Fall 2008 – Spring 2009
I smiled at my paper as I sketched. I think Bentley the Bug is finally starting to show himself. I often struggled to translate what was inside my head through my pencil, but the moments when it clicked were wonderful. “How’s this, Anna?” I held my drawing up for her to see. She was sketching beside me in our fourth-year animation studio on campus. The room was full of nervous excitement, largely fueled by energy drinks.
She smiled. “Ooh, cute, Stace! He’s going to be so fun to animate!”
We were a couple months into our final year, and I was working on the character designs for my thesis film. I had been stressing over what to do ever since my first week at Sheridan, when they had told us that everything hinged on our films. If they were done well, it could mean a ticket to a job.
The idea for my film had come to me from a story I heard while with my grandparents. When I was growing up, they had a small cottage near Kenora, Ontario, not far from Winnipeg. Even now, it was still one of my most favorite places on earth. I loved the sweet smell of the trees, the wind on my face in my grandpa’s boat, the bouncy, affectionate laughter of my grandma when Grandpa made a lame joke. Their cottage was tiny, but always cozy, and filled with the glorious smells of Grandma’s cooking.
One day we had been in the little living room, Grandma rocking in her creaky chair and Grandpa engrossed in his book about war planes. A friend of theirs dropped by and told us about growing up on a farm. He said he used to play violin, and his favorite place to practice was up in the barn loft. That was a stunning visual to me.
Now I was attempting to translate it into my thesis film entitled Tah-Dah. Farmer Henry is in his barn loft, trying to play the cello. He’s having trouble hitting the right notes, and they fall flat to the ground. A small bug named Bentley, also living in the loft, decides to help Henry, and they make beautiful music together.
That is—they would, if I could design all the characters, props, and backgrounds, animate and paint everything, and finish on time. Cue anxiety.
My mind boarded an express train for Stress Land at the sheer thought of the amount of work ahead of me.
I wish I could call Tams. She always calms me down.
Since I had seen her at Cody’s wedding a couple months ago, we hadn’t talked. I needed space to focus on my film, and I knew she was still heartbroken over how I had ended things. I was living pretty permanently in my shell of numbness now to protect myself from feeling. Talking to her would be too hard.
“So, Stacey, do you think you are responsible for your parents’ happiness?” asked Kathy, the counselor sitting across from me in her office on the Sheridan campus. She was young and had a casual way about her, which relaxed me. The rising stress of working on my film had poked holes through my numbness shell. I needed to talk to a professional who didn’t know me, and this time I didn’t care if they were a Christian.
I looked around the room and realized that Kathy’s question was a hard one for me to answer. I took a deep breath. “No, I don’t think so. But I definitely try to do my best to make them happy. I don’t think they could handle two gay kids. I know they think it’s wrong, and I always try to do the right thing.”
“Do you think it’s wrong?” She asked that question so easily.
I paused. “I don’t know, I’m still working on that. I have spent twelve years now trying to answer that question. I broke up with someone recently because I couldn’t ask myself that anymore.”
“Well, I just want to remind you it’s not up to you to make your parents happy. You have to figure out what’s right for you. It’s not about them.” She was good at making it feel like we were just friends talking. “As for the relationship you ended recently, were there big reasons why it wasn’t working? Were you not well matched? Did you not love each other?”
I was struck at how matter-of-fact these questions were without God and faith in the equation. Not that I wanted to exclude God, but it helped me see things from a new angle.
“No, we love each other. We supported each other; we were well matched. I was just tired of the battle inside myself. I don’t know if I will ever believe that being gay is okay.” I was so tired of even talking about this cycle.
“Sometimes it’s good to remember that life is short. It’s easy to let fear rule our life if we let it. Make sure you aren’t letting go of something just out of fear.”
That’s really good advice. I was really going to have to think about that.
I can never get this stupid sheet to fit.
As I stretched the fitted sheet across my mattress, the opposite side popped off. This shouldn’t have infuriated me so much, but rage burned in my chest. I went to fix the other side, and again it popped off a corner. That’s it. I ripped the sheet off in anger and threw it across the room.
Frustration had been building in my body for so long, and I needed a release. I pounded my fists onto the mattress. I pounded until I couldn’t pound anymore. Then I turned and flopped down on the bare mattress, exhaling loudly. This happened a lot. When things got really hard, I avoided feeling them and they came out in random moments, like trying to make the bed.
I was so tired. I was so angry. I was so done. I wanted to move forward in some direction, and I was so mad at myself for hurting Tams.
I decided to call her.
I dialed her number and took a deep breath.
“Hey,” she answered, having seen my name on her phone. She sounded distant.
“Hey, Tams. I’m sorry. I’m just so frustrated right now, I wanted to call you.”
A beat of silence. “Well, what do you want me to do about it? We haven’t talked in, like, two and a half months.”
She’s still really hurt. Can I blame her?
“Yeah. Sorry,” I said quietly.
I shouldn’t have called. Now I felt worse.
“Look, Stace, I’m sorry you’re frustrated, but I’m not the one to help you now.” Tams sounded exhausted.
She was right. We weren’t together, and I had really hurt her. This back-and-forth with us wasn’t fair to her after all these years. She deserves more.
I can’t keep doing this to her. I couldn’t turn to her for comfort now. Damn, this sucks.
“I’m sorry. I hope you’re doing okay. I’ll talk to you later,” I said.
After she hung up, I sat there, noticing that the anger in my body had evaporated. I just felt deeply sad. I missed her. I missed us.
