How the Indigo Girls and LGBT-Affirming Christians Helped Me Heal from Religious Rejection

Christian love trumps Christian hate

You might have heard the news recently that American soccer stud, er, star Abby Wambach married Glennon Doyle, “Christian mommy blogger.” I’m guessing most readers are more familiar with Abby’s achievements, so if you found yourself wondering who this lucky Glennon woman is, sit down next to me.

See, Glennon Doyle is a lot of things to a lot of people—best-selling author, philanthropist, heretic—but to me, she’s the Jesus-loving sister I wish I had. She’s part of my chosen family dream team. And she’s been that to me for years, long before she shocked portions of the Internet by marrying Abby Wambach. Why? Because, in a way, she chose me (plus we’re also related by my original dream chosen family, the Indigo Girls).

Let me explain.

In the summer of 1996, when I was sixteen, my older sister took me to my first Indigo Girls concert. For the first time, I was surrounded by women, many of whom were clearly lesbians and/or badass with their crew cuts and literal swagger, and it felt amazing. I crushed on Amy Ray without knowing to call it that. All I knew was I loved the Indigo Girls.

Two years later my sister would marry a man whose Christian beliefs didn’t allow for Indigo Girls music. My sister’s own beliefs would quickly conform to his. Meanwhile, I lost my religion, and went to college (Emory—the alma mater of the Amy and Emily), where my new friends called me “their lesbian” because of my Indigo Girls fandom. But it was just an inside joke. I was going on dates with guys occasionally, looking for but failing to find a real connection.

Then I met a girl with a handmade Ani Difranco bumper sticker on her Volvo. She was a revelation. All the things I felt for her I’d never felt before. I told my sister. She said it wasn’t love, it was Satan’s trick.

My sister and the girl with the Ani sticker both broke my heart that summer. But it was worth it. Love always is.

After that I spent many years (like, ten) trying to show my sister she was wrong about me—in person, by letter, and on the phone. The rest of the time we were cordial mostly, but we weren’t real sisters anymore. I mean, what kind of relationship can you have with someone who thinks your love life is founded on evil?

Other people said she’d come around with time. I thought maybe once she saw me happy and healthy and clearly not in the devil’s grip with my partner and children, she’d have an epiphany or at least mellow. Time passed. Children were born. Neither helped. Meanwhile the sister-shaped hole in my life only seemed to grow as I watched my friends raise their kids in the midst of loving extended families.

I first found Glennon Doyle’s blog Momastery in 2012 via her “Don’t Carpe Diem” post, the one that went viral and landed her a book deal—and for good reason. It nailed what it feels like to be a mom of young kids in public, just trying to survive another sweaty outing, while strangers insist that you enjoy every moment (even when your cherub is peeing in the corner at the grocery store) because it all goes by so fast.

I was taken in by Glennon’s openness about her past struggles with bulimia and addiction, her self-deprecating humor, her apparent lack of Christian judginess, and perhaps most importantly her deep love for the Indigo Girls.

But I was also suspicious. I half held my breath looking around her site waiting for some sign of “love the sinner, hate the sin” bullshit. I didn’t find any. Instead I found a letter to her son about how she and his dad would feel if he turned out to be gay (spoiler: totally fine). She wrote about how an antigay sermon sent her on a mission of researching and seeking that ultimately lead her to her enthusiastic acceptance of LGBT people (“I spent my nights scouring scripture, researching the positions of different denominations, and praying and praying and praying some more…. Every morning when the sun finally came up, I’d call Sister at work. She’d answer her phone with: ‘We’re gonna talk about the gays again, aren’t we, Sister?’ ‘Yes, Sister. Yes, we are. Clear your schedule.’)

She also wrote a post called “MY LOVE LETTER TO AMY AND EMILY, OF OUR BELOVED INDIGO GIRLS” which is self-explanatorily everything.

Many of Glennon’s readers argued with her, many I’m sure abandoned her, but Glennon never wavered. I frequently cried reading her posts.

Here she was—the Christian sister I wished I had. She existed. She wasn’t mine exactly, but she was out there and she was fighting for people like me and still singing her heart out at Indigo Girls concerts.

I watched as other evangelical Christian women bloggers took up the LGBT compassion fight online—Rachel Held Evans, confessed doubter and thoughtful establishment dissenter, and then last year Jen Hatmaker, an evangelical superstar who had everything to lose by doing so and did indeed lose a lot. Glennon, Rachel, and Jen went even further and got intersectional. They came out for black and brown lives, for Muslims, and for refugees.

These women didn’t need to speak out about all of these issues. Their lives didn’t depend on it the way marginalized lives do. They could have kept quiet and raked in all the monies from the Christian Industrial Complex that richly rewards well-behaved Christian women bloggers. But well-behaved Christian women are rarely on the right side of history. Personally I’ve always felt more at home among the rebels, the troublemakers, and the outsiders. And if I remember correctly from my Methodist Sunday school lessons, Jesus did too.

Last year Glennon published a book about her struggle to save her marriage. The book ends with them together, but she announced shortly before she was to go on her book tour that she had separated from her husband. Talk about not staying quiet in order to prioritize raking in all the monies.

I read it fast, related so much to it, and it gave me new hope for my own non-Christian marriage, which is ten years old now and strained at times with all the things we’re all strained by—work, parenting, dreams deferred, etc.

Glennon writes in a way that’s so accessible and vulnerable and honest. I noticed that she made several comments about never liking sex. Eating disorder survivors often have trouble with intimacy, I reasoned, but what if Glennon just hadn’t figured it out yet. What if Glennon wasn’t just my dream chosen family, what if Glennon was my dream chosen family?

A few months later a friend who knows I love Abby Wambach and Glennon texted me that her friend heard at one of Glennon’s events that they were dating. It might be my all time most exciting text message I’ve ever gotten, but I couldn’t believe it at first. There was no corroborating information online yet. So I kept checking. And checking. And then there it was—Glennon and Abby cuddled up all over the Internets.

Glennon later shared that when she first told her ex-husband about Abby, he responded to the news with, “Holy shit. Is this what all the Indigo Girls was about?”

I laughed out loud.

It sent me sailing back through time to my freshman year in college when I finally admitted to one of my friends that there might be some truth to the joke, that I met this girl and I might really be their actual lesbian, and my dear, totally straight, totally unfazed friend just said, “Shocker.”

It was the best possible answer. Thank goodness I told her first. Twenty years later we’re still friends, my sister is still lost to me, and with a lot of help from a lot of badass women (some Christian, some not), I’m a lot closer to fine about that.

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