And we trek on…
After graduating college, I was still not out and continued to struggle with my identity. I went back and forth between identities and discovered that even though I was trying to figure out my identity, I seemed to just get more confused and lost. During Lent of 2008, I was about to come out. The LGBT Movement had begun its fight for same sex marriage, and I felt for the first time that being gay may not be the worst thing that could happen to me. However, shortly after New York and Oregon had taken the first steps towards marriage equality, I was visiting my parents one day and we were talking about current events. One of my parents began talking about the sin and corruptness of America and I inquired why they felt that way. They began talking about the sin of homosexuality and that America was turning away from God by allowing gays to marry and in recognizing it. My heart froze. While the world may have been changing, my parents were not. That was when I decided that I needed to try one last effort, for my parents, to live the life they wanted me to.
It wasn’t until that summer that I began dating again in the hopes that I would be able to maintain a ‘normal’ straight life. Over the summer I began dating one of my closest friends from college. She was a friend for the ages and I felt comfortable being with her. Over the next eight months we were on and off again a couple of times, but we moved fast. We had gotten to a point where marriage was on the table. Through a multitude of events and situations, I found myself sitting in my place alone, thinking about us one night. We had jelled so well and our friendship had grown into something amazing; we even had looked at rings and talked about our future together. However, in my gut it didn’t feel right to me. It was shortly after Lent started in 2009 when I knew what my identity was. Soon after, I ended my relationship with my friend. After I broke off the relationship, I finally succumbed to the identity that I had been dreading. It took me until July to come to grips with my new identity, and during July, I told my closest two friends. Then on August 1, 2009, I came out to my parents. That’s the day I recognize as the day I officially began identifying as gay. However, I will share that story in a few months.
Looking back, I realize that I wasn’t the only one who struggled during my time of self-exploration and that it’s not only the individual coming out but their family, friends and everyone they know as well. My parents struggled. They lost hopes and dreams they had for me, such as getting married to a wonderful woman, having children with her and not being ridiculed for practicing a life that is hard and looked down upon by many. My friends struggled. They were on the direct receiving end of my lies, moodiness, and roller coaster life. They endured a friend who didn’t know who he was, therefore wasn’t the greatest friend they deserved. But I think one of the biggest casualties was my friendship with my last female partner. The lying and trying to be someone I wasn’t took its course on our relationship. It took years for us to repair the friendship and even today it isn’t what it used to be. The cost that I have paid and forced family and friends to pay during my journey has been costly. And it’s only been recently, looking back, have I come to realize that cost and its ramifications.
I’m still hoping to this day that the cost has been worth while, but I still feel the need to repent my selfish actions during my journey.
So, this ends my Lenten Journey auto-biographical series. As my five year coming out anniversary draws closer I will share my journey of coming out during those few hot months of 2009. But as I said I’ll share those this summer.
As I’ve reflected and thought over the past few years, and as I’ve progressed through my Masters classes, I’ve learned a lot about identity development and it has helped me to really come to an understanding of myself. Now, for my Student Affairs Professional folks, we all know the Cass Identity Model as one of the leading theories on LGBT identity development. If you don’t, check out this overview of the model: http://multicultural.usf.edu/pdf/safezone/support_identity.pdf.
Now, as I have reflected, I have come to understand that not only the individual coming out progresses through a development process, but the family and friends seem to also have a similar identity model development process they undergo. They question, have fear, become confused, learn, synthesize and in a way come out, as well, in acknowledging the gay identity of the person they love. Having this understanding has helped me be more forgiving, understanding and even a better friend and ally when working with students, friends and family who are going through the same process.
I hope that you found my perspective interesting. For some, it’s a supplement of what you’ve lived through with me, while others are coming to learn who I am, and where I have been, to become the me you know today. I hope that sharing my journey helps provide a perspective to others coming out and even a perspective to individuals struggling with accepting their child’s or friend’s identity. But if its one thing I hope you take away from my story is that it is a journey, and that EVERYONE is involved. How you handle it is a personal choice, but it is not only the individual who comes out, but is it the dreams of the parents being shattered and the roller coaster life you put your friends through and forcing them out of the closet as well. Its like one of my favorite phrases says, “it takes a village”.
Until next time!
Peace, Love and Pandas!