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In fact, nothing on the GBLT spectrum describes me. If it weren't for some personal issues about what the Southern Baptist Convention officially sees as the role of woman in the world, I would be their ideal heterosexual young woman. Since I never actually gave anyone at church a list of reasons why I left, there's probably an SBC congregation somewhere in the southeast that still thinks I'm their ideal heterosexual young woman. When it comes to my own personal rights, the arguments for and against including protections for GBLT individuals in hate crimes bills or allowing gay marriage or civil unions do not affect me in the slightest.

But that's just when it comes to my own personal rights. When it comes to other people's rights, well...

There's the lesbian classmate I looked up to freshman year of high school. I didn't know she was until I overheard her and a friend discussing her girlfriend months after the last class I had with her.

There's the band teacher who fled to New York so he and his partner could be open about who they are, and never got to see the wave of "We don't care about that! Why'd he have to leave for that?" expressed by students who hadn't seen him for years when they found out he was gone.

There's the friend who came out senior year of high school after being rather obvious for years. I somehow didn't realize, and screwed up royally when he wanted to know if we were still friends - I didn't know there was a reason he might think I wouldn't want to be one anymore. I haven't talked to him since, but I ought to.

There's the friend who came out in college, and the social group he hung out with until he left for someplace where the Baptist Student Union wouldn't try to make his life miserable. See, that entire social group was made out of gay Christians, and the BSU couldn't stand to have them around.

And his partner. They wear rings, and since the partner is British they have whatever the legal agreement over there is called. Linguistically, it's a nightmare, because my friend's partner isn't just his partner because of the legal stuff, but at the same time they aren't actually married.

And the friend's father, the one who kicked him out. And then mended the bridges everybody thought had been burned to the ground. He's a member of an accepting church denomination now, and when his son and his son's partner are in town they get the guest room with the one bed and get seated next to each other at the table.

There's the bisexual classmate I had for one course. He's marrying his fiancee (by now they probably are married) but there's still the question of what might people think or do if they knew he wasn't just attracted to women.

There's also at least one gay professor in a department I took classes in, and I had my suspicions about a couple of others.

There's also the youth group leader who insisted "I'm not gay" quite defensively after saying something completely nonsexual that the entire youth group agreed with.

There's the man at my new church who has a gay brother.

And then there's the legion of online friends and acquaintances beyond that.

My personal rights aren't on the line when hate crimes bills are discussed, nor when something like Proposition 8 gets proposed. But the rights and personal decisions of those I care about are.

I left the SBC. The homophobic rhetoric at my local church went from nearly nothing to little jabs every week in the course of no time at all. Then I found out about Elder, and then I just decided I had to be honest and leave, even if I didn't tell anyone there why.

See, Elder died before I was born, but I've been hearing quotes from him my entire life. Some of those quotes and the stories around them figure into why I try to judge people by who they are rather than by what they are. That would have been enough for him to matter in all of this, except that I finally started getting details about how he died. I still don't know exactly why he was there, but he was killed coming out of a gay bar. There's so much of a cover up of details in the things I've been able to find about him that I can't even back that up with a second source. It doesn't look like it was entirely 100% motivated by hate, but there's so much cover up... I'll never really know.

But a lot of the things that kept me a bit insulated from the SBC views on things, even growing up there, might have been because of the fact he ever existed at all.

Things finally got to the point after that where I couldn't stand staying anymore. I walked out. I always thought there would be some sort of ritual last visit to a couple of places in the building before I finally left, but I just walked out. Walked out as if it was any normal Sunday, even though I knew the people I was saying goodbye to along the way were probably never going to see me again. Same thing with a family gathering soon afterwards; if the homophobic conservative cousins want to take issue with my move to someplace a lot less constrictive and the fact that I'm not like them, that's their problem.

Before I joined the new church, I pretty much looked in the pastor's eyes and said flat-out, "I am leaving the SBC because I think Christianity and evolution aren't mutually exclusive, and because I have gay friends." Complete non-issue on both points, both with him and with everyone else there I've mentioned things to.

Honesty feels good.

Originally posted to Cassandra Waites on Sat Oct 11, 2008 at 10:54 AM PDT.

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