I want to spend time talking about the support element of my process. Man alive am I incredibly, incredibly lucky to have a small core group of friends that have worked through some of the hardest things with me. And so, when it came time for them to love me well in this process of working out my sexuality with fear and trembling- they were there.
Before I go on with my story, I’m going to pause and do a little PSA-ing. If you are reading this and you are in a similar situation with working out your sexuality as a Christian, I already know that feeling heavy amounts of isolation is a big part of your day-to-day existence. This is the most important thing you can do- find people. Find. People. If it’s someone you have known your whole life- great. If it’s someone you find through the internet- fine. (Well, with that one make sure to filter out the creepers). A counselor, a pastor (that can get tricky, I know), a professor, an RA or a relative. You desperately need to have people walking alongside you. Someone to listen and process and challenge and help move you toward the healthiest version of yourself. Find. People.
It took me a very, very long time to be honest about who I was and so it took me a very, very, very long time to be honest with the people in my life. A deep and abiding fear of rejection was suffocating me and I really just didn’t want to be an inconvenience. Everyday I was bombarded with people’s opinions on the topic of homosexuality and most of those opinions were just plain mean. You know- the love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin-but-really-just-make-the-sinner-feel-like-scum-hate-the-sin approach. It’s kiiiinda intense in the way that made me internalize their words and actions for the fuel of all my ever increasing self-loathing. It was overwhelming and I was not doing well.
I would love to tell you that all of this coupled with my large amount of emotional intelligence and penchant for authenticity moved me willingly toward self-disclosure. That I called all of my closest friends together and had an intervention moment where I eloquently laid out everything in a three point, concise manner.
But actually, it looked more like a car trip with one of my best friends where she essentially asked me point blank if I was gay. Nothing ceremonious about it, no candles were lit and exchanged to symbolize the sacred moment. I felt the years of loneliness sitting directly on top of my heart and I paused to consider the implications of my response.
I could (A) Tell her “no, silly! I’m as straight as a very, very straight board. I loooove me some fellas” or (B) Trust her with this part of myself knowing that she had proven herself over and over again to be a constant and never-judging friend.
And so I told her that I was confused. And scared. I listed all the reasons of why I was a bad person and would lose every single person in my life if I went down that road.
And her response was incredible. Even though I didn’t initiate it, it was the best first “coming out” experience I could have possibly had. It was safe and it was so so so affirming of my worth as a human being. She was quick to point out that she loved me without pause and wanted to journey with me during my process. She wanted to know what the next step for me was and helped me to work that out verbally with much tears.
Since that first encounter I have told ten people which is the number of people I trust the absolute most with my inner and outer life. I will go into a little more detail on this later- but, some of those experiences of opening up were not perfect and I struggled. However, there was an overall theme of unconditional positive regard that allowed me to feel overwhelmingly loved and supported. And infinitely less lonely/crazy.
Whenever I am talking with a friend struggling to make a difficult decision, I like to ask them to consider this: As a person created in the image of God, what decision will affirm and honor that image in you? As a creature endowed with all the Divine affection, how can you move forward in acknowledgement and honoring of that core identity? It’s my favorite way to frame the process because it makes them respond in very self-aware and self-affirming ways.
So, for me, the decision to disclose this part of myself to safe people was the most affirming, honoring thing I could possibly have done. I will say this a million times in the future- we are relational beings. We were created to connect. And that connection is not meant to be easy-peasy, but we HAVE to do it to survive. We have to open ourselves up, we have to let people see, we have to walk alongside one another.
Otherwise, life would just really, really suck. (That shit is theological).