It has been nearly 8 years since I stepped into my authentic self and came out of the proverbial closet. In May of 2012 many of my family, friends, colleagues, cohorts and acquaintances received and email from me publicly sharing my personal story of living a closeted life, my impending divorce and my decision to embrace my life as a gay man. A life that I did not choose. A life that I did not want. A life that would call me to face discrimination that I was not yet ready for.
It was about that time that I began this blog. I had, at different times in my life began writing journals and/or diaries only to go back to read them, tear them up, burn them or throw them in the trash. I didn’t like what I had written, I didn’t like seeing my thoughts on paper. I was afraid that someone would find them and read them, I was ashamed of who I was, my thoughts, my desires and my life as a whole. I used this blog to kick, scream and claw my way into an authentic life. Many of you have read my writings and determined that I was a very angry person even though I claimed that I wasn’t. You labeled me a “back-sliding” christian that was simply trying to “justify” his new “lifestyle.” Sometimes you were correct. Mostly you were not.
I am reminded of a video that I watched on You Tube where a senior citizen is asked to give an invocation at a senior-based corporate event. Ok… I’ll give them a plug… The event was a conference for Home Instead. Here is the link to the video… (Home Instead, Mary Maxwell) Her invocation was scripted and contained some very comical moments, the part that resounded within me was when she asked for those around her to be patient with her through her senior years as this was her first time being old. She had never been “old” before and that she was learning along the way.
There is a quote that I have learned to practice and embrace. “Don’t judge people for the choices they make, when you don’t know the options they had to choose from.” Take that in for a minute. Think about it…It’s ok. I’ll wait… Take all the time you need. I often joke that I was the worlds best parent… until I had children. The “I would never…” and “what I would do is…” just didn’t work out in real life like they did in my head. It didn’t take me long to realize that parenting is hard work and all the planning in the world won’t get you the results that you thought you’d get when it comes to infants, toddlers and now teens. I learned to be more patient with parents, especially those who had never been parents before. They were learning along the way.
That leads me to this. When I began to embrace and accept being gay, It caused so many, including myself to question my faith, my life and my innate identity. For my entire life up until this point, I had learned, taught and embraced that homosexuality was a choice, a sin and socially unacceptable. I believed at one time, that god could and had “healed” me from this “sin” and/or “disease.” However, I had come to a place where denying my attraction to men was no longer working. I had done everything under the sun to eradicate this from my being. It was as hazel as my eyes, as brown as my hair and as innate as my DNA. I am gay. Plain and simple. I was deeply hurt that a loving god would create me gay, yet demand that I live straight or be lonely and unfulfilled like so many well-meaning bible-thumpers had like myself had once believed. I would be required to live a celibate life, void of companionship, partnership and intimacy. It was the price that I had to pay for god to love me. I had somehow offended god so profusely that a life of being alone would be my lot. My thorn in my side.
I don’t know how this fits in to this particular post, but I want to say it and this seems like a good place to say it. Many have questioned how I could “walk away” from christianity and my former faith. I too have questioned that. I didn’t arrive at this decision easily. It wasn’t easy to do. It was one of the most difficult decisions that I had to make. In fact I didn’t “WALK AWAY” from christianity and my faith. I walked “PAST” it. There is a difference. We all have a destination. We all have a place that we need to get to. In order to get to our destination, we must walk PAST some things to get there. Furthermore, I believe that there are things that we are OBLIGATED to walk PAST in order to get to our destination. You may disagree. That is because your destination is not the same as mine. I have no desire to live in a “heaven” that is filled with people who make it their business to belittle, exclude and condemn me and my community here on planet earth. I’m not an atheist, even though I have no issue with Atheists. I have found that most of my atheist friends are some of the most moral and friendly people. I’m agnostic. Because I’m ok with saying “I don’t know.” Something I wish that I had said more when I was in ministry.
During my infancy of living as a gay man, I made some infant choices, said some infant things and behaved in some infant ways. I’m not apologizing or making excuses, I’m stating facts. I had choices to make that I had never made before. I had never come out of the closet before. I never had to reveal such private and personal information before. I never lived as a gay man before. This was new territory for me. There was no “Coming Out for Dummies” publication that would guide me through this process. Throw in the religion piece of the puzzle and you will quickly see that I was swimming upstream in a turbulent river. I didn’t have a chance at survival. Especially among those of the religious community. Up was down. Down was up. God was mad, People were hurt, things were said, things were NOT said, I was angry, I was happy… nothing was right, nothing was wrong… Suffice to say, I made some mistakes. I was learning along the way.
I said and did some things that were not my proudest moments, and so did you. Yes you. Yes you did, and I did too. I said some things publicly that should have been said in private. You did too. I did some things that I should have refrained from. You did too. I made some choices that I should not have made at that time. You did too. We were both learning along the way, a we likely hurt each other.
I had never lived openly as a gay man before. I had never deconstructed my faith before. I had never made the choice to leave my faith before. I had never been through a divorce before. I had never come out to my spouse, children, parents, siblings, family, friends, cohorts and acquaintances before. This is new territory for me. I was doing my best. I made some mistakes.
In your defense, you likely had never had your son, husband, father, brother, co-worker, friend or acquaintance come out as gay before. Especially one who was an evangelical christian and minister. We were both in uncharted territory. There was no right or wrong. No good or bad. Just overall bedlam. I would dare to say that you did what you did and said what you said, for the most part, in sincere and good faith. Well… some didn’t. Some were just plain hateful and still are. You know who you are. We will just let Miss Karma handle her bid’ness in this case.
Let me be clear. This doesn’t excuse, dismiss or eradicate the things that we said or did. No, this is the opposite. This calls those things to light. It’s giving it a name not a pardon. Apologies still must be offered, wrongs must be righted and things once ignored must be acknowledged. While some relationships have been restored, some have been revamped. In contrast, there are relationships that simply aren’t worth either. Remember that part about having to walk PAST some things to get to your destination? Yep. There are some people that you must walk past as well.
Before I go today, there are two more things that I need to say. Only one will apply to you. You can only choose one. There is a difference between the two. The difference lies within you. Sometimes we “feel” that someone has hurt us, when in fact they did not. It was you who misinterpreted, misread or simply made up a scenario in your mind that caused you to feel the way that you do. Those are your insecurities, your demons, your issues. I cannot and will not take responsibility for clouds that are in your sky, hurricanes that are in your ocean or clutter that you have placed in your closet.
- Forgive me. That is a statement. This I offer to those whom I intentionally did nothing, yet you somehow feel wronged by me.
- Forgive me? That is a question. This I offer to those that I intentionally hurt or harmed.