What role has spirituality/religion played in your life?
I sought God for myself. I found God in myself.
When I was 13 I decided that I wanted to attend church. After spending the summer with family out of town, I was forced to attend church. At first I dreaded the idea because I knew attending a Black church service would be an all-day event. Anyways, long story short, I went and liked it, mainly because of the Pastor. I felt an instant connection to him, like a kindred spirit kind of experience. I didn’t understand it, I just knew that I had to come back for him. And I did.I convinced my mother to take me to church each Sunday, which meant we would be driving 2 hours away to a whole other state to attend these day-long services. But to me it was worth it (figures since I wasn’t the driver or the one putting gas in the car, lol…shout out to mom!).
It was soon after attending those services that I learned why my pastor shared such a special place in my heart. Aside from us both being Virgos, I learned that he too was gay. I finally put my finger on it: our spirits were kindred because they shared similar paths and experiences. Some would ask what a 40-something Black gay man’s spirit could possibly have in common with a, now, 14-year old Black lesbian. It was that his life, experiences, and essence validated my own and I’d come to watch his every move at every church service and aspire to be as great as he. Though he wasn’t quite as “unapologetically out” as I would’ve loved to witness, his mere existence in spite of the homophobia he surely faced and his being groomed to preach gave me a sense of reassurance.
Although my own self-love was expanding through these experiences, I still underwent homophobia and scrutiny both inside and outside the church. I had come out to my friends and peer-cousins already, but not yet to my parents. I didn’t know how either of them would take it and didn’t want to risk experiencing any of the “coming out” horror stories I’d heard about from my friends. However, I apparently hadn’t been hiding my “gayness” as well as I thought, even with being “naturally femme”. In the midst of me coming into myself and developing the strength I would need on my journey into living authentically, I was met with spiritual abuse. One of the church elders had been given some information about a girl I liked (surely leaked from a family member) and proceeded to shame and banish “this spirit” out of me during one of her “prophesized readings”. I knew what she was doing was wrong, but I didn’t know how to advocate for myself yet so I let that shame sit on my shoulders and fester in my spirit for a long time. It eventually manifested into depression and anxiety, which led to my dwindling interest in the church. One day, I decided to pray about it. I asked for the hurt and pain from that experience to be removed from me and it was. In between that time, I stopped going to church and decided to worship on my own with a Bible and whichever televangelists I could catch on TV. It was then that I made the decision to take control of my own spirituality.
Leaving the church was one of the best decisions I ever made because that was when I truly found God. I had taken an interest in finding spiritual teachings that worked for me and aligned with my own values, which led me to the Unitarian Universalist church. I had been introduced to them by a mentor and I’ve never looked back. The important thing was that I found a church home that I was affirmed in with all of my identities as a queer, Black woman, which has taken me to uncharted territory on my spiritual journey.
“i found god in myself and i loved her. i loved her fiercely” ― Ntozake Shange