(#17 in a series of people who changed the course of my life)
Whoa. This one’s gonna be tough.
You see, today is the 9th anniversary of the day I stopped lying to myself and the world about who I was—the day I came out Todd.
And OK: also gay.
If there is anyone more responsible for pushing me and giving me the courage to be the person I am today, it is Pam Ferguson.
I loved Pam; I still do—how could anyone not? So vibrant, loving, humble. And funny as heck. I married her thinking she would fix me.
And—I was exactly right, because she did.
Rather, she helped me fix myself.
You see, she loved me, from the deepest, most special place in her soul. Sure, people told her I was gay, that our marriage wouldn’t work, that she was crazy. But she loved all of me—the gay part of me, too (and well before I ever did). In fact, I think that’s why we got along as well as we did…and still do to this day.
We were famous together—at least that’s how I remember it. We immersed ourselves in the lives of our sons and they’ve turned out to be damn good men. We had so many good times together, even a few of them without our flock of basketballing, neighborhood exploring, baseball-all-summer-long-soul-sapping boys. We worked hard–in the community and in our church. We experienced life.And we did all of this together, knowing six months into our marriage, that I was in fact…gay. Or “struggling” with “same-sex attraction disorder.”
And despite that knowledge, Pam stuck with me.
Through ex-gay therapy.
Through all the rejection she experienced.
Through all the fear and arguments and doubt.
And when times got particularly bad, she continued to stand beside me.
All this because she loved me.
On our sixth anniversary, in 2005, I wanted to find a silly but meaningful way to recognize the art in her, the art we made together (those lavish senior banquets didn’t just happen), and celebrate our making it that far. So I made this card…
…about which she would later write about on her blog:
Last weekend was our 6-year anniversary and my husband made this card for me. He’s just the best! He attended a design conference in Boston a few weeks ago and they made these at one of the sessions he went to. It’s a little “over the top” from what they did there, what with the velveteen theatre curtain and the glitzy backdrop, but very typical of the sorts of things he does. He’s one of the most (if not THE most) sentimental people I know or have ever met. He has every note I’ve ever scratched to him and saves movie ticket stubs….even from BAD movies. It’s pathetic. But of course I love him and I LOVE being treated to things like this card! It made my evening and it still makes me smile when I look at it. My motto is (jokingly, of course) “It’s all gonna’ burn.” It makes me feel good to “purge” stuff occasionally. I can quickly clean any closet or cabinet as long as I have enough trash bags handy. I have to make sure he’s not home, of course. It’s one of the ways we complement each other with our differences.
Six years. We’ve literally packed a lifetime of experiences and growth into these six years. So much so that six years sounds way to short a length of time for us. Our six years needs some formula put to it like they do with dog years. Add an extra two years for every major stress life experience you’ve weathered. That would mean we’ve actually been married more like 12 or 14 years. That sounds better. My husband would agree. He’s weathered through me every bit as much as I’ve weathered through him! I imagine we will continue to weather one another for as long as we keep Christ at the center of our individual lives and our marriage. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.” We are a living, breathing testament to that truth.
Then, almost a year later, on August 12, 2006, I told her I could no longer deny who I was; it broke my heart to do it. And she let me go; it was not easy–but she did it because she loved me.
You see, Pam always wanted me to reach my full potential. She knew I didn’t love myself and knew that she could not fix that. She knew I was terrified of losing my children’s love but she would have never let that happen. And she knew my masculinity was held hostage by outdated, theologically abusive ideals and tried to affirm me in every way.
Further, Pam knew many things before I would ever realize them. (This would happen several times, despite my nickname “Mr. Right. Mr. Always Right.”) She predicted, in one of her blogs, that if the therapy failed and I ever came out that I would come out 150% and be on a street corner somewhere holding a sign.
So apparently she’s a prophet, too.
And if anyone is responsible for the evolution of my theology—long before I ever heard Jo Hudson or Jim Mitulski—it was Pam. Her ideas on heaven, on grace, on forgiveness, on religion itself, challenged my own theology and helped me grow so much in my understanding of a creator who just wanted us to love ourselves like the creator did.
She is a part of some of the worst and best days of my life and as a result–a fixture in my very best memories. To this day, Pam and I are still “weathering” life … still living and breathing love. Ours is still a family, though we are not bound by a state-sanctioned legal document. A family different from others, but a family nonetheless.She is our matriarch, my mother’s heir, our guiding star. Showing us the way—sometimes patiently waiting on us to get there. Supportive, exhibiting grace and joy, modeling how to love.
I go forth into life now emancipated from guilt and shame; in how she has loved me, Pam modeled for me the very Jesus I needed to see. And be.
So I take that with me, to model it for the sake of everyone I come in contact with, to the very best of my ability. Because she loved me enough until I could love myself–and then love others.
18. the special love of aunts
If you want a glimpse into the
life of a saint, read her blog.