EMILY HARRIS

June 2, 2017

“At a young age, I knew that I was attracted to the same gender. I just didn’t what it was called. I had heard the word “gay” though, spoken by some adults, as a very, very bad word that precipitated prayer, intercession, and whispering. I came out twenty years later, after a tremendous amount of shame, prayers, therapy, attempting to bargain promises with God for healing, hoping that I was “over it” in order to not go to hell.”

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INSTAGRAM: @emintonga

1. Where are you from and where do you live now?

North Carolina / Digital Nomad

2. Tell me a little bit about what you spend most of your days doing.

Women’s Leadership Development through the NGO that I work for, UN Women + Women’s March volunteer work<

3. Give us a little insight into your backstory/upbringing…

I grew up in a homeschooling, conservative Christian family. Education and religion were paramount — we were homeschooled for this reason, based on the less-than-positive public school options offered at the time, in proximity to where we lived, my parents made the decision to homeschool us even though it was a foreign concept to them. My upbringing was directive, and I was given several privileged opportunities to succeed in those directives. I am grateful for those opportunities. At a young age, I knew that I was attracted to the same gender. I just didn’t what it was called. I had heard the word “gay” though, spoken by some adults, as a very, very bad word that precipitated prayer, intercession, and whispering. One day, when I was home alone watching Oprah (Oprah was strictly forbidden — I was being a naughty kid), she interviewed a gay woman about her sexuality. That day I was horrified to learn what that word meant, and that I was that word. I came out twenty years later, after a tremendous amount of shame, prayers, therapy, attempting to bargain promises with God for healing, hoping that I was “over it” in order to not go to hell, etc.. At the present time, I am thankful for my family, and their support. Although we don’t hold the same biblical interpretations, or point of view on matters LGBTQ, there is mutual respect of beliefs, or rather we value each other beyond those particular beliefs. I came out for the first time to a friend of mine who is also gay, loves God, and is from a conservative Christian family in NC. I couldn’t have asked for a better conversation with a trusted friend. “Breath deep, dear friend. Every part of you, including this, is intricately and beautifully made,” is what I was met with in the midst of tears. I think that initial conversation gave me courage to break the news to other friends, and family, that I am unapologetically not straight!

4. What is your religious background?

Christianity/Protestant

5. On a scale of 1 – 5 how supportive was your family when you came out?

2

6. What is one accomplishment in your life that you’re proud of that most people might not know of?

I’m fluent in Tongan!

7. Why do you feel that the simple message of the Promote Love Movement is important?

It’s inclusive at the outset.. not tolerant, inclusive. Not off-putting, inclusive. Not preaching ideas, ideals, religious or political beliefs or convictions — but encouraging attention to be given to a basic, powerful human thread. Who would earnestly not favor promoting love?

8. What is one piece of advice you would give to someone if you knew that today was going to be your last day to live?

You are more than the sum of your actions. You are just incredible. And loved. Fully.

9. Why do you think it is important to be your authentic self?

Living a dichotomous life is not what we’re meant to do. I am one soul, in one body, with one orientation, and several particular inclinations and desires that are subject to, well… me. Living authentically — pairing one’s thoughts and heart desires and actions in good intent, closes that dichotomy… resulting in a more holistic life presented to others; easier to predict, easier to withstand, easier to love. Simultaneously, we more easily love and keep our own selves, if there is only one set of intentions to drive forward. The less I adhere to the knee jerk reaction to hide certain aspects of my life that pertain to being a part of the LGBTQ community, or really anything that labels me as a human, the more realistic I become to my family, and my friends, myself and people in general. I think there’s grace in that that protects us, when we’re vulnerable. I hope so.

10. How do you feel like growing up in church played a part in shaping who you are?

Positively, church taught me the value of community, congregate worship, vulnerability, expressing emotions and difficulties, valuing others through a wider scope of the world (mainly missions), how to actively give, how to ask for help, and funny enough, public speaking. Less positive was learning that you have to ask for the right kind of help, you have to have acceptable vulnerabilities, in order to exist within the group i.e. “You are allowed to want, need, and feel these very specific things in order to be a part of the family.”

11. Do you still attend church/religious gatherings?

I attend affirming churches depending on where I am on a Sunday. I love to travel, and my job allows that, so if I’m not close to Citywell in Durham, or Washington National Cathedral in DC, or an Episcopal church, I listen to the House for All Sinners & Saints podcast with Nadia Bolz-Webber. I do miss community groups.

12. Top 3 books/documentaries/podcasts that have helped in life?

HFASS podcast, The Heart podcast (explores gender & sexuality), Gay Conversations with God: Straight Talk on Fanatics, Fags and the God Who Loves Us All by James Alexander Langteaux

photo credit: Rachel Dennis

#gay #LESBIAN #LGBT #LGBTQ #NORTH-CAROLINA #QUEER #Religion

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