The Fight

The world is a dark place.

Sometimes you wonder if Thanos was on to something.

Maybe Daenerys was justified.

After all, the evil in this world seems to have pervaded every aspect of humanity. The government oppresses the weak. Leaders of the church abuse those who they swore to protect. Brothers turn on brothers for their own gain. World leaders murder their own people over who they love and call it morality. Political systems are built to increase the power of the few at the detriment of humanity itself.

But just as the dark seems to have won, just as the last few specks of light seem to have flickered out, you see them.

Children rising up and demanding change in the name of a better future.

Women coming forward to testify on the horrors they’ve endured at the hands of men with the hope of gaining an equal ground.

Corporations donating their tax breaks to the protection of our world.

Men with their husbands and women with their wives showing the world that love is love and only light can come from love.

What Thanos didn’t see, what Daenerys was too blinded by her own ambition to realize, was that humanity becomes the strongest when the darkness closes in. We gather together and fight for the lives and dignities of all people in all places of all walks of life. Together, as one species, we stand up and tell the darkness it won’t win. We look in the eyes of the evil and let it know it has met its match.

So even though the powerful voices in our world tell only of the darkness and our powerlessness to defeat it, we rise together and prove that we can.

Humanity is one. And we are bringing light to defeat the dark.

Coming Out: The Aftermath

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 (trfarmer18@gmail.com). 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.

Love, Thomas.

(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!)

I’m Finally Being Honest

It was a particularly dark night in early October of last year. I had gone for a drive out a long and endless road in the rural countryside of Kankakee County. Everything that had been bottled up inside of me for 10+ years was threatening to break through to the surface. The things that I had been suppressing for so long, the one thing that I had been denying, was finally overwhelming me. I saw no reason to go on. As I instinctively pushed the gas pedal closer to the floor, I thought about what my life would be if ever I were to tell anyone. Surely those closest to me would leave. The people that I loved would say they couldn’t support me. My entire career, the thing I had spent $160,000 of student loans and scholarships to be educated for, would be taken away immediately. I would be utterly alone and useless in a world full of people. With the speedometer nearing 90, one thought passed through my mind.

“I can’t do this.”

If I couldn’t tell anyone for fear of losing them, and I couldn’t continue under the weight of this secret, then I simply couldn’t continue living. I looked towards an oncoming tree. It was large enough, surely. My mind had been made up. But then an image flashed in my mind. An image of a cute dog named Wesley. I just adopted him and I couldn’t leave him alone. I had to take care of him for the rest of his life, just as I promised him. I slowed my car back down to 55, and drove safely back to my apartment, embracing the dog that saved my life. I knew my next few months would be difficult, but I knew I could fight for no other reason than to fulfill the promise I made to this dog.

Why did I just share this story? It’s certainly not a happy one, but it’s one that I hope will help you to understand what these past 10-15 years have been like. The weight that I’ve had on my shoulders for as long as I can remember, a secret that could never be revealed but that would kill me if it wasn’t.

You see, the reason that I nearly committed suicide (not just this time, but many times before it), was because I’m gay. Before you flip out or stop reading or immediately comment that I’m overreacting or lying to myself or “going through a phrase,” please just take the time to read this so you can better understand. I’m going to do my best to address the questions that you undoubtedly have in the clearest possible way. All I ask for is patience and an open mind.

I’ve known since I was a child. Obviously, I didn’t know what it was called or what it meant, but I always knew that I liked the boys better and not the girls. I specifically remember watching a show with my family called Smallville, my sister squealing at the TV every time Oliver Queen, played by Justin Hartley, came into the scene. She thought he was cute, and she wanted everyone in the room to know it. Of course, it was okay that she thought he was cute. It was “normal.” What nobody else in the room knew, and what I had resolved to never share with anyone (sorry, past Thomas), was that I also thought he was cute.

Let me get this out of the way before any of you get the wrong impression: I had an AMAZING childhood. There was no trauma, no abuse, nothing that would have caused this in my past. My parents are extremely loving and caring people, and I couldn’t have asked for better people to raise me. They’re my heroes.

But I was also raised in an environment where homosexuality was severely frowned upon. The word “gross” or “disgusting” was occasionally thrown around when talking about certain celebrities that had come out. I don’t blame anyone for this, and I’m not going to say who it was that has said these sorts of things. This is just the way that society has viewed members of the LGBTQ community, and it has become ingrained into the culture and very being of so many people. Until you have a personal reason to wrestle with what you’ve been taught, you will have no reason to change it. But nonetheless, these are the sorts of things that I’ve had to work through.

Words cannot describe the mental, emotional, and even spiritual conflicts that I have had to work through because of this. Indoctrination is a very powerful tool, and it can override even your most basic instincts. This led me, a very closeted gay kid, to become homophobic. I began to reason to myself that if I just preached hard enough that homosexuality is wrong, if I just prayed enough that God would make me normal, if I just dated the right girl, then it would all go away and I could finally be what everyone around me called “normal.” I didn’t ask for this. I certainly didn’t choose this (that’s right- it’s not a choice.) Why would I choose something that could completely unravel my otherwise amazing life? It doesn’t make sense. This is one thing that I won’t concede. BUT I DIGRESS.

Again, the spiritual implications of this attitude are insanely damaging. I began to believe that God hated me even though I had never acted upon my desires. If He loved me, He would’ve saved me from this “abomination.” I must not have had enough faith. I must not have prayed enough. I must not be good enough. God became some spiritual padlock and I needed to find the right combination of words and phrases and song lyrics to unlock the special gift of heterosexuality. Since I was still attracted to men instead of women, then God just must not think I’ve earned it yet. Any first year theology student can tell you that salvation is not something that we earn. And yet, to me, that became the focus of my life. I needed salvation from this part of my life that everyone had told me would send me to Hell. And God was not doing anything to change it, no matter how many times I sang “I Surrender All.”

