Taylor (she/her/hers) is someone who is authentically and boldly living her truth. She owns the intersections of her identity and is passionate about helping others claim their truth as well. She has traveled a long way to fully accept and love herself as she is. She is a musician, activist, a future public health professional, and a Queer Christian. Her honesty has already inspired me and I'm confident that she will continue to inspire as she continues to explore her identity and the systems at play in our world today.
What is love?
First of all, I don’t know. As of now, I have not been head over heels in romantic love. At this point, love is really broad. For me, love is not the individualistic culture that we live in. Love is a support system based off more than just your romantic partner. Love is when my roommate buys this special food that I mentioned one time because she knows I like it. That’s love. I see love there. I don't know what that means, what kind of love that is, but I feel love when that happens.
I don't know how to talk about love. It makes me very emotional, actually. I don't cry very easily. But when I sit and think about people that I love and what I would do for them and what they would do for me…or when I think about losing someone that I love…it just moves me to some place that I can’t explain and don't have words for. That’s love. I don’t know what it is but it’s love.
How do you identify?
I think the question of identity is one of the reasons it took me so long to come out, actually. I do fall somewhere on the spectrum of sexuality. I wanted to come out either gay or straight. I thought that if I could come out as that, it would be a lot easier for myself and for people in my life. But that’s not true for me. Right now, I am settling into the words queer and bisexual.
Bisexual is often perceived as an equality of attraction to two genders, but I don’t necessarily experience that. So I’m not completely comfortable with that word, but I also like to use it to challenge the idea that it only indicates binary/equal attraction..
I really like the word Queer for a lot of reasons. It’s a good umbrella term that indicates that I am not straight or heterosexual. It also carries a lot of political weight. It’s a reclaimed term for one thing. For another, queer culture is an intentional sub culture that rejects a lot of societal systems. It’s also a trans inclusive term, which is important to me.
When did you start to question your sexuality?
In high school, I started to worry that I might be attracted to women. And that’s what it was - a worry and a fear. So I pushed it way down. I’m someone that fit the “perfect child role” and I knew this was something that would go against that, and I was just really afraid. I remember a TV show that hooked you up to a lie detector in front of your family and friends. I had this scenario in my head like, “what if I went on that TV show and they hooked me up to that lie detector and they asked me “have you ever worried that you’re a lesbian?” And I was terrified that in that moment it would be revealed.” So I was carrying this big secret buried deep inside. It wasn’t until I was in a good relationship with a man that these questions kept bubbling up and I couldn’t continue to ignore them anymore.
Why do you think you are ready to publicly come out now?
I realized I didn't want to miss any more of my life by hiding. Since I'm out to most people in my life I don't feel strained like I once was.
In the wider world and community, though, there are things happening concerning the LBGTQ community. Not being able to talk about that online or express my solidarity or how I am affected by it was starting to weigh on me. We need more people telling their truths. I also know how meaningful visibility can be. I had three Facebook friends that were out and partnered. I barely knew them, but it mattered so so much to me to have their visibility. I think it’s time for me to hopefully be that for someone else.
Why is truth telling important to you?
I studied biology in undergrad, and science is sometimes portrayed as the most objective system of inquiry. It is often relied upon as being one of the only truth tellers in our society. But that’s not where I found tools to seek truth. It wasn’t in the scientific method or peer reviewed research journals. Rather, engaging with the humanities gave me the tools for truth telling.
In an Anthropology Course, when I first learned that missionaries, in trying to bring Jesus, destroyed cultures and sometimes made them disappear altogether, I saw the importance of telling our truth. In my LBGT Studies Course I realized that what I had been told about Christianity, our country, even success, had all been shaped by my white middle class upbringing, which also happened to be the dominant culture. I felt horror in discovering that I wasn’t functioning in a society that was telling the whole truth.
Why are numbers and data important for truth telling?
I know that data often gets in the way of stories, but the ability to look at it and understand it is powerful.
I think that data is one way that we get closer to truth. And maybe it's one of the ways that I'm best equipped to help with that task. There is so much data that exists that demonstrates the disparities in our country. It's just that many people lack the “why.” I'm hopeful that I can be in public health, learn the right questions to ask and analyze the data to answer those questions. Through this, my hope is to integrate data into theories of oppression, systems, and stories. We need it all.
How do you process all this data?
I love listening to music, but when I play, I access a whole other level of myself. Right now, I have found that I turn to instruments when I have a lot of feelings, and the coming out process is full of feelings. The beauty about playing well is that it requires your whole focus. There’s so much going on: dynamics, fingering, bowing, tone quality. When I’m playing, like really playing, everything else disappears. And I’m always surprised whenever I can produce something beautiful. That’s always crazy. I have enough foundational skill, especially in the violin, that I can just play and make things up. And I’m so surprised when people listen and it does something to them. Sometimes I feel like I am tapping into something beyond myself.
