Coming Out: The Aftermath

Well, it’s been just short of three weeks since I came out to the world on this blog. I’m sure some of you are wondering what these last three weeks have been like for me. It’s difficult to try and formulate everything into these posts, but I will do my best.

Before I go any further, however, let me put some uneasy minds to rest: my post three weeks ago was not how I came out to most of the people in my life. My family and close friends have all known for a while, but I needed to take that final step of declaring publicly that I am, in fact, gay. In order to help those who are like me and are suffering in silence, I needed to make a public statement. So the post was not intended to tell those closest to me that I was gay, but rather to help them understand a bit of what I’ve been through, as well as to send a message to those who are suffering that they are NOT alone.

So, anyways, back to the purpose of this post.

These three weeks have been a roller coaster. As I said before, most of the people that I encounter on a day to day basis already knew. So what was the big change? What made a difference?

Well, to start off, that post meant that, for better or worse, I was out to the world. There was no taking it back. Years and years of painful repression finally came to an end as I was finally able to open up to those around me and let them know who I am. Who I really am.

You see, up to this point, I have been acting. I’m not an actor in the sense that I would be any good in a play or movie, but I have gotten really good at acting like I am the person that everyone expects me to be. Like I’m the perfect ministry major who is going to graduate in May and go into full time ministry in the Nazarene church and marry the perfect woman and have 2 kids and a dog. This is what I felt I had to be. To do anything else would have been to disappoint those who saw what a beautiful future this could have been. So I became really talented in this particular aspect of acting.

Since coming out, I have been able to hang up my mask and costume and just be myself. Words cannot express the relief that comes from being able to just be yourself.

Let me, once, again, explain before some questions and concerns arise in the back of your minds. I am still me. I still love puns and make way too many Dad jokes. I still watch sitcoms endlessly and, most importantly, I still love Jesus. Ultimately, I am called to ministry. This is something that I can’t deny or avoid and, trust me, I’ve tried. God knew that I would be coming out when He called me to ministry all those years ago, and yet He still called me. Far be it for me or anyone else to presume God was wrong. I have not changed. I am still me. I’m just free to be more myself than I have been in many, many years.

So coming out has given me freedom. It has allowed me to breathe. It has allowed me to put the buttons that you see in the picture above on my backpack as I go to class and work, showing that I am unashamed of who I am and those who are like me. So it’s made me more comfortable with myself. Given me self respect, something that I haven’t had in a long time.

But even more than that, it revealed to me the pure beauty of the people around me. Coming out in this way was risky to say the least. I could have easily been barraged with micro aggressions or even downright hateful language, but instead I was showered with love, support, and acceptance. At the time of writing this post, my coming out post has gotten 488 views. Sure, some of these are repeats from the same people, but that is still 4 times higher than my next highest view count for any post. Nearly 500 people read this post, and yet I received less than 5 negative responses. Instead, I was showered with comments from friends, loved ones, people I haven’t spoked to in years, and even strangers. Comments such as:

“Thank you so much for sharing this. ❤️ You are a shining light!!!”

‘’You’re going to change the world, Thomas ❤️”

“So proud of you, Thomas! Thank you for being vulnerable and open with us, never stop being you. ♥️”

“You are strong, bold, and inspirational! Thank you for willing to be vulnerable! Love you and praying for you and your future ministry!”

Let this stand as a message of hope to those who might still be suffering in silence: it gets better. There will be those who do not accept you. There will be those who spew uninformed and closed-minded comments your way. But, with any hope at all, there will be those who come beside you and show you love for YOU. Those who not only allow you to express yourself and be comfortable and proud of yourself, but who are proud of you as well and will support you throughout the process. Sometimes, the most unexpected people will provide you with the most support.

One last time, however, I must address some responses to what I have just said. This is MY experience. Even more, this is representing the good parts of my experience. There are aspects of coming out that have been EXTREMELY difficult for me, and have required a lot of healing. This process did not start just three weeks ago for me. Some of these things happened months ago, or even years ago, and I have been able to work through some of them. I still have things to work through.

Don’t expect that everyone is going to have this same experience. I do believe that it will get better for them. I do believe that everyone has someone in their lives who will love and accept them. But PLEASE don’t expect someone who just came out to be as comfortable as I am. This is an extremely difficult time and the stories and experiences are as varied as the people who tell them. So be there for people. Show them love. Let them know they’re not alone.

