I originally wrote this for National Coming Out Day, 2010. I haven’t updated it since then, but may do so soon. I hope you enjoy this.
Harvey Milk once said, “Should a bullet enter my brain, let the bullet destroy every closet door in this country.” I’ve attempted to live by Harvey Milk’s words since I heard them several years ago. Today marks National Coming Out Day for the gay community; not just in America, but across the globe. With recent events, I realized now is a pivotal moment in our history to finally make that pronouncement. On my 25th birthday, in 2008 I came out to most of my friends. In 2009, I came out to my parents and sister and in 2010 I am coming out to the rest of you. I am gay.
For those that are just finding out now that may feel hurt I didn’t tell you sooner; I am truly sorry. For some of you, I found it hard to find the words to say. For others, I didn’t feel it was necessary to point it out.
The road to discovering and accepting my sexuality was not an easy one. In American society we are raised to believe heterosexual relationships are the only natural and accepted ”lifestyle” and homosexuality is evil, wrong and unnatural. Science has proven that statement to be untrue.
I began noticing myself to be different from my other classmates when I was around 14. As the boys started showing interest in the girls and the girls in the boys, I couldn’t help but to sit back and think of the boys. I remember trying to ignore my impulses and try to mask my orientation. I was able to fairly well for many years, but my feelings towards the same sex only grew more intense as the years went by.
I was raised in a house that believed in God, but we never spoke about it or went to church. My freshman year of high school, I joined the Fellowship of Christian Athletes with a few other friends. I served on the leadership team my sophomore year. My interest in FCA sparked a religious interest for my family. Soon after I joined, we began looking for a church home.
During this time, while I served on the leadership team, I developed a very conservative outlook on religion. I believed homosexuality to be an abomination. This began an inner battle within myself over my natural feelings and what I had been taught growing up. As the fight grew, I confided in a close friend. I told her I had feelings for men, but I was going to seek treatment. I was researching ex-gay ministries to help cure me. A few months later, I chose to accept myself. Although I believe today it was my interpretation and own insecurities, back then I didn’t feel she was supportive of my decision and I quickly retreated back in the closet claiming it all to be a big joke. I didn’t come back out to her until 2008; 8 years later.
When I was 20, I was still trying to suppress my orientation and pray the gay away. I moved to Springfield in 2004 and joined Campus Crusade for Christ. In January of 2005 Cru took a trip to Denver, CO for the Denver Christmas Conference. I shared a hotel room with several other guys. I couldn’t help but to peek when they would be changing. I felt guilty, disgusting and wrong for doing so. One of the last days of the conference, a speaker came to speak about how he was gay and changed his life through God. He was “happily” married to a woman and had children. I was very interested in hearing his sermon, but decided to go up in the mountains of Colorado instead. Looking back, it was probably a good thing as it would have confused me even more than what I already was.
Another four years would pass before I would really come to grips with and face my sexual identity. A friend of mine had recently come out and started dating another girl. That year her birthday was at the gay club in town. When I got there I was mortified; drag queens, dance music, men kissing other men, women kissing women, “ugh!” I thought. I was highly uncomfortable. At the end of the night, a guy who would become a dear and very supportive friend of mine came up to me, put his hands on my shoulders and said, “I know you’re straight, but you’re adorable.” His remark stuck with me. I soon realized I was 24 years old and I’d been battling for 10 years. It was about damn time for me to live my life for me and not for how society wanted me to live it.
Throughout my struggles I never had the support of people that could relate to me. With my friend coming out, I finally did. I could finally talk to someone about how I was feeling and they’d understand. Being friends with her helped give me the ability to meet other gay people and create a support line. Although I have extremely supportive straight friends, they couldn’t quite understand the battles going on within me. I am very grateful for the friends I do have, and thank them for being so supportive.
Besides coming out to my parents, the hardest path on my road to acceptance was reconciling my Christian faith and my sexual orientation. Through my voyage of finding the “truth,” I began questioning God. How could He create me as I am and yet the majority of His “people” condemn me to Hell, when it’s not even their place to do so? The God I believed in was a God that loved people regardless of who they loved. I guess people forget the underlying theme throughout the New Testament is love, acceptance and tolerance. It was Jesus that came up to a group of people about to stone a gypsie and said, “He who is sinless should cast the first stone.” One of my favorite TV shows, Queer as Folk, has a quote that I like to carry around with me, “… He created you in his image. At least that’s what I’ve always been taught. And since God is love, and God doesn’t make mistakes, then you must be exactly the way he wants you to be. And that goes for every person, every planet, every mountain, every grain of sand, every song, every tear….. and every faggot. We’re all his. He loves us all.”
With the recent rash of gay teen suicides, Kathy Griffin does a great job of summing up who plants the seeds in these bullies’ minds to believe what they are doing is right; “…they weren’t born with it, the politicians, so-called religious leaders and pundits who have made careers out of saying being gay is wrong, or immoral or that gays are somehow less than all have blood on their hands.” People have the right to their own religions and their own beliefs. I’m not trying to change anyone, but people need to realize when we talk about how wrong being gay is, we are teaching our children they are less than others. For those children that may grow up and realize they are gay, it only confuses them even more, they internalize their emotions more and feel they have no where to turn to. Mom and Dad are supposed to be our protectors, but how can they be when they say my feelings are an abomination. I remember when my dad’s friend came out several years before I started accepting myself, my parents sat me down and said, “it’s OK to be gay, we just hope you’re not.” Do you think that helped me? Of course not. It made me even more terrified and confused. Luckily I was older, but for those that aren’t, it’s hard to comprehend. They may feel suicide is the only avenue open to them. People need to put their opinions aside and accept their children, their parents, their friends, teachers, pastors, etc. for who they are, even if they differ. If we all did this, we’d see a reduction in teen suicides.
We as a society are opening the door to the anti-gay bullies. For the people that believe in God, you should be showing love and acceptance for the person, not condemnations. Who wants to be a part of a group that has to justify themselves everytime they go to church and why you’re just as much as a Christian as the next person? Who wants to belong in a group claiming to be inclusive, and yet tells a gay person they’re going to Hell if they don’t change their ways? I know I don’t. This is a continuing struggle for me, and I really can’t wait to do more research into the matter because I really believe the majority of people have it wrong. My life is between God and I, not you, God and I.
I’m asking those that do believe in God, and may believe homosexuality to be wrong, to really watch what you say, especially around children. It’s fine if you don’t want to accept or tolerate the lifestyle, that’s your problem, but tolerate and accept the person and teach your children to do the same. I’m sure that’s what your God would want.
Through the nearly 13 years of my struggles, I am finally coming full circle and I have accepted myself. I’m a much happier person and I hope my story has inspired some, given others more understanding and challenges others to think.