My observations and perspectives on coming out, about a year after I came out. On one hand, it’s kind of hard to remember all the nitty gritties and the full range of emotions, but on the other hand it’s easier to say things now that I just couldn’t say back then because it was just too fresh. Here’s what I remember. Please remember, the intention of sharing all of this is so that everyone can be aware of how this experience went for me, because this is very, very typical for people in my kinds of situation, which I like to think is unique, but it’s not really that unique. Whenever I share crappy stuff, I’m sure it can sound like I’m bad-mouthing people or whatever, but that’s not the intention. Ultimately, the goal of everything I share is to enable people who come after me to have a better experience, and this kills a few birds with one stone: letting gay people know what to expect, and letting straight people know they should/ shouldn’t do, in my not-so-humble opinion.
Let’s start with one of my most difficult memories.
A couple weeks before I came out, I went to dinner with some friends: my former roommate of a couple years, a friend we lived with on the college dorm floor for a couple years, and his wife. His wife is the daughter of the president of the university, and all three of these people are as Evangelical as you can get. Of course I saw my former roommate all the time because we were still living together until recently, but it had been a while since I had spent time with the other two. They’re great, and I love them. That’s what makes all this so hard.
During dinner, the topic of the recent Supreme Court decision to make gay marriage legal nationwide came up, and it was hard to hear their reactions. They talked about how dangerous it was to redefine marriage, and it led to a concerned discussion about how America was on a slippery slope, and how Christians were being persecuted and blah, blah, blah. The question was, “What’s next? Can I marry a dog? Can I marry a ten-year-old? Can I have multiple wives or husbands?” There is absolutely no way to describe what it feels like to hear people I know, love, care about and respect, comparing gay people, including me, to people who engage in bestiality, pedophilia and polygamy. Beyond that personal hurt and deep, deep offense, there’s the harsh reality that this is what it is. This is what some people really think of me, and will always think of me, just because I’m gay. If you ever wonder why it takes so many people so long to come out, this is definitely a significant contributing factor.
We’ve all seen scenes in movies when somebody is talking a whole lot of shit about someone, only to turn around and see that person has been standing right behind them the whole time. Imagine being that person standing right behind someone who’s talking a whole lot of shit about you. The imagine sitting at a table, eating dinner with them and trying not to break down in tears as your friends unashamedly and unapologetically compare you to people who few would argue are commonly considered the scum of the earth. Imagine leaving that dinner and driving home, knowing that in a few weeks when you come out, you’ll be one of those people, who love in a way that is comparable to having sex with animals and committing crimes against children.
Christians get mad when gay people lash out and call them ignorant, homophobic, prejudiced bigots. I honestly don’t know what other words could be used.
Only one of the people at that dinner that night has ever apologized to me for what was said that night, and it was sincere, and I accepted the apology. But you know, people are most honest when they have absolutely no idea that they’re saying is offending anyone. I can’t speak for all gay people, but personally, it’s not about an apology, because it’s not the words that hurt, it’s the realization that that’s what some people really think, and in fact, that’s what many of my friends think, whether they say it or not. I don’t care what people say, I care what people think, and I care what they think less because of how it affects me and more because of how I know it affects them and anyone else in their network who is in the closet and fearing the inevitable day when they go from one of the people those thoughts can be shared with openly to one of those people they can only think that about and not say it to.
That was part of my coming out process, even though it happened before I came out. It sucked.
Coming out was quick and easy for me. I pretty much just go for stuff, and I just went for it. I had a couple meetings with some friends, but I just came out on Facebook pretty quickly and that was it. I don’t know, I don’t have much to say about that. Just like with any topic, there are those who extremely vocal, whether positive and supportive or negative and critical. I definitely had more positive response than negative, but it’s not like it’s a competition.
One thing I’ll be clear about it is that I was surprised by the lack of response from a lot of people I expected at least something from. To be honest, a year after coming out, I have not heard a word from most of the people I went to college with, who were some of my closest friends. I guess they just don’t know what to say, so they don’t say anything at all. I don’t really know what to think or feel about it, because it kind of just is what it is.
