Running with Pride
I recently did something I never would have imagined doing a few years ago. I ran a 5K with my dad, but it wasn’t just any 5K; it was a gay pride 5K. It was his idea and even though I pretty much loath running I said I’d do it. I was grateful he’d be willing to do something so publicly gay, for and with his lesbian daughter. I still pinch myself when I think about my dad, the most Christian guy I know, running alongside lesbian couples, drag queens, and men in Speedos and tutus. If this story couldn’t get any sweeter, my mom came to root us on. She was so cute as she chanted our names and took pictures of us as we ran. I was overcome with gratefulness for both my parents and for what felt like a huge deal for them… their first pride.
I quickly (less than 3 minutes in) realized I should have trained for this run. I began to wonder, “Oh dear god! How am I ever gonna make this 3 miles when I feel like I’m going pass out 3 minutes in?!?” I looked over at my dad and he was going strong. I felt proud that my 62-year-old dad was in shape and strong, but simultaneously wished he wasn’t in such good shape so he’d want to stop the insanity of it all as much as I did and walk. I had pictured us running the whole thing together, but the second a woman jogging with a stroller approached us my dad looked at me and said, “Candice, we can’t let a lady with a baby carriage pass us! Come on, let’s go.” I knew I was in trouble because there was no way I could go any faster, in fact I was ready to take it down a notch. Through heavy breathing I murmured, “Dad, go ahead. I’ll meet ya at the finish line.” And off he went.
People, running this 5k was not easy! My legs felt like they were going to give out, I was covered in sweat and couldn’t get rid of my side ache for almost the entire 3 miles. But I was determined to finish and not walk the entire thing. So I alternated jogging and walking as much as I could muster. By the end I was exhausted and just as I could see the finish line, I looked over to my left and I saw huge, and I mean, huge signs that read, “God hates fags,” “You’re going to hell” etc. We’ve all seen them before and honestly the big signs don’t really bother me all that much. But, over a loud speaker a man yelled out, “Why can’t you be normal??!!” “Why can’t you be normal??!!” He said it over and over again. I told myself they were extreme people and to shake their words off. I’m not sure if it was because I was so truly exhausted that I couldn’t ignore them, but I had to fight back tears. My heart hurt. And as I ran past them I began to pray. I prayed for my heart, I prayed for their hearts, and I prayed for those whose own self doubt and hatred increase when they hear words of hate like this. I also began to pray for my current patients and those who I don’t know yet, but will someday see as a patient in therapy.
I’m a gay, Christian therapist and not the kind that says being gay or straight is better. My goal is to help people become more alive, connected and okay with who God created them to be, no matter what their sexual orientation. As I ran, I connected with something deep inside that reminded me of what it was like to ache with not feeling normal. I remembered begging God to change me and make me straight. I remembered feeling that there was no hope and no way out. It all came back in that moment as I ran down the middle of the road towards that finish line.
As I reflect back on this experience, I’m really glad it happened. Even though I no longer am filled with an ache and desire to change, it feels important to remember what it was like. It’s important so that I can join my patients in deeper ways when they too feel the ache and desire to be “normal.” I see people in therapy who need a place to process this ache of wishing they weren’t gay; people who are in gay relationships, but having problems within them; people who aren’t sure if they’re gay and have no one to talk to about it. I also see family members of those who are gay who need a place to talk about their feelings and beliefs around their gay family member. I beg you, do not let the voices of those around you, questioning why you can’t be normal, shut you down.
I want you to know there is hope. There is peace, joy, and a wonderful life that you can have. To see a therapist doesn’t mean you’re crazy, suicidal, or mentally unstable. It simply means for a time you need someone to help you sort through your internal world as you figure out what it means to be you. While it might always sting when we hear hateful words screamed through a bull horn, I promise you that there will be a time when you will be able to shake those feelings off and instead be filled with joy and gratefulness. Reach out today.
Candice Czubernat is a licensed mental health therapist and founder of The Christian Closet. The Christian Closet is a therapy practice for people who need a safe place to process their LGBTQ and faith identities. She sees her clients over Skype so that no matter where they are in the country, they can get the support needed.