In August, we bring a set of new full-time writers to the blog. Today, please welcome Tiffany Kajiwara (’22), who will be writing for us on the 16th of each month. Tiffany graduated from Calvin in 2022 with majors in literature and writing. Now, she continues to live in Grand Rapids and works at Baker Academic Publishing as a marketing assistant. In her free time, she enjoys crocheting, thrifting, and psychoanalyzing cartoon characters.
I had a hard time going to a church after realizing I was bisexual. When I visited my family, I’d watch my disappointed parents leave without me, and when I was at college, I’d wait for my friends to come back from their services and tell me how the elderly West Michigan churchgoers were so welcoming.
My roommates had been inviting me to go with them for months, but the first time I went was Calvin’s Easter service. I didn’t particularly want to go, but it was Easter, and Pastor Mary was preaching, and all of them were going, and the weather was absolutely perfect, and I was perfectly out of excuses.
We sat on the Seminary Pond lawn, the hill of which acted like an amphitheater. My roommates and I sat towards the back, so we looked over the heads of the other students towards the worship leaders.
This was about a month after the now infamous “table incident,” when students set up a tablecloth that read, “LGBTQ IS SIN. THE BIBLE SAYS. Change my mind.” Students leapt into debates in the newspaper’s op-ed section. Before then, I had never heard the explicit reasons why people believed that (as one student wrote) “homosexuality…is fatal if not repented of,” nor had I heard people defend those beliefs with such vehemence.
One of the article authors used to be a friend of mine. In response to another writer, he said that he cared deeply for his queer best friend, yet still believed in one-man one-woman marriage. His traditional views didn’t mean that he cared any less for queer people, he wrote.
He was one of the first people I came out to, actually. During our weekly lunch, I told him that I thought that I was in love with my female best friend. I was so confused, I said between bites of my spinach wrap, but also excited to have these feelings for someone that was so kind.
He wouldn’t look at me, then he sighed. After a long, breathless moment, he said, “It’ll pass. Don’t give too much credit to this…feeling. It’ll pass.”
Thinking about how understanding he was with his queer best friend, I asked if he felt that way about her too.
He nodded slowly.
“Since when?” I asked.
He didn’t hesitate. “I always have.”
He wasn’t the only person to react strangely to my coming out. Upon hearing my coming out, three of my friends told me that they thought of homosexuality as sin. I don’t talk about my bisexuality around a few of my other friends because they always fall silent and smile tensely. Someone in my family cautioned me against demonic influence. While I don’t expect everyone to be fully affirming, it took two years before someone Christian responded to my coming out with anything but caution and judgment. I didn’t question if they still loved me; I questioned whether they thought I belonged in the house of God and if I would stay. Through this time, the people who loved me most had the most power to make me feel alone. I learned that love is not the same thing as welcome, and sometimes love is not enough.
So I didn’t pay much attention during the Easter service. Sitting in the cool grass during the first service in a year, my doubts formed into a question: why would I choose a community that continually rejects me?
Pastor Mary preached with an unnatural conviction. I sat still, hoping my roommates wouldn’t look at my eyes. My jaw unclenched, and my racing thoughts turned more towards quiet meditation. Despite the heaviness of the question repeating in my mind, I felt some relief in the asking of it. Even while I sat with my uncertainties, naming it felt like first light.
My answer came as suddenly as the question. The first goal of going to church isn’t about community—it’s about getting to know God. I had to go to church for my relationship with God and in spite of my relationships with other Christians.
This isn’t the answer for everyone. I understand why other people have left. Since I made that decision, I’ve also been lucky enough to meet Christians who have made me feel loved, and other people haven’t had that support. This also feels like a half answer, a concession made until I feel the divine welcome in the New Earth.
I’m not sure I’ll ever feel entirely welcome in a church. I attended a service in an explicitly affirming church, and I couldn’t bring myself to believe that I was wanted. But that Easter Sunday, I left the lawn with some peace thinking that regardless of what other people think about the way I love, someday I will be home, loved and welcome, forever.
Tiffany Kajiwara graduated from Calvin in 2022 with majors in literature and writing. Now, she continues to live in Grand Rapids and works at Baker Academic Publishing as a marketing assistant. In her free time, she enjoys crocheting, thrifting, and psychoanalyzing cartoon characters.