One final message to those who have suffered or who continue to suffer in similar ways that I have:

You’re not alone. You are loved. The mountains that you face might seem insurmountable, but there are people who will climb it with you. Don’t feel obligated to tell anyone anything, because this is your story. This is your life. You alone get to choose when and how you open up. And whenever that journey begins for you, please do not hesitate to reach out (trfarmer18@gmail.com). I am here for you, and there are so many others who are as well. You can do this. You can breathe. We’re here with you.

Love, Thomas.

(Yes, that was a direct reference to Love, Simon. If you haven’t seen it, then you need to. It’s a life changer for LGBTQ+ and those who love them. That’s all. Have a great day!)

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I’m Finally Being Honest

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 (trfarmer18@gmail.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

Silhouettes

I had a vision of my future.

An image untainted by life’s cruel circumstances.

But as time goes on,

the image fades.

Little by little,

those that surround me fade away.

They realize their own images,

and I am left to mourn the silhouette

of what could have been.

Why the tattoo?

People ask me why I have the tattoo that I do. Here’s my reason:

Isaiah 40:28-31 says,

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

My entire life I have wished I could fly. Not just in an airplane or with an epic jet pack, though those would be great as well, but I myself, with no outside assistance, flying through the air. Not even in the Superman type of flying where I can soar through the sky at inhuman speeds, though that would also be cool. More in the way of floating.

I’ve suffered from depression for years. There are seasons of wonderful reprieve, and there are seasons of terrible darkness. As I have had to cope with the dark seasons, I have learned of the peace that can come from a long walk to nowhere particular. In my darkest moments, this is my therapy.

A few months ago, I began to process through some things that I had suppressed my entire life. All of the pain that I had hidden away came crashing to the surface and poured into the forefront of my mind. The feeling was overwhelming, and there were nights that I couldn’t imagine continuing. A few nights in particular, I strongly considered taking my life.

On one of these nights, I did what I always do and went for a walk. As I slowly walked down the dark street, trying my hardest to avoid openly weeping in front of some stranger’s house, I closed my eyes. I continued to walk down the street with closed eyes, aware of my surroundings yet no longer fully present.

I pictured myself slowly rising, my head turned heavenward as the earth slowly fell away. The pain, fear, despair, hopelessness, and desperation fell with the earth, leaving only me and my breath. I was weightless; the problems of the earth below had no hold on me. For the first time in what seemed like a long time, I was free. I slowly kicked my feet back and forth, the rhythmic sway in tune with my heartbeat. For a few seconds, in this mesmeric trance, I was free.

I know I can’t fly. I know I never left the ground. My feet were still chained to the pavement, with no hope of defying gravity. My problems never really fell away.

But for a moment…

These verses remind me that even though I’ll never be able to fly on my own, I can still find freedom. I will get weary. I will stumble and fall. But if I hope in the Lord, he will strengthen me, and I will soar. No longer bound to the earth and its entanglements, but finally free.

I may not be able to fly. But through the Lord, I can be free.

That’s why I have this tattoo.

The Uncanny Valley

As I walk outside, I notice.

Something isn’t right.

The sky is oddly yellow; the trees a shade or two off. A slight breeze bends the blades of grass, a little too much.

This must be a dream.

The birds aren’t chirping and the crickets’ song is a key too high. The world around me has an almost manufactured feel, as if created by an imperfect and fractured mind.

A mind like mine.

I look around me, taking in this uncanny valley of dream-reality, and begin to realize…

This isn’t a dream.

This is reality.

And a storm is brewing.

My Imaginary Friend

Sometimes, I feel like a 5 year old with an imaginary friend.
I surround myself with fake feelings of security, false promises of a selfish future.
I reject the logic of the world around me and ignore the reprimands of those with me.
Of my Father.
I walk around with a pasted smile and convince myself and others that I’m happy.

I hear God telling me to let it go.
But like a child I run and pout.
The sounds of my temper tantrum ring through the air.
My denial is stronger than my logic.

I know that to let go would be to gain so much more.
But the fake reality is so much more appealing.
There is less pain.
Less fear.

But as a child grows up and abandons his imaginary friend, so must I come back to reality.
I must realize that pasted smiles and empty laughter do not give life.
They take it away.
So I leave my imaginary friend, hoping to find something real.

Dead End (The Short Film)

Those of you who are familiar with my blog might know of my flash fiction Dead End and its sequel Remembering the Dead End. If not, you can follow the links on the titles to read them.

