Tough And Universal: For Sally Evans And Paige Harlow, Reconciling Faith And Identity Was A Journey
Sally Evans and Paige Harlow are married and live in Louisville with their two daughters.
Both were raised in conservative Christian families, and had to figure out how to reconcile that with their sexual orientation.
“I grew up being secretive about the fact that I was gay,” Paige said. “I was afraid of coming out and being found out. Because being a Christian means that you carry a lot of shame, especially with regards to being gay. I would hear loved ones always talking about, you know, ‘the gay lifestyle’ and how they didn't agree with it and how it was this horrible thing and I grew up wanting to be something different. I didn't want to be gay.”
“My faith just occupied a lot of tight spaces and it was just very black and white,” Sally said. “And so it just sort of felt like there was ‘our kind of Christian’ and then there was everybody else.”
The two met in 2008, in Lexington, Kentucky, at a pumpkin carving party. They had a lot in common, including a similar faith background.
“I was instantly drawn to Sally — there was just something magnetic about her personality,” Paige said. “And she was so much fun, great sense of humor. And what was really interesting is that I knew that Sally had a religious background. She had received her masters of theology from seminary. And so, I had never met somebody that was gay and Christian. That was a new phenomenon for me.”
Sally and Paige got married on September 15, 2013, and had a ceremony at the Buffalo Trace Distillery. They had always known they wanted to have a family, but conceiving their daughters took some creativity.
“You know for many couples it’s just not a natural occurrence to have babies and when you add to that, that we were a same sex couple and I was approaching my fourth decade, we didn't quite know what to hope for,” Sally said. “You know, we knew that we wanted to try and there's just logistics involved and there's a process involved and stuff. So the first thing we knew was that we needed a donor in our case, we had initially looked at the cryobanks for an unknown donor. And then along that journey, we found someone that we felt would be an excellent known donor.”
“The more that Sally and I talked about it, the more that that made a lot of sense,” Paige said. “The idea that this child would know their history, medical history, biological history was really appealing to us.”
Once they had decided on a donor, both said it was an easy decision which of the women would carry the children.
“I did not want to give birth,” Paige said. “So it was something that Sally always wanted to experience.”
“I always thought that would be a really, really amazing experience and sort of like, I don't know, for me, like puts you in the halls of sisterhood in a way,” Sally said. “It's such a human experience for a woman. And I really had always hoped I would know what that was like — to grow a human inside you and to, you know, just have it be a part of you in that way, a connection that just is so profound.”
After trying intrauterine insemination unsuccessfully, the couple turned to in vitro fertilization (IVF). The first time, it failed.
“When the first IVF failed, we were pretty far along in the process and I was crushed,” Sally said. “This was sort of our last resort, this method. You go through tons of appointments and medications and procedures and you begin to think like, ‘What's wrong with me?’”
Just when she had decided to give up — Sally found out she was pregnant.
“It worked twice as well,” she said. “So we ended up, to our astonishment, with twins.”
“I probably fell over when the doctor showed us the ultrasound,” Paige said. “And she said, ‘Oh, this is interesting,’ which to me is like, ‘Oh, gosh, what does that mean?’ And she said, ‘Oh, there's two heartbeats, but they're identical.”
Their daughters Wallace and Findley were born on August 29, 2015.
“And they're perfect and hard and wonderful and we're never going to be the same,” Sally said.
Like for most parents, their daughters’ birth has changed a lot of aspects of Paige and Sally’s life, and their relationship. But it’s also changed their faith.
“Having children has probably expanded my faith if anything,” Paige said. “Seeing the world through their eyes and wanting more for them. God is so much bigger, and I want them to experience a faith that is beyond what I grew up with.”
Paige said if she could, she would tell a younger version of herself:
“Don't be ashamed of who you are. You can be fully loved by God and be yourself.
“You know, God made me this way,” she added. “He didn't make a mistake when He made me.”
Sally Evans and Paige Harlow’s story is part of Tough and Universal: Stories of Grit, a partnership between WFPL and IDEAS xLab. A new story will be released every Friday through November 2; for more stories, click here.
Disclosure: shortly after this interview was recorded, Sally Evans began work at WFPL as a substitute host.