I’ll miss Betty the most.
When I showed her my photo in Attitude magazine, she smiled and wanted to buy her own copy. When I told her I’m gay a few months later, she cheerily said ‘good for you, do what you want.’ When we waited for communion this morning, she asked if there’d be toasted teacakes.
Betty is 97, the minister’s mother-in-law living in a humble vicarage with three more generations of her family. Two weeks ago she was in a wheelchair. Now she’s back on her feet because ‘you either use them or lose them’. We sit together after church services. Her daughter and my Mum bring us tea and a biccy.
It’s Betty, Eileen, and Stella and those already ‘promoted to glory’ (Joan, Elizabeth and Angela) who keep me coming back to the local church. It’s a place where at best homosexuality and your part in ‘God’s plan’ is ignored, at worst condemns you to hell. Even in inclusive churches, institutional homophobia looms large. Just look at today’s news that the exceptional Rev Andrew Foreshaw-Cain has resigned as a parish priest, because he is married to a man.
Whether Betty remembers I’m gay or not, she wants and wishes only the best for me. These stalwart women of the church have loved and fostered me. ‘I hope you’ll be a blessing to your new housemates’ said Mary-Ann after communion. I’m unsure about my blessings and my faith at the moment, but the sentiment will carry me forward.
For tomorrow, I’m moving from Southend to Dalston. A year back at home with Mum wasn’t planned though my soul has recharged through seafront runs, baking and blogging. It’s the year I fully accepted and celebrated my queerness. Now’s the time to go live it as an East London gay.
Betty I hope, and yes, pray, will be there with her tea and biccy when I next visit church in a few months. We’ll chat and smile, discuss the weather through the window and above all, care and love each other in our fellowship. I’ll do Betty proud in Dalston, because I’m doing me.