Much of the time they are she/her/hers, but there are days where I feel more like a they/them/theirs (I identify as genderqueer)
When did you start attending Left Hand?
Officially since May of 2018!
Tell us your story. What do you want the rest of Left Hand to know about you?
I grew up in a small town called Lake Mills, in middle-of-nowhere Iowa. I have one younger brother named Nathan who still lives in the area. Growing up, my mom would take my brother and I to the main Lutheran church in town every Sunday morning for the service and for Sunday School. When I was in elementary school there was an after school program at the church called W.O.W., and I would go there every day after school. I forget what the letters stood for, though I do know it was a religious program. Each week they would have a different Bible story to go through and talk about, and each month was a different theme. Once I reached 5th grade, I had to take Communion class in order to partake in communion, and then in 7th and 8th grade I went through Confirmation. I distinctly remember standing on that podium as an 8th grader in front of the whole congregation and thinking to myself, “Do I really believe what I’m saying or am I just putting on a mask and a show for everyone?” I was sweating profusely in fear they would somehow know I was questioning them and the Bible. That question came from going to a summer camp called RLBC (aka Riverside Lutheran Bible Camp), where I started to ask all of the big questions I felt I couldn’t ask at home. It was also where I was so terrified I was going to go to hell that I prayed fervently to be saved, in private, with tears streaming down my face.
When I was in 10th grade my dad became ill with Whooping Cough. This was ultimately how we found out he had stage 4 colon cancer the summer before I started 11th grade. My brother was being verbally abusive during this time (and beyond). We should have been hanging onto each other for support, but instead I was the target of his anger. During my senior year in high school my parents went to Chicago every other week to get treatments for my dad. My brother and I were left at home alone except for at night when my grandma, my mom’s mom, would come stay over. As the oldest all the responsibilities fell on me and it was a lot; almost too much. I withdrew into myself for protection and spent much of my time in the world of the internet, playing online video games, and reading. It was where I could escape reality for a while, and it was also where my social life was since I didn’t get to have one otherwise. The summer after my freshman year of college, my dad died from his battle with cancer.
I got my bachelor’s degree from Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. It is a private Christian college, in what I consider to be the most conservative part of the state. It’s also where I realized I was queer. I had an “oh s***” moment when a good friend of mine noticed how close I was getting to another good friend of mine and suggested I might be gay. This sent me deep in an inward spiral and into a deep dive of the internet. Yep, I was gay, and at a non-affirming private Christian college. I took solace in the college’s theatre department and ended up getting my degree in it.
So, how did I end up in and get to Denver? My senior year of college I applied to a program called Summer of Service (SOS for short) and got in. It was my third year in a row applying for it, and I guess they typically don’t have many people applying twice let alone a third time. Originally I wanted to go to Israel, but ultimately ended up going to Denver when a spot opened up at the last minute and my original plan fell through. I spent the summer after graduating in that program and by extension in one called Denver Urban Semester (or DUS for short). This was summer of 2016. When the program drew to a close I realized I didn’t want to stay in Iowa and wanted to move elsewhere, and where better than Denver since I had just spent a summer getting to know it? I remember praying fervently that I would get to live in Denver and that a job and housing would fall into place, and it did. In one weekend. On September 1st (yes, it was sort of on purpose for those of you who are Harry Potter fans like me) I officially moved to Denver and had another “oh s***” moment when the full brunt of moving here hit me.
Fast forward a few years and here I am, comfortable with being queer and Christian, and having had a whole lotta growth and adventures. My faith is something much different than it was before and I’m learning, and unlearning, so much. I don’t talk very often with my family anymore, though to be fair we didn’t really talk much before either. I’ll be honest: it’s hard not having blood family in the same state as me. At the same time, I think it’s better this way, especially seeing as most of them don’t accept me for me. But, I do love them. I’m proud of myself for finding community and making my own life here. I love that places like Left Hand exist because it gives me a lot of hope for the future.
What does Left Hand mean to you?
What does Left Hand mean to me? It means having a chosen family who loves and supports me, and it means a place of meaningful community. Left Hand gives me hope for the future, especially for people like me who are queer and still want to go to church. It shows me and others that it’s possible to be both queer and Christian. It also shows a better way, one filled with much love. I love getting hugs from and seeing people every week. It gives me life. I love sitting and listening to the people preaching each week too. They inspire me. I have so much love for the people I see every week at Left Hand!
What special skills, talents or expertise are you willing to share with our community?
When I’m not working, one thing I enjoy doing in my free time is photography. I’ve been working on a portfolio compiling a variety of pictures mostly of macro photography, animals/landscape, and a few other random photos. I would love to add more people pictures and get more practice taking pictures of people, so if any of you ever need photos taken hit me up!
I’ve also recently embarked on creating a blog. In the blog I created I will be talking about different subjects and idea pertaining to being Queer and Christian, as well as other areas of interest. It’s a big undertaking and I’m excited to see where it goes! At some point this year I also want to create a podcast to go along with it- a sort of mini series in which I talk about certain blog posts and interview people. Give it a read here: http://queersspiritualityandbiggertables.art.blog/2020/01/27/the-introduction-aka-the-why-im-writing-these-things-post/
Caitlin’s profile is part of a new, on-going blog series aimed to help Left Hand members get to know each other better, as well as share our stories and gifts. If you are interested in nominating someone to be profiled, please send their name and email to firstname.lastname@example.org.