“I could not look at myself in the mirror”: Jen Hatmaker’s road to embracing the LGBTQ community

Jen Hatmaker is one of those guide-women who helps us figure out what we owe others, what we need from others, what’s important and what’s just funny. She’s also willing to talk about times she has felt lost. She faced one of those moments a few years back, when she could no longer abide her Christian community’s rejection of LGBTQ people. So, she bucked church doctrine and opened her arms to them, risking her livelihood and peaceful family life to get right with herself. Here’s what she told Glennon Doyle and our Together Live audience about finding her way to a “true space”. It’s a Pride Month story worth re-telling.

I knew what I was walking into, for sure. I’m not new here. I’d seen many of my compatriots removed for the same sort of affirmation. All of us have some sort of tribal connection. We all have a group where we are identified, and we tuck ourselves safely inside that thing. We put structures around that thing that make us feel safe. They give us edges that feel tidy. And they’re bound together by a set of rules. In my world, the rules include a pretty heavy component of behaving: Behave like I want you to behave. Believe like I believe and do what I say. I’d seen enough to know that the cost of going against the system, the cost of going against the structure, is belonging. That’s the punishment and I knew it would be.

I have a career, and I’ve built my whole world inside that structure. And the cost was going to be high. It was not just going to be belonging—it was going to be financially punitive. But I could not look at myself in the mirror. And that cost is higher. That cost is higher.

When I knew that I had this internal conviction that I was simply too afraid to say out loud—fear kept me silent—I felt like a fraud. I felt very fractured. Ultimately that pain was worse than anything anyone else could do to me. Nothing cost that much.

But I wasn’t prepared for the volume of the reaction. I wish I could say I weathered it with grace and dignity. The truth was, it was devastating. It was awful. At one point, I made my mom travel with me. My books were pulled off shelves. They were pulled out of print. I heard: We will not publish them anymore. People returned my books to me burned. There were so many pieces written about me that were painful and harmful.

I will tell you though, that I would do it again, and again, and again. I would make the same choice again. Even if it cost me every last penny. And I feel like I’m sitting in true space for the first time in a long time.

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