What is the Episcopal Service Corps?
It is a year for young adults living in intentional community - making meals together, sharing budgets, making household agreements, and supporting one another as we seek to do justice in the world - to engage in a year of work at a nonprofit. I am in my 2nd year in the Atlanta program, https://www.theroadatl.org/. My first year I worked for Habit for Humanity, an affordable housing organization, and this year I work for Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, an interfaith environmental organization. I like to say that my first year in Atlanta I condensed maybe five to ten years of inquiry about self, faith, and the world. It was an intense year where I reformed and solidified a lot of my belief systems and started to step into my own. I stayed a second year because I liked who I was becoming so much and I was afraid of falling back into my old ways.
Who were you becoming?
I was coming into myself as a Queer, LBGTQ person - which is huge for me. I was dating and finding that freedom. For the first time in my life I had LBGTQ friends. And Christian Queer friends who could understand that journey.
I was also learning how to become a more compassionate person. Someone who could listen and be with people. I was learning to become someone who is critical of our society and yet engages with that in hope. I liked that I was becoming someone who wasn’t afraid to care, because that can hurt. But it makes life more beautiful.
What will you do after your second year is over?
The past two years I’ve been wondering how my skills fit with my broader values and what change I want to see in the world. My hope is that if I am resourceful enough, pursuing a career in Epidemiology will be that marriage. I am interested in health outcomes, how places affect health, and how consumerism, individualism, and blind racism also impact both our health and well-being.
Why do you stay within the faith community rather than reject it?
That is the question. That is the question I continue to ask myself and continue to ask in community of friends. On one hand, I stay for non-spiritual reasons. The church is a part of so many peoples’ lives. It is very influential in our country as a whole. I know enough about it to continue to stay engaged in hope. I want to be a part of the change, so the church can tell its truth and begin to look critically at itself and see where it participates in oppressing others and how it can transform.
On a personal note, there is something about grace, this idea of a fully loving God, and these mystical experiences that we all have where we access something beautiful and bigger than ourselves. Also, the more I learn about Jesus, the more drawn I am to him as both a radical historical figure, and a true and transforming point of access to God.
What is the Leadership Development Cohort?
The Leadership Development Cohort out of The Reformation Project, http://www.reformationproject.org/trplead17, they are a bible-based, national organization that is working within non-affirming churches (that is churches that will not ordain or marry LBGTQ individuals) to transform their theology to become affirming. The cohort is a group of 35 individuals who have committed to spending three months in a graduate course to study scripture, intersectionality, and both affirming and non-affirming theology, to equip ourselves to have hard conversations and be a part of that work within the church.
How has the cohort helped you grow and develop?
The cohort has been so healing for me. I grew up in a church that would have been fully affirming if it was not a Methodist church. I was really lucky in that way. But in college, I went to a church that had a firm policy on what ordained relationships look like and that really affected me. That was when I was coming out. That theology is, well, insidious is a harsh word, but it gets under your skin. The shame and the fear that came with wondering if this thing that feels beautiful inside of you, attraction or liking someone, could be or is seen as a sin. That messes with you. I didn't realize how much I needed to be in a space with other people who had experienced that. I needed people who could understand all the intersections of my journey. While reading this theology is exceptionally empowering and exciting, it’s also helped me access new feelings.
Where do you find hope?
I think that’s actually a really beautiful question. I think about it often. One answer is looking to groups that have been oppressed, who may never see communal liberation in their lifetime. I think we kind of have to accept that fact that on this earth, we will probably always live in some sort of broken systems. People who live their lives in oppressive systems, while still working for liberation, seeking community, and living in hope, I find hope in that. Seeing women, queer people do that - the marginalized communities that I identify with - that just gives me so much damn hope.
What advice would you give to someone who has not come out?
I first came out to myself and others as questioning four years ago this month. When I think about how long it took me to come to this point, where I am comfortable proclaiming loud and proud on the internet that I am Queer, four years is a long time. For me it was a very long process. I think it’s different for everybody. For you, Leslie, you came out in one fell swoop. You realized it and within a few months everyone knew. But for me, and a lot of other people, it’s a slow process of progressively telling people. And I wasn't ready before now.
So my advice would be this:
- Make sure you have people who are on your team. And if you don’t have them, find them. Support is really important in the coming out process.
- Then, trust yourself and your timing. Regardless of if you come out tomorrow or in four years, it’s going to be an act of bravery. Claiming your truth, no matter when you do it, is brave. So don’t worry that you won't get to be brave if you wait a little longer.