This series so far has been pretty dark and down. I’m not upset or regretful about that. There have been lots of dark and down stories in my life, like in all of our lives. And I think those are the stories I tell the least, the ones we all tell the least. But I’ve learned that pain is just as much a part of human experience as joy, darkness as light, moments of down as moments of up. The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves become our realities. That means choosing to forgo the difficult stories causes us to forgo half of the human experience. That’s inauthentic story-telling and inauthentic life.
I’ve also learned that without excavating our pain, we will never heal from it. Pain doesn’t go away when we ignore it, when we shove it in the shadows. It grows and it goes. It goes out in ways and areas of our lives that we do not have control of and are often not even conscious of. The less we acknowledge pain the more it has control over us.
So talking through pain and walking through its swamplands are important.
But today and tomorrow, that’s not what I am going to do. Today and tomorrow (and other days too) are for happy stories. Today’s happy story is the day I came out.
I wish I could have gone back to the me in high school driving down that freeway, sitting in the fear of some future imminent coming out, that me thinking about veering his car off the road and into a telephone pole. I wish I could tell him that I will write about that coming-out day, that day he fears so much, as one of the best days of his life. It was a freakin’ high.
I came out via this blog post during my senior year of undergrad, mid-February, on a Monday, at my Christian university, Pepperdine University, in Malibu, California. Deciding to do that was a few months' process.
I was right in the center of the cool Christian folk at Pepp and, because of that, I knew had a platform to speak. Being in the center of any cool crowd was new for me. I had never been there before. Because the position was new, was exotic, I saw it with fresh eyes and knew the power it held. I knew that when you’re in a place like that, people listen to you. I knew this was an opportunity to personalize and to amplify a conversation about queerness in my Christian circle.
My friends are amazing people. They are kind and generous, whole-hearted and compassionate. Ugh, I can truly not tell you how amazing they were then and they are now. They made so many parts of me, and for allowing their mannerisms and habits and words to rub off and onto me, I am eternally grateful. They made me fierce and loving, hopeful and heartful.
But back then, my people didn’t really have any out gay people as part of them. Not by any direct malicious intention, but because of the whispers most of us grew up with. Most of us were taught in our churches and in our families that queerness is wrong, that it is deviant of God’s plan, that it is brokenness, that it is disgusting. All of the classics.
I was right in the center of this robust, loving community, but not queer-diverse community, and in the center of a university of a conservative christian denomination, and in the center of a university that held anti-queer policies and culture. So I knew I had a voice that mattered and a voice that would be listened to. People knew me. And people loved me. And even those people who would not otherwise consider putting thoughts about queer people into their brainwaves, would turn an ear and a heart to me. I knew they would.
So despite it being the most terrifying thing I could imagine —on a rainy January day, in one sitting, while procrastinating my physics homework, I wrote my blog post.
I sat on the blog post for five weeks. In moments of strength, my fear of posting began to go away. On worships nights, I would lift my hands high and, when I felt closeted to the Divine, I never felt scared. I always felt this was the right thing to do. I always felt like it was the only thing to do. Like it was just what was going to happen. But I was mentored to not post yet. Maybe wait until after I graduated. Maybe not end my college experience on a heavy note. Maybe not be remembered by only this. I think those mentors assumed it would go poorly. And looking back, I think they were justified in those assumptions. Based on the climate, it should have.
I had come out to about thirty or forty friends by this time. The first being about nine months before, in a car ride in the middle of the night. Some while sitting next to fireplaces, or on roofs, or snuck away in empty garages, and many of them on one particular slab of concrete behind Pepperdine’s cafeteria. All, minus one, went well. The conversations were intimate and holy. They ushered a new era of relationship into my life. My friends and I began to talk about vulnerable parts of our lives. Parts that we had before never shared with each other. Parts we had never shared with anyone. Vulnerability begets vulnerability. Honesty begets honesty. That’s what I have lived since then.
I came out to my parents too. I told them on FaceTime in November, the Wednesday after Thanksgiving. They had a trip already planned to Malibu that weekend and we talked more in person then.
So on February 20, on a Monday morning, driving down the hill to school, my car steering the curves of the Santa Monica Mountains, the blue Pacific out my front windshield, Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill” played through the speakers and a simple thought came from inside of me. The simple thought that I knew was more than just a simple thought. I knew it was a blunt and unquestionable knowing about the day.
“Life is so freakin’ beautiful.” welled up inside of me like a sponge. All of life’s intricate little parts weaving together in my mind in this moment. Then it screamed out, “TODAY’S THE DAY. TODAY’S THE DAY.”
And I drove on to my 10 a.m. environmental policy class.