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Being Accepted
by Gail Mastrella

Up until I was 10 years old, I lived in an all boy (except for me) neighborhood, and fit in very well there.  But when I started school, I soon realized that I was very different from the other girls.  I didn't fit in at all.  I didn't do any of that girl stuff very well and didn't want to either.

When I was 10 years old, we moved and my new neighborhood was much more mixed (actually more girls than boys).  It was at this age that I had my first crush on anyone.  It wasn't a boy!  That was my first realization that not only was I different, but I knew my feelings would not be accepted by society. 

As I grew up and continued to have these same feelings, I never communicated them to anyone…not to my parents, not to my friends, not to anyone that I had any feelings for…not to anyone. 

The first time I heard the word "homosexual," I knew that's what I was.  I never reacted or responded to it though, and kept my secret within me.  My earliest perceptions that society would disapprove were confirmed over and over again through my life…including how the church denounced "homosexuality." 

To hear the church, who is supposed to represent God, denounce "me" kept me within myself for years.  A very big part of me "thought" that if God couldn't accept me, how could I expect anyone else to?  But in spite of what the church and society believed, I never "felt" that God was against me.  I knew who I was…that I was a good person…and I knew that God knew it also.  So how can my God who knows me and believes in me be the same God that the church represents? 

When I was 29, I fell in love with someone and the feelings were mutual.  It was my first reciprocated relationship.  One day I was very upset because I thought that my relationship with this girl was over and my mother asked me what was wrong.  I ended up coming out to her and my father.  We never really discussed it again and we never dealt with it.  When my relationship with "Mary" ended, it was like this part of me didn't exist. 

It wasn't until I met my life partner, Marlene, 10 years later that I truly came out.  In the process of making all the arrangements for our union ceremony, my coming out continued.  In order to have friends and family as guests to witness our commitment, I needed to come out to many people.  Fear of people…not God…had kept me from being honest all my life and now I needed to face my fears.  Everyone I told responded to it well. 

When I came out to my father, almost 20 years ago, his response had been no response.  I had felt tolerated by him all this time.  I knew he loved me (that was not questioned)…but I didn't know how he felt about his "gay" daughter.  And now I needed to know. 

In confronting him with this, he expressed that he loved and accepted me, but I just didn't quite totally believe him just then.  He went on to ask me what brought on this conversation and why now, after 20 years, was coming out?  I told him that Marlene  and I loved each other and  wanted to make a formal commitment to each other, and would like him and my mother to be present along with other family members. 

It was the "other family members" that I perceived would be their biggest concern.  My parents never discussed my being gay with each other and they probably never told anyone either, so how would they handle me actually telling people! 

In response to inviting other members of my family, my father surprised me with "I would invite them all and if they have a problem with it, then it's their problem."  For 20 years I had felt tolerated by him.  Now I realized that he truly did accept me. 

If I had never confronted him, I would probably still feel tolerated now.  For me, it took finding the right person to share my life, a lot of time, my belief in "my God," and facing my fears that has given my life purpose. 

Today I still believe that my God loves me, believes in me, and accepts me, and I know that the journey of my life is a process.  There is a process to all life…even the life of the church.

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