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Denise Miller (they/them/theirs) is an English and Creative Writing Professor at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. They intersect the societal rules of religion and sexuality. They share that their faith in God, regardless of how many times their sexuality was called a “sin,” is unwavering.
“…GENDER IDENTITY HAS BEEN MORE OF A CHALLENGE…”
Growing up in a small, predominantly white town in Ohio, Miller knew they were always attracted to women. Miller is queer, and shares that their identity was always fluid. Though, they note, they always felt more masculine than the feminine body they were born with.
Before starting high school, Miller’s sister and step-sister pulled them into the bathroom. Their sisters started curling their hair, saying, “It’s time for you to show up like a girl.” This caused an internal battle for Miller, as they didn’t feel that being feminine-appearing was an accurate reflection of who they truly were. But ultimately, they agreed. They were concerned that starting high school wearing baseball hats and with their athletic build would cause their classmates to think they wanted to be a boy.
This concern caused Miller to really water down the full range of who they truly were. Miller shares, “Gender identity has been more of a challenge in my life than my sexuality.”
CHANGE NEVER CAME
This challenge came to the forefront in Miller’s life as their great-grandmother, who raised them in the church, became ill. When people would tell them that their sexuality was a sin, they would pray, “If that’s true God, change me.” Miller recalls praying to God, “If this isn’t who I should be, then shift me.” Change never came.
Then one day, Miller was agonizing over their great-grandmother’s health, as she couldn’t walk or take care of herself any longer. Miller heard the voice of God say to them, “She’ll be walking by morning.” And she was.
Miller had faith that the Lord would deliver on His promises. In this moment, they knew that God would change them if this wasn’t who they were meant to be. Because their identity and sexuality hadn’t changed, Miller was further solidified in who they were, and became more confident.
“IF YOU’RE HAPPY, I’M HAPPY”
After this experience, Miller wanted to be out. They share, “I couldn’t be in a space of shame surrounding who I was anymore, and by hiding, I was doing just that.”
When Miller came out to their dad, his response was, “Let’s see what God has to say about this.” A lot of time elapsed after the conversation, and the road was paved with challenges. One day though, Miller was spending time with their partner and Miller’s dad. He looked at them and said, “You’re really happy, aren’t you? She really makes you happy, doesn’t she? If you’re happy, I’m happy.”
ADVICE FOR YOUR YOUNGER SELF
We asked Miller what advice they would give their younger self. They shared, “Trust your heart, your self, your intuition, and your relationship with God.” Miller reflects that spending so much of their life fighting with their self-narrative only harmed them, no one else.