Megan & Emily- Co-Adventuring Through Life

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Megan, the cutie rocking the hat, and Emily, looking bright and festive in yellow, were my amazing hosts/roommates this summer in D.C. So I can confidently say that they are bonified babes. They bike or walk almost everywhere, spend their free time in a community garden, frequent stand-up comedy, and make the most incredible vegetarian and curry dishes. 

Name: Emily                                                                              Pronouns: she/her/hers                                                                  Home: Washington, D.C.                                                        Work:  Right now I work for Polaris Project, a global leader in eradicating human trafficking. I’m working on their state profiles, but I’m also working on my clinical license to become a therapist. I have one more exam until I get my license.                                                             How do you identify? So this is surprising, but I identify as straight with a caveat for Megan. So, I guess I kind of have a Megan sexuality. It’s honestly still all new to me.                                                              Favorite book to read when you're sad? If I need a load of laughs, I would choose “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah or any of Mary Roach’s sarcastic scientific work. If I’m very sad, I’ll read a book by Jhumpa Lahir.

Name: Megan                                                                Pronouns: she/her/hers                                                  Home: Washington, D.C.                                              Work: Right now I’m a law student. So naturally, during the summer I have a legal internship. I’m working at a non-profit with clients who have had their rights violated while engaging in commercial sex. I’m also working for a human rights impact litigation clinic.                                                                         How do you identify? I like the word queer. I think I like to say that I have the ability to be attracted to people regardless of their gender.  I like to keep it open.                                                                       Favorite book to read when you're sad? Mindy Kaling’s memoir was light and made me laugh: Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me?

When did you realize your orientation?

M - I knew from a young age that I had the ability to be attracted to both girls and boys, but I always kept it to myself. Like most queer people, I was afraid to express that or talk about it, so I didn’t tell a soul. Right around the time I started processing, coming out to myself in 2013, I started to realize that I had feelings for Emily and that was even scarier. We were best friends and being attracted to your best friend can be a scary thing. I was processing that with other people, but I hadn’t even come out to Emily until we had already started kissing. It was kind of a weird process.

E - I like analogies. For me, realizing I liked Megan felt like a huge gust of wind that I couldn’t deny. At the time, I was going on dates with a lot of different men, simultaneously Megan and I were becoming more intimate. So I would go to a fancy restaurant, meet a guy, go out dancing, whatever, but at the end of the night, I would ask myself who I had a longing to be with at the end of the day. Each time it was Megan. I like using the analogy of wind because it was a surprise. It just happened. It made the falling in love part easier in a way. I already knew and trusted Megan. The harder part was society, that came later.

How did you two meet?

E - How we met is simple. We met in Kolkata.

M - No, that’s not simple! We can’t do that! It’s a bigger story. We were on a six-week summer mission trip through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to India. I was heavily involved in Intervarsity, Emily was not. Emily had been to India before; she grew up in Pakistan. I had never been to that region.

Why Kolkata?

E - I read a book about living among the poor and I wanted to do that. I wanted to see Mother Teresa’s community and volunteer there.

M - I went because I wanted to learn more about human trafficking in the international sense and what was being done. Some of the volunteers in the area worked in the red-light district with organizations that were focused on economic empowerment. I was really intrigued by that.

What happened next?

E - I went the previous summer and decided to come back as a volunteer staffer in 2009, that was the year Megan went. Megan was one of the first people I met. As a staff person, I had to choose who I was going to mentor throughout the summer. It’s another story, but I arrived late. When it was time to choose I only knew two people’s names. So I chose those two and whoever else they assigned to me. That’s how Megan and I became so close. Throughout the experience, we always had a way of knowing how the other person was feeling throughout the trip.

M - Definitely. When I got there, I met Emily and connected with her right away. We had both studied psychology and were really passionate about the same issues so we really connected emotionally. We stayed in touch after that summer. I even remember the first time Emily messaged me after the trip. I opened my razor flip phone and was really surprised to hear from her. Generally, on these trips, you never talk to people again but I heard from her within a few days. 

E - It was a really intensive experience and it was a really awesome way to get to know people. It’s almost been ten years and Megan I are in still in contact with people we met there.

What happened when you moved back to the states? 

M - We were friends from 2009, until 2013, when we were finally living in the same city, D.C.

E - We were really close friends. We would talk on the phone for hours until the birds came out in the morning. We wrote letters to each other. We visited one another. One time I even took Megan to the airport and we held hands throughout the drive without thinking anything about it.

M - But then, one night we had a string of parties. We went to a friend’s house for a Peace Corps party, followed by a yoga party, and then we went out to Wonderland Ballroom for dancing. When everything ended, Emily and I wanted to walk home. But our friend Corina would have none of that. She insisted that we ride home with her. Apparently, Emily had a plan to kiss me if we had walked home. I had no idea! I had no plans of kissing Emily. I didn't want to kiss her if she didn’t know how I felt about her. 

How did that night end?

E - I started blowing on Megan’s face and then I kissed her while we were lying in her bed. And we kind of didn’t stop kissing for weeks.

M - Pretty much. The next day we went to church and brunch and then went back to Emily’s room and continued kissing. Then we were like, “Hmm. We should talk about this." But not until we had 24 hours of enjoying kissing and whatever was happening.  

Three days before Emily kissed me, I had a dream that we were lying in her bed and then she started kissing me. So I wrote it down. I had literally been dreaming about kissing Emily and suddenly it was happening. It felt really amazing. I had a deep desire to be with her and kissing was a new way for us to be intimate with one another. 

E - I remember riding the metro to work after and thinking, “What just happened?” 

M - I also remember us asking each other “What feelings are you experiencing? Is this ok?”

E - I think a really cool part of our experience was that there was no shame about it. I wasn’t ashamed. She wasn’t ashamed. It wasn’t until we started the process of our relationship and telling people, that we experienced stress and anxiety. When it was just the two of us talking about it, everything felt right. We allowed ourselves to take our own time.

What were some of the harder things that came with your new relationship?

M - Definitely telling people. We waited six months before we started slowly telling people. While we needed the space to focus on our relationship, it was very isolating. We couldn’t fully be ourselves in front of people or talk about our relationship. So within that first year of relationship we ended up telling everybody, even people we knew would be harder to tell.

E - We made a list. Well, I did. Starting from the easiest to the hardest people to tell like an iceberg. I wanted to start with someone who would be positive, and then move on to someone ambivalent, and then finally the people that would be haters. 

M - I think our coming out experiences were different. The first person I came out to was a counselor at a free queer counseling center. I also didn’t have as many friends that I thought would turn on me just because I dated Emily. I knew my family would be cool. I knew they would be more concerned the trials that society puts on people in same-sex relationships than they were with personal objections.

Why did you decide to come out as a couple on social media?

M - When we were ready, we decided to put it our relationship out there on FB, that was our blast for social media people. We knew that once we were out, we would suddenly become susceptible to unsolicited advice but we knew that this was important to us. We have a lot of friends in different countries and friends from different cultures that make it harder for them to be who they are. We wanted to use those relationships as a bridge for queer people in those places who might not even have the right to exist in their culture and community.

E - That’s why we decided to come out over social media. We’re not really into social media, but we both agreed that we could take the messages, hate, and misunderstanding. This is something that people kill themselves over and we wanted to be conversation partners with people who needed safe places.

M - It was still hard for Emily though. Like, she kept receiving non-affirming books and CD’s in the mail and letters from people she hadn't talked to in a while. But then there were some good things. I remember getting messages from people that were struggling with being in the closet and wanting to come out. 

What are your favorite things about your relationship?

E - We do one thing I highly encourage other people to do. Once every couple of months, we each individually write down our goals and passions. Then we read them together and encourage one another in our individual and couple goals. It's really cool. I’ve never been in a relationship this long before. I love knowing Megan’s goals and passions. Like, I think it’s really cool to know that Megan wants to get really into biking and fixing bikes this next year, so I’m going to encourage her in that and ask her about that. I like spurring her on and encouraging her to take those risks and follow her passions. 

Another really cool part about our relationship is Megan. She is the most patient person I have ever met in my entire life. It’s such a beautiful thing to be with a person who is so loving and patient with my questions, misunderstandings, or mistakes. At the end of the day, we have never gone to bed angry. Whatever happens, I always know that it’s going to be ok. That's a really positive thing for me.

M - One of our favorite lines at our wedding was“I now pronounce you co-adventurers for life.” And I feel like when I’m with Emily, everything is an adventure. And I get a lot from that spirit. We love trying new things. We also love planning dates for each other. We’re always adventuring and I think that's something very beautiful about our relationship. 

Being with Emily has allowed me to grow personally and interpersonally. I think one of the things that I appreciate about Emily is that she is really intentional and encouraging. Sometimes I struggle with being confident in myself and my abilities. Emily is a fierce encourager and allows me to believe in myself.

Talk to me about some of the losses you experienced.

E - The hardest thing for us was if we were to continue with the next step in our relationship - which we have: we’re married - then we could no longer do the dream that brought us together. We were both individually planning on living in an intentional community in slum communities in Kolkata. That's how we met, that’s what we were passionate about. But we knew if we walked into this, none of the organizations that we wanted to be a part of, or were invited to be a part of, would ever want us. It took a long time to let go of those dreams. It was a big sacrifice. 

Now we’re in D.C. and we’re married and that’s a really positive thing, but it’s also really hard when some of our friends are accepted for who they love, while we are not. We are no longer equal in a lot of ways. I recognize that I’m a white woman married to another white woman, I have it very easy in the queer community, but I’m experiencing an inequality that I’ve never experienced before. And that honestly takes a while to get used to. We’ve both been there for the big moments in other people’s lives. The funerals, the marriages, whatever it was, and now certain parts of that life are closed off simply because I married Megan. 

M - There are a lot of moments within queer relationships that you can be ostracized or looked down upon. For us, we experienced that from the institutions that were family to us. While we were processing our relationship, I was working with Servant Partners for a year in Vancouver with the intention of moving back to Calcutta. That year, someone told me that 40% of interns come out as queer, but the organization was deciding its policy to not allow queer people to serve if they were involved in a relationship. Essentially, they’re saying “We’ve decided you can’t pursue the same things that other people can.” It’s honestly really painful. I still have friends in Servant Partners, and essentially, they’re choosing to suppress me and others like me, and that really hurts. 

Then, just last fall, InterVarsity (the group I was heavily involved with in college and met Emily through), announced that all of their staff had to conform to a policy that prohibited discussing healthy relationships as anything other than between a man and a woman. Anyone who couldn’t bring themselves to believe in that hard-line policy was pressured to resign.

In their minds, they’re doing God’s work. But in my mind, they are signing statements that say “not only will you not help people who are LGBTQI, but you will continue to further oppress them.” I remember when the policy was first released I was really angry, but underneath that, I was really really sad. I still am, because I’m about to cry. When that policy came out, I hadn’t asked Emily to pray for me in a while, but that night I did. I felt so so demoralized and dehumanized by a community that I poured a lot of my life into.

E -  Moments like that happened to us a lot. One day, Megan and I drove to see my college pastor. It was a four-hour trip. We met with him for two hours. We shared ourselves with him. We were vulnerable. And at the end, he prayed that we would change and that I would respect my parents. And not once since that time have I received an email or phone call to express, “Hey, I still care for you. You’re still a person.” Megan and I are known in these communities. We're not strangers. So if we’re treated this way, it makes me really sad to imagine some teenage kid sitting with their parent at one of these churches. 

What coming out advice would you offer to readers?

M - Well, I would advise the person to take care of themselves, whatever that means for them. I would also encourage them to find a safe haven and take time figuring things out. It’s important to seek out positivity and affirming people to connect with. It’s just as important to take breaks and be patient and nonjudgmental with yourself. I would also encourage them not to absorb everything people tell you. If you’re not sure, listen to your gut and ask yourself  “Does this feel like a loving kind message or an oppresive, or hamful one?”

E - I like the idea of finding safe spaces and positive people. That might even be a stranger. Sometimes it’s just nice to be in your broader community and take a break from figuring everything out and the pressure of coming out. Coming out takes a lot of energy. So, I would also recommend starting a group with people who are experiencing the same thing you are. I wish I did that, I don’t think I would have felt so isolated.

Do you have a helpful coming out resource?

E - My wife introduced me to Everyday Feminism. This website has been a very helpful tool and I continue to learn a great deal from the articles posted there. 

M – I second Everyday Feminism. They have so many honest, relatable articles, advice, and stories—there’s something for almost every person with intersecting identities. 

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For evangelicals or non-evangelical Christians who struggle with their faith identity, reading materials or connecting to community through the following can be life-giving: Reformation Project, Generous Space, or Gay Christian Network.

This is the spot of Emily's and Megan's proposal. Dreamy, right! 

Leslie Cox