Marriage Equality Arrives In The United States!

Love Wins!

gay pride symbol

Today the Supreme Court of The United States has corrected a grave mistake many states made in purposefully attacking and maligning gay couples and our loving relationships. I am beyond jubilant and filled with joy that the Supreme Court has decided in favor of marriage equality!!!

I wrote about my history of anti-gay lobbying and how I have not only come out in support of gay marriage, but have “come out” again personally. My legalistic religious blinders came off a few years ago and now I long for the day when I will marry the man of my dreams. The nation that I love and call home has finally recognized that it is beyond time that marriage equality is extended to LGBT couples…

::: speechless with emotion ::: had to stop typing for a moment. ::: deep breath :::

Today is historic in a couple of ways I want to highlight; one is that as LGBT people our basic inalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness has been validated and affirmed by granting us our due access to benefits and protections within the bonds of marriage defined by public policy. We are finally being treated equally under the law in this regard. That is huge!!!

Secondly, I think it is also historic that this great country has proven once again, our system of government is amazing. Our government might be ornery, inefficient in some ways, and frustrating. But once again … we have corrected a huge injustice and made ourselves a better country, a better people, as a result.

While having compassion for those that can’t or won’t see the beauty of our relationships, we have other things to do like laugh, serve, enjoy, dance, give, embrace, engage, extend grace, press toward a true common good, be a life-giving community and…

  • Love God for His infinite Love and grace…
  • Love who we are Created to be…
  • Love the community(ies) we are honored to be a part of…
  • Love the nation we call home…
  • Love our friends and family…
  • and Love our spouse (or future spouse) who has captured our heart, Love the one that when we look into their eyes we know we are home, Love the one we say “I do” too.

Love wins; Love won.

The Two Year Anniversary Of Exodus International Closing

One Of The Best Decisions I Have Been A Part Of In My Life...

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Two years ago it was the opening night of the last Exodus International Annual conference. It was then that Alan Chambers announced from the stage that Exodus International was shutting down.

This is me speaking at the last Exodus International Annual Conference - I was miserable.

This is me speaking at the last Exodus International Annual Conference – I was miserable.

It was one of the best decisions I have been a part of in my life. Being in the position I was in as the Executive Vice President, I helped evaluate/determine that it was the only decision we could make on a number of levels. Under Alan’s brave leadership and the Board’s unanimous agreement, we shut it down.

No regrets.

The night of Alan’s announcement, the emotions were running strong and I honestly don’t know how we survived the onslaught of media attention and criticism coming from *everywhere* in religious and legalistic circles from around the world.

Wait, I do know how we survived. We survived because we knew it was the right thing to do, and that God had led us to that moment all along.

Oh and adrenaline helped. Lots and lots of adrenaline. Yay Jesus for adrenaline! And Yay Jesus for coffee! Lots and lots of coffee. But the most energizing force complementing the conviction of following God’s direction was the love and support of good and true friends.

Closing down Exodus has been great for my health! I used to have migraines every 4 to six weeks. In the first picture in this post, I had already had two migraines during that conference. I was actually on Imitrex (migraine medication) while speaking when that photo was taken. I have now lost a net of 70 lbs. I work out 5 times a week and have had maybe two serious migraines in the past year.

Work-wise, I was self-employed until November of last year when I started working for a local PR company as an Online Content & Social Media Manager for our clients. I love what I do. Its not the easiest thing starting a new career at mid-life but… I have and it is good.

In the past two years I have apologized to the gay community twice :) (here and here.) Came out in support of marriage equality last fall, and “came out” personally on January 12th of this year. I have done some work with the SPLC and interviews to end conversion therapy. I also have made some personal amends with regard to past activism by participating in the NO H8 campaign.

During my time at Exodus, I did develop a strong relationship with God. Jesus loves me as much today as He ever has, with an infinite love. I believe He rejoices with me, over me, that I have left the church closet and am finally living in the full freedom of who He created me to be. I am at rest, at peace, in Him and in the finished work of His Atonement. He was with me at *every* point of my life and now I believe He has shown me that the ex-gay ideology I had bought into was an oppressive addition to His gospel. An unnecessary burden that He never intended for me; that He never intended for anyone. During my time at Exodus, He did make me a better and more whole person. He did all this because He, Jesus, is good. He is merciful, loving, kind and gracious.

