Before Matt was Matt he was gaysubtlety, at least to me. He blogged behind anonymity (like I’ve been doing) and then courageously came out, creating a new blog under his name and filling it with a wealth of story and humor and a life lived in grace. I have had the privilege of getting to know him in bits through social media and his blog and I can tell your right now, he’s a far better writer than me and many other writers I know. So excited to share his story with you here today.
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I’m not sure I’ve ever “come out” the same way twice.
The first time, four years ago in a small discipleship group, was prefaced by a slurred, twenty-minute preamble that feverishly bounced between references to a distant father and a lack of male friends and a blistering self-loathing and a fear of the future and a desperate hope for change and a terrible sense of guilt about it all.
The most recent time, last week at church, was a nonchalant, “Um, no?” when a particularly nosy teenager asked me if I liked girls.
In between the two I’ve used many different forms and phrases, addressing large groups or just one person, sometimes looking for help and sometimes offering it.
I used to think coming out was primarily about a declaration, a statement, a transfer of knowledge; I was letting people know who I was, nothing more. In a way I was right, coming out involves all those things. But now that I’m totally out, writing publicly about my faith and sexuality, I’m starting to realize that the decision to “be out” is so much more than simply making personal information generally available:
It’s a promise I have made with myself to live each day with honesty and grace, to never again hide behind a tenuous wall of fear.
Coming out is not a one-time thing, nor is it even really a “thousand-time” thing; it is a constant process of rejecting hypocrisy and self-deception, a lifelong journey toward integrity.
Time for some kind of embarrassing real-talk, everybody. It took me two years after my first step into the open to come to terms with the fact that God didn’t need to make me straight in order for him to be very, very good. I still wanted to be straight, mind you, but I had to admit that it probably wasn’t gonna happen. (The only dream that has been harder to give up is of getting a letter from Hogwarts – maybe it’s just twelve years late, you know?)
One year after that, I had to admit I no longer even desired to be straight. This confused a ton of people, including myself, because I have a pretty conservative sexual ethic and therefore am committed to celibacy. All I knew is that I had finally found contentment and peace in life, and being gay wasn’t the problem I used to think it was.
One year after that, only a few weeks ago, I realized I was now terrified of possibly finding a woman attractive. There have been moments, rare moments, in which I’ve casually noted that, say, the female barista who just made my latté was cute. An innocuous, meaningless observation to be sure, but in the split second it moves from subconscious impression to conscious awareness it undergoes an insane transformation, and within minutes becomes nothing less than a berserk thought-Godzilla rocket-punching the skyscrapers of my equanimity.
I was terrified by the possibility of becoming a stranger to myself, just like before, and I was terrified of being used as some twisted example for “People Can Change” sloganeering that would be wielded to harass vulnerable kids and promote the harmful idea that they needed to, or even could, become “straight.”
“This can’t be happening!” I thought, “I’m gay! I just won’t tell anyone and things will be fine. Just gotta get these thoughts out of my head.”
And suddenly I was struck with a deep sense of conviction: I was moving back to square one. Despite being healthier, happier, and more in love with life, I was rapidly sliding into that closeted frame of mind in which I was ashamed of my sexuality, even afraid of it.
I was confronted by the reality that even though I’m out of the closet I haven’t been able to shake all of its sicknesses, in this case an addiction to control. Somehow that first desperate act of vulnerability had, over the years, contorted into a grasping attempt to become invulnerable. It appears that openness can be its own kind of mask.
Sexuality is a crazy, bewildering, wonderful thing that constantly defies easy understanding. And, if I’m being honest (which is the whole point of this post, anyway), that scares me.
I’ve become used to admitting that I’m a gay man, but I guess I’m still struggling to admit that I’m a sexual human being, that I’m still discovering who I am, growing up, learning and struggling and screwing up. If I can’t be honest about that, about simply being human, then I haven’t done justice to the bravery of that trembling sophomore who sat in a tight circle and forced the truth out through stammering lips and into the open.
I don’t want you to make the same mistakes.
So this is my hope for you, beautiful and beloved person that you are: that you would know the freedom of not having to hide, not having to crawl into bed each night replaying all the small deceptions that let you keep “it” a secret for one more day. My hope is that you will be surrounded by people who, when you reveal the truth that you’re a lesbian woman or trans* or just completely confused, will remind you of the truth that you are, and always have been and always will be, worthy to be loved.
And don’t forget, at the end of the day coming out isn’t about the transfer of information or the assumption of this or that “identity,” it’s about giving those around you the blessing of fully knowing you, in all your complex and inspiring individuality, and allowing yourself the grace to finally be honest, to never again be enslaved by the pressure to be anyone other than who you really are. I am so excited for you!
Coming out doesn’t mean you have all the answers, as if such a thing were possible – it just means that you’re willing to start asking the hard questions in community with others, beginning that long, thrilling adventure toward reconciliation and joy.
Blessings on the journey, friends, and may the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding be with you always.