if your kid comes out to you

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Note: This post was edited with softer language regarding Dr. Moore and his article. Upon reflection, I recognized my language expressed the passion of my convictions but did not reflect my earnest hope for and belief in peaceful, thoughtful dialogue.

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I first realized I was gay when I was around eleven or twelve and in the silence of that moment, I swore I would take it to my grave. I made myself promise. No telling. No telling because if anyone knew, no one would love me anymore.

 

The weight of that secret grew heavier over the years, attacking me like a cancer, breaking me down with grief, isolation, and so much fear. At 21, I began to slip away. I disappeared into drinking. I checked out friendships. I shut out the world. And then I passed out on the floor of a bar around 2 AM and woke up knowing it was do or die, quite literally.

 

The next night I told my parents. I came home from college and walked up their stairs. Every step feeling the full decade of dread pulling me back, telling me to leave, to suck it up and go home. Or die.

 

But I knew I had to do this. It was so heavy.

 

When I finally told them they were… frazzled. They were in complete shock, looking as one does after a two-ton anvil drops on their head and there were lots of tears and hugging and trembles in voices. But they were also kind of perfect. They made due, stringing together words amidst the hurricane of feelings in that moment.

 

They spent much of the night calling out the lies I believed about myself. When I said I felt like a freak, they said oh honey, that’s a lie. When I said I thought they’d be afraid of me, they looked at me like I was a limping puppy. They wrapped me up and said, no, pumpkin, we LOVE you.

 

That was my coming out experience. It took me a couple years to realize just how lucky I was.

 

At the Gay Christian Network Conference there were a number of parents present wearing large buttons that said Free Dad Hugs! and Free Mom Hugs! ready with arms wide open for the kids whose parents cut them out. Told them off. Said they loved them, but hated their sexuality. In a quiet room of the hotel we were at, these proxy parents held these orphaned kids. Held them close. Prayed over them and told them they loved them.

 

I tell you, friends, resurrection always wins, even in the dark- for that matter, especially in the dark. God is near.

 

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I have really been trying to restrain myself here on the blog from responding to every LGBTQ-related article or statement emanating out of the self-appointed Gatekeepers (see: Southern Baptist Convention, The Gospel Coalition). But the latest hits felt like too much. Felt too dangerous. It all felt too close to home.

 

First, Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention who is not a family therapist, who has (to my knowledge) no gay kids of his own, wrote a blog post about how parents should react to a gay son or daughter coming out to them. It was, as expected, unhelpful. But his post is nothing compared to John MacArthur’s video, in which he said that the Christ-like response to a child coming out is too shun them. To disown them. To, in John’s words, “turn them over to Satan.”

 

So, I thought I’d pen my own advice, from experience. This is for all the parents with closeted gay kids. These are words you need to hear.

 

If your son or daughter comes out to you, go to them. Hold them. Whisper your love and kiss their forehead and make them feel your love. Say it again and again and again because here’s the deal: The faith many of us were raised in told us this was a deal-breaker. That this love between you was not strong enough for this. And odds are, your kid is thinking there’s a chance you might not love them anymore and a chance that your lying if you say you do. If there was ever a moment to step up as a parent and love your baby, now is it. You don’t get a redo.

 

If homosexuality is something you’ve been familiar with and are theologically affirming of, then you are probably pretty comfortable here anyway and I have no further advice for you than this: Your kid might not share your theology. And you have to respect that. All you have to do is listen and share when you are asked.

 

If you’ve held conservative opinions about homosexuality and have long held to a traditional sexual ethic, this confession might leave you feeling impaled. It might feel like a tearing. A falling apart that you can’t stop, no matter how much you want to, and I have a few words for you.

 

You are okay. In this moment, you are not against your kid, and in the future, if you find yourself still in the same theological mindset, that doesn’t make you hateful or bad. It means you disagree. And you are okay.

 

Now is not the time to say so, though, to tell your kid that you think he’s sinful. Now is not the time, as others might suggest, to say you love your kid, but you hate their sexuality. Now is the time to say the most important truth you know. The truth that you are most certain about. Tell him you love him. Tell her you love her.

 

Of course, there’s a scrambling for words, sometimes these things last a long time and what else can you say with all trip wires tying around you? Do you talk about the theology stuff after the love stuff? Do you ask about their relationship status? No and no.

 

Here’s what you say. It is, in my experience, the second best thing to hear: You. Are. Brave.

 

It’s the truth, after all. My own coming out was and will probably be the most impossible thing I have ever done. I still can’t believe I did it. And there is nothing more affirming than hearing you, my boy, have guts. You inspire me. You are so, so brave.

 

And finally, thank them for trusting you, because you know they could’ve chosen not to. Tell them you feel privileged to know this part of them That you are happy to know them better. Remind them that you love them and then give them a kiss goodnight.

 

If, near the end, your own opinions crop up, here is something non-threatening to say: I admit, I have a lot to learn. I will try to learn, because you are my child.

 

Listen to me. I have seen the kids of parents who have followed the advice of the Russell Moores and John MacArthurs of the world and I can tell you, no one wants that to happen to their kid. No one wants to live with that kind of regret. Listen to me, this is your job. To love. And it ends there.

 

Now, as far as learning goes, I’m afraid you have homework. I’m not assigning you theology, I am sending you to those who have been in your shoes and know your experience better than I do.

 

For starters, here is the Marin Foundation Parent Network. Try calling some of these ready-to-support-you folks (my parents are on there!) and hear their stories and find that empathy and community that you need.

 

Check out the story of my friends Linda and Rob Robertson, who have been tireless in their efforts to support parents of LGBTQ kids. They want to bring about more understanding and grace and love to families everywhere. These two, they’re such good and Godly people.

 

Go check out one of my favorite blogs, Susan Cottrell of Freed Hearts. Susan has written a book about her experience as a mom of gay child and she blogs consistently about issues facing the LGBTQ community and issues facing parents. She is a wonderful woman and a gift to us all.

 

Watch this video, Lead With Love, which my parents also watched. It is absolutely phenomenal, I’m surprised I don’t share it more.

 

Rachel Held Evans, a wonderful advocate just for people in general, wrote once about how she would respond if she had a gay child. It is beautiful. Glennon Melton of Momastery did the same, which I bet money will leave you in a mess of hot tears.

 

Look, it’s not easy. I know that. It’s complicated and there are lots of questions, let alone feelings, and for a small amount of time you might feel completely isolated and alone. But your kid is your kid, and you love her, you love him and they need you to be their mom and their dad right now, not their theologian. Not their pastor. Their parent.

 

Hold them. Love them. Listen to them. Kiss Them.

And God will lead the way.

~

 

These Hallowed Grounds: Aibird’s Story Pt. 3

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If you’re just tuning in, a reader emailed me her story and it shook me up. After talking it over with her, I asked if she would allow me to share. She agreed. 

These stories need to be told. They cannot be buried or silenced, they are a part of the individual and collective healing. And yes, they’re painful, but pain thrives in secret. We need to have more open and honest conversations, like what my dear friend Aibird is doing here today. 

