It was a particularly dark night in early October of last year. I had gone for a drive out a long and endless road in the rural countryside of Kankakee County. Everything that had been bottled up inside of me for 10+ years was threatening to break through to the surface. The things that I had been suppressing for so long, the one thing that I had been denying, was finally overwhelming me. I saw no reason to go on. As I instinctively pushed the gas pedal closer to the floor, I thought about what my life would be if ever I were to tell anyone. Surely those closest to me would leave. The people that I loved would say they couldn’t support me. My entire career, the thing I had spent $160,000 of student loans and scholarships to be educated for, would be taken away immediately. I would be utterly alone and useless in a world full of people. With the speedometer nearing 90, one thought passed through my mind.
“I can’t do this.”
If I couldn’t tell anyone for fear of losing them, and I couldn’t continue under the weight of this secret, then I simply couldn’t continue living. I looked towards an oncoming tree. It was large enough, surely. My mind had been made up. But then an image flashed in my mind. An image of a cute dog named Wesley. I just adopted him and I couldn’t leave him alone. I had to take care of him for the rest of his life, just as I promised him. I slowed my car back down to 55, and drove safely back to my apartment, embracing the dog that saved my life. I knew my next few months would be difficult, but I knew I could fight for no other reason than to fulfill the promise I made to this dog.
Why did I just share this story? It’s certainly not a happy one, but it’s one that I hope will help you to understand what these past 10-15 years have been like. The weight that I’ve had on my shoulders for as long as I can remember, a secret that could never be revealed but that would kill me if it wasn’t.
You see, the reason that I nearly committed suicide (not just this time, but many times before it), was because I’m gay. Before you flip out or stop reading or immediately comment that I’m overreacting or lying to myself or “going through a phrase,” please just take the time to read this so you can better understand. I’m going to do my best to address the questions that you undoubtedly have in the clearest possible way. All I ask for is patience and an open mind.
I’ve known since I was a child. Obviously, I didn’t know what it was called or what it meant, but I always knew that I liked the boys better and not the girls. I specifically remember watching a show with my family called Smallville, my sister squealing at the TV every time Oliver Queen, played by Justin Hartley, came into the scene. She thought he was cute, and she wanted everyone in the room to know it. Of course, it was okay that she thought he was cute. It was “normal.” What nobody else in the room knew, and what I had resolved to never share with anyone (sorry, past Thomas), was that I also thought he was cute.
Let me get this out of the way before any of you get the wrong impression: I had an AMAZING childhood. There was no trauma, no abuse, nothing that would have caused this in my past. My parents are extremely loving and caring people, and I couldn’t have asked for better people to raise me. They’re my heroes.
But I was also raised in an environment where homosexuality was severely frowned upon. The word “gross” or “disgusting” was occasionally thrown around when talking about certain celebrities that had come out. I don’t blame anyone for this, and I’m not going to say who it was that has said these sorts of things. This is just the way that society has viewed members of the LGBTQ community, and it has become ingrained into the culture and very being of so many people. Until you have a personal reason to wrestle with what you’ve been taught, you will have no reason to change it. But nonetheless, these are the sorts of things that I’ve had to work through.
Words cannot describe the mental, emotional, and even spiritual conflicts that I have had to work through because of this. Indoctrination is a very powerful tool, and it can override even your most basic instincts. This led me, a very closeted gay kid, to become homophobic. I began to reason to myself that if I just preached hard enough that homosexuality is wrong, if I just prayed enough that God would make me normal, if I just dated the right girl, then it would all go away and I could finally be what everyone around me called “normal.” I didn’t ask for this. I certainly didn’t choose this (that’s right- it’s not a choice.) Why would I choose something that could completely unravel my otherwise amazing life? It doesn’t make sense. This is one thing that I won’t concede. BUT I DIGRESS.
Again, the spiritual implications of this attitude are insanely damaging. I began to believe that God hated me even though I had never acted upon my desires. If He loved me, He would’ve saved me from this “abomination.” I must not have had enough faith. I must not have prayed enough. I must not be good enough. God became some spiritual padlock and I needed to find the right combination of words and phrases and song lyrics to unlock the special gift of heterosexuality. Since I was still attracted to men instead of women, then God just must not think I’ve earned it yet. Any first year theology student can tell you that salvation is not something that we earn. And yet, to me, that became the focus of my life. I needed salvation from this part of my life that everyone had told me would send me to Hell. And God was not doing anything to change it, no matter how many times I sang “I Surrender All.”
