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Leah López, a lesbian married to a man, struggles to find a seat at the LGBTQ table 

Queer & There

I’m sitting next to my new friend Leah López, 36, and her yellow lab, Paisley, in Leah’s pickup truck as we drive up for a hike through Devil’s Canyon. She’s rocking a Patagonia hat, with an asymmetrical, shaved hairdo hiding underneath and a pair of Chacos on her feet.

After emailing back and forth for a number of months, we met in person for the first time at 9:30 last night. She picked me up on the side of Interstate 70, six miles from the Utah border. In spite of the relatively creepy nature of our first meeting, I feel safe and understood riding next to this stranger-made-friend. She’s one of those people with whom I find myself saying, “You think that too? I thought I was the only one!” I guess that’s the nature of a gay Christian finding solace in a lesbian Christian. There’s so much shared narrative.

But there’s one thing about Leah that bewilders me and challenges my own notions of sexuality — Leah, a self-identified lesbian, is married to a man.

Growing up in the church, Leah knew at a young age that she was attracted to women. But unlike a lot of lesbian Christians, she didn’t stay in the closet to stay in the church. Instead, she shared her attractions with her church’s pastor, hoping to educate him and the congregation on how they could be more loving to their LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

“One time,” Leah says, “the pastor shared a sermon saying, ‘just because you have attractions to the same sex, doesn’t mean you need to be super lesbian,’ referencing Chacos, Subaru Foresters, and yellow labs, as if those things made you more lesbian, and here I drove to church in my Subaru Forester, my yellow lab chillin’ out in the back, and walking into church in Chacos.”

It was shortly after coming out to the small church group she led that Leah faced a terrifying prospect — for the first time in her 30 years of existence, she was sexually attracted to a man. His name was Zay.

Four years later, they’re happily married, and now own a farm called the Produce Peddler in Mack, Colorado.
Most of the time, religious people enter into mixed-orientation marriages (where one partner has a different sexual orientation than the other), because of fear — fear of what people think or what God thinks. Such marriages actually aren’t uncommon. But Leah didn’t marry Zay out of fear, but out of love.

As our culture focuses on LGBTQ politics, from bakers refusing to make wedding cakes to California defining conversion therapy as fraudulent, Leah’s story can be uncomfortable. In fact, for Leah it’s uncomfortable.

She’s passionate about empowering her LGBTQ family, and recently thought about joining social causes in favor of LGBTQ advocacy. But she often feels like she “no longer belongs at the table.” As if her story undermines her identity.

Leah talks at length about how her journey is not the only correct one. This contradicts many anti-LGBTQ individuals who would use Leah’s story as ammo, suggesting that if she could fall in love with a man, any lesbian could. But that’s not what Leah believes.

“What was right for me may not be right for my two lesbian friends that own a pizza shop down the road,” she says. “And that’s OK.”

Leah firmly believes we all have our own stories to write, remaining true to the convictions inside each of us. One story is not greater than the other. They’re just different, and that doesn’t make us enemies. In fact, we can be powerful allies. We can work alongside each other, whether that’s marching together or pulling weeds side-by-side at the Produce Peddler.

But that raises a question — does Leah belong at the LGBTQ table? Where’s her place in the rainbow flag? In a world of either-or’s and this-or-that’s, it would be easy to assume that Leah is bisexual. We love our titles and labels because they help us engage with people with our coined assumptions. But when I ask if Leah is now attracted to men, she laughs and says no. “But I’m attracted to Zay.”

How do we label-makers compartmentalize and cut this up? Can we? Maybe and most importantly: Does our opinion matter?

Regardless of where our narratives end up, maybe we should remember that we’re all working toward the same thing. Speaking more to herself than to me, Leah asks the most important question: “But isn’t our fight ultimately to allow us to love who we love?”

To love who we love. Period.

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