Speaker Brit Barron on using truth to empower authentic connection — and our unique greatness.
– KEYS SOULCARE
Speaker, teacher, and author Brit Barron spent the first part of her life rising through the ranks as a pastor and member of an evangelical megachurch. The brave choice to share that she was not only gay, but in love with her now-partner, Sami, put the life, career, and relationship “success” she’d known in jeopardy. However, boldly reclaiming her life ultimately led to a sense of self, service, and personal freedom she never thought possible. Her recently published memoir, Worth It, is a testament to stepping out of the molds that others impose onto us… and into our greatest stories yet.
Here’s our chat about the much-needed convos and connections her work continues to spark, and how it’s reflected in her own life, too.
What has your personal story arc taught you about connection and authenticity?
I grew up with this background idea, whether it was spoken or unspoken, that showing my truest self would actually inhibit connection; that people would leave or wouldn’t stick by me. I think a lot of us have picked up some sort of that narrative in our lives. Growing up in the church, in my case, it was spoken outright. Like, literally, “You’re not a good person unless you do these things,” one of which was not to be gay.
An old, close friend of mine says, “Once a pastor, always a pastor.” And, one of the things that I have been saying to myself recently is that what’s true has always [been], and will always be, true. It will evolve, and so will I. I’ve always wanted to connect with people, inspire people, be positive and optimistic, and have good conversations. That’s still true.
I’ve found that the more you’re willing to stand on a stage and say, “I don’t know,” rather than saying “I have all the answers,” the more inspiring that is. People want to hear you say, “I’m struggling, and isn’t that beautiful that we get to experience this together and we’re actually not alone?”
How has your connection to yourself shifted as a result?
I will always be working on connecting with myself. When my wife and I were in the closet, we’d always be like, “What are we going to do when we come out and can just be us?! What else might occupy our brains when we’re not thinking about if we should both be wearing Birkenstocks or be affectionate, or anything…”
Today, I can get to know myself inside, and experience this physical reality for once. And so, I say to myself, “Let’s just keep connecting.” It’s a journey, but I love it.
Stepping outside of your own story, how does all of that relate to the idea of community?
In the most basic sense, it’s about acknowledging the reality that we’re not alone. It can happen in both superficial and meaningful ways — from moments on Instagram connecting with someone about having curly hair to having conversations about identity. It’s a connection all the same.
You’re also doing anti-racism work and teaching. Can you share more about that?
I’m a person of color [who] grew up in predominantly white spaces for a lot of my life. It’s not people of color’s job to explain racism to white people in the slightest. But, as a person [who is] well-versed in that language, I do choose to actively engage in that conversation because my life experience has allowed for that bridge. I always say that the work I do has only one objective and outcome, and that is to set people on a path of continued education.
There’s also the humanity piece to holding others accountable to that need to continue beyond, on their own — and then building authentic learning around that foundation.
Yeah, there’s a sociologist I love [who] talks about how everyone needs both bonding circles and bridging circles. A bridging circle is where I might have these conversations with people who are at the beginning stages [of anti-racism learnings] and grew up in white communities. With them, I’m trying to build a bridge.
And if you have a bridging circle, you also need bonding circles. For instance, it’s very important for me to have spaces in my life where I’m not there to explain queerness or explain racism. Places where you get that this is me, these are my friends, and this is my wife. It’s really important to know when you are in a bonding circle or bridging circle, and to make sure that you allow yourself to have moments where you’re aware that one part is your life and another may be your work. In other words, if I don’t have that bonding circle, I’m not going to build any bridges worth crossing.
What rituals have helped you stay connected to friends and loved ones over the last year in particular?
So many. I don’t even think I’d have this many if I didn’t have a Zoom account! Now, friends who live in other states feel as accessible as friends who live down the street. It’s nice when you realize that you can stay connected with video chats as much as planned trips.
I’ve [also] done things like ritualize phone calls to certain loved ones at certain times. When I go to the grocery store, I call my sister, which is a thing I started. Sometimes she’s available, and sometimes she’s not — I know at least like a couple of times a week, we’ll get to chat. It’s a regular thing that feels so special now. I’ll always grocery shop at some point, which means I’ll always connect with her.
Another comes from the feeling that every one of our friends is moving. Some of our best friends just moved to L.A. from here [in Austin]. We’d initially Facetime a bunch, but now we send each other postcards. Old-school mail is so fun to get and it costs 25 cents to make it happen, while also making someone’s day.
Do you have any things that you’re looking forward to as we look to times when we can connect in person?
I have a very specific vision of being at an in-person dinner that could last for, like, five hours… and no one notices. I miss that feeling of losing time and space, and just having great wine and conversation. I’m really looking forward to getting lost in moments like that again.
What’s your highest vision for the work that you’re doing right now?
To be a part of creating conversations that allow for nuance, and getting to that place with race, spirituality, gender, sexuality, economics… and just humanity. When nuance is allowed and experienced in conversations, they can be more productive, inclusive, [full], and valuable for folks.
And then for you?
My wife and I talk about this all the time. We say that we’ll have “made it in life” when we we’re able to walk into any room and be completely ourselves. So I’m still working on that.