All the good that I experienced during my time at Exodus was not because of Exodus as an organization “overcoming homosexuality” and “standing up for ‘truth in love'”. In fact, the good I experienced was in spite of the underlying negative and hurtful messaging of Exodus. The good that I received were lessons and blessings I should have gotten directly from the church, the church that should embrace its LGBT siblings instead of disenfranchising and scapegoating us.

Gay people should be given access to all the same life-giving resources and opportunities in the church as anyone else.  Minister to us as peers not with the constant undercurrent of objectified “issues” you can’t relate to. Let us minister to and serve *you* as the opportunity arises. Embrace us with true unconditional love that is not disclaimed by hurtful “you are broken” messaging and being relationally relegated to being “other than” for the rest of our natural lives. Let me be fully honest standing in worship, or sitting in the pew next to you, instead of being told I could only be fully “honest” on a Thursday night at 7pm at an Exodus affiliated support group.

This pic was taken by Mr. Boyfriend last Saturday at the Kennedy Space Center. I sure do love Mr. Boyfriend :)

Mr. Boyfriend took this pic last Saturday at the Kennedy Space Center. I sure do love Mr. Boyfriend :)

Jesus is life-giving in a myriad of ways that have transformed me as a person. Even so, He did not change my sexuality. He didn’t change my desire to be in love with and devoted to another man. I now believe He didn’t change that because it doesn’t need to be changed. I am gay; He knows this and I believe He has guided me to where I am to finally embrace and be at peace with myself and His blessing of who I truly Am. Our Heavenly Father embraces me and everything He has put within me to live out.

I am His; nothing and no one can change that.

Because of God’s love and direction, today I’ve never been more transparent (didn’t say perfect; just transparent). I have never been more free.

Since embracing the truth that I am gay, and Christian and everything else that I am… I have started dating. In fact, today, I happen to be in love with a beautiful (in every way) man I have been referring to lately (online) as Mr. Boyfriend. In fact, he is texting me while I type this and my heart is truly full of joy. I am sure that I have the best boyfriend ever. :)

With tears in my eyes I remember how in pain I was two years ago in contrast to how fulfilled I feel today. Thank God for his loving grace and direction.

Exodus closing is and continues to be a good thing. While I terribly miss some of my friends who can’t seem to walk with me any longer, I don’t miss Exodus as an organization … at all.

I am here. I am in Christ. I am in our church … let me love and serve you.

Quoted In The Atlantic Magazine Concerning JONAH Gay Conversion Trial

Can Sexuality Be Changed?

whitewash gay

I recently had the honor of speaking with The Atlantic staff writer Olga Khazan about the trial against gay conversion group JONAH that started this week. She quoted me to close her article:

Randy Thomas, a former executive vice president with the ex-gay Christian network Exodus International, now says he wished he had never tried to change his sexual orientation. Exodus disbanded in 2013 amid growing skepticism among its own leaders that sexuality conversion is possible.

After coming out as gay at 19, and converting to Christianity five years later, Thomas spent many years working for Exodus as a self-described “poster boy” for the idea that gay people can become straight. This past January, he came out as gay once again. (“I still love Jesus, and he still loves me,” he told me recently.)

To gay people who are considering conversion therapy, Thomas now says, “spare yourself the shame, pain, and condemnation. If you’re LGBTQ, never buy into the lie that God is angry with you. God is there for you; he loves you. You are beloved by him, and anyone who can’t see the inherent worth of who you are, just walk away.”

These quotes are verbatim and I am passionate about *every* word. It’s been difficult for me to get to this place because I truly believed and bought into the lie that sexuality could change for a very long time. Years ago, I was even friends with the leaders of JONAH at one point. But, today I know the liberating and healing truth that I as a gay man, and those who are LGBTQ, are truly loved by God for who we are. Please do not go to conversion therapy groups. Whether it is professional or peer based support groups, avoid them. Go to a reputable licensed counselor, or pastoral care, that acknowledges and embraces God’s gay children. Yes, we may need some help but it’s not our sexuality that is broken. That significant part of our core sense of self is an integral part of the foundation from which we grow.

Stay strong, no need to argue with anyone pressuring you with stigmatized cultural expectations. Simply walk away and know that there are many resources that will truly positively impact your life, not force you into a different “closet” of shame and condemnation.