Another interesting story I can share is this: A couple months before I came out, a few of the guys on my dorm floor wanted to do a floor reunion, and they asked me to be in charge and organize because I’m good at that kind of stuff. There was one guy who had come out a couple years earlier, and one who nobody was sure about. When they were wanting to do the floor reunion, they asked me, “Should we invite Blank and Blank?” I said, “Yeah, why wouldn’t we?” The jury was still out on that, and the plans were kind of put on the back burner. Of course after I came out, I haven’t heard from anyone who was previously asking me to plan and organize the event. I guess I’m on the “Should we invite Blank?” list now. Ugh. To be honest, sometimes all that is just a lol, and sometimes it’s really not. It’s all part of the process.
Obviously a significant part of my coming out process was dealing with Young Life, which was the only ministry I was officially serving in at the time. I told myself at the one year mark that I wasn’t going to write about Young Life shit anymore, but whatever. I think part of the journey is the tone and emotion present in writing, so maybe, just maybe, I can share just a more calm perspective at this point.
My meeting with Scott Didrickson when I first came out to him was terrible. If you read my first blog, I said that he tried his best, because I was trying to be nice, and that was the nicest thing I could say. I could try my best at a lot of things and fail miserably, and the same is usually true when well-meaning Christians respond to gay people coming out to them.
In that meeting, it became very, very clear to me that Scott Didrickson was extremely poorly educated regarding anything related to homosexuality and that he was bitterly homophobic, in my opinion. To be fair, he has a legitimate reason to be homophobic, because one of his friends while he was a teenager was involved in an inappropriate relationship with an older gay male, which that older gay male should never have initiated or participated in. That negative experience has influenced him more than he realizes, and he will most likely always be extremely homophobic. He told me about that situation right after I came out to him. He said that he never talks about it, and he had never even shared it with his co-worker in Bellevue Young Life. The fact that he brought it up in this conversation, as if this conversation required him to talk about this experience that he never usually shares with anyone, is indicative of his homophobia. He followed it up with asking me if I had been involved in any sexual relationships with any students.
He said I shouldn’t put a gay lifestyle on display for kids, yadda, yadda, we all know how I feel about that. He said parents wouldn’t want me around their kids, and that it would affect my business, yada, yada. He asked what kind of counselor I had been seeing, which implied to me that he still believes Christians should only go to Christian counselors who practice conversion therapy, and we all know how I feel about that, yadda, yadda.
When I met with Danielle Eylander after the meeting with Scott Didrickson, I told her that I felt very clearly that he was obviously homophobic and poorly educated regarding related issues. She said she wasn’t surprised, and that he seemed to just not know basic stuff about basic stuff. She said he had recently asked her what it was called when someone throws up after they eat. We both agreed that everyone who works with youth as a profession should have more current education and understanding regarding issues that are relevant to teens, such as eating disorders and sexuality. I’m good at reading people, and I already knew all that about Scott Didrickson, so that’s another reason why I was able to be patient and show grace (if whatever I demonstrated could be considered patience and grace). A month or so later I used Martin Luther King Jr’s famous quote “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” That is very, very true. The worst kind of ignorance is sincere ignorance- when someone is totally, absolutely, 100% unaware that they are ignorant, homophobic and bigoted. There is nothing more dangerous in all the world than having vulnerable, impressionable teens around people like that. I pray that no student is ever unfortunate enough to come out to Scott Didrickson. You can read this and think I’m mad or whatever, but I’m honestly not. This is what I genuinely think, a year later. It’s basically the same as I thought a year ago, but just with a little less heart and a little more head involved. Dealing with all that is part of coming out.