Part 1

Part 2

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The end of my first year of college I decided to talk to Father John at the Catholic Center, to finally just confront this, and maybe I could end it. I asked him what would happen if someone was gay.  Was that wrong?  He told me that there were two differing viewpoints:

 

1. It was wrong and that it can be cured. 

2. The behaviors were wrong but the orientation itself could not be changed. 

 

He explained that the Catholic Church held the second viewpoint.  It was alright to be gay, but one must never act upon it. One must never lust in one’s fantasies, and one should try to be pure and celibate as a gay individual. I walked home that day feeling sick.  At that moment, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was gay, and that according to Father John, my evangelical friends in high school, and my own family, I had sinned. For I had lusted after Rita in high school. It didn’t matter that it had never occurred to me to think of us as doing anything sexual — outside of a brief kiss — but in the fantasizing of us sharing our life and going on adventures together, I had commited the sin of homosexuality. I didn’t know what to think of it or if it was true. I didn’t understand why I was like this, and how I could have ended up this way. It scared me, left me feeling even more alone, and I began to dread the future. Would I have to live under this cheerful, friendly mask forever? Unable to share my deepest self with anyone? That night I went back to my dorm and visited my friend Sam, where I just asked if she could give me a hug. She asked me what was wrong, but again the wall of silence. I could only shake my head. The words would not come again. I had taken the risk and it had hurt me dearly. Now I was left with two choices, both heartbreaking and terrifying.

 

Fear. So much fear.  That night, a Wednesday, I went back to the Catholic Center for their evening prayer and Bible study. I sat at the edge of the circle, and the topic that night briefly touched upon the issue of gay marriage that was growing in our nation. I felt my stomach twist with anxiety. Several times, someone would mention, “love the sinner, hate the sin” to illustrate a point. That phrase hit me like a sledgehammer.  I quietly left. It was dark that night. Very dark with grey clouds covering the stars. One of the street lamps went out as I passed under it, and I felt so far from God’s love. I felt lost and alone.  I stopped at the intersection, where one street lead down to the river and the other to my dorm. I looked down the dark street, down the hill toward the Memorial Union and the pedestrian bridge. I thought of the rock garden on the west side of the building and how I could fit quite a lot in my cargo pants I wore. The image of me jumping from that bridge just captivated me. It seemed so reasonable, so easy to do. I’d never have to face these conflicting feelings, or the sin of homosexuality again. I’d be free. The Church taught I’d have to go through purgatory to be cleansed of my sins — kinda like taking a shower as the priest explained it, just a really long one — before I met Christ in heaven, but that didn’t seem bad to me. It’d be better than staying here.

 

A young man with bright green eyes suddenly stepped in front of me.  I had been poised to run down to the river, but I shifted my stance at his approach. “Don’t head that way,” he said abruptly, “You have to go back to your dorm. Now.  Hurry.”  He turned and walked across the street toward the trees of the Pentacrest. Terrified by his words and the fact he seemed to know what I’d planned, I turned to my right and ran back to my dorm instead. When I reached my dorm room, I collapsed by my sink in tears.  That is where my friend Sam found me. She led me to my bed and held me as I cried. She drove me home that weekend so I could spend some time with my family and recuperate. She even drove me back again. It was kind of her, but again, even when she asked what was wrong, I couldn’t speak out loud. Fear and shame held me in chains.

 

That wasn’t the last time I thought of suicide. Only a few weeks later I used some rope to fasten a device where I could open the door to my dorm room from my desk on the opposite side of the room. My roommate had laughed at the device, but we both found it useful since when someone knocked nether of us really wanted to get up to open it. One tug of the rope and the pulley by the door would turn the handle and pull it open. It was near the end of the semester, close to finals, when I was lying in bed unable to sleep. My roommate wasn’t home yet, it being a Saturday night and she was visiting someone in a different dorm room. I looked at the rope, and the urge to wrap it around my throat was so intense that I leapt out of bed and ran out of the room. Sam’s door was still open, so I went to her and confessed my thoughts. It shocked her. She asked me why, and I didn’t know how to explain. I fumbled around with stupid excuses, but none of them was the truth: I was terrified of being gay. Terrified that it would ruin my life, and death felt like the only way to end those feelings for good. To stop the torment. That way no one in my family would be shamed by learning the truth. Silence once again bound me. Sam helped me cut up the device and throw away the rope. She was perhaps the most faithful friend I had that year, more understanding than any of my Christian friends, and her belief system was simple: Treat others with kindness and try to understand them where they are. She didn’t believe in anything beyond that.

 

Out of all my friends, she was the only one to tell me to just be myself. Everyone else had emphasized the need to tackle my sins, to try to avoid the homosexual lifestyle, to do this or that to be a good Christian, but Sam didn’t do any of that. She let me be me, and that gave me hope. I began to curtail some of my activities at the Catholic Center, and focused more on my classes and hanging with Sam.

 

The summer before my sophomore year a terrible traumatic event happened, and again the veil of silence draped itself around me. I entered my second year of college with a battered heart and body. I once again hid behind my facade of cheerfulness, and strove to be the best friend I could be. Now I had two secrets to eat away at me in the quiet darkness of night. I couldn’t live with both, one had to be told, but I didn’t know how to speak of either.

 

I met a guy named Terry in my physics classes, and we, and another gal, would work on homework sets together. One day he invited me flying with him. As he was landing the plane, he confessed his feelings to me. I was shocked. I had no idea. I didn’t know what to do because I cared about him as a friend and didn’t want to lose the friendship, so I struggled to just say the words. It took me ten minutes, but I did it, I said out loud, “I am gay.”

 

It changed my friendship with Terry, but in a good way. He backed off and tried hard to just listen to me and treat me as a friend. He asked me if I liked anyone, and again I admitted that I still very much loved Rita. So he came up with a plan. He needed to do a cross country trip in order to earn some flying hours to keep his license current. Rita lived in a different state, but not too far, enough for the trip to take only a few hours in his small two seater plane. I called Rita, and she was elated with this idea. So it was settled. A few weekends later, Tim flew me to Rita’s college; he even let me try my hand at the controls during the flight and it was great fun. He got a hotel room and decided to do some tours of the city, while I stayed with Rita.

 

It took me nearly an hour before I could finally say those three words to Rita. She sat there next to me, and her hands curled into fists. She shook her head violently. “No. You’re not gay. I know you’re not. You’re just confused. College can be confusing. People can lead you astray, you know.”

 

I shook my head. “No, no. I’ve wondered about this for years. Rita, I love you.”

 

“As a friend.” She stood up and started pacing. “Nothing more. It can’t be anything more. You’re not gay. It’s not healthy! Don’t choose it.”

 

“I’m not!” I started to cry. I didn’t know what to do. I felt rejected. “I don’t want anything from you. Just friendship, but I wanted to be honest with you. That’s all.”

 

“I’m glad you did.” She walked over to her desk and started rifling through her piles of documents and books. “We had a speaker the other day. I took a brochure, but I think it will help you more. You need to talk to them.” She pulled out a fairly large brochure and placed it in my hands. It was for Exodus International. “They cure gays. And I know you’re really straight. You just need some guidance and help. Please talk to them.” She took my hands in hers and I couldn’t say no to her. I nodded and put the brochure in my bag. She sat back down next to me, and started talking about the clobber verses. How the Bible says it’s wrong. Even got out her Bible to show me them. I just sat there stunned and hurt. I listened and nodded, but I felt lost again. The momentum and relief from telling Terry had left me. Silence descended upon me yet again, and we went to bed with her feeling relieved that I’d be calling Exodus and me feeling great dread.

