On August 23rd I drove out of the parking lot of the Exodus International office with my stomach all in knots. Overwhelming emotions ranged from deep-seated fear to an indescribable sense of relief.
It was over.
It took a while to get “past” closing down Exodus, and I knew that there would be “life” beyond Exodus. But, I was not aware of who I truly was outside of Exodus. That was the fear part. The overwhelming sense of relief was that even though I was still very conservative at the time (but questioning), I knew that Exodus needed to shut down. My leaving was a necessary part of that. The only option was to move on. It felt like a huge mountain fell off my shoulders.
However, without the weight of oppressive expectations, the maelstrom of criticism, and false idealizations, I felt adrift. Who was I outside of the Exodus shadow?
The Blinders Came Off, The Unnecessary Burdens fell away
That day, August 23rd, 2013, I was very insecure in every way. A year later I was coming out of a deep depression and on August 23rd, 2014, I was pretty sure I was going to come back out of the closet. I still didn’t know what to say or if anyone would care.
I came back out of the closet on January 12, 2015, with confidence (a little fear) and knowing two issues I am passionate about; ending stigmatization of LGBTQ people and suicide intervention/prevention. Then, just last year, on this very date August 23rd, 2015 I had been out of the church closet for a little over eight months and (no lie) I was having a romantic weekend (yes, lots of love-making) with the guy I was dating at the time. I do believe, and still, believe, he is my “first” love.
No regrets and I treasure the experience.
And here it is August 23rd, 2016. Over the past three years I have settled into a new career, talked with a lot of gay leaders, prayed, listened to God and others, evaluated and for the first time in my life… my feet are solid underneath me. I am clearly expressing my voice, heart, passions and doing my level best to live a life of honesty, integrity, and love.
After the Pulse tragedy here in Orlando, while we grieved the loss of our brother’s and sister’s, our community’s vision gained crystal clarity. It also was a catalyst in that it reinforced the passions of my heart to combat stigmatization and cultural ills that harm our community. No more living in shadows trying to force fit an idealized narrative and legalistic behavioral modification. No more playing theological whack-a-mole. No more shame and condemnation.
A Little bit of a side note: yeah, so about that whole sex thing …
For the folks who might have gotten caught off guard earlier with my admitting to having sex, I didn’t write that to offend you. Honestly, I am not terribly worried if you are offended, but I never want to offend for the sake of offending. This experience was incredibly important to me and I am a better person for having had that relationship. I don’t regret it because we had mutuality, love, and healthy perspectives on every level. I mean, I felt like a teenager at times. And while that is almost embarrassing to admit at my age (after 25 years of celibacy), I felt safe to laugh (plenty of that happened), I felt incredibly blessed to be loved, to love, to enjoy each other. Lot’s of beautiful memories.
I am a better man for having loved and been loved by him.
Now, a year later I haven’t gone all sex-crazed higgildy piggildy. I haven’t done any sexy stuff since being with that wonderful man. Obviously, I am not wearing an iron chastity belt with armored underwear, but I am also not interested in having sex that isn’t mutually loving, and life-giving. It’s just how I do :). Ok, let’s get this post back on track …
So what kind of gay dude am I today?
Back in the Exodus days, we would separate “homosexuals” by three categories; Repentant (code for ex-gay), Moderate and Militant. I even wrote a chapter about those categories in Alan Chambers’ first book. :::shaking my head::: I bet his publisher doesn’t like me now.
I don’t fit any of those categories. Interesting how reality does its own thing. That said, there are a lot of beloved and accurate labels. I am a Christian, uncle, funny loudmouth (sometimes fun, always loud), artist, Daniel Craig groupie, writer, Social Media Manager, not very fast at all runner, brother, son, nephew, and endearing square, Apple products addict… see, lots of labels.
I also know that I love Jesus, He loves me. We both are irrevocably in love with the LGBTQ and LGBTQ affirming communities. Three years ago I was terrified they wouldn’t accept me, but instead, these communities have extended more grace, empathy, understanding, respect and care than I have experienced before. Three years ago my tears fell out of fear and uncertainty, today I shed tears of joy and relief.
Unlike three years ago, today there is no overwhelming flood of disparate feelings. The void of uncertainty has been filled with light, friendship and laughter. The vast flood of confusion has been replaced with a strong undercurrent of peace, confidence, and love.
Being free is good.