Please, I highly recommend reading Olga’s entire article. It’s a heart breaking and eye-opening look into the JONAH trial

Graphic Credit: The Atlantic

Celebr8ing The NOH8 Campaign

The Journey From Anti-Gay Activism To Being Healed Of An Estranged Heart

noh8 blog banner

On May 9th, I got up early and went to Target to find a plain white t-shirt. As boring as shopping for a plain white t-shirt sounds, I was nervous browsing through the various displays. My mind was full of thoughts about going to get my photo taken at NOH8 campaign’s Orlando photo shoot. This would be a symbolic culmination of ending years of estrangement; estrangement from myself, my heart, and a community I truly love.

Ben and his husband TJ.

Ben and his husband TJ.

The Importance Of People Like Ben

My friend Ben Patrick Johnson and I started following each other online somewhere in the midst of the ongoing Prop8 battle. I am sure I caught wind of who he is (a respected activist within the LGBT community) and just started following him online. One friend said, “You only follow that Ben guy because he’s always naked and HOT!” Well, to be clear, Ben is only sometimes naked, but most of the time only halfway naked. And well, even clothed he … maybe I should stop there. In response to this friend, at the time, I said “OH Noooo… he’s just an interesting person who does the gay activist thing in a different way; a way that will actually work to their benefit.”

The very first time I messaged Ben, it was some weird little greeting. I loved his response. It’s still my favorite response from a gay activist ever. With a very gracious intro he went on to say something along the lines of, “I have nothing but antipathy for what you are doing at Exodus and what Exodus stands for.” He then of course, being him, ended the message graciously.

Being a word person, I can’t tell you how happy I was because he used the word antipathy to begin with, and ecstatic he used it correctly! Wasn’t so fun to be a part of the receiving end of Ben’s “antipathy” but this is indicative of why I am drawn to follow his life online. He is fair, purposeful, eloquent, and thoughtful. He contributes to the overall discussion instead of consuming and regurgitating it as infotainment activism.

Plus, you get all that AND he is allergic to wearing shirts. He also has a handsome husband, TJ, that just adds to the mix another level of approachability. I like these guys a lot.

Last year, I interviewed Ben for a book I was working on (shelved until after my memoir book proposal is done). It will be included in a compilation of stories about love, relationships, life….that kind of stuff. During that time, we talked a lot about Prop 8. After hearing his heart my own was stirred up with deep emotion as years of questioning turned into my change of heart about marriage equality and being open to that possibility for myself.

Happy Mother’s Day!

To My Mom, Cynthia, and Amira!

This is me with my Mom and brother. I am the older kid with the dirty blond hair. That adorable kid with the dark brown hair is my brother Jimmy. And, of course that is my beautiful Mom, Pat.

This is me with my Mom and brother. I am the older kid with the dirty blond hair. That adorable kid with the dark brown hair is my brother Jimmy. And, of course that is my beautiful Mom, Pat.

Just a quick shout out to all the Mom’s, Happy Mother’s day! Thank you very much for who you are and all the love, sacrifice, security, selflessness, protection and wisdom you lovingly bless your children with.

I want to especially recognize my soul sister Amira, who is fantastic. The joy I feel when you share about your three little Lagerstrom’s… SO happy for you. You are an amazing Mother. To Cynthia, so happy and grateful for you and the *wonderful* job you have done with Alexa, Isa, and Sophia. You are a hero in my book.

And of course there is my Mom who is so amazing. She went through so much in this life and there simply aren’t enough words to describe my love and respect for her. Plus, any ounce of smarts, gorgeousness, common sense, and all things wonderful that I might have (emphasis on “might” ;))…had to have come from her. Love you Mom!

“Fighting Hate, Teaching Tolerance, Seeking Justice” – Visiting With The SPLC

SPLC group shot

This trip happened a few weeks ago. I had written about this on my Facebook page but wanted to embed it here on the blog too. Memorable, inspiring.

His Love Destroyed My Closet

sunrise

Truly, a very large number of people have supported and encouraged me since coming out. Former Exodus leaders, even some who are still in that type of ministry, have been a big (and sometimes surprising) blessing. Of course my close friends at Grace Church have been fantastic. They truly are safe people who have proven once again they are trustworthy and some of the most loving people I have ever met. Plus, there has been a large outpouring of love and forgiveness from the gay community. I am deeply grateful.