 

That same week, I wrote a mass email to my family and tried to come out to them. To see what they’d say. It took me hours to write just a few sentences. The response? Silence at first. Then a few phone calls asking me if this was a joke. My mother yelled at me that it was unhealthy. Dad stayed quiet. I have five sisters and two brothers, and three of my sisters and my older brother talked with one another and concocted a tale to try to explain it away. Only Ariel and Ana (my third oldest sister) let me be. They didn’t say much, other then they loved me. The response left me feeling even more conflicted and hurt. Especially my mother’s response, where she insisted it could be cured. Just like Rita.

 

I wrote an email to Exodus a week later.

 ~ ~ ~

stay tuned for the fourth and final part

These Hallowed Grounds: Aibird’s Story Pt. 1

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Aibird is a regular commenter on the blog and, in bits and pieces, she’s told me fragments of her story. Whenever I wrote a post that really resonated with a similar experience of hers, all the emotions came out for the both of us. And there’s something holy about that. This growth through empathy.

For a long time, Aibird has been edging closer and closer to letting me in on her life. I was stunned today when she sent this to me, giving me a quick note that she was laying it all out. Then my heart broke. And my temper ROSE. And I sat at Starbucks thinking through this series, this blog, and I knew that, at it’s bones, this is a place for sharing and healing. This is a place for hope.  

I asked Aibird if she would be willing to let me publish it, and she graciously agreed. She is truly an incredible person, a beautiful storyteller, and when I read this, her bravery breathes inspiration in me. 

 

 ~ ~ ~

I’ve tried many a time to write this tale, but I simply cannot find a way to say it succinctly. I’ve never tried to write it out in full. All I can do is try since you gave me an opportunity to share it months ago, offering that safe space, and I feel that maybe it’s time I try to write it in full. This hasn’t been easy, and I’ve sat on doing this for months out of fear of what this may unleash in regards to my own emotions and memories.  All I can do is try my best to pass through it and hope that Christ’s love may finally reach me again.  For I have not felt that love for years, and any attempt I’ve made to seek out fellowship in the Christian community has only reminded me of how much I don’t belong. How much of me is a freak and a sinner to them and nothing more.  I have not been to church for five years and have not touched the Bible since then either. Why? Because of the pain, this feeling of abandonment.

 

This is a long story, and I don’t really know how to shorten it.  My coming out is long and complex and happened over and over again.  Each iteration often full of pain. So if you are still willing to hear the tale, RR, here it is in full:

 

I remember from when I was a child that I was convinced of three things:

 

1. I’d never marry

2. I’d have a friend who was a girl, who’d stay with me and we’d spend our life together.

3. I’d write the first novel in space. (A bit of humor to lighten the mood, but in truth, I really did believe this as a child. Still has yet to happen!)


 

Why did I think, at such a young age, that I’d never marry?  Because it was taught in my Catholic Church and by my parents that marriage was between a man and a woman.  Thus, as a child, I took them literally and believed that I just couldn’t marry.  That was the most I thought about me being gay. I didn’t even have words for it. I only knew it was wrong to think about sharing my life with a woman, even though I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

 

I remember one instance in particular where I asked my father if a woman could share her life with another woman. His reply, slightly paraphrased, “As friends, yes. Remember that friends are important but not as important as Christ. Let Christ lead you toward your vocation. It could be marriage or celibacy, and either are okay.” He didn’t give too much details beyond that explanation, and the second time I asked, this time with my mother present, the same answer was given, this time with the addendum, “anything outside of friendship between them isn’t healthy.” They’d ask where I heard it, and I’d shrug. I never asked them again as a child or a teenager.

 

In sixth grade I met Rita, my dear sister in Christ as we called each other. The first day we met was my first day at her school. We were at recess and the bell had just rang for us to line up to return to class. I followed Rita toward the lines at the school doors, each very close to one another but fairly straight since the teachers had no tolerance for us mingling as we lined up. Three boys from the line next to mine turned to me, one stood out in my memory mostly because of how he laughed loudly at me and pointed. His hair also stood straight up like pieces of grass, a tiny detail I focused on since I had no idea how to respond to his question: “Are you gay?” I only knew of one definition of that word, one I learned from all my years of reading books. In the books I read, gay meant happy, and was often used in classics to describe a gay outing, as in it was happy and relaxing at the same time. At that moment in time, I felt happy and relaxed because I had managed to make one friend, Rita, the girl in front of me. 

I said, “Yes.” The three boys began to laugh and hoot. Slapping their knees and pointing at me as they repeated my word. Rita turned to them and told them in anger. Her face flushed. “She is not. Shut up jerks.” The three boys stared at her, and before they could respond, the teacher walked between us and scolded all five of us. I quietly thanked Rita as we walked inside.

 

That moment was etched into my memory, mostly because I didn’t understand why they asked it or what they meant by it. I also didn’t know who to ask. So I tried to forget about it and focus on my faith. I was a child of God. God loved me, so that was enough. I just had to live a life of love and follow Christ. Rita helped me along that journey, and I shared a lot of my fears and dreams with her just as she did with me. We made a vow to wait until marriage, one that I made mostly because I didn’t believe I’d ever marry, so the vow seemed like a no big deal to me. Rita was an evangelical Christian, and she’d often invite me to her church. I never liked her church much because the rock band seemed too loud and a bit pretentious. I came from a Catholic family, where our prayer and worship time together was very meditative. Any music we sang or heard in Mass that was lively held only traditional instruments and a choir. It also wasn’t loud but focused more on accenting the meditative aspects of the liturgy and Eucharist. We were there to focus on Christ not the music, so the evangelical Church confused me. But it also opened my mind to different ways of worshiping Christ, so I went to better understand. To be more open and accepting, and to learn more ways to show my love like Christ did.

 

My view of her church changed one night on Wednesday our eighth grade year. It was a short service and for the youth. It mostly focused on the music worship and the altar calls — another odd practice that confounded me. It reminded me too much of the pharisees in the Bible who stood on the corners looking sad as they fasted, but at the same time, I tried hard to be accepting of this different way of worshiping the same God. So I asked lots of questions to try to understand their faith, and so we could grow as brothers and sisters in Christ. Rita had often asked me many a question about my Catholic faith, so I did my best to be accepting and inquisitive in return. That night a group of girls came up to talk with us after the service. They knew Rita, and when she introduced me, one of them blurted, “Hey, is that the gay girl you’re trying to convert?”

 

Rita frowned at this and shook her head. One of the other girls began to laugh. “No it has to be. She looks so gay. Hey, are you gay?” I stood there in shock. I didn’t know what to say. It suddenly felt like I was in that line in sixth grade again. My silence condemned me in their eyes. “You know it’s not okay, right? The Bible says it’s wrong.” The third girl stepped in front of the other two and shook her head at them. “Hey, love the person and hate the sin, okay?” She turned to me with a smile and held out her hand to try to be welcoming. I didn’t take it. I shook my head and walked away. I felt burned and shocked. I hadn’t expected that at all, and for the second time in my life, I wondered what it meant. Rita had ran after me to try to apologize for their rudeness, but at the same time, she criticized me for rudely walking away. I should have said no in her view. But I found that I couldn’t. I just couldn’t do it. Saying no felt like a lie, but at the same time, even saying I was gay felt so terrifying and wrong that I was left with silence.

~ ~ ~

Stay tuned for part two.

