(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.
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.
There is still much work to be done. And I am here for it.
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”
I almost didn’t post this.
But I’m 40 now, so screw it, I’m not editing myself anymore!
I wrote this after a recent visit with my parents. (I hid this from them on social media. Because I do love them and don’t want to hurt them. But being honest about hard things is important.)
This is for every queer person who still has unaffirming people in their life who love them. It’s so hard. I hear you, I love you, you aren’t alone.
It’s so complicated.
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.
“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”
It’s the last day of pride month. 🌈
2020 has felt more formative for me than ever.
My gay Christian journey started when I was 16, but now that I am (so very) close to the big 4-0, I feel like I am just beginning in a lot of ways. I’m truly learning what it means to trust myself – the deep, knowing me inside. To show up for myself and do hard things.
I’m learning it’s good and necessary to take up space in this world, to say things, to deeply feel things.
2020 has been a tremendously hard year – for everyone – but often the hardest times bring about the most growth and beauty. I have a sense the coming months for me will be the hardest, but I am tenaciously hopeful and believing for the growth and beauty in the midst of it. (Maybe, because of it.)
A friend sent me this quote that I have said to myself every day lately:
“I will go, and I will go afraid.”
– Morgan Harper Nichols
I hope that wherever you are on your coming out journey, you know it is okay.
You are more than okay. You are loved.
Happy Pride, my friends. ❤️🌈🎉
📷 Photo of Stacey ©2019 Camilla Hrytzak.
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:
MARCH 2020 UPDATE: We accepted a book deal from Beaming Books and it was announced on March 5, 2020! Details below:
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!
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!
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!
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. 🙂
Instructions for a life:
I grew up in a large Pentecostal church, baptized days after being born. God and Jesus were always a huge part of my life.
My youth was full of Christian conventions, church summer camps and Friday night youth groups. I always believed the church was my family, and they would love me no matter what, because that’s what I was taught. I loved every aspect of growing up in the church…
Until I realized in my late teens that I may be gay.
From the age of 17 to 29, I encountered hurt, neglect, shame, loneliness and guilt from my church family. Sadly not an uncommon story, what had been my refuge since birth, became a dark place that made me question everything.
I began to hate myself and my futile prayers. Without ever having to say it, they made me believe I had to choose: embrace God, or be damned, and embrace this capital Sin.
I clearly remember sitting in my room at 18 years old, writing in my prayer journal and sobbing. After dodging this struggle as long as I could, I finally turned my head to look it square in the face.
Everyone was right. I was the worst of sinners. And no amount of prayer was changing that.
How could I be attracted to women? I grew up around all the right people, in the perfect Christian environment, with a loving mother and father to guide me. I was so involved at church and I loved it. I loved Jesus genuinely, and my family fiercely – and now I felt as though they couldn’t love me if I embraced being gay.
Hope began to dwindle.
Hope continued to dwindle for 13 years, where I had some of the most severe lows, and intoxicating highs, as I trudged along the messy path of my faith and sexuality. My faith was truly tested in every possible way. I was forced to ask myself – and God – questions that I never would have, if I was straight.
What a gift, actually, that turned out to be.
My relationships with family and friends went through some extreme ups and downs, and I made some bad choices motivated by hurt and loneliness.
Yet through it all, I felt God softly standing beside me, gently pursuing me, and not allowing despair to take a full hold. Deep down I always knew He created me for more than this chaos I was feeling.
A few weeks before my 30th birthday, I was coming very close to the end of my rope, and I knew I had to make a choice.
I had been dating this amazing woman named Tammy for seven years, yet so much of my life was in the closet, and up in the air. I lived with constant chaos rolling around in my soul, and I didn’t see how I could ever be okay with being both gay and a Christian — never mind be gay-married. It wasn’t fair to her any longer, and I had to make a decision to either end things or move forward.
A friend asked me to housesit, and I knew this was my chance to spend a week alone with God.
As I peeled back the layers of hurt, chaos and confusion of the last 13 years, I wept, and I asked God the impossible one last time.
Can You truly still love me if I love the gay part of myself?
Will you turn Your back, or will You be in the middle of our relationship, if I take the hand of the one I love, and walk forward in this life with her?
Will I ever possibly feel peace?
The answers were not was I was expecting — and they were not what everyone was telling me they would be. It was in that moment that I realized something vital. I had been listening to God’s people for 13 years – but what did God Himself have to say to me?
I waited, and I listened… and I sat there in the stillness.
I felt inside my soul, bubbling to the surface, a deep, resounding YES.
YES, I LOVE ALL THAT I MADE YOU TO BE.
YES, a thousand times over, YES.
And more than that – none of your struggle will be wasted.
A peace that began to wash over me like waves, consuming the shores of chaos and washing them away, layer by layer.
I didn’t get written answers, or theological clarity — but I got peace. A peace that has not wavered since that day.
One year later, Tams and I got married. Our wedding day was not at all as I imagined it as a young girl. For one, I wasn’t marrying a shaggy-haired youth pastor, I was marrying a woman.
Secondly – my parents chose not to be there. I never thought I could look back on my wedding day with the profound void of my parents absence, and be truly happy.
But let me tell you my friends, God was there. And He filled that void so completely. I remember turning the corner to walk down the aisle, and I saw Tams waiting there for me – my heart burst, because I truly felt God saying to me – this is who I have made for you. I never believed that could have been possible. I am astonished. When I think back on that day, I just feel love.
I stand before you now, seven years later, at 37 years old, married to my beautiful Tams since 2011. We have a 19 month old daughter named Robson, who is our consistent beam of light, and we are pregnant with our second – a boy, due in just a few short days.
Profound gratefulness fuels my life.
I can say today that I am wholly myself, in true contentment, and embracing this life God has given me.
It hasn’t been easy since that peace flooded my soul – but it is a continual well in which I draw from, to make it through the tough times.
There are still people close to me, including my parents, who do not agree, and that is hard… but it is okay. We can disagree. I know some people see my gift of peace as the moment when I gave into my sin. But this moment when people believe I walked away from God, is in fact the moment that I ran towards Him.
This is God’s story, and I am just trying to live it out. I believe that He will redeem it all one day; and I just need to leave that up to Him.
This poem by Mary Oliver resonates deeply as I reflect on my life journey so far.
Pay attention. Because of the turmoil that God has brought me through, I am forced to pay attention to the gifts in my life that I will no longer take for granted. My daughter’s embrace is that much sweeter. Holding my wife’s hand in public is that much more profound.
Be astonished. When I have tough encounters with the ones I love, and they do not cheer my relationship or family on – I am grieved. But God gives me such a quiet and beautiful peace to be still, and trust Him. My heart remains soft. And that makes me truly astonished.
Tell someone. When God gave me this peace, I promised Him I would share His story. That is why I embrace it proudly. I believe I have been called to share my truth, to live authentically – and to leave the rest to Him.
What a true gift it is to be heard.
Thank you for listening.