Sam Haisten- Everything Is Fine

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Sam Haisten, a friend of the blog and one of our own, Courtney, is one of those engaging and earnest people that when you start talking to them you do so whole heartedly. Sam, you are a creative, quirky, intelligent woman and I would love to sit down with you anytime over a cup of coffee. Thank you for interviewing with us. Xo xo

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The basics:

Name: Sam Haisten

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Hometown: Milledgeville, GA

How do you identify? Queer

What do you do? Administrative Assistant at Georgia College

What are your favorite queer resources? Love Les, queer clergy, and my friends What are you reading these days? Carnal Knowledge of God by Rebecca Voelkel and Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

Out of all the crayon colors, which one would you be? Dandelion! Yellow is such a cheerful color, and very wholesome.

Outside of your family, who was the first person to inspire you? I truly cannot remember who the first person to inspire me was, but the person that impacted me the most in recent memory was Father Will Stanley, a gay priest I had the joy of meeting two years ago who inspired me to live my most authentic life (and is part of the reason I want to be a priest, too!)

Describe yourself in 3 words. “Everything is fine”

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The heart of it:

Tell me about your coming out journey. When did you begin to question?

I think I realized I wasn’t completely straight when I was about 16. Coming out was a tough journey for me; it didn’t go over well with my family. I questioned myself and was worried I was wrong, maybe I actually did like boys, so I kept trying to fall in love with them. I dated a guy my senior year and just always felt like something wasn’t there, like a part of me was missing somehow.

Once I got to college I was able to grow into myself and learn more about sexuality. I was surrounded by supportive and loving people that helped me figure out “what” I was. When I was 20, the person I’d wanted to date in high school asked me out again, and this time I told her yes. It wasn’t really a question for my family this time, it was me informing them that I was going to date this person and that was the end of the discussion. Thankfully they were much more open to the idea this time. I guess that’s what five years of kicking yourself will do; they knew they had made a mistake when I was 16 by basically telling me, “You’re not allowed to be gay.”

What was that first queer relationship like?

That relationship ended up not working out, but I learned so much about myself during and after. Sexuality is strange and complex; where I’d once thought I might be “full” lesbian, I’m finding that that’s not necessarily the case which makes it difficult, sometimes, to live in the South. While southern culture is beginning to be more open and accepting of LGBTQIA individuals, most of the people down here still think in terms of binaries: you’re either attracted to men OR women, not both, and there is nothing beyond the male/female binary. It’s hard to explain, then, to someone that the person I’m interested in is nonbinary or gender nonconforming, and I’ve run into some hostility when trying to explain it. I’m so lucky to have found the Episcopal Church, though! Every person I’ve met at St. Stephen’s has been so open and accepting of all gender identities and orientations and it’s a wonderful reminder that it’s not hard to love one another as Christ loves us.

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Talk to me about your writing. It seems like writing for you is a safe place to process your experiences and feelings.

I write because sometimes I have too many thoughts in my head and I need to get rid of a few of them. Most of what I’ve written is poetry. There’s no central theme or specific topic I prefer to write about, usually just what’s on my mind or in my heart. I don’t usually let anyone read what I’ve written, but I’m beginning to be more comfortable with it. Most of my poems are very personal to me and were written when I was feeling a strong emotion: love, fear, anger, grief, or something less easy to define. It’s cathartic!

Short stories are harder. I’ve written a couple and they’re pretty terrible. They usually reflect something that’s going on in my life in that particular moment, or something that happened in the past that’s affecting my present. Like the poems, I work on them when I need an outlet for what I’m feeling. It’s nice to escape for a few minutes here and there and work on something entirely my own.

What inspired you to seek out a career in higher ed?

Let me tell you, having a career in higher education is a trip. I’m not necessarily passionate about the job I have right now, but I love to work with students. Knowing that my office can be a safe space for students needing a break from judgmental roommates, rude professors, absent friends, or nagging family means the world to me. I specialize in convincing students to participate in the Disney College Program, of which I am an alumna. I never in a million years dreamed that I’d actually get paid to talk people into moving down to Disney for a semester.

Has your orientation impacted your professional life?

