“And what was it like in Germany?”
I heard this question so often in the last months. People do not only want to know what Germany, my home country is like, but also and especially what it was like to grow up Christian and bisexual there. So here it is. My attempt to find words for something absolutely normal and boring.
I grew up in the Lutheran church. Although “grow up” is maybe not the right word. My sisters and I were baptized and we went to church on Christmas. That was it. My mother had left the church the day she turned 18, the legal age to do that back then. So while she always gave my sisters and me the opportunity to practice religion, she never especially encouraged it. However, being Lutheran in Bavaria where I grew up was anything but normal. Even 25 years ago when I was in primary school there were more Muslim kids in my little village than Lutheran kids. The area was and still is predominantly Catholic. Only Catholic. The idea of having many different denominations existing next to each other in relative peace is absolutely uncommon in Germany. There is the Catholic and the Lutheran Church and… well, that is about it. So yes, I grew up knowing that I was part of a minority. That of course brought the few Lutherans we had in the parish much closer together.
Back in 1993 the parish was huge. Not because we were so many people but because we were so few. Our two pastors had to cover about 35sqm. Yet even although the area is relatively densely populated, we were less than 1000 people in the whole parish. And of course of those 1000 maybe 100 actually showed up for services or other community activities. So yes, people knew each other. We kids knew each other. And we knew our pastors.
Pastor Helmut was always a funny guy. We kids absolutely adored him. He enjoyed carrying us around, he was always joking, always friendly, always smiling. Pastor Helmut was a wonderful man who lived for his parish, was kind, goodhearted and beloved by everyone.
And he was gay.
Back in 1993 I was nine years old and didn’t really have a concept about gay or straight. I barely understood that adults sometimes share a different kind of love than adults and children. No, I had no idea what “gay” meant. What I knew was that whenever there was a church event Pastor Helmut went there with another man. I must have been eleven years old when I accidentally spotted the matching rings on their hands. How exciting! Were they married? No. Back then it wasn’t possible. (And there isn’t marriage equality in Germany.) I didn’t know that so from that day on I just decided that they were in fact married. It didn’t bother me… probably because it bothered no one else. They were just there like the other pastor and his wife. They were part of the community. No one ever cared.
Over the years I began to understand that it is not always without problems to be a part of the LGBT community. I remember clearly… I was 14 when I met a gay boy who told me about homophobia. I was hurt. Sure by then I realized that for me there was no real difference between boys and girls. I wanted to kiss them both. But that was not the reason why I was hurt. I just couldn’t understand why anyone would hurt someone for whom they loved. It made absolutely no sense to me. Today I understand that my reaction at the relatively old age of 14 was what our society today needs:
A lack of understanding in the face of homophobia because it just makes absolutely no sense at all.
I still believe it was Pastor Helmut and the normalcy with which he and his partner handled their relationship in public that allowed and allows me to be hurt and confused by the absurdity of homophobia. So of course consequently when I realized that, yes, I like both boys and girls I never had even the shadow of a doubt about whether it was right or wrong. I had seen it in a beloved pastor so obviously it was right. I never changed my mind about that. Today I’m happily married to a wonderful woman and guess what? God loves me.
(How was the experience for Lisa growing up gay and Christian in the States? Read more!)