It’s been overwhelming (in a good way) and I plan to blog more about that in time. There have been plenty of really good experiences to process.Today however, I want to discuss some of the negative messages I have gotten the past couple of weeks. These messages repeatedly remind me of “the closet” that is a metaphor for the oppression and stigma that gay people have suffered for far too long.

A Tribute To Michael

I love and miss you Michael...

Two years ago today one of the best friends a man could have, Michael P, passed away by his own hand. When it happened, his family, our mutual friends, all of us were shocked and completely devastated. I remember crying for what seemed like forever.

Initially, I desperately held on to a dream I had shortly after his passing that completely reframed the situation. In it, Michael came to me, held my hand, and we sat on a bench. He was radiant and he sang the most beautiful otherworldly song. I believe our Heavenly Father allowed that to happen so that I would remember the beautiful Michael and not let the tragedy of suicide define him in my mind. Holding his strong hand, hearing his amazing song. It was so clear, so vivid, and beautiful.

For the longest time it was hard to get past the mourning to remember all the good without sobbing my eyes out. This past year that began to change. Now I can remember and enjoy memories of Michael without being lost in the sadness. With 23 years worth of wonderful memories, I have more than the dream to bring to mind and focus on.

Michael and I dated for a few months at the beginning of our 23 year friendship but quickly realized we were better as friends than as a dating couple. I say that only because it reveals how much I trusted him, completely. He was an amazing man. He was always respectful, tender-hearted, attentive, and quick to help. He and our little crew taught me many life-giving principles including unconditional love. I honestly think it was with them that I first heard those two words ever used together as well as experience it first-hand.

Michael was also a magnificent blend of wisdom and hilarity. He would say something so profound and then just so… irreverent! I will *never* forget his great laugh. Makes me chuckle as I type this.

He also had an astonishing intellect/analytical side. I have no doubt that after meeting Jesus and checking in with the Archangels, one of Michael’s first appointments was to meet CS Lewis and the Apostle Paul at the Pearly Gates Coffee Shop. I imagined he had a list of topics to talk about and ideas they might want to consider :).

::: enjoying that picture in my mind :::

So, now the water-works start. The tears are coming from a loving place, a warm and grateful heart.

I love you Michael. I miss you so much my friend. I choose to celebrate your memory and continue to learn from you through our memories. I take comfort knowing the Lord has already wiped every one of your tears away and I look forward to hearing your laugh ring out in heaven.

…And you better save me a spot at the Pearly Gates Coffee Shop!

1381826_10151703408487734_841618918_nToday I am making a modest contribution to the Trevor Project in honor of Michael P. I am also going to make this a monthly pledge of support as well. From their website, “The Trevor Project was founded in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award®-winning short film TREVOR, The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.”

Please join me in supporting The Trevor Project with a one time gift or signing up for their easy to use automatic recurring monthly support option. Thank you.

Man In The Mirror Moments & The Question Of Forgiveness

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Friends, today Ben Patrick Johnson graciously accepted my invitation to write a guest blog post. I extended the invite with full confidence that he would be honest, clear, and civil. I asked him if he would be willing to write about my coming out and what he felt were the issues that this might represent. I didn’t suggest what those issues would be, and trusted him to write from his heart. His post below is the result and completely unedited. Thank you so much for writing this Ben. – Randy

There are moments in life when we look in the mirror and don’t like what we see. In a blush of painful self-honesty, we realize we’ve been making choices that are not in the best interest of ourselves or those around us. We may have hurt others with our actions; we have almost certainly hurt ourselves.

A friend of mine once said, “Some people just travel the road to hell. Me, I bought property.” I, for one, have certainly bought property on this road. I’ve made foolish and cowardly choices. I’ve taken shortcuts, moral and practical. I’ve lied. I’ve been an enabler for bad behavior of friends and family, feeding (and funding) folly in the hope they would love me more.

I am flawed.

We are flawed.

So what we do when we have these mirror moments? Do we sit with the discomfort then take steps to improve our behavior? Or do we look away, distract ourselves with a drink or a toke or chocolate cake, go on a shopping spree, gamble, or jump out of an airplane? Most often, it seems, we jump to self-soothing, distraction and denial. But every once in a while we find courage to face our own shortcomings and poor choices, and make material changes in our lives as a result of this self-reflection.