These Hallowed Grounds: Brent’s Story

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I reached out to Brent awhile ago to see if he’d be interested in contributing to a series I was doing leading up to National Coming Out Day. Unfortunately, he is a full time Student and so busy with stacks on stacks of homework and Life and he knew it was best to not commit if he didn’t have time. Fortunately, he has written about experiences before and he took the time to send me the links. This is the one I selected to reprint today because it is most relevant to this conversation. Although, I might reprint a few of his others as the series goes along. They’ve all taught me so much. 

 

If you aren’t following Brent, you really don’t know what’s good for you. Kid is one of the wisest people I know in the conversation about LGBTs in the Church. I’m absolutely honored to reprint this piece today. After you read this, go check out his blog Odd Man Out. Trust me. It’s a treasure.

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I finally psyched myself up to watch the video of an airman coming out to his father the day DADT was repealed, a video that has received plenty of attention and over 4.5 million views.  I put off watching it because, although I already knew the outcome of their conversation, watching someone come out fills me with anxiety.

 

When it comes to social events and conversations, my memory is usually awful, but I remember clearly every single time I came out to another person.  I don’t know how many times I’ve had that conversation, but if you give me a name, I can tell you the time and place of our dialog as well as the reasons I decided to tell the individual.  It’s happened in dorm rooms, living rooms, and offices; it’s happened on walks outside at different times of the day; it’s accompanied meals at Jason’s Deli, Joe’s Pizza, and a Texas steakhouse; it’s lasted anywhere from ten minutes to two hours plus; and it has involved the mediums of face-to-face conversation, phone calls, and email/Facebook.  I can also remember clearly every time someone else came out to me, simply because I know how huge of a moment it was for the other person.

 

After watching Randy Phillips’ video, I thought it would be helpful to share from my experiences coming out.  What’s interesting about the list I created is that my generation has commandeered the phrase “Coming Out”  to refer to any sort of conversation in which one person reveals something about him/herself heretofore unknown to the another person, and I think this list will resonate with anyone who has made a difficult self-disclosure within a close relationship.  So, whether you are the person coming out or someone comes out to you, and whether the “coming out” involves being attracted to one’s own gender, doubting one’s faith, or even voting Democrat, here is what you should know about coming out:

 

1. It’s terrifying every single time

As the list of people I had told grew longer over the years, it became easier for me to find the right words to say and to prepare myself for the emotional exhaustion that would follow; but the anxiety leading up to each conversation never decreased at all.  Every time I came out, I had to take the risk of potentially ruining or changing a significant relationship in my life, and that gamble never gets easier.  The strange irony of it all is that my closest relationships caused me the most anxiety, because even if I could predict with near-certainty how the other would react, I still had the most to lose in those cases.  (This is the anxiety that makes it so hard to watch videos like Phillips’.)

If someone should come out to you, then, receive it as a gesture of trust and intimacy, because it’s not easy to say those words.  Recognize, too, that the person’s fear and hesitation may have nothing to do with your open-mindedness, your trustworthiness, your compassion, or your lack thereof; it’s scary regardless of the recipient.

 

2. The initial response is not nearly as important as the long-term response

I think some people feel a lot of anxiety about receiving self-disclosure because they’re worried about saying or doing the wrong thing.  I may be unique here, but I care much less about how people respond to me in the moment and much more about how they respond in the days and weeks that follow.  Obviously, there are some major things you can get right or wrong in that initial conversation (my experiences have all been positive, but I’ve heard horror stories you wouldn’t believe), but those are pretty self-evident and are not likely to change much based on your reading this post.

Many of the people to whom I’ve come out had very little knowledge of homosexuality before our talk, and I think it would be selfishly arrogant of me to expect people to say exactly the right things and ask the most profound, penetrating questions.  I’ve been thinking very closely about the topic of homosexuality since middle school, but many of the people in my life haven’t had a pressing reason to do the same and may be in unfamiliar territory.  So—barring the obvious extremes—someone’s initial response is not going to permanently torpedo our relationship.

What’s been much more important to me is how the other person responded in the long-term.  Did s/he respect my wishes that our conversation remain confidential?  Did our relationship change drastically?  Did s/he stick around?  These questions matter much more for the future of the relationship than the first words out of the person’s mouth.

 

3. Conversations and relationships go two ways

Lest it sound too much like the outcome of any conversation or relationship depends entirely on the person who receives the self-disclosure, I do want to say the person coming out has a lot of power in the situation as well.  Even though I think the recipient should be as accommodating as possible in light of the difficulty for the one coming out, there are most definitely good and bad ways to disclose something big and to handle the relationship afterwards.  If a relationship goes bad after someone comes out, it’s entirely possible that it has nothing to do with the response given and everything to do with the baggage the person coming out was already carrying.

 

4. In the best cases, it leads to better relationships

As I mentioned above, I have been overwhelmingly blessed by the responses I’ve received.  In my experience, even people who know nothing about homosexuality care enough about our relationship to ask good questions and seek understanding.  Unfortunately, I’m starting to realize that my positive experiences are more of an aberration than the rule, and there are too many stories of self-disclosures that resulted in conflict, physical or emotional violence, and broken relationships.

When coming out goes well, though, it changes everything for the better.  There is nothing like the closeness and intimacy it allows.  The scriptures paint a beautiful picture of the kind of community that can develop if we are only willing to trust each other: we can “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2), “confess [our] sins to each other and pray for each other” (James 5:16), and “encourage one another and build each other up” (I Thessalonians 5:11).  I do not believe any of us were meant to be alone, and the fear of coming out to anyone can lead to crushing loneliness.

 

What are your experiences with coming out in any capacity and on either side of the conversation?  What has been the most helpful, the most difficult, and the most wonderful for you?

 

*Be sure to head over to Brent’s blog: Odd Man Out!

These Hallowed Grounds: Bethany’s Story

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I said before that this was a two-part series, a two-part deal, as Coming Out always is. National Coming Out Day is October 11th and leading up to it, we’re going to talk about this thing- Coming Out. What it’s like, how it happens, all the mess that occurs through stammered speech and so many tears. One part is for gay Christians to tell their story. The other part is for straight folks that have had gay friends come out to them.

 

I’ve heard the constructive note of: “is it my story to tell?” from straight Christians wary of sharing something that they were merely a minor character in. But here’s the thing, coming out is a spiritual moment that requires more than one voice. There is a beautiful give and take that occurs. And it’s important to talk about.

 

Doing this is also pragmatic on my part. I want to give tools for those who have either recently had a friend come out or will, probably, have someone in the future come out to them. I am intent on making this moment as gorgeous as I believe it was intended to be. A moment for community. Love. Friendship. God.

 

Today Bethany is sharing her story of her friend coming out to her and I am so grateful. She’s a powerful voice in the blogosphere, writing over at All That Jazz, and even though our friendship has been brief, she has already given me so much encouragement. I love what she wrote for us today.

______________________________________________________________________________________

                       

                           “I have something to tell you… and it’s really bad.”

                                                                                                         “Okay… what is it?”

                           “I just… I don’t really want to tell you.”

                                                                                                         “Are you doing drugs?”

                           “No.”

                                                                                                        “Did you get a girl pregnant?”

                          “No…but it’s just as bad.”

                                                                                                        “What is it?”

                          “…I think I’m gay.”

 

Hearing those four words absolutely changed my world. My friend (we’ll call him Chris) and I were sophomores in high school. He was my best friend at the time, and I had noticed something had changed with him. He was pulling away from me, and I could tell he was hiding something. He kept assuring me that he wasn’t, but then after two weeks of prying, he finally told me.

 

I remember exactly where we were and even what kind of shoes he was wearing (I looked at the floor a lot). We were sitting on the couch in my parents’ basement, and he was wearing white K-Swiss shoes. Tears were streaming down both of our faces after he came out to me. Neither of us had any words for a long time, and I had no idea how to react.

 

When Chris first told me he was gay, he told me he didn’t want to be. He told me that he wanted to change. So being the “good Christian” that I was, I got materials from my youth pastor on how not to be gay and gave them to him. At first he was grateful, but over the next couple of weeks he started to change his perspective. As he came out to his friends from his high school, they encouraged him to accept who he was and realize that he couldn’t change.

 

Two weeks after he came out to me, he came over to my house. He stood in my bedroom doorway and said,

 

“Bethany, I can’t change. This is who I am.”

“…I think you can change.”

“I can’t. And I need you to accept that. I need you to accept me for who I am.”

“I just… I can’t, Chris. I can’t accept that you’re gay, because it’s wrong.”

 

…And that was it. From that point on, my friendship with Chris was disjointed, superficial, and is now non-existent. We tried to be friends, but I couldn’t get over how wrong I believed his homosexuality to be. While we would start out talking about what was going on in our lives, I would always somehow change the topic to his lifestyle and why he thought being gay was okay. Needless to say, he pulled away from me pretty quickly after that.

 

I did so many things wrong after Chris came out to me. I still don’t agree with same-sex partnerships, but I do believe that some people are born attracted to the same sex. I treated Chris as if he wasn’t acceptable as a person, and that there was something wrong with him. He still professed to be a Christian, but I didn’t believe him. For a long time, I believed that if a person was gay, they couldn’t possibly be a Christian.

 

To this day, I still mourn the loss of my friendship with Chris. He was my best friend and closest confidant. I trusted him fully. We had been through so much together, but as soon as he told me something I didn’t like, I threw all of that away.

 

As much as I felt that I was doing the right and loving thing by not accepting him and where he was at, I was incredibly wrong. I hurt him deeply. I hurt him to the point where our friendship was beyond being saved. …And it was all done in the name of love.

 

I wish I could articulate just how much I regret my actions to Chris. My heart still aches deeply over the things I did and said, and it aches for the lost friendship. Besides my husband, I’ve never had another friend like him. He was a once-in-a-lifetime friend, and I threw it away.

 

If I could give any advice to anyone trying to figure out how to respond to a friend/family member who comes out to them, it would be: Listen. Be patient. Give grace. Love unconditionally.

 

Even if you disagree. Even if you think they’re wrong. Love them, love them, love them.

 

Tell them you love them.

 

Tell them you won’t stop loving them.

 

Tell them that nothing they do or say could ever make you turn your back on them.

 

Embrace them.

 

When a person comes out to someone, odds are they really, really need a hug. Even if you feel you have no words to give, you can always hug them.

 

Cry with them.

 

When Chris came out to me, we just sat hugging and crying for a long time, and that’s okay. It was incredibly difficult for him to do what he did. It took immense bravery for him to be so honest.

 

I can’t tell you what to believe. I only know what I believe, and I must learn to love my gay friends in the midst of that.

 

Be compassionate.

 

If the person coming out to you is in the Church, then they probably are incredibly confused. They’re probably trying to figure things out, and they don’t know what to do. Be compassionate towards them. Understand that they are going through an incredibly difficult time, and don’t expect them to be in a different place than they are.

 

Pursue them.

 

Most likely, after they come out to you, they will try to pull away. Pursue them. Show them how much you love them. Show them you care about them for more than their sexual orientation. Don’t just tell them… show them. Show them they are important to you. Show them that your friendship doesn’t hinge on their orientation.

 

And I will say it again and again… Love them. Love them with everything you have.

~

 1 Corinthians 13:13

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

~

For the Closeted Ones

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I’m writing this for the closet LGBTQs, but in a way, I’m writing this for myself. When I was where you are, alone in agony, I wish someone would’ve written to me. Just a word from a world where there were others. A red flare far out in the dark.

 

And maybe your story is a lot like mine. Maybe you need these words more than I need to write them…

 

Maybe you heard it first at age nine from the front row pew. Your pastor said it in ten seconds and it felt like hell and hate hurling down upon you. Maybe you heard it in the car with James Dobson declaring to the nation, to your family, that perverts like you don’t get to have God. Maybe you heard it in everything that went unsaid.

 

Maybe you opened the Book and saw six or so verses with their crushing words, leaving your soul cracked wide open. Maybe you read them with a lump in your throat and tears down your face and trembling hands. Maybe a part of you died.

 

And the message was received, loud and clear. You cannot be known, because you cannot be loved. You will not be welcomed. You will not be saved. You will lose everyone you care about. You will be thrown away.

 

So you ran backwards. You receded down deep, laid thick bricks all around you to keep everyone out. You believed it all was true and you believed that hiding was protection.

 

For me, for a long time, I believed them too. I believed God could care less. I believed that the only way I would be loved and get my pardon from Hell was to be straight. I believed that sometime, long before memory, maybe as a toddler, I chose to be gay, because that’s what the Church folk said. This is merely a matter of choice.

 

I believed it fully in my decaying heart, until late one night, at my lowest point, He told me something different.

 

It was 1 am and I was below the stars wrapped up in the backyard hammock. I was hyperventilating- violently. Cries were choked out and breath was cut short and I was all past hope.

 

I asked Him how His people, His followers, His body, could be so cruel and tough and severe. Why are you like that? I spat. Why do they say You’re on their side? Why am I even here? Why can’t I be your child? Why won’t you take me?

 

I threw wild swings in the dark, imagining His face was right in front of me. I knew He was there, I believed it, but I was completely convinced that He didn’t care a bit about me.

 

He hated me and I was all past hope.

 

But in the middle of the madness, in the swinging and the cursing, a sudden seam was stitched. A bridge built between my before and my after. A moment that changed everything forever.

 

It came quietly, like the first drops of rain, gentle and cool. It was five words and they were the sweetest ones ever spoken to me.

 

“I am not like them.”

 

I was struck and lulled and captivated all at once. I lost my breath and my arms fell limp to the grass below. I placed my hand over my heart. I squeezed my eyes shut. I listened to it echo through my soul. Reverberating. Over and over, again and again, until it matched the rhythm of my returning heartbeat. I am not like them. I am not like them. I am not like them.

 

The great I Am heard me. Saw me. Spoke to me. Came to me.

The great I Am is not like them.

 

The cries and moans didn’t cease, but they came from a different place. A source of pure joy and adoration and peace and I hang onto this memory with all that I have because it is all that I need. I am His love, I am His joy, He likes me and He loves me and He saved me.

 

He reached out and wrapped His big arms around me and it was like He had waited forever for this.


 

He Loves me… and He loves you too whether you believe or not.

It’s true.


 

I know how that word sounds. Love. Every time someone said it to you, it never felt real because they didn’t know that part of you. If they did, they would have never said it.

 

Listen, if you’re going to hear anything from me, hear this.

 

That’s the monster in the closet talking. The enemy will tell you anything and everything to keep you there. To keep you ashamed. To keep you afraid. Away.

 

But God loves you. He loves you. He loves you. Say it. Out loud. He loves you. He loves me.

 

When God formed you, he named you Masterpiece. Did you know that? Not just another work of art, but the very best thing he ever did. When He came to dwell, he made his bed in the margins. In the closet.

The very ones despised by the religious order were the ones He identified with most. Those were His brothers and sisters. Those were His friends. Those were the ones that got Him. He is with the beaten beside the road. He is with the hurting. He is with the accused. He is with the LGBT soul drowning behind the closet door.

He has carved your name in His palms. He has counted the number of hairs on your head. He thought of you first. He loved you first. He made you on purpose. He gave you a heart and a soul and a mind and breathed life into all that you are.

 

You are the best thing He has done. He has so much pride in you that it borders on embarrassing affection. He is fond of you. He fawns over you. He loves and He likes you.

 

And I believe, more than anything, he wants you to know that..

 

God is not straight and God is not gay,

He is above all the labels, He is only Love.

 

The head over heels, can’t shut up about it kind of love. He feels this for me. He feels this for you. He’s waiting, desperate and still, for you to grasp that, and then maybe, to grasp Him.

 

RR

When Coming Out is Letting in

France, Eure, Vesly, flying with Northern Lapwing birds (Vanellus vanellus, paramotor landing field belonging to Yves Helary (aerial view

 

 

Deep in the crevices of Pristina, Kosovo is a small corner cafe where I would sneak off to Skype with my mom. It was a refuge for when I was caught in my can’t-win days. Those ones where the desk papers stacked to the ceiling- penned in a language I do not speak- on a subject I still do not get. On these days, I longed for a listening ear from a familiar face. A reassuring nod that let me imagine I could catch the sight of land.

 

One afternoon, she was chatting with me from the family room couch when a young black kid carrying a sandwich passed behind her; so casual as if he lived there.

“Wait, wait, hold on. Who is that?”

“Who? Him?” The screen shook and buffered until slowly, it focused and I saw him again- a deer in headlights chewing on a PB&J.

“This is a new addition to our family! He’s staying in the spare bedroom upstairs. ”

“New” was the key word here, because my mom had done this before, a couple times actually. She can’t turn away because she doesn’t know how. It’s one of the things I love most about her.

 

Now knowing him and his story- I can’t believe anyone ever could.

Two weeks after his birth she abandoned him. She abandoned him in Liberia because being an American was more important than being a mom.

“I don’t think I fit into her plans” he would later tell me.

Stepping into the gap was his gentle and gracious grandmother. She was the one that drew out his first word, toughed out his tantrums and taught him how to crawl and walk and run.

He was hers and she was his, until a phone call came from a world away came. It was her and she had changed her mind. And at the age of six, he left Africa for Minnesota to meet a mother he had no memory of. Twelve years later, she would remind him why. A brief argument with his mom’s husband had him running for the exits. She stayed silent as he kicked him out because a husband was, again, more important than being a mom.

So touched by this tragedy was my mom that she carved out a corner of our house for him to stay, as long as he wanted to.

And it didn’t take very long for him and I to hit it off. We shared in this sarcastic rapport that really few could ever understand. But we understood it and that’s all that really matters in a friendship anyway.

 

He was a member of the family now and I felt like I had to come out to him. Too much time had been spent already in whispered talks with my folks and frantic shelving of Justin Lee and Andrew Marin books whenever he came into the room. I was tired of it, and ready for whatever came.

 

On a drive to work with little courage and a lot of rambling and reciting of old lines, we finally crossed that bridge. As usual, my expectations were far better than I imagined (making me wonder why I ever even have them). He was unbelievably understanding and handled my confession with care, making me cherish every mile of that drive.

Parking in front of his work, he opened the door and started sliding out… But he turned back. Looking like he’d forgotten something, he stared up at me and said,

“I feel like crying”

I wasn’t sure why until I came home later that night.

Him and my parents had had a talk.

….

 

Perhaps somewhere between Africa and the curb he was kicked to, he owned every desertion like a limping leg. Forever he would drift through the windows and doors of this life, just passing through as he always had. Never stopping, never joining, always a foreigner. From an old country and a new parent, to fleeing his own front porch.

 

Just-a-passing-through.

 

But all it took was three little words to let him know that there was another stranger sleeping two doors down. A different kind of foreigner. An outcast bearing the burden of an easy target on his back. Someone else juggling others’ expectations of him. Different and delinquent and always denied dignity. The humiliated that had knocked his knuckles red on doors that would never open.

 

When he got home from work that night, he looked at my mom and called this house home. A safe haven. A boardinghouse for the bruised reeds. The turf where he was trusted with such secrets. Secrets that rooted him here, to this family, and to me.

 

To all of us, just searching for some glimpse of land.

 

RR

The List and The Name

Image

Tucked away in the corner of my favorite coffee shop, I sit in my chair and I mull over a Name. Pressed atop my thigh is the sketchbook that I sometimes use to make lists. Daily responsibilities, wandering thoughts captured, and some very big dreams.

In no certain order is a set of names. I squint at it and think about adding more. Pen taps the page as my mind moves elsewhere. What makes one trustworthy? Would I make it on that list?

I glance back at the page and there’s a tear at the top. And I too am torn. I’m torn because I don’t know if this is a list of-to-dos or a power grab. I wonder if He somehow had mapped out my meddling and weaved it into his own idea.

I’ve made marks by those that know– Some have a check and others are crossed off, but none of them share the same color ink- a reminder of how long this hike has been.

I’m in the in-between. The place where I’m free to walk out with certain company, but go back inside around others. It’s wearing and tearing, but necessary, I think.

My list isn’t arbitrary. The names are faces and they all take up ink on my social skin. With each one comes new sets of loaded lists. One of scenarios, one of bubble wrapped words, and most importantly, one about trust. Trust that they’ll keep this. Trust that they will wait until I can check or cross every other name off.

And it’s not easy for them. My those that know mingle with my those that don’t and they find themselves gagged. Held back from friends they have never had to before. All of them are loved by me, but some are not trusted. Can you say you love someone if you don’t trust them? I should start a list of questions.

Left to right I read each name and I know what I am suppose to do. Pray and pray harder.

And for whatever reason, there is one name I cannot stop seeing. It’s like the ink is moving and trying to steal my attention. Every time I open to this page, that name wakes up and I cannot stop seeing it.

So like a heat-seeking missile, my eyes zero in on the target until everything around it blurs and dims darker. Prayers whispered whirl down like a tornado to its touchdown. All I’m hoping for is a nudge. A chance meeting. Trying so hard to be courageous.

I leave the coffee shop and go home.

The next morning I look at the list and then at my phone. The name on the list called my phone. He’s just saying hey wondering what I’ve been up to. I look back at the list and give a nod- but I need more to go on than that.

But something was so different about today. Didn’t matter whether I wanted to or not, it was just going to happen. And I’m suddenly surprised by my lack of control. It was just a different kind of morning.

So I called one of the first names crossed off on the list and told her what was to happen today. I explained that it was unexplainable, just a feeling, a nudge, an inevitability. She told me she’d pray for the both of us.

I texted the Name and said we should hang out tonight

But as the day wore on and courage filtered through doubt, I decided against tonight. I felt the reins returning to my hands and I loved that I could choose again. I was aware that this red light-green light game started to resemble the pattern of a slow dieter. I’ll enjoy my distance today, but tomorrow, that’s when I’ll start being honest.

I called the Name and cancelled. Too much was going on, I said. I’m staying in.

But I didn’t stay in. The only place I wanted to be, that place I felt peace, was tucked in that chair in that corner of my favorite coffee shop. The baristas all know me here and when I walk through the door they say hello. Usually I walk on by waving, set my things down in my chair and then go back for my cup.

