I met Chaplain Hodge at Ft. Leavenworth last year. I have appreciated getting to know her and her journey. Yesterday, she wote for militarypartners.org:
It saddens me to know that in this age of such great progress towards equality, many LGBT persons still feel they cannot be completely themselves without being judged by people in the communities in which they live. In many places, there is still hate, shock, animosity, and a slew of other emotions that fill peoples hearts and lead to the ending of families and friendships. I understand, even after “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” ended, why some choose to still remain closeted.It saddens me to know that in this age of such great progress towards equality, many LGBT persons still feel they cannot be completely themselves without being judged by people in the communities in which they live. In many places, there is still hate, shock, animosity, and a slew of other emotions that fill peoples hearts and lead to the ending of families and friendships. I understand, even after “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” ended, why some choose to still remain closeted.
For many of us who are out to our family, friends and coworkers, we may still struggle to be out “authentically” in our communities. If you are like me, you may intentionally or sometimes unintentionally modify your behavior or actions with your partner while in public due to not wanting to offend others, or draw unwanted attention so as to become the target of people’s hateful stares, mockery, or hostility.
Some days it is just easier to wait until we are in the privacy of our own car or at home to share that smile, hold each other’s hand, or exchange a quick kiss. Some may think I do this because I am ashamed of who I am or because I want to leave the fight for equality up to others and not get involved. That’s not it at all. I fully embrace being gay, I have reconciled it with my faith, I could not be more proud of my wife, and I would love to be a part of making a difference.
I dream of a day where I no longer worry about what someone else may think about my relationship. I long for a day when holding my wife’s hand doesn’t turn the head and illicit a stare from one single stranger. I hope that one day the sweat will stop dripping down my back right before I tell a new supervisor that I am gay.
I have moments where I feel brave and do not care what others think of me. Then, just as quickly as it arrived, the bravery leaves and I feel the need to rush back into the solace of my shell.
I wish I could be strong and consistent, but unfortunately there are still times where I am overcome with the fear of what others think. I can’t seem to find the off button.
I care about not offending those in my family who still struggle with accepting me and don’t want to drive the wedge deeper. I am bothered by the mean stares of strangers; and the pain of rejection from my fellow Christian colleagues is still raw and very real.
I’ve been told that I need to get tougher skin, but I just can’t seem to find a store that’s selling it. Despite being told numerous times that I would get used to the pain, I have not. After being in the closet for 35 years, sometimes the comfort of its darkness is still more comfortable than dealing with other people’s discomfort.
While the fear is still real at times, there is one very important thing that has helped me to live more authentically – community.
Knowing that my wife and I are not alone on this journey has proven to be a great comfort. I have noticed that when I am in a group with my LGBT friends, I am able to truly be myself without worrying about what outsiders may think. I feel at peace when I am with those who know first hand the challenges and successes of being gay and in the military.
I look at where I was a little over a year ago: completely closeted, paranoid, and ALWAYS afraid of being outed. Compared with today: I am starting a welcoming and affirming church in my community next month, I am out to my family, my friends, former supervisors, and just about 20 minutes ago, with the sweat beginning to roll down my back, I came out to my Brigade Commander and my new Chaplain Assistant. I absolutely would not have been able to do those things without the support of an amazing community and incredible friends.
That is courage. Generally, coming out should be a single expereince. A, once-in-a-lifetime, courageous moment where, once it has been done, you know who is with you and who is not.
Only, in the military, we often need to live the same experince over and over again. Mosty, they are just annoying like learning the lay of the land, learning the lightswitches in the house, finding the best route to school, understanding the local culture. Sometimes, it’s a little more difficult and requires more and more emotional energy to figure it out like finding a new church and intigrating into that worship community. It can be exhausting.
I can’t imagine what it is like to have to come out over and over again to people you don’t know but now need to work for. Clearly, it is a painful, overwhellming experience.
CH Hodge, I’m glad you have the courage to be who you are. I’m glad that you are founding a church in a community that needs an open and affirming place to worship. I’ll be glad to preach there anytime.
Thanks for, once again, confirming my choice to be an open and affirming chaplain.