Kathy’s words floated up in my mind like an air bubble. Make sure you aren’t letting go of something just out of fear.
Am I letting fear rule my life?
I sat there for a moment and thought about how I felt so much frustration at myself. I screwed this up, us up, big time. And for what? Life is so short. How could I let this go? After these couple months on my own, I realized how much I profoundly missed her. Could we get back together? Would she let me in again?
If Tams and I were going to have another shot, I needed to talk to her in person. I was heading home for Christmas break in a couple weeks; maybe we could talk then.
I decided to do something bold, to hopefully open the door for this conversation when I went to visit. I ordered Tams’s favorite flowers: two dozen pink, white, and red roses to be delivered to her. On the enclosed note, I wrote:
Tams, I’m so sorry. I don’t know the future, but I know you feel like home to me.
As I walked up the steps of Tams’s little house, my heart pounded. I had no idea how this would go.
I knocked on her front door and blew warm air into my hands. It was a frigid winter evening, and Christmas lights twinkled on the houses around me. Christmas had always been my favorite time of year, but right now, I couldn’t care less about the season. I was hoping that if I explained how sorry I was, then maybe Tams and I could have another chance to be together.
She opened her door, a little smile forming on her lips. It was the same familiar smile I had known for so long, but it was tinged with sadness. I was glad she had at least agreed to talk with me.
“Hey.” I smiled and gave a small wave.
“Hey, Stace, come in.” Tams pulled the door open wider for me, and the warmth of her house welcomed me. As we settled in her living room with fresh cups of coffee, I immediately felt comfort wrap around my nervousness. I took a deep breath and dove in.
“So, you liked your flowers?” I gestured towards a bouquet of flowers on a nearby table.
She blushed slightly as she looked over at them. “Yeah, I did. Thank you.”
“Tams, I’m so sorry for hurting you. I made some really bad choices because I felt totally overwhelmed and I shut down. Can you forgive me?” I pulled at the hem of my sweater to try to find my courage. “I still don’t know if I can be gay and Christian. But I know I love you. I am wondering if you are willing to give us another chance.”
I looked into her eyes and waited. It wasn’t long before her dimples gave her away.
She took a deep breath. “Yes. Stace, I forgive you. You know I love you. But are you sure about this?”
“All I know is I want to move forward with you, and I am trusting the rest to work itself out. It’s not going to be easy, but I don’t see my life without you,” I said.
She smiled. “Okay, then, let’s do it.”
I set down my coffee, stood up, and walked the few steps over to Tams. Taking her hands, I pulled her into a big hug that filled my body with relief. When we kissed, the spinning in my chest broke through the shell of numbness.
The battle inside still tugged on my heart for attention. My struggle was not over yet. I let Tams’s love wash over me, but fought to fully embrace it.
Jesus, am I truly gay? I want to make peace with myself and with you. I don’t want these questions to haunt me forever. I want to be at peace with who I am, and not feel guilt or sadness. Jesus, I want kids. I want a marriage. Can I have that with Tams? Can I truly have that with her? Is this what you want for me?
I held my breath as the familiar music began, and my beloved bug, Bentley, filled the screen in the large auditorium.
For the past eight months I had worked so incredibly hard on the special two minutes of film now unfolding before our senior class. We were holding a screening of all the fourth-year films, and I was so proud of what all my classmates had created. The talent that surrounded me in this room was astounding.
Anna was sitting beside me and tapped me excitedly on the shoulder. “Ohhhh, there it is, Stace! Turned out soooo great!” She leaned in front of me to address Tams, who was on my other side. “Tams, don’t you agree?”
Tams had come back to Ontario with me after Christmas break and walked the home stretch of this Sheridan road beside me. She had even helped color some of my frames of animation in the last few scrambling days.
I couldn’t help but smile widely at the finished product. My film, Tah-Dah! It wasn’t perfect, but I had done it. I had finished. I was proud of completing something so enormous.
“Thanks, Anna. Yours is coming up soon!” I said.
Tams squeezed my knee quickly and leaned in to whisper, “So great, babe. It’s finished. So proud of you!”
Throughout the last few months, Tams and I had gently massaged the delicate parts of our relationship and nursed them back to life. I knew this had only been possible because our relationship had been built on such a solid foundation of friendship in the first place.
And yet . . .
Now that my Sheridan journey was coming to a close, the anarchy inside of me threatened to burst out again. I knew I loved Tams and was committed to her, that part felt settled and sure. But what about my faith? How did God actually fit in? I had been asking God to change me for years now. I never dared to ask him to bless my sexuality because I never believed he would. I was terrified of what would happen if I asked him to bless something that everyone said was so sinful . . . Every pastor I emailed, every book or article I found on homosexuality and Christianity . . . they all said the same thing in the end. “God loves you BUT . . . you are an abomination for loving a woman. Sorry, it says so in the Bible. You have to choose one.” The Bible verses I had memorized since childhood felt like a trap. My faith in Jesus should be setting me free, shouldn’t it? Not weighing me down and preventing me from truly living.
It was time to go there. I needed to address this final question once and for all:
Can I be both gay and Christian?
Jesus, I feel lost—truly lost. I need you to intervene. Only you know the true depths of my heart, the questions I continually ask myself about my sexuality, my future. Why is it so foggy to my mind and heart? Why can’t I see clearly? Jesus, bring me to a place where I can see your truth and purpose for me.
This is an excerpt from Still Stace chapters 23–25.