I feel like I'm coming out of the closet again.  It's actually striking how similar this is to when I started admitting I was gay.  Here and there I would talk about "if" i were gay, or how maybe I'm bisexual.  I would hook up with someone and then rant against homosexuality in Friends Journal or in meeting.  Then I came out, blew the doors off the wall and no Quaker meeting in Greensboro was prepared. Though off topic, I think Friends meetings should very much consider how to be there for people when they are coming out of the closet, particularly those Friends who have grown up with a conservative ideology or in a conservative Christian meeting.  Suffice it to say, I have vascillated my entire life between my call to gospel ministry and gay pop culture.  And then, this weekend, I was hit by the holy spirit in meeting.  I couldn't handle what had happened, and tried to run the other way quickly thereafter.  Monday I was at work and couldn't concentrate.  I don't know why I went to Quaker Jane's website, but I did. I read the "women's reasons for going plain" and it confirmed years of "ideas" and "notions" that had crept into my mind when I would actually entertain the idea of going plain.


You see, after 21 years of being out of the closet, I can no longer live in the gay pop culture world. This life is, literally, killing me. It's killing my soul and my body has taken enough hits.  The wages of sin are death.  This I know experientially and experimentally.  I have directly or indirectly broken at some point in my life each of the ten commandments.  I have lived a life that is, in essence, an abomination / unclean. Before any of my friends think that I"m going ex-gay, think again. God spoke to me when I first came out in the rose garden by Hobbs Hall at Guilford.  I know being gay and being in a relationship with a man seemingly runs counter to scripture. Some would make the same argument of women as elders and ministers, of not being Kosher, etc.  That's for another post as well.  No, my life has been that life of resistance and obedience to God.  Of  one GIANT leap back every time I go forward. Well, now it's time for a HUMONGOUS leap forward.


I need the hedge.  You see, it's not a wall.  So many people, mostly Quakers actually, have counseled me against going plain.  The reasons varied. One my dad raised which was "it seems that early Friends wanted to not draw attention to themselves, but rather did not want to participate in the vain fashions of this world.  It's not about a constume, but a lifestyle.  I would agree.  I don't know what plain will look like for me. I live downtown in Baltimore.  I do yoga. I go to the beach every summer.  I like to sit outside  in the summer heat.  How I dress will need to be practical.  It seems that many plain folk live in the burbs or rural areas and those who live in the cities adopt such attire.  I've been examining pictures of plain Friends from London and Baltimore who look nothing like the plain Friends today who model themselves after Rural Mennonites. However, again, I need the hedge.  There are places that I can't and won't go if I am plain. There are activities that I can't and won't do if  I am plain.  And there are people in my world who can't and won't accept me because I am plain. Friends, that is a good thing.  I'm not trying to draw attention to myself. I'm being led to put up some shrubbery between me and my neighbors.  Through conversation perhaps we can find a way to talk, and perhaps they will find welcome in my yard as they come to know my soul.  But until then, there is that which will provide a barrier over which we can talk, yet provide enough distance that protects me from, well, myself and sometimes, certainly, them.  This is my reality.  It's unfortunate, but living a life of sin, living so fully in the world sometimes requires protection.  I need the hedge.


There are other goals that I've tried to attain as well.  I want to buy fair-trade clothing. I want to simplify my life. I want to divert attention from "looking good" to "being faithful and therefore being good."  That goodness can't come from my actions, not even just by changing how I dress and live, if those changes are not Spirit-led.  But I also know the 12-step slogan "fake it till you make it."  I do not claim just by going plain that I will achieve the spiritual state that I so desire, and I do not attempt to say that this will be for life.  No, Friends, this is about obedience.  I know my condition.  I know my state.  I know that everything that I have tried has failed. My will, my ideas, my plans have led to nothing.  Here I must yield completely. 


I'm scared to death.  It feels so lonely.  CW, my partner,  was serious when he said that he would support me in my transition.  Then he noted how it sounded like I was going through gender-reassignment. Then he noted that considering our world, it is radical, and  it is a transition, and it won't be accepted and people don't understand.  Many won't want to understand.  I'm lucky to have my parents' support, and my partner's.  I am hoping that those of you who have chosen to go plain, especially those of you who are urban dwellers, can help out here.  Certainly I know many of you understand the call to obedience, and maybe some having walked a darker path before finally making yielding to something that was seemingly a huge step for you.  I welcome all prayerful thoughts and sharing.


In that precious saving Light of Christ,



Views: 1765

Comment by catherine shaw shanley on 11th mo. 8, 2011 at 6:59pm

I agree with Bridget...we are called to plain dress  because we need it! Whether we are brave enough to answer the call is another matter. I think your letter was beautiful.... and I wish you much joy in your journey.

Comment by Mackenzie on 12th mo. 5, 2011 at 12:57pm

(Urban DC person here)

My boyfriend dresses in a way that I consider to be the guy-equivalent of what Quaker Jane calls "modern plain".  He has 8 pairs of black trousers (the 8th to be worn when laundering the other 7), 8 button-up shirts in solid colors, and 4 black vests/waistcoats (2 days of wear each), along with a broad-brimmed black hat (really he has two of these: his 10 year old everyday one and the one I bought him from an Amish hatmaker to replace it that he has declared too lovely to be used every day and so reserves for weddings). If he needs a coat, it's a long black trenchcoat.

It's different enough that with hat & trenchcoat there is debate among onlookers about whether he is in costume as Zorro, Harry Dresden, or Van Helsing.   It's also "normal" enough that he can wear it to his job on Capitol Hill with no problems.

Comment by Mackenzie on 12th mo. 5, 2011 at 1:09pm

BTW, that my boyfriend does not wear a tie (considering it frippery) makes him unusual on the Hill. He says the waistcoat has a practical use (makes everything fit his body better without having to buy expensive "fitted" shirts or spend on a tailor's services), but nowadays a tie is just an adornment (as opposed to when cravats and such were used to protect the shirt).

Comment by Paula Roberts on 12th mo. 8, 2012 at 11:03am


Your journey sounds so familiar to me. For me I was trying to carefully tread between being Plain and seeming to be a poser to the many Plain communities I'm surrounded by. I didn't want to look like I was trying to be Mennonite, or Amish, or Brethren, but I did want to express my journey.  I started off with scarves, went to a gathered cap, came back to scarves (Jewish Tichel) and then settled on snoods. It's interesting that now, on the rare occasion I wear a scarf I feel very strongly that I am giving the wrong message, or not witnessing the way I am supposed to.  At the moment I am well settled on the snood http://katiesmercantile.com/bonnets_snood.html with my hair braided within.  Even when I am riding my horse and am wearing breeches (I have no other trousers) I am wearing my snood (see my profile picture).

I am wondering whether you must also settle on your style of Plain and your witness?  For example, if you wish to cover your head and find the hat uncomfortable maybe you should consider something like a Kufi?  http://www.garbgallery.com/Store/Product/399.aspx  

Kufi are modest and plain, witness your belief, and are universally worn for similar reasons.

Anyway, Kufi aside, perhaps you must simply settle on your own uniform?

Paula (I am often in Frederick, MD so if you wanted to talk more you should feel free to contact me).

Comment by Kevin-Douglas Olive on 7th mo. 24, 2013 at 12:33am

How hard it is to be faithful when one does things on one's own. I did not live up to this testimony, and abandoned all effort.  I'm now at a place where each day is just an attempt to be faithful and yield in whatever way God will have me do so.

Comment by catherine shaw shanley on 1st mo. 10, 2014 at 4:55pm
Kevin-Douglas, I just want you to know that I thought your original post was beautiful and inspiring. Blessings on your journey!


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