By Robert Renix, Alliance President
Whenever I think about a coming out story, I immediately respond that I don’t have one. Big Mama said that I was “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I understood her love and affirmation to mean all of who I was, and all of who I am was loved by God. There were no labels to apply to me as right or wrong. I was who God created me to be—Robert. The concepts of labels, being in the closet, being gay, and being damned, were all foreign to me. I was, and still am, fearfully and wonderfully made. Big Mama told me often, “and don’t let nobody tell you different.”
I grew up in Memphis, TN, referred to as the “Deep South” and the “Buckle of the Bible Belt.” Growing up in the Bible Belt was a unique experience. Church was my social network, community outlet, and the one place where I felt I belonged. Sexuality was not a prominent theme in church, school, or home. However, mom did give me books about the birds and bees (more on that later).
I remember watching comedian Flip Wilson who portrayed the sassy character “Geraldine.” She made me laugh a lot. I assumed Flip Wilson was gay even though I learned years later he was not. Why? Because I understood gay as a man in drag due to my exposure in the community and media that had led me to assume that being gay equated to femininity. At the same time, there were no visible examples of masculine gay men.
Another facet of life in the Bible Belt was no one talked about sexuality. I had girlfriends growing up, which never felt odd. Instead, dating was the thing to do. Mind you, sex was off the table. Remember, I read books on the birds and bees. I knew where babies came from. So why don’t I have a coming out story? Because I was never in.
I was taught that I was “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I was raised to be who I am. I learned to be the best me I can be. I was taught that I can do anything, even if it takes a little while to get it done. I understood that “I can’t” is not in my family’s vocabulary. These learnings translated to an emerging of who I was (and am) as a person, a Black Gay Man. Black has always been paramount. I was aware of my Blackness as a child. My parents made sure I was aware that I was Black for fear of the racism in the not-so-long-ago segregated southern city where Rev. Dr. King was assassinated. I had to know I was Black due to the ongoing white supremacy and racism that persisted in the late 60s and early 70s, and still today.
God has always been my companion in life. I have had a real relationship with God in Christ for as long as I can remember. So between Big Mama and God, being gay was not a concern.
My Coming Into story is my coming into the fullness, the beauty, the love of God, and the God-given potential of who I am as God, the great I AM, created me to be. I am unapologetically a Black Gay Man. I am unapologetically a Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And I am coming into being the first Black Gay President of the Alliance of Baptists, which humbles me daily. A new journey of Coming Into being fearfully and wonderfully made.
Be Blessed, Because You Are!