I am a 16-year-old who loves music and theater. I sing in chorus and play in band. I love to ski on the ski team. I'm active in our church. I have taught Sunday school, led vacation Bible school and sung in the choir.
I have been struggling with my sexuality since fifth grade. It has been very hard for me to find my place among my friends and church community. I went through depression and self-mutilation off and on, but now I am healing and learning better ways to deal with my sexuality. In the past year I have become open about my sexuality, which I don't regret, but is often difficult.
Last year our youth mission trip went to the General Synod/Assembly in Kansas City, Mo. As I looked across the street from the Kansas City convention center, I could see the words, "Fags die, God laughs." The sign was raised above the head of what looked to be like an 8-year-old boy. His family stood close by with similar signs of hatred. My heart became filled with sadness. I said a quiet prayer for them. As Beth, Laura, Ashley, Lacey and I joined hands and marched past them, they shouted at us, "You're going to hell!"
Homosexuality. It's feared, it's misunderstood, it's controversial, it's confusing, it's isolating, it's tearing churches apart. Yet it's here, and my generation is talking about it more than ever before.
Imagine for a moment that you have just stepped onto a plane for the first time, feeling exhilarated by the journey, gazing with curiosity out the window, seeing the clouds bob beneath the blue sky, but suddenly realizing that you are on the wrong plane, going to a destination that terrifies you, surrounded by people who seem a world away. You are filled with panic. And you cannot get off.
Welcome to the world of a homosexual in today's society. Statistics show that one in ten persons in our society is gay or lesbian. Thirty percent of all teen suicides are committed by gay and lesbian youth. An online poll said that 98 percent of teens hear daily anti-gay remarks made by their peers. And 52 percent say they have heard homophobic comments made by teachers. Each day gay and lesbian youth are harassed, beaten up and occasionally even killed because of their sexual orientation.
My goal is to help make churches a safe place for those who don't have the good fortune of having a supportive family. We are all God's children and everyone is welcome at God's "table of love."
Erica C. Bowman is a member of Pilgrim UCC in Fond du Lac, Wis