These two short stories have just been made into a short film, thanks to my amazing friend Jarrett. If you have read the stories (or even if you haven’t), you should check out this short film adaptation (and maybe subscribe to Jarrett’s YouTube channel…). I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Fantasia (Flash Fiction)

The glistening city of Fantasia appeared overnight. Before it, the only reality we knew was darkness. This darkness was not simply the absence of light; it was the absence of anything but ourselves. To the individual, it was the absence of all but self. There was nothing to hold onto. The sudden appearance of Fantasia with all of its light, music, and smiling faces was overwhelming, but in a good way.

For years, the darkness was nowhere to be found. Its disappearance was a gift. All of a sudden the world had light. It had life. It was beaming with love and companionship that for so long had been naught but a distant thought. I, and those like me, breathed a sigh of relief at the blessing that was this new life. Nothing was going to take it away from us.

That is, until the darkness returned once again.

Fantasia was the city of light, the city of dreams, the city of hope. The darkness had been not only a sad reality, but a lack of reality altogether. Fantasia was our first and only look at what reality actually was. Or so we thought.

The darkness came slowly back. It began with an odd dimness around the edges of the city. Storm clouds seemed to lurk on the edges of the horizon. Everyone noticed, but nobody acknowledged. For there was no way that something that isn’t real could penetrate that which is real, right?

But the darkness continued to move in. No matter how much light the city produced, nothing could penetrate the darkness that was coming. Little by little, the outer edges of the city fell into darkness. Though everyone knew what was coming, nobody seemed to notice. As darkness increased, so did pasted smiles. As seeming nonexistence penetrated our reality, people became more and more determined to ignore it. To continue to live in the light of Fantasia as if nothing was wrong. As if the darkness was not getting closer and closer by the minute.

I was no exception.

Even to the last minute, when no smiling faces were left, and the only light left in the world was a small cylinder in which I was standing, surrounded by an ever increasing blackness, I pasted on a smile. I thought to myself that Fantasia would come back. That the darkness was simply a dream.

I was fooling myself.

As the darkness overcame me, and the last light of Fantasia blinked out, I finally admitted to myself the truth. Fantasia was not my reality. The darkness was the only real plane of existence, and Fantasia was nothing more than a construct of my mind, an attempt to escape the permeable darkness. I had lived in a pseudo-reality while silently ignoring the voice in the back of my head that told me it was all fake.

Fantasia was never there. I guess you could say it was only a fantasy.

Define Me

I scream “Define me.”

I feel nothing.

So I surround myself with the normal culprits. Jokes, music, “I’m fine” and “Praise God,” lies that only I and few others can see through. From all perspectives, I am doing well. I have great classes and wonderful friends and I am deeply in love with a woman who is in love with me, but introspection reveals shattered glass, held together by painter’s tape.

I look to You, for You saved me in the past. I bled my heart at the altar, one more sacrifice to You, and You reached down and picked me up. Gave me joy, took my pain. I know You suffer with me, but I can’t feel the companionship. You’re beside me but I feel alone. My anxieties and fears surround me. I’m Jacob but instead of wrestling You, I am wrestling my own demons. This is one battle that I can’t afford to lose but alone I can’t win and yet I just can’t release the control. All I have left to fight back with is paper shields and cardboard swords. I’ve painted them to fool my enemy, but the deception will only last so long.

I am Yours. You made me and called me. You equipped me. You are right here with me.

Define me before my pain and anxiety defines me once again. You took that definition. I struggled to find my worth in You for so long and once again I am finding myself with no grasp of an identity. I was pain. I was sorrow. I was anxiety. I was fear. I was inadequacy. I was self-deception. And I was strangely content.

Then You came and took away my pain, sorrow, anxiety, fear, inadequacy, and self-deception. You gave me a cure. You gave me joy. You gave me peace. You gave me courage. You gave me adequacy. You gave me security. And I was gracefully complete.

But they’re so far removed that I am lost once again.

I am searching around for the definitions that I once had, and I am liable to grab onto the closest one that will take me. The difference between the former and the latter is blurring; my sight is failing.

I know this is my own doing. I put everything else before You. I looked at everything You had given me and I thought to myself, “I can do better.”

Well, here I am, Lord. Fallen again and searching for a hand to pull me up. Pull me out again; grab me by my shattered self and remake me. Burn away my impurities; hold me at the hottest part. Don’t hold back.

This time I’m not giving up.

Define me.