About 25 years ago, Grant Henry had one of many come to Jesus moments.
And that moment led eventually to who he is now — owner of the popular bar, Church, located on Edgewood Avenue in the Old Fourth Ward.
It is at Church that Henry’s alter ego Sister Louisa hangs her hundreds of religious-themed paintings, while a mannequin dressed as a nun, representing Sister Louisa, swings from the ceiling with her junk peeking out of her underwear.
But back to the mid 1980s.
Last month, five gay couples lined up at the DeKalb County Probate Court to ask for marriage licenses. In a poignant protest, all were denied, as Georgia law bans gay marriage.
A handful of local LGBT and allied clergy were on hand as “peacekeepers” for the protest, part of the “We Do” project organized by the Campaign for Southern Equality.
As the couples and a crowd of about 50 supporters marched to the courthouse, they were led by Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, who wore her clerical collar. Before entering, they gathered in a prayer circle on the lawn.
A few years ago, a good friend of mine, who also is a pastor, lamented to me that he wished the gay community would not be so “in your face” about its issues. We had a pretty loud conversation, fight and argument that ended with me stomping out of his office, slamming the door as I went.
I had ended this hot debate saying, I was actually screaming through my tears, that he, the straight guy, didn't have to spend his every waking moment justifying his very existence as an accepted child of God.
I was so angry that even this friend didn’t seem to get that the forces of the church were against us in such a way it was a fight every day to continue to see a reason to live. To be fair, he later came to my office opened the door and simply said, “I get your point” and we having been fighting this stupidity together ever since.
Faith is trust in something unseen. Basically you willingly accept lack of control of a situation and simply let life play out on its own. You let go. That can be an easy concept on an emotional level for many, as our society encourages us to deal with experiences from our past, let them go and move on.
However, to physically let things go is an entirely different matter. It’s all well and good to say goodbye to a bad feeling, but giving up the souvenirs of a time gone by is the ultimate hurdle. Whether it be an overexposed photograph of your siblings or that cumbersome futon couch from your first apartment, throwing them out feels like ripping away a piece of your soul.
Just take a look in your attic or garage at all the things you intend to one day organize when you have time. You’ve actually planned to organize for years, but you just can’t bring yourself to throw out those old high school notebooks or that faded Raggedy Ann doll.
My Aunt Trish was passing through Atlanta, and stayed in our guest room for the night. I had to work late, so by the time I got home, she and my husband Preppy were already pretty deep into their second bottle of wine. The conversation had turned to big ideas, as the second bottle of wine tends to dictate.
Trish was reminiscing about her mother, my Grandmama, a fiercely loyal, funny, incredibly opinionated, strident woman. She was the sort of person who always let you know exactly where you stood with her, and if you stood in the wrong place, it would send a cold chill down your spine. I long ago made my peace with how much I take after her.
Grandmama died before I came out, and I’ve always felt that was for the best. She was a Depression-raised churchgoing conservative. My wanting to kiss other boys would have probably stuck in her craw, even if I did marry a nice fella from Mississippi.
Each community has its own taboos, practices and interests that people don’t always discuss openly, and for some it’s sharing that they are both gay and religious.
As the executive director for the MEGA Family Project, Kathy Kelly is one of the most well-known names amongst Georgia’s gays with kids set. She’s helped couples adopt children, conceive them, and talked people through the thorny issues of gay parenting in the Deep South — but one thing she doesn’t often share is her faith.
“I find that I’m somewhat closeted when I’m out in the community… it’s not something that I bring up or find the need to talk about it. Even though faith is a very important thing in my life I don’t talk about it,” Kelly said. “I think that faith in the gay community is like being bisexual — people don’t like to talk about it because it’s not politically correct.”