I am Denise Donnell. I am an ordained elder in the Mississippi Conference in the United Methodist Church. I have been a member of the clergy for the last eight years of my life.
I wish I could tell you that I have always been a friend of the LGBT community, but that is not my truth.
And thou shalt not lie, right? Actually, it was a transgender person named Derek who the Holy Spirit used to transform my life. Derek asked me one simple question: "Denise, when did you decide to become heterosexual?" From that day to this one, I have not been able to answer that question—just like Derek cannot answer the question of when he decided to be transgender. That's because it wasn't a choice for either of us. It just is. We just are. We are who we are thanks be to God.
I never forgot that conversation. I held it in my heart and pondered it. Fourteen years later, a former boss of mine asked me to consider applying for this job as faith organizer in the state of Mississippi for the Human Rights Campaign. Before the request could leave his lips, my soul reached out and grabbed the words.
There was nothing to consider. The voice of the Lord was clear. For me, there is no voice louder than the voice of my soul. I knew—that I knew—that I knew—I was called to this work.
The first question my Christian friends ask me is how can I reconcile my work as a biblical scholar with supporting the LGBT community.
I tell each of them that I do this work because of my faith. A long time ago, I fell in love with Jesus. It was the best decision I ever made. Now that He is at work way down deep within me, I'm privileged to fight the good fight of faith against injustice wherever it rears its ugly head, specifically in the LGBT community.
So on this day, I come out of the closet boldly as a straight ally, and I am not ashamed. I know there are others out there who feel the same way I do. The time is now. This is the season. God is calling us forth for such a time as this to come out of the closet and proclaim to the world that equality for all is not a far off dream; it is possible right now but only with your help.
That’s why working as an HRC Mississippi faith organizer is so important to me. I want to make sure all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have equal opportunities of the law. Mississippi has no statewide non-discrimination protections in housing, workplace, or public accommodations.
I am working to expand hearts and minds, advance enduring legal protections and build more inclusive institutions across the state.
We need you. Join us today.