Growing up, I didn't really like saying the pre-dinner blessing: it seemed a chore, like being asked to clean up after the dog or brush my teeth before bed. There was always a bit of unspoken competition between my brother and me, in which we would both slouch as low as possible to avoid being called on to say the prayer.
A few years later, I hesitantly came out of the closet. After many tears and arguments, my parents and I reached an uneasy peace that has held more or less steady for the last five years. But a funny thing happened in 2003 after I came out: I was no longer asked to pray at the dinner table. These days, when my family gathers, either my brother or my father blesses the food. The prayers I did not want to say are now the prayers I am not allowed to say. My mother and sister have always been silent. And now I am, too.
It was this experience, this loss of status, more than any other in my life, that taught me about the silence of women in the Church of Christ. I am not a woman, and the experiences of Church of Christ women are different than this gay man's, though I think our experiences run parallel. But I understand now what it is like to be told your voice is not welcome. I understand the power of exclusion.
I have never heard my sister pray. I hope one day I will.