One of my favorite books is The Prisoner’s Wife by Asha Bandele. In it, she writes of her experience falling in love with a man in prison and starts with the line, “This is a love story.” With that simple beginning, Bandele sets readers up to understand that no matter the setting or details that follow, what they are about to read is at its root a love story.
So, if I may do the same here, I want you to know that what comes next is a love story.
Above all else, this is a story about my journey to self-love, spiritual love, and the courage to invite romantic love into my life. It’s also a story about the discovery of queerness inside me. I suppose this is a coming out, but the queer part feels less like the headline and more like the inciting incident to a more expansive journey. My real coming out is as someone who longs for love.
For the bulk of my adult life, and even before that, I have valued emotional independence. For that reason, I’ve learned how to cultivate relationships at a controlled distance. I know how to practice vulnerability without going too deep. I have yet to traverse the waters of loving every part of someone and allowing them to love every part of me.
In my late 30s, as I saw 40 approaching with increasing speed, I started to long for a depth of love I hadn’t yet experienced. Even thinking about what it would take to allow that type of love into my life felt paralyzing. To love deeply and honestly, I would have to take down the guard of self-protection I had relied on for so long. I knew the only way I could ever receive what I longed for was to ask for God’s help. I needed God to know I was ready to let love in, but I didn’t trust myself to do it alone. I wrote this prayer:
Thank you in advance for allowing me to bring my longings to you. Thank you for hearing my heart even when I’m afraid to write them down or say them aloud. I can feel my heart shifting and willing to open to the possibility of allowing people into my life. I am confronting the reality that I do long for companionship, relationship, and the ability to be completely vulnerable with another person. I think I denied or tried to suppress that longing for so long because I believed it may never happen for me…that I was destined for singleness.
It still may never happen, and I trust your will for me, but I can finally face the truth of what I long for. I long to be attracted to someone while also emotionally safe with him. I need someone that will be able to keep me emotionally safe because I have been so emotionally independent for so long.
God, I ask that you help me stay okay in the waiting—to not get impatient or discouraged but to remain hopeful and in preparation.
I thank you for the shifts I already feel happening, including my ability to be open from my heart to you.
Love, Your Daughter
It’s hard to remember the specific timeline of when I started having inklings about my queerness, but I don’t think it was prior to writing this prayer. I still referred to a potential love as “him,” for instance. However, after inviting God to enter my longing…when I trusted Him with my most vulnerable self, layers around my heart started to fall. And what I found underneath was a queer self. I started to think more about what love is and the kind of love I wanted to find. With that, who I wanted to love started to look different. Reading stories of women falling in love or watching an Instagram video of two Black women talking about their love didn’t feel foreign to me – it felt like home.
In many of the “later in life” queer stories that are told, there’s a magical person that ignites the protagonist’s journey. But there was no such person for me. I didn’t meet a woman and fall in love. It was an internal experience, making it hard to explain to others and fully grapple with myself. For a while I thought I was going through a midlife crisis. Then I blamed hormones. But there are only so many times you can Google “How to know you’re not straight” before you accept you probably aren’t. During the quiet of the pandemic, after lots of journaling, more letters to God and reading the entire gay Internet (along with some actual books), I started affirming queerness within myself. More than that, I allowed queerness to open a portal to radical questioning. The queerness moving inside me, even before I realized what it was, nudged me to explore my disconnections with my body. As I questioned how I missed queerness my whole life, I uncovered that much of my sensory knowledge had been shut down. I began a journey to recover my emotional and bodily knowledge, and queerness gave me space to rely on my feeling rather than my logic self.
At the beginning of this post, I told you this was a love story – about self-love, spiritual love, and the courage to invite romantic love into my life. I write today still very much at the beginning of this journey. I’m learning practices of self-love but would declare no mastery. The invitation for romantic love to come into my life still stands, and I have decided that bell hooks was right: “The communion in love our souls seek is the most heroic and divine quest any human can take.” As scary as it might be, I claim the beauty and divinity of my longing.
I still have lots of questions, but God’s affirmation of queerness for me isn’t one of them. My relationship with God is the start and anchor of my queer journey. God brought me here. The only way this journey makes sense is as a radical act of faith. There’s a lot to be said about queerness and religion, but I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about faith – the faith to believe when God says we are His and Hers, that we are. The faith that when I feel something like the Holy Spirit moving in me, that’s exactly what it is. And the faith that my senses, intuition, feeling and queerness are all signifiers of the infinite possibilities of God’s love.
I turn 42 in August, and I’m grateful for the divine invitation to reimagine love. I’m hopeful that what I imagine is as good as I think it is.