Courageous Woman's Journey
My story begins where most people’s stories do, with
parents. Mine were good people, hard-working and educated. My dad
eventually retired as superintendent of schools in Little Rock,
Arkansas, and my mother was a schoolteacher.
They were also Southern Baptist and brought me up in
that religious tradition. My dad always served as a deacon, and both
my parents taught adult Sunday-school classes. I took my religion so
seriously, I even attended college at Baylor, the largest Baptist
university in the world. And at Baylor I had to face the fact that I
was different: my roommate and I fell desperately in love.
parents became aware of my feelings toward Karen and Mother had a
talk with me.)
conversation was pretty much one-sided as she wanted me to “confess”
to a relationship with Karen. I was embarrassed that she and Dad
knew. Devastated. At one point Mother asked, “Which one of you is
the male in your lovemaking?”
I was speechless. I had no idea what she was talking
about. “What do you mean?” I finally asked.
“Normally, one of the girls plays the role of the
male. Which role do you play? Are you a top or a bottom?”
My mouth probably flew open. Karen and I didn’t play
any roles. We just loved each other. The longer she talked, the more
condemnation I felt. I was terribly embarrassed but also wanted her
to understand my predicament, to sympathize with me. After all,
Karen and I hadn’t planned to fall in love! I was heartsick. I’d
fallen deeply, everlastingly in love with someone I’d eventually
have to part from. We’d never be able to marry, to have a family, to
simply share life. How much worse could it get?
The feelings of guilt Mother evoked in me weren’t
new. I desperately needed my mother to put her arms around me, to
tell me how sorry she was that I was suffering in this way, and to
offer help. If she’d done that, I would have unburdened myself,
shared everything, but that didn’t happen. Consequently, I never
I loved Karen with all my being and knew of no way to
suppress that love, to make it disappear. How much better if I’d
fallen in love with a boy—someone my parents would approve of and
someone I could marry and with whom I could have children. However,
I’d fallen in love with a girl and been shown that evening the
condemnation society would display if Karen and I didn’t keep our
relationship a secret. We’d always been careful, but now I grew
afraid and became even more so as time passed.
After Mother confronted me, I became much more
secretive. I didn’t speak to her for days, angry that she’d
confronted me, that she knew, that she’d condemned me, and that she
wanted to separate Karen and me. But most of all I was angry at her
lack of understanding sympathy. I hated her and became anxious for
the holidays to end so I could return to the dorm and to Karen.
and I continued to room together at Baylor. This was in the 50's,
and at this time, girls were expected to marry. It was simply a
parents had two goals for me: to earn my teaching certificate and
then to get married. I never questioned this societal standard. By
the time I was twenty-three, I told myself to just pick out a nice
fellow, marry him, and get it over with. Not long after I made this
decision, a friend arranged a blind date for me.
Jim was a nice fellow, a schoolteacher with
aspirations to be a school administrator. This goal appealed to me,
as my dad was a school administrator. Jim’s dad was a Southern
Baptist minister. He loved children and wanted to have a family. I
very much wanted to have children, so I asked myself, “What more am
I looking for? He fits the bill.” We were married in March 1963.
story continues through 37 years of marriage and four children.
Then, in 1999, a conversation with a member of my Sunday School
class changed my life.)
As Janie began talking about her artist son, how
caring and thoughtful he was, I felt certain he was gay—a
homosexual. I can’t explain the feeling but had no doubt in my mind.
I believe God put that thought in my head and nudged me to do what I
did next. I blurted out, “Is your son a homosexual?”
People simply don’t ask that question in a
conservative area like East Texas, and especially of a member of a
Southern Baptist church. She hesitated quite a while, then stated in
strong tones, “Yes, he is, but God loves him just the way he is. We,
too, should love and accept homosexuals.”
I was dumbfounded. Here I was, sixty years old, and
I’d never heard a Christian say anything positive, loving, or
accepting about homosexuals. Janie’s words broke through the wall
within me—the wall I’d carefully constructed to protect myself from
the world. At that moment, her words had little impact on me because
I felt no forewarning, no hint whatsoever of the devastation, of the
uprooting of my carefully planned life her words would cause.
When our class time ended and we stood up to leave,
Janie reached over to give me a hug in parting. I’d always avoided
touching anyone, but Janie was a hugger, so I put my arms around her
and briefly held her close, letting her long, blond hair brush
against my face. Our bond began that morning.