I decided to try and find my way to heterosexuality through heterosexual relationships. If I just dated the right girl, then eventually my body would figure out what the right way to act is, and everything would be fine. Let me just say this: this was insanely damaging to not just me, but to those I dated. This was way too unhealthy and unrealistic of an expectation to put on anyone, and I could never apologize enough to the people I put through this. It was entirely selfish and I have severe regret. After my last relationship, I realized that I couldn’t keep doing this to people. I either had to figure my own crap out or accept a life alone. I wasn’t going to drag anyone else down with me. So to those from my past: I’m sorry. You deserve so much better. You deserve so much more.
Having exhausted both spiritual and relational efforts to make myself “normal,” I resigned myself to the fact that it wasn’t going to change. For one reason or another, this is what my life was. This acceptance came about around the time that I almost wrapped my car around a tree. I hope you can understand the gravity of the situation.
After that night of deciding that I had to keep my promise to Wesley, I knew that I had to begin to accept this part of myself and come out. My two choices were coming out or committing suicide. I believe that I’ve made the right decision.
So I slowly began to come out to people. First, my best friend. Then, more of my friends. Eventually, I was able to come out to my parents and some family members. My sister and one of my cousins ended up being some of the most helpful people through this process. I told some professors and some coworkers. I buried myself in intensive theological study through books, podcasts, articles, and conversations with those much wiser than I. The conclusions I have come to may not be popular, but I assure you that they are only my conclusions after an honest and intense study and prayerful experience.
I’m fully affirming. Basically, this means that I believe that God is not condemnatory of monogamous, same-sex relationships if they are celebrated within the confines of marriage. It is not within the responsibility of the people of God to condemn, no matter what they believe. Certainly, if there is something that someone is doing that is obviously contrary to the will of God, you can lovingly approach them as a brother or sister in Christ and bring it to their attention, but leave it to God to convict and correct. And don’t even try to approach someone about their sins (or what you perceive to be sins) if you don’t have that personal relationship with them. The theology of why I believe what I do is something that will have to go in another blog post. I’m always willing to discuss it, but conversations over Facebook never end well. If you would like to ask me how I came to this conclusion, then let’s go out to coffee sometime. I might even pay (don’t hold me to that- I’m a senior in college who is about to be paying back a LOT of loans).
So why am I writing this now? What does it even matter? Why does it need to go on my blog?
Here’s why: I’m not alone. Without a doubt, there are numerous people who are reading this who are going through the same things or have been through the same things. Everyone’s story is different and beautiful, but there are sure to be similarities. So let me say this:
If you are someone who has felt trapped by repressing your sexuality, if you are someone who has felt the need to lie to those closest to you for fear of the repercussions, if you are someone who feels that God does not love you because you don’t fit into the mold that the Church has created out of their own fear of diversity:
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
This is not something you have to fight alone.
YOU ARE LOVED.
By me, by those who love you (even if they don’t know), and by THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE. JUST THE WAY YOU ARE.
So, please, if you think suicide is your only solution, of if you think that there is no reason to go on because the thought of opening up to those around you scares you more than anything else in life, please talk to me. Talk to someone. I promise you full and complete discretion. Nothing that you reveal to me (unless you, like, killed someone or something), will EVER be told to another living soul. I know how delicate these situations are. I know what it’s like to hold a secret so dark that you will do anything in your power to keep it from coming to the light.
So send me a message. Send me an email (email@example.com). If you have my phone number, shoot me a text (sorry, I’m not putting my phone number online, I have to maintain some sort of internet security). But TALK TO SOMEONE.
It’s hard enough navigating this world of bigotry and misunderstanding. I’m tired of keeping quiet to preserve my own safety and reputation. I do not exaggerate when I say that lives of people you love are on the line. I can guarantee you that someone you know and love is struggling with something similar to this. So before you make an offhand comment, before you joke around and call someone a faggot (I hate that word), remember that you NEVER know what someone is going through. Show love to everyone because, like I was, some of them might be right on the brink of ending their life over something that they think nobody will understand.
I’m open for any and all questions. I will not tolerate any form of hate speech or uninformed blanket statements. Please respect those who might be facing similar issues with your comments on Facebook or WordPress. You never know who might be reading it.
One last thing:
The sanctity of human life surpasses all agendas. Don’t for one second think that it’s better to take one’s own life than to open up about those things such as these.
YOUR LIFE IS WORTH SO MUCH MORE THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE.
I’m here for you. You’re never alone.
P.S. To those I have hurt or put down because they had the bravery to come out before myself, I am entirely sorry. Please know that such things were said out of fear of myself rather than anger towards another. I don’t deserve forgiveness, but I humbly ask it. Just know that I often think of how my words in the past have affected the lives of those around me. I only wish I could take them back. You ALL deserve so much better.
Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash