Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples
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Couples Chronicles — Interview 10
Living Together Forever
First published in December 1987
© 1999, Demian


Chris Pasinski, 34, and Nancy Smiegowski, 26, have been friends for over three years and live-in partners for more than a year. Both share similar spiritual aspirations, as well as social and economic backgrounds. They live in Chicago where both work at the same social service agency, and both are scholarship students at the Chicago Theological Seminary, where they are pursuing Masters in Divinity degrees. They are preparing to be student clergy in the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). Chris is one of four coordinators at the agency and a therapist in private practice. Nancy is the agency’s administrative assistant.


How did you first meet?

Nancy: I was a Roman Catholic nun working at the same soup kitchen as Chris, who was a social worker. I was studying to be a social worker while in the convent.

During the process of discovering my sexuality, I found myself attracted to Chris. Previously, I had relationships in the religious community that were deep and intimate, though not yet sexual. They were helping me come out, leading me toward realizing I was a lesbian.

Chris: In some ways it was very scary. I was attracted to a nun! I’d been out for years, but I felt vulnerable and struggled during that initial year coming out to Nancy, sharing that piece of me.

I waited long enough into our friendship until I felt it was safe. I had a sense that Nancy was struggling with that issue too, that she was attracted to me in a way that she couldn’t describe.


Had you been in relationships before?

Chris: Yes, many. I’ve been out since I was 19.

Nancy: I was engaged prior to my six years in the convent. As a Roman Catholic with a deep sense of a ministry calling, the convent was the only option open to me. In those last couple of years, I began to come out to myself, family and friends.


How did your family respond to your coming out?

Nancy: My father refers to Chris as my “partner.” My parents are very conservative, old-fashioned and traditional Europeans. I think they struggle with my identity and role, but their relationship to their daughter and to her significant other are more important to them than the stereotypes around gay lifestyle. There’s an acceptance, a sense of comfort and security.

Chris: My family has known about me a long time and we have been coming out together, exploring what sexuality is and how my sexuality effected a change in my relationship with them. There were several years of unrest with my family, times when we did not share holidays together. It was not comfortable.

My relationship with them right now is very comfortable. We have come through a number of crises and good times. Part of why that has happened is that I was not willing to live in the closet.


When did you become more than just friends?

Chris: We had gone on a high-spirited retreat in July, after which I felt very lifted and empowered to share who I was. It was a Wednesday evening in my home — Nancy was still in the convent — when I opened and shared. She already knew.

Nancy: It’s one of those mysterious things. I knew nothing formally about gay people. I had no gay friends. She didn’t fit any stereotype I knew, yet deep within my being I knew that she was a lesbian.

As she shared and struggled that night, trying to tell me who she was, at one point I said, “Chris, I know.” She said, “You know?” and looked very surprised. I’d known for a month before she told me.

I said, “I understand. It’s O.K.” I think I was saying that to myself. I understood who I was and that was O.K., too.

People say, “How did you become gay?” I believe it’s deeply rooted within your soul and being. It begins to surface when you say, “Hey, I need to find the truth of who I am.”

Chris: It was very important for my own growth to look her straight in the eye and honestly say that I found her very attractive and that I was falling in love with her.

Up until that point I had never shared something like that with another woman — with anyone — with that depth of honesty. I may have found myself acting on my attractions, but not verbalizing, articulating and owning them with my whole being.

Nancy: I was in a vowed commitment to the religious community at that point, and I was struggling on another level with my religious vocation. I chose to leave the convent, but not because of sexuality or my relationship with Chris.

I was already in what Catholics call the discernment process. I was realizing that the convent was not the ministerial forum that I wanted. It was very patriarchal and did not leave opportunities for me to pursue higher education or be the person I wanted to be.

When I left, I felt free to pursue my relationship with Chris and the truth of who I was.

There wasn’t a romantic moment that sparked this off. It was a developmental, day-by-day type of thing. Our relationship continues to be that.

Chris: But I know that night I kissed you, you kissed me back.

Nancy: That was safe enough, for me to not sin and yet share my feelings for Chris. But it was very confusing.


Chris, what is your religious background?

Chris: I come from a Catholic upbringing and I’ve been involved with MCC since 1975.

We both grew up Roman Catholic, went to Catholic schools. Nancy went on to be a nun. It’s probably anticipated that all little Catholic girls would at least hope to be a nun some day. That was a hope for me, but not one I acted on.


Do you also have similar class backgrounds?

Chris: We’re both Polish and middle class. We’re both from Chicago, but she’s a north-sider and I’m a south-sider. She’s Cubs. I’m White Socks.

Nancy: We’re both Bears.


Are you out at work?

Chris: We work at an agency that doesn’t discriminate on the basis of sexual preference. That was a total accident on my part — to find employment like this — and I’m real happy. We interact and are open at work.

The Catholic-run organization where Nancy and I met fired me for being gay, so I’m very sensitive to anti-discrimination employment policies.


Between work, school and MCC, do you see too much of each other?

Chris: We’re experiencing a lot of togetherness this semester. We’re juggling school, work and a twenty-mile commute between them. We’re living together as a gay couple in one of the seminary’s married housing apartments (which I think is wonderful).

Because we’re spending a lot of time together, we have to consciously put some separation in our lives to feel a sense of our own person. We are looking forward to next year when we will be on different schedules, allowing more private time.


How do you manage your economic responsibilities?

Chris: We each manage an account, but can each make checks in the other’s account. We use my account to pay everyday bills and Nancy’s account for special items, like the computer we’ve been saving for.

Nancy: My account is more for education, investment and future items.

Chris: We make about the same amount.

We have yet to see a lawyer, do a will, and that sort of thing. If we had more material wealth between us, that might be more of an issue.


Has the Catholic Church provided any conflict for you as lesbians?

Nancy: The priest who fired Chris was my spiritual director. When I came out to him, he told me I was an aberration of the church, and that I should put a concrete wall between me and my sexuality. After getting to know and love this man, that was very painful.

It was painful, having lived more than 20 years of my life in a religious denomination, to know that I’m rejected by it. But it’s not just sexuality, it’s the patriarchal, hierarchal structure.

I could never go any further than being a nun. The option to minister, in a capacity similar to my fellow brothers and priests, is not now open to females, and probably won’t be for a very long time. This is a greater pain than the sexuality issue.

I’m very grateful and happy to be in MCC, which is open to having females in religious ministry to a gay population and to people of color. That is a ray of hope, a rainbow. I look back with grief and mourning for the Catholic Church.

Chris: I make a division between my relationship with God and my relationship with the Catholic Church. I have seen them as being two very different things. They had to be for me to continue in religious life and pursue a relationship with God and spirituality.

The church has been an oppressive place. I came to a point where I had to let go of it. It hurt. There is a certain amount of grief and anger.


What is in the future of your ministries?

Nancy: I’m interested in women’s issues: helping women come from a patriarchal religion and not let go of their relationship with God, coming to form a spirituality and identity for themselves through an affirming congregation like MCC.

Chris: I, too, need to have a tangible ministry. Something on a daily basis, perhaps in a community setting.

Nancy likes to be real affirming and positive, and says that she hopes to be an elder in the fellowship someday. I don’t know that I’m that bold at this point. Also, I don’t know that I want to be in the polity of any organization. I have the least amount of tolerance for that.


What is the future of your relationship?

Chris: We’re looking forward to having a Holy Union. Because we have been so busy, we haven’t put the guest list together, set a date, and so on. We talk about the relationship in terms of it being “monogamous,” and “till death do us part.”

My hope for the relationship is that we continue to grow. We’ve been doing a lot of the right things to make that happen.


What kinds of things?

Chris: We have a regular time each week when we sit and talk specifically about our relationship. We have a good two hours a day during commuting when we continue that concept. Communication, fun and recreation times are very important.

Nancy: Another vital thing we do is dream together. Getting the computer is an example. We look at retirement and what that means for us. We take progressive steps through the weeks and months, saying, “This is where we’ll be” for a particular goal we pursue.

As we dream together, we see what our limits and boundaries are for each other. For instance, if Chris were to be called to a distant ministerial position, we would move and I’d locate another social work position. I have accepted the fact that ministry is a priority for us. Other types of labor would be secondary.

Both of us hold the definition of covenant very dear. We joke around sometimes when we get into heated arguments and say things like, “Well, I’m leaving, goodbye.” We know that for that particular moment we need to have that anger, but we have a covenant saying that we will be living together forever. As we build our individual relationships with our God, we are also building our relationship with each other.


© 2015, Demian
Please do not reproduce this article by any form of reproduction without permission.
Contact: demian@buddybuddy.com


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