Turning the corner to the other side of the fireplace, a realization dawns on me and I am stopped dead in my tracks. I crossed a line. I ignored that voice in my head for far too long telling me to tell this person and that person, and to finish the damn list already. Fate would find me, it always does. Sitting in my chair is the name on my list and my mind.

He was sitting in my Naming chair. The place I would pick and choose who to bring in and who to leave out. All he thinks is going on is that I am caught in that earlier lie. He thought I was staying in. The Name looked more surprised than I did, but definitely didn’t feel it as much.

In a move of pure passive aggressiveness, I settle in somewhere else, telling him I have some “business” to attend to. I found a different chair. It was unfamiliar and had a big lump in the cushion and the whole time I saw and seethed over the boundaries fate had betrayed. Into my corner and into my chair. It had taken me out of my safe space and I kept my lips locked. You don’t get to choose, I boiled.

Closing time came fast and the Name meandered over to my makeshift study. Unsure of how to keep my cards close, so he wouldn’t know something was up, I agreed that I had nothing else to do and that we should go hang with some friends.

I drove behind him and I felt the wind at my back moving me faster. Any further, any more distance, any more silence and I would self-destruct. I had to let go. I had to exhale. I had to give in to where the wind was taking me. I had to have faith in fate. I had to, even if I didn’t want to. Gritting my teeth, I took out my phone and told the Name to pull over.

We sat in my the car and I told him my story. Beginning to end. All those times something seemed wrong and he knew there was, but I never told him. Why me and some others would sneak off to talk. What we were talking about and why he wasn’t invited. I told him that his name was written on my list and on my mind and my heart. It had been written so long ago. I always trusted him, but I always battled doubt.

And he listened and let me talk. His face didn’t fall out of place, it was calm and his eyes kept contact. Throughout my ramble he nodded and smiled and showed sympathy through the lines on his brow. Then he spoke and he called me courageous. He thanked me, THANKED me, for trusting in his confidence. Nothing would ever change because our relationship is built on a rock that can’t be shaken. Not by something like this.

