It’s #NationalComingOutDay, but since I already did that on June 28 of this year, I can’t very well come out AGAIN.
Well, I could, and as you’ll see by the end, I sort of am.
But I decided there are a couple things I can do on this important day for literally MILLIONS of people out (and still in) there:
- Be an encouragement to those who hid for years in fear like I did.
- Provide more clarity around my “outness”, as I appear to have created some concern and questions around who exactly I “am” and what I am “doing” now that you all know what I’ve known for 40+ years.
Part I – Be an Encouragement
“It gets better” was a cliche “coming out” phrase 10 or so years ago. It was true then; it is true now. First of all, it will likely not be nearly as “bad” as you think it will be to tell your family and friends your truth. And if it’s bad (and I know it is for some – I don’t minimize that), know this:
- those who truly love you will work at it – it WILL get better.
- those who won’t work at it don’t belong in your life. That sounds harsh, but you are NOT responsible for their beliefs or their happiness. You are responsible to you. Coming out is about “self-care” as much as anything. Rejection will sting, but it will pass. Others will enfold you. It WILL get better.
But let’s assume it’s NOT bad. What you will be left with is authenticity, free from shame like you’ve never known. If you grew up in a shame-based household/community/church, I highly recommend “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown. It’s not about being gay or coming out; it’s about being yourself. Many of us were trained not to be ourselves. It’s time to change that.
Many of you in my circle of family and friends are in faith communities that will tell you your “truth” is not “The Truth”. I have a couple things to say about that:
- No one’s interpretation of God and scripture corners the market on Truth. Truth is a Person – Jesus of Nazareth. Your faith is between you and Jesus.
- Now, your “faith between you and Jesus” may (and probably will) put you in conflict with your current faith practice. You have choices: 1) Stay where you are and be you. Challenge the status quo from the inside and pray for open minds and hearts (this is hard, but I watch many people do this who find joy in their authentic selves while working to enlighten earnest “conservative” orthodoxy); 2) Find a faith community that affirms you as a being created in the image of God (this will require some “deconstruction” of current beliefs and faith practices, which is also not easy), and 3) Walk away from faith altogether. I can’t speak for anyone else, but this was and is not an option for me. If you DO believe scripture (and I do), it says the faith we have was given as a gift (Ephesians 2:4-9) and you’re sorta stuck with it. To say I don’t have faith when I do would just be another trip back into a closet of another kind. “I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose” – Philippians 3:12
For those of you without a faith construct, this is going to be a lot easier. You’ll need to deal with ignorance, but at least it won’t have the God-clobber behind it. I’m not minimizing your journey, I’m just saying it’s a lot harder when you deal with people (especially family) who have God on “their” side.
I waited until I was 52. I wish I hadn’t waited so long.
Part II – Provide more clarity around my “outness”
So yeah, I wish I hadn’t waited so long. 52 years is a long time to be someone you aren’t, to try doing something that you can’t.
I entered into marriage on December 28, 1996, believing it was the “right thing to do” and that God would “fix me/bless me/answer the one stupid prayer I’d prayed for nearly two decades”. God didn’t. God hasn’t. Trust me, if ever there was a person with motivation to “change”, it was me. And I’m tenacious when I want something. Nope. Not on this one. Born this way? Indelibly imprinted somewhere along the way? Some of both? It doesn’t matter. I am who I am. And I’M the one who has to be ok with that – no one else. And I am. If you want to mourn and weep for my “salvation”, please feel free to keep praying your prayers, but know that I have set healthy boundaries for myself around your concerns. While I’m preaching on boundaries, allow me to say that some of you seriously need to build some for yourselves and learn to respect them in others. Your attempted control over another person’s life (or allowing yourself to be controlled) is not healthy for anyone. Stop it.
Three years or so into our marriage, I came out to my wife (or, rather, I expressed my “unwanted struggle with same-sex attraction” (which is now a gross and hurtful concept to me, but I’ll save that for another day). After a couple days of anger and sadness, we sat together and decided we loved each other and decided we wanted to “make it work”.
Here we are, 20+ years later. It works. Some days – IT AIN’T PRETTY. Many ways we “made it work” along the way were harmful – to me, to her, to us. The ways we continue (and will continue) to “make it work” look very different than they did in 2000. And how we do that is, quite frankly, none of y’all’s business.
An interesting observation since I came out to EVERYBODY in June: there are well-meaning people all over the place (“very fine people, on both sides”), who want to tell me what “making it work” LOOKS like. I had to stop listening to their “advice”. Some who cheered my announcement were ready with the “now finish the job and fully embrace who you are” steps (meaning, leave my wife and family and find a man), and others who were horrified but mostly supportive were like “OK, ‘be’ this, but stop being so public about it. Keep it to yourself. Why does it have to be on your Facebook?”
Neither of those are options for me. Not at this time, anyway (I’ve learned enough over the years to stop with the absolutes). Life is not binary. It is not black and white. It is messy. If you read ANY of my work, you know this is my life theme. Stop trying to put people in boxes. Stop trying to put YOURSELF in a box. And please, please, please – don’t try to put me in a box.
I can pretty much tell you I won’t stay there.
I will come out.
Again and again and again.