Monday, October 16, 2017

On Coming Out...

So for those of you who may not know, October 11 each year is “National Coming Out Day.” First celebrated in 1988, it allows for those of us who have a different sexual orientation to celebrate who we are and to challenge those still in the closet to break down the closet door and to join in on living a healthy and happy life.

It troubles me when people make fun or ridicule the concepts of gay pride and coming out. Some say, “I want straight pride.” Well, I’d like for you to stop and think about this. For years I made myself sick from trying to be what some would say is “normal.” I went so far as to get married and to have children and to enjoy all the trappings that are associated with the concept of marriage. Deep inside I was a miserable creature. I was not happy. I was told that people like me were ungodly, unholy, perverted, and satanic even. I worked hard to cover. But somehow, the authentic you always works counter to covering up your true nature and I failed many, many times.
Still I did what was expected. I joined several “ex-gay groups” that told me to pray it away. So I prayed. It didn’t go away. I fasted. I cried. I became super active in my church. I shunned social gatherings and certain church functions for fear someone would suspect of find out. I read my Bible. I read everything I could get my hands on concerning reparative therapy. Nothing worked.
I fell deeper into depression and feeling second class or even into the ranks of steerage. This while I was a faithful church member and devoted Christian.
So, in those instances where people suspected, I suffered taunts. I was bullied. I was laughed at. I was whispered about. I was threatened with harm. I was screamed at and told I was going to hell.
It was not a good feeling. So, with God’s help, I slowly came to terms with myself. It has been a long and winding journey of self-discovery and acceptance.
To those of you who think it’s a choice of some kind, why would someone choose something that is the subject of such ridicule and derision? As diverse as the world is…..from folks’ skin colors, their customs, their religions, the variety of plants and organisms, differences in hair and eye color, body shape, is it no wonder that there are differences in sexual orientation?
It does no good to demonize difference.
Humankind is guilty of doing this throughout the ages. Someone somewhere always has the desire to be “superior” or part of a higher class.

The impetus to make me decide to come out broadly occurred last fall, when a former family friend in the Huntington WV area wrote me a blistering comment here on Facebook letting me know basically how awful I was to have GLBTQ friends. She ended her tirade by making fun of my feelings of ministry…and for my serving communion to these individuals “If you’re called to the ministry,” she said, “then I’m the Queen of Sheba.” She defriended me. Not heard from her since. But that ignited me to come out in a broader way. You see, my family of choice here in the metro area….and my friends here….and my kids, my former wife, and various other folks all know that I’m gay. They still love me and routinely let me know it. They care for me. And they have been beacons of light and life to me.
My parents knew and were supportive. The only folks not clued in were my extended relatives in WV. So I decided to just put it out there back in May. Oh some have said some hateful things that have found their way back to me. Others have said nothing…and some have gone so far to say “If I have nothing good to say, then I say nothing at all.” These are strong examples of the affirmation that I have received from the folks who have said before how much they loved me.
However, all is not dark and gloom in WV. A section of my family there have offered their unconditional love and support. This is probably because they told me about all the folks in their branch of the family who are gay. They have gotten used to the idea of difference and support it. I have even had relatives come visit me…that I’d never picture coming to see me – just to let me know of their love and support.

It’s times like that that I am proud of who I am. For the first time in my life I have self esteem….I have an unfathomable reservoir of love for people. God has given me a special love for people in the LGBTQ community especially who are suffering from depression….family rejection….hurt….and thoughts of suicide. And…I understand. I know what all those feelings are like.

So, yes, when Pride Month happens in June…I’m gonna be in the festival with my church—praying and offering communion to those who are hurting because the church has inflicted such painful wounds. And on National Coming Out Day, I’m celebrating that I’m just as God intended.
So, if you are a closeted gay person – one that is afraid of your shadow…afraid of rejection…hurt….shame, call me up. I’ll be your advocate, your cheerleader and I will offer my unconditional love and support. You don’t have to feel alone.

Finally, one other thing as I reflect upon nearly 60 years of life with all the ups and the downs.
Isn’t it ironic that God took my mother on National Coming Out Day 2010 and my dad during Capital Pride 2011?

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