And I saw how honest words can restore what regret took.

~~~

Trust is more ruthless and risky than all other exchanges. It asks us to be human and be liberal with this life. Let those that you care about in and never measure their love by the yardstick you use for yourself.

I think a lot about how fate and trust share the same sheets. I am Jonah, and I believe I have a safehouse. But fate always finds me. He finds me and throws me in front of my peas and says, “eat,”why?“Because it’s good for you.” And I cross my arms and scrunch up my mouth, and He sighs and replies , “got all day bud.”

Maybe my list and maybe my steps are all predestined anyway. Perhaps Papa God really held the pen to the page. Maybe its a partnership; another facet of faith. Another foot down the dim stairway. It could be true that my relationship with the list and the faces behind them are reflective of my trust in the Father.

Something else to think about as I sit back in my chair and stare again at the list. There are only checks and crosses. Not a single is scribbled or burnt off the page. Not a single face has fled me.

And this hike doesn’t feel so wearisome anymore.

It is a picture of how far I have come.

And all the country I have left to cross.

RR

A Year Ago Today

So a year ago today, at 10 PM, in my parents’ bed, I came out of the closet.

It’s funny how fast time has flown since then.

On this day, I can’t help but think about my life before. Today makes me remember all of the miserable mornings that paralyzed me beneath the sheets. It brings me back to a time when the only prayer I could muster up was for strength to walk out under the sun. I am pulled back to the world of my thoughts where I played both patient and therapist.

that cold and cruel closet…

Up and down the walls were scrawled the maddening lies that kept me.

“You are disgusting” one said.

“No one has to know” said another.

In big bold letters, “take it to the grave”

“If you love them, you’ll save them from this” printed on the doormat.

And above the door hung the words “Emergency Exit”, glowing in red.

For sake of space, I won’t delve into all of the details of my departure, I’ve written about that in previous posts. But I will say, that night was one of the most loving experiences I have ever had.

After I made the “great leap” to my folks, I was met with shock, tears and then the gift of unconditional love. The single most important development after I came out was the fact that my folks still loved me. Just me. The same way they always had.

Looking back now it all seems so ridiculous to think that they wouldn’t, but when you’re in the dark, you can’t see truth. The only thing I could see was that they loved the boy they raised. The little boy they watched grow up.

But what was unseen was unlovable,
whispered the writing on the wall.

Their declaration by way of words and kisses and hugs, made love truly real for me. For the FIRST TIME, I believed that maybe God extended his unconditional love to me too.

I have spent the last twelve months sharing the secret I had buried for the last decade. There have been days when the weight of it all has left me undone. But those days, echoes of my time in the closet, have become few and far between. The intellectual and spiritual tug-of-war still rages on inside my mind. But the war is now more or less food for thought as I am able to focus on other areas of my life. Feeling the exposure of my shame still stings a bit, but it isn’t deadly like it was a year and a day ago.

Today is my anniversary. It is the day I celebrate my own emancipation proclamation. It is marked in my memory as the day I finally found freedom.

And I’m letting freedom ring..

I have been on the receiving end of so much blessing this past year. Christ once said, if someone asks you to walk a mile with them, walk two. Those in my corner have bent over backwards to try to better understand, stood by my side through all of my breakdowns and refused to ever let me give up. Christ said two miles, they’ve gone two thousand.

I don’t stand in the shadow of this past year, this past year is my own shadow. And it makes me look so tall, and to be honest, I feel really tall today. I cannot stop smiling! Everything good that has happened has taken me by complete surprise. I never thought I would be here. Never thought this life was really possible.

But the reality of all of it is that I wouldn’t be where I am had it not been for Christ’s furious pursuit of my soul. He has taken me through fire and he didn’t let me get burned. It is his light that shines ahead and casts the shadow of my testimony behind me.

I stand on the cusp of another year with more excitement than I expected to have. Over and over I have fretted about the future and how it would look for me. Checking the calendar today, I can see how wrong I was. I’m still here, I’m still standing and I’m still wrestling with my savior. I look forward to so many things in these next twelve months, but honestly, the answers to my questions about my sexuality are not one of them. What I look forward to is more questions and more throw downs with God. No more do I worry about my life in five or ten or thirty years because the reality is, I don’t know if I’ll have tomorrow, or even the next ten minutes. In year two, I plan to accept every sunrise I am given.
And at this moment- here are some memories I am holding on to.

~a few of the best moments of the past twelve months~

It was only a few weeks after I came out to my parents that I told my best friend. Her immediate reaction was a gasp, but, without missing a beat, she leaned in and said, “nothing’s changed. I can’t explain it but you look no different to me than you did a minute ago.” She is one of the most life-giving people I have ever known. It’s pure providence that this friend entered into my story. Perhaps she was called for “such a time as this”. In any case, she has carried me. She doesn’t know how to judge or reject. She doesn’t know how to not care. She can’t leave a conversation with me without pulling me close and whispering in my ear, “I am so proud of you.” She has, more often than not, been the answer to my prayers.

Months later my brother spoke to me about a book he had picked up, one that stepped directly into the conversation regarding reconciling homosexuality and faith. The book, Love is an Orientation, made more of an impact on me than most things in my journey. It offered me the grace and peace I needed. It assured me that there were others out there, other gay Christians, trying to figure out how to approach this area of their lives in light of the Good News. It told me it was okay to be unsure.

My mom and I took a trip to Chicago to visit the Marin Foundation in search of the one thing we both desperately needed: Empathy. There is no greater feeling than empathy. And as we sat around the tables with others, it was intoxicating. Being able to stare down the lie of being alone with the faces of fellow travelers provided an inexpressible peace that I couldn’t possibly explain in 10,000 posts. Taking the time to sit with my peers, my fellow runaways, old, young, men, women, gay and straight, seemed to rip open my heart in the best possible way. I asked them questions, they responded with their testimonies. I asked, “how do I know who to tell?” they shared stories, some of rejection but most with good surprises. They told me to look for people of character and trustworthiness. One said that I had to consider the responsibility I had to tell my story, for the sake of my LGBT brothers and sisters. All of them encouraged me to pray my heart out to Christ.

Perhaps what struck me most that night was how proud I was of my mom. As people emptied out their baggage, she moved into the mess. With pen and pad in hand, she jotted down notes and questions. Immediately following a story of a woman afraid to tell her family, she choked up, looked her in the eye, and said, “I just want you to know that they’re going to love you. Just knowing you now, I know they will.” There was another mom there too. She saw the grace and perspective that my mom was raining on the room and turned to her to ask questions that only a mom would ask. It was weird, and she’ll think its weird that I write this, but she seemed more comfortable in this crowd than any I had seen her in before. But that really shouldn’t surprise me, because that’s her heart. And I’m not just talking about the heart of a mother, but an indelible mark of her maker. Her conversations with the others in that room reflected Christ’s compassion in it’s truest form. The grace that spilled out in her words and tears flowed down to the deepest parts of their lives. I love this woman!

A month or so ago I began writing this blog. It has been a way for me to share my stories and engage with fellow travelers in the blogging community without having to make the “great leap.” I’m not sure if remaining here, out to some and closeted to others, is the healthiest way to go, but I still don’t feel ready. I’ve been affirmed by many of you that it’s okay to not be.

For those that remain in the dark, I want this space, this blog, to be an open place for you to feel freedom. For you to hear my stories, and those of others, and gain courage to keep moving forward. You don’t have to be out to ask advice from me, or from others on the many other blogs out there. I realize that for many of you, coming out is actually a dangerous thing depending upon your circumstances, I hope that you will reach out to the many resources being offered out there. For those that are sitting in the Christian circle afraid to speak up, realize that the armageddon that you’re anticipating is nothing more than a funhouse mirror reflecting your worst fears. More than anything, dark forces at work want you to remain silent, for this to eat away at you, and for you to be convinced that your life will be over once you’re out. Don’t buy it. Be brave and strong, and understand that despite the fact that this will probably be the hardest thing you ever do, it will also be one of the best things.

It really does get better my friends.

To those that are in my inner circle, that know who I am and have walked with me through all of this, you have truly been Christ to me. In one way or another, each one of you have saved my life.

To all those that have written to me (I’m thinking of you Julie! Kate! Survivor Girl! Mike! Jordan! Aiden!) I have been moved more than you could possibly know. I hope to keep these friendships alive and thriving!

All of you- I love you.

RR

Lean In

In the world of television- NBC’s Parenthood is perhaps the most underappreciated work of art out there. The reason I love this show so so so much is that it ditches the dramatic gimmicks utilized by so many other programs and takes the viewers down into a reality-based dumpster. Whereas on other shows, the problems the plague the normal are written off as BORRIINGG, Parenthood paints them in a way that resonates strongly with its viewers. It’s just so relatable. Which makes it so good.

Kristina has just found out she has cancer. As her and her husband Adam are thrust into this dark and challenging road before them, they find themselves almost always in a place of uncertainty. Uncertainty in their choice of doctor. Uncertainty in their choice of treatment. Uncertainty in who they tell. Uncertainty of when they tell their kids. Uncertainty in how they talk to one another and uncertainty in how they should feel.

Lying in bed Kristina takes a deep breath and refocuses on the now. And in the now, she stops trying to feel the way she “should” and instead embraces honesty.

The two of them had been getting ahead of themselves lately. They were furious and desperate to attack the tumor that was on the verge of ending her life. Adam, worrying that if his wife felt worried it would harm her chances of survival (kind of a mind over matter thing), refused to allow her to show any signs of surrender. He watched her carefully as she surfed the web, fearing she would find the survival rates. Every time he saw tears, he would reassure her that it was “normal” to feel scared, but to remember to stay strong.

As many of my brothers and sisters in the crosshairs of faith and sexuality will tell you, the aftermath of exiting the closet can be exhausting. My parents deferred the decision to me, asking me if I wanted to be gay. Quite honestly, I said no. More than anything I wanted to be free from my status as a freak. They never pressured me towards reparative therapy or required me to resist my feelings. They simply asked me what I wanted, and I told them.

Except I didn’t tell them I was scared. Each time I looked up ex gay stories I felt unnerved and unacceptable. I read up on suicide rates of those in therapy and the loneliness of those in celibacy. I needn’t look too far to find out what happened to men who tried to be straight- enough prominent pastors had shown how that went down.

At a crossroads I stood, and I hated every path. I hated the idea that I needed to fall into a category and move forward with a game plan. I hated that I hated these options. I wished things to be clearer.

During this period I started seeing an incredible therapist who listened through my tears as I talked about my options. There were pros here, cons there, and I wanted to hear what his opinion was. Mid-monologue he raised his hand and said, “stop.”

“Stop- please. Stop trying to paint a pretty picture when that isn’t what you feel. Stop with the talk of reparative therapy. Stop thinking you will be alone your whole life. Stop and accept the reality that this is very hard. Accept your fear; allow yourself more time to grieve. Your whole life you have had to watch straight siblings who are going to live a life free from judgment and condemnation and you can’t. You need to accept the gravity of this. Stop thinking you can move forward without embracing where you are now.”

That was a turning point for me. I stopped engaging in reparative therapy sessions. I stopped making five-year plans. I stopped thinking about getting a dog to fill my void of loneliness. I stopped the mental gymnastics. I stopped it all.

Instead I let myself mourn, kick and scream, and check out for a while.
I let myself lean in.

When I explained the session to my folks, they understood my feelings better. And in turn, I understood them more. I understood that their need to continue to affirm me and lift me up stemmed from their fear of my suicide. That when they told me “everything will be alright” they weren’t referencing my sexuality but my emotional stability.

Strange as it sounds, I could not regain perspective with positive reinforcement, or by sinking my nails into the slope I was slipping down. I couldn’t through self help books or praise and worship songs. I certainly couldn’t in reparative therapy.

No, I had to raise my hands up. Scream in terror at the drop. Feel the adrenaline filling my veins. Accept the uncertainty. Wait for the bottom hit.

Instead of running around like the little Dutch boy plugging holes in the dam, I had to relax and know the thing was gonna blow anyway.

I had to accept that my life prior to coming out was no more, and instead of trying to preserve any semblance of that charade, I had to build a new one from the core pieces of who I am. Until my feelings could be validated, I couldn’t move forward. By leaning in I let the whole thing collapse so I could rebuild my respect and find rationality in the chaos.

Leaning in was the best choice I could make. It threw me in the arms of my family, friends, and my savior. Only then did I understand who was in my corner. It made me recognize how little control I have over my future, and despite how scary that is, it doesn’t have to be.

It helped me realize that I couldn’t reach relief from the outside in. That’s backwards.

I had to let it burn and build again.

RR