The meeting with Danielle Eylander was friendly. She said it was standard protocol that Scott Didrickson had asked me about being involved with sexual relationships with students. She said it was like nothing, and that’s definitely something to take note of. This was the first conversation we had ever had in eight years where she pulled the classic cabin time, “What’s said here stays here, unless there’s something I’m required to report.” Of course, I’m all about reporting absolutely anything that should be reported for any reason, but what message do you think is sent when the first conversation you have with someone after they come out is also the first conversation in which you indicate that you expect might be said that would justify a mandatory report? Like I said before, there is almost nothing more hurtful and offensive than the implication that I am a pedophile. It would be offensive to anyone, but it’s especially offensive and hurtful to me because I love students with all my heart and serve them because I believe God has really called me and gifted me to do so. It’s bad enough that they imply that, and it is made worse by the fact that they think that’s normal and acceptable, and that I’m supposed to think that it’s normal and acceptable and not be hurt and offended by that. In addition to being personally hurtful and offensive,there are also legal implications to all that. They legitimately think that I should feel comfortable meeting with them in situations where they have no accountability regarding the content of those conversations, even after they have proven that they deny and lie about the content of those conversations. How could it possibly be considered unreasonable to want a third party present after multiple people representing an organization have demonstrated that they have absolutely no problem implying that my sexual orientation makes me more likely to commit sexual crimes against minors? It’s that sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Beside the numerous times that various people likened me to someone who would want to have sex with animals, children and multiple partners, the other most offensive part of my coming out process was being told that I could not or should not talk about it. Every church, organization and Christian likes to think that they don’t treat gay people like everyone else, but that is simply not true. Silencing and discrediting gay people is par for the course when people come out. In every meeting with Young Life staff, there was a strong, manipulative appeal to not share about what was going on. They implied that staying silent was for the greater good, that sharing was hurting kids and not being Christ like. In the meeting in which I was terminated, Scott Didrickson quoted John 13:35 about how the world will know we love God by the way we love each other. I totally agree with that, but they said that I could not talk about the anti-gay policy or the termination. If that is how they love gay people, then how could letting the world know about that love be the problem? I’ve gone round and round on this, and I keep winding up with the same conclusion. It is absolutely illogical, irrational and unintelligent- and not in the cutesy, ironic, Biblical head-scratcher kind of way- just in the illogical, irrational, unintelligent kind of way. That’s a significant part of coming out. Many responses will be sincerely ignorant and conscientiously stupid, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. There’s nothing they can do about it either, because it is absolutely sincere.
My advice for coming out:
- The sooner the better. I came out extremely quickly, and I’m not saying everything about that was perfect. Even so, I can’t imagine staying closeted any longer than I did. I know some people who know they’re gay but are still in the closet, and I don’t envy their lives on bit. Coming out sucks, but staying closeted is worse. You know you’re going to come out anyway, and everything that’s going to happen is going to happen. Delaying the inevitable doesn’t change the inevitable, it just delays it, and in the meantime you’re just dreading it.
- Tell whoever you want, whenever you want, whenever you want. No organization or person has any right to dictate your process in any way. Talking about sexual orientation is not the same as talking about sex. It’s personal, but it’s not inappropriate in any way for any reason. You can be be public but you don’t have to. you can be private, but you don’t have to. Do it however you want.
- Care as much as you want. A lot of people give advice like “Don’t worry about what they say” or “Don’t let it get to you,” etc. There’s something to be said about that, but the gay people who I think are doing the best a year after coming out are the ones who just felt what they felt instead of rushing through it and denying their real feelings. Find what works for you- don’t get carried away with it, but also don’t avoid it, because nothing good comes from avoiding.
- Don’t respond to everyone. With some people, there is simply no point in engaging. There’s no use in responding, because they’re just way too far gone, and there’s just no way that anything positive would come from engaging. Sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity are not just sincere and conscientious, but down right dangerous. It’s those people that you kind of have to love from a distance despite their flaws, which will never change. They’re probably thinking the same thing, but you’re the only one loling about it.
- Remember that with any issue 5% are all for it, and 5% are all against it. 90% are somewhere in the middle, and maybe 0.5% will change. It just is what it is. It’s personal, but it’s not at the same time.
- The most hurtful and offensive things people say and do are less about what they say and do, and more about the fact that they think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying and doing them.