort of like all of us. 🙂 I’m not sure how this is going to go, but I keep hearing a small voice inside saying, “Just draw it, and see what happens.”

So, one illustration at a time, I’m doing this.

Thanks to everyone who supports me near and far – most of all Tams, for giving me the (daily) courage to do this. Life is too short not to do hard things.

If you know someone who might benefit from this when it comes out, please share. I just really want all of us to feel less alone.

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for updates. 🙂

 

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