A friend who I first met when he was 16 (with his parents) at an ex-gay ministry has been in contact again since I came back out. He is 33 now and a well-adjusted gay man. It’s still shocking to think how it does seem like it was yesterday he was half his age when I first met him.
I am glad he made peace with himself and eventually grew beyond what I was teaching back then. Graciously, he said that he looks back on our interactions as positive because it helped him communicate his true feelings and what he was thinking. I am glad for that.
Also, in our last conversation he asked:
How’s your experience being back in the gay community for the last year or two?
It’s been a year and nine months since coming back out. Plenty has happened. At first, the responses I received from the gay community to coming back out was one of three things:
- Condemnation – some will never accept or forgive me. I understand the feeling; it’s hard to forgive myself at times.
- A ‘welcome out’ but still suspicious of my intentions. Some directly stated they were looking for “proof” of my change of heart.
- But the vast majority (unscientific guess of 90%+) of LGBTQ people and pro-LGBTQ people I heard from were incredibly kind and gracious. Former opponents went out of their way to encourage me privately. A few even defended me to some of their peers.
Since then, I keep being astounded by the real world grace extended by the LGBTQ community. I shared my story at the beginning of June with the local HRC Orlando / Central Florida group. I talked too much but through a few tears and lots of hugs, many people were incredibly encouraging afterward. That night and since then, I have had five people share this one essential message:
Stop apologizing. We don’t need your apology. We understand because we have all had a hell of a time finding our way out of the closet. You are here now. You are home, so let’s do good for others and be good to one another.
No disclaimers. No hoops to jump through. Be who you are, do what you can.
You know what else I learned? All the good and bad of social dynamics, interpersonal relationships, and personalities are all the same from one community to the next. Human frailty isn’t bound to a particular belief system or community. Human frailty manifests in every belief system and community. Relationships from acquaintances to friendships, to dating relationships, to long term relationships are often complex and take time. All relationships, of any kind, are usually a mix of beauty and hardship the further the roots go down.
It feels like over the few years before closing down Exodus, to coming back out, the large number of friends I once had completely evaporated to only a few. Over the past year and nine months, the firm roots that have grown over the years have sustained my faith, a few cherished life-long friends, and allowed new growth to reach for the sun. Plus, it’s like I have moved from one neck of the woods to another full of wonderful new friendships.
It has also been the kindness and grace in the LGBTQ community that has brought about love and joy in a way I have not experienced to date. Hope for the present and future has replaced myopic fear and unnecessary burdens.
It’s good to be free.