I decided to try and find my way to heterosexuality through heterosexual relationships. If I just dated the right girl, then eventually my body would figure out what the right way to act is, and everything would be fine. Let me just say this: this was insanely damaging to not just me, but to those I dated. This was way too unhealthy and unrealistic of an expectation to put on anyone, and I could never apologize enough to the people I put through this. It was entirely selfish and I have severe regret. After my last relationship, I realized that I couldn’t keep doing this to people. I either had to figure my own crap out or accept a life alone. I wasn’t going to drag anyone else down with me. So to those from my past: I’m sorry. You deserve so much better. You deserve so much more.

Having exhausted both spiritual and relational efforts to make myself “normal,” I resigned myself to the fact that it wasn’t going to change. For one reason or another, this is what my life was. This acceptance came about around the time that I almost wrapped my car around a tree. I hope you can understand the gravity of the situation.

After that night of deciding that I had to keep my promise to Wesley, I knew that I had to begin to accept this part of myself and come out. My two choices were coming out or committing suicide. I believe that I’ve made the right decision.

So I slowly began to come out to people. First, my best friend. Then, more of my friends. Eventually, I was able to come out to my parents and some family members. My sister and one of my cousins ended up being some of the most helpful people through this process. I told some professors and some coworkers. I buried myself in intensive theological study through books, podcasts, articles, and conversations with those much wiser than I. The conclusions I have come to may not be popular, but I assure you that they are only my conclusions after an honest and intense study and prayerful experience.

I’m fully affirming. Basically, this means that I believe that God is not condemnatory of monogamous, same-sex relationships if they are celebrated within the confines of marriage. It is not within the responsibility of the people of God to condemn, no matter what they believe. Certainly, if there is something that someone is doing that is obviously contrary to the will of God, you can lovingly approach them as a brother or sister in Christ and bring it to their attention, but leave it to God to convict and correct. And don’t even try to approach someone about their sins (or what you perceive to be sins) if you don’t have that personal relationship with them. The theology of why I believe what I do is something that will have to go in another blog post. I’m always willing to discuss it, but conversations over Facebook never end well. If you would like to ask me how I came to this conclusion, then let’s go out to coffee sometime. I might even pay (don’t hold me to that- I’m a senior in college who is about to be paying back a LOT of loans).

So why am I writing this now? What does it even matter? Why does it need to go on my blog?

Here’s why: I’m not alone. Without a doubt, there are numerous people who are reading this who are going through the same things or have been through the same things. Everyone’s story is different and beautiful, but there are sure to be similarities. So let me say this:

If you are someone who has felt trapped by repressing your sexuality, if you are someone who has felt the need to lie to those closest to you for fear of the repercussions, if you are someone who feels that God does not love you because you don’t fit into the mold that the Church has created out of their own fear of diversity:

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

This is not something you have to fight alone.

YOU ARE LOVED.

By me, by those who love you (even if they don’t know), and by THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE. JUST THE WAY YOU ARE.

So, please, if you think suicide is your only solution, of if you think that there is no reason to go on because the thought of opening up to those around you scares you more than anything else in life, please talk to me. Talk to someone. I promise you full and complete discretion. Nothing that you reveal to me (unless you, like, killed someone or something), will EVER be told to another living soul. I know how delicate these situations are. I know what it’s like to hold a secret so dark that you will do anything in your power to keep it from coming to the light.

So send me a message. Send me an email (trfarmer18@gmail.com). If you have my phone number, shoot me a text (sorry, I’m not putting my phone number online, I have to maintain some sort of internet security). But TALK TO SOMEONE.

It’s hard enough navigating this world of bigotry and misunderstanding. I’m tired of keeping quiet to preserve my own safety and reputation. I do not exaggerate when I say that lives of people you love are on the line. I can guarantee you that someone you know and love is struggling with something similar to this. So before you make an offhand comment, before you joke around and call someone a faggot (I hate that word), remember that you NEVER know what someone is going through. Show love to everyone because, like I was, some of them might be right on the brink of ending their life over something that they think nobody will understand.

I’m open for any and all questions. I will not tolerate any form of hate speech or uninformed blanket statements. Please respect those who might be facing similar issues with your comments on Facebook or WordPress. You never know who might be reading it.

One last thing:

The sanctity of human life surpasses all agendas. Don’t for one second think that it’s better to take one’s own life than to open up about those things such as these.

YOUR LIFE IS WORTH SO MUCH MORE THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE.

I’m here for you. You’re never alone.

P.S. To those I have hurt or put down because they had the bravery to come out before myself, I am entirely sorry. Please know that such things were said out of fear of myself rather than anger towards another. I don’t deserve forgiveness, but I humbly ask it. Just know that I often think of how my words in the past have affected the lives of those around me. I only wish I could take them back. You ALL deserve so much better.

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

Why the tattoo?

People ask me why I have the tattoo that I do. Here’s my reason:

Isaiah 40:28-31 says,

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

My entire life I have wished I could fly. Not just in an airplane or with an epic jet pack, though those would be great as well, but I myself, with no outside assistance, flying through the air. Not even in the Superman type of flying where I can soar through the sky at inhuman speeds, though that would also be cool. More in the way of floating.

I’ve suffered from depression for years. There are seasons of wonderful reprieve, and there are seasons of terrible darkness. As I have had to cope with the dark seasons, I have learned of the peace that can come from a long walk to nowhere particular. In my darkest moments, this is my therapy.

A few months ago, I began to