Well, it’s been just short of three weeks since I came out to the world on this blog. I’m sure some of you are wondering what these last three weeks have been like for me. It’s difficult to try and formulate everything into these posts, but I will do my best.
Before I go any further, however, let me put some uneasy minds to rest: my post three weeks ago was not how I came out to most of the people in my life. My family and close friends have all known for a while, but I needed to take that final step of declaring publicly that I am, in fact, gay. In order to help those who are like me and are suffering in silence, I needed to make a public statement. So the post was not intended to tell those closest to me that I was gay, but rather to help them understand a bit of what I’ve been through, as well as to send a message to those who are suffering that they are NOT alone.
So, anyways, back to the purpose of this post.
These three weeks have been a roller coaster. As I said before, most of the people that I encounter on a day to day basis already knew. So what was the big change? What made a difference?
Well, to start off, that post meant that, for better or worse, I was out to the world. There was no taking it back. Years and years of painful repression finally came to an end as I was finally able to open up to those around me and let them know who I am. Who I really am.
You see, up to this point, I have been acting. I’m not an actor in the sense that I would be any good in a play or movie, but I have gotten really good at acting like I am the person that everyone expects me to be. Like I’m the perfect ministry major who is going to graduate in May and go into full time ministry in the Nazarene church and marry the perfect woman and have 2 kids and a dog. This is what I felt I had to be. To do anything else would have been to disappoint those who saw what a beautiful future this could have been. So I became really talented in this particular aspect of acting.
Since coming out, I have been able to hang up my mask and costume and just be myself. Words cannot express the relief that comes from being able to just be yourself.
Let me, once, again, explain before some questions and concerns arise in the back of your minds. I am still me. I still love puns and make way too many Dad jokes. I still watch sitcoms endlessly and, most importantly, I still love Jesus. Ultimately, I am called to ministry. This is something that I can’t deny or avoid and, trust me, I’ve tried. God knew that I would be coming out when He called me to ministry all those years ago, and yet He still called me. Far be it for me or anyone else to presume God was wrong. I have not changed. I am still me. I’m just free to be more myself than I have been in many, many years.
So coming out has given me freedom. It has allowed me to breathe. It has allowed me to put the buttons that you see in the picture above on my backpack as I go to class and work, showing that I am unashamed of who I am and those who are like me. So it’s made me more comfortable with myself. Given me self respect, something that I haven’t had in a long time.
But even more than that, it revealed to me the pure beauty of the people around me. Coming out in this way was risky to say the least. I could have easily been barraged with micro aggressions or even downright hateful language, but instead I was showered with love, support, and acceptance. At the time of writing this post, my coming out post has gotten 488 views. Sure, some of these are repeats from the same people, but that is still 4 times higher than my next highest view count for any post. Nearly 500 people read this post, and yet I received less than 5 negative responses. Instead, I was showered with comments from friends, loved ones, people I haven’t spoked to in years, and even strangers. Comments such as:
“Thank you so much for sharing this. ❤️ You are a shining light!!!”
‘’You’re going to change the world, Thomas ❤️”
“So proud of you, Thomas! Thank you for being vulnerable and open with us, never stop being you. ♥️”
“You are strong, bold, and inspirational! Thank you for willing to be vulnerable! Love you and praying for you and your future ministry!”
Let this stand as a message of hope to those who might still be suffering in silence: it gets better. There will be those who do not accept you. There will be those who spew uninformed and closed-minded comments your way. But, with any hope at all, there will be those who come beside you and show you love for YOU. Those who not only allow you to express yourself and be comfortable and proud of yourself, but who are proud of you as well and will support you throughout the process. Sometimes, the most unexpected people will provide you with the most support.
One last time, however, I must address some responses to what I have just said. This is MY experience. Even more, this is representing the good parts of my experience. There are aspects of coming out that have been EXTREMELY difficult for me, and have required a lot of healing. This process did not start just three weeks ago for me. Some of these things happened months ago, or even years ago, and I have been able to work through some of them. I still have things to work through.
Don’t expect that everyone is going to have this same experience. I do believe that it will get better for them. I do believe that everyone has someone in their lives who will love and accept them. But PLEASE don’t expect someone who just came out to be as comfortable as I am. This is an extremely difficult time and the stories and experiences are as varied as the people who tell them. So be there for people. Show them love. Let them know they’re not alone.
One final message to those who have suffered or who continue to suffer in similar ways that I have:
You’re not alone. You are loved. The mountains that you face might seem insurmountable, but there are people who will climb it with you. Don’t feel obligated to tell anyone anything, because this is your story. This is your life. You alone get to choose when and how you open up. And whenever that journey begins for you, please do not hesitate to reach out (firstname.lastname@example.org). I am here for you, and there are so many others who are as well. You can do this. You can breathe. We’re here with you.
(Yes, that was a direct reference to Love, Simon. If you haven’t seen it, then you need to. It’s a life changer for LGBTQ+ and those who love them. That’s all. Have a great day!)