These are just a few of the many labels that I wear. Some I didn't even choose for myself. Some I'm told can't exist with others. If you know me well, you know that I'm not a huge fan of labels. Now while these labels make up who we are as whole, individually, they're only a fraction of the bigger picture. I've always believed that labels were intended to put you in a box; some pretty little package that people can make since of. But the box isn't treated as a gift. It's a way to separate them from us. We're all guilty of doing it, even if we're ashamed to admit it.
I learned very early in life to be mindful of the "labels" that I display. Some of my labels are very obvious. I can't hide the melanin in my skin or that I am seen as a woman, but for everything else, I can adapt. Shockingly enough, it was the church that taught me how to be a chameleon. How to not rock the boat. How to be a good little girl and Christian. But it was also the church that made me hate myself, question my worthiness, question God.
I grew up southern Baptist and was preached at about sin; homosexuality being at the top of that list. The message I received was clear. You live in sin, you go to hell. Gay=sin, sin=hell... You see where I'm going with this. So I took a much needed break from church and focused on what Jesus asked us all to do. Love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.
I'm happy that when I was ready to attend church again, it was with my fiance at the United Church where every message was about love. You guys even had a gay moderator at the time! My Christian brain couldn't comprehend it! But my heart felt at home. I was finally in a place where I was comfortable with my sexuality and my faith. I was blessed with a safe space to explore both of those aspects of my life. A space where I was married to the love of my life. A space where my children were baptised. A space where they can learn about the unconditional love of Christ. A space where they can feel at home.
Miriam asked me to maybe touch on what the church can do to make people in the LGBT community feel welcomed and that was a hard question for me. My initial reaction was "don't be jerks". But when I started to think about what I would talk about today, I came up with a much more eloquent answer and this should apply to everyone, not just the church.
Take off the label and open up the box and let people be. Don't limit people based on preconceived notions. It amazing the love you can develop for others when you let them free.