My orientation has had virtually no impact on my professional life. I work at a liberal arts university, and a few of the faculty in my department are LGBTQIA. It’s just something that’s accepted in this little Georgia College bubble. Even though I still had to come out, it didn’t feel like coming out. I just mentioned a had an ex-girlfriend and it was immediately accepted, which was so refreshing. It was the first time there hadn’t been that brief pause and then an, “...Oh!” I know that this hasn’t been the experience of every faculty or staff member at Georgia College, and that breaks my heart, but most everyone here is so welcoming and so accepting of all orientations and identities.

What are your career aspirations now?

My hope is that I will be able to move into a career that allows me to work more directly with queer students, preferably in some spiritual capacity. I like the job I have now, but I don’t want to be an administrative assistant forever! I’m debating between two possible paths: go to graduate school and get an M.Ed in Higher Education Administration, or go through discernment through the Church to hopefully, maybe, go to seminary and get an M.Div and be ordained as a priest. Both paths are scary and exciting, so I’m still considering options and praying on them.

What advice would you offer queer folks who are jazzed about higher education & hoping to follow in your footsteps?

To anyone wanting to start a career in higher education: DO IT. The pay isn’t great and the hours are okay, but the satisfaction of knowing that what you’re doing is for the students is the most rewarding feeling. To know that everything I do is for the students, for the faculty to better educate the students, brings me so much joy. Sure, there are days that sucks and I feel like an outcast or like I don’t know what I’m doing, but that’s to be expected with any job. Also, the retirement benefits are pretty nice. Just saying.

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Talk to me about your writing. It seems like writing for you is a safe place to process your experiences and feelings.

I write because sometimes I have too many thoughts in my head and I need to get rid of a few of them. Most of what I’ve written is poetry. There’s no central theme or specific topic I prefer to write about, usually just what’s on my mind or in my heart. I don’t usually let anyone read what I’ve written, but I’m beginning to be more comfortable with it. Most of my poems are very personal to me and were written when I was feeling a strong emotion: love, fear, anger, grief, or something less easy to define. It’s cathartic!

Short stories are harder. I’ve written a couple and they’re pretty terrible. They usually reflect something that’s going on in my life in that particular moment, or something that happened in the past that’s affecting my present. Like the poems, I work on them when I need an outlet for what I’m feeling. It’s nice to escape for a few minutes here and there and work on something entirely my own.

Aside from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about my faith. I’m Episcopalian, and ever since I found the church I’ve fallen head over heels in love with God again. Episcopal doctrine is some accepting and affirming I’ve come across. The first time I walked into an Episcopal church I almost turned around and walked back out, but something told me to stay, that I wouldn’t regret it. Little did I know that that would be the first step in a journey that would lead me down a path I never imagined I’d be walking!

Last month, I was received into the Church at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, and it was one of the holiest moments of my life. The bishop laid his hands on my head and spoke the words over me, and when he had finished he simply said, “Welcome home, Sam.” My friend and mentor were standing behind me with his hand on my back and that of the other young lady who was in our group, and being there in that moment with those people was one of the most important moments of my spiritual life.

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Why do you think it’s important for LBGTQ folk to reclaim religious spaces?

So, so many young queer people are turned away from their churches, and my mission in life is to show them that that isn’t God. The New Commandment says, “Love one another as I loved you,” so why would anyone who proclaims themselves to be Christian ever turn away someone based on their orientation? Christ went out of His way to befriend and hang out with the outcast, the tax collector, the adulterer, the leper. If we claim to be followers of Him, we can’t pick and choose who to let into His house. We are all created by God in God’s image, intentionally unique and purposely individual.


Okay, I have one last question for you. What coming out advice would you offer readers?

God created you exactly as you are meant to be; He makes no mistakes in our creation. What sucks is that there are a lot of people that don’t necessarily agree with that and think that LGBT people are living in sin and are on the shortlist for eternal damnation. My advice is this: remember that God is love, and He created us to be the person we are, so if we believe that then it follows that He created love of all types: gay, straight, platonic, romantic, and everything in between. Love is not inherently sinful, and do not ever, ever, ever let someone tell you otherwise. Love is one of the most holy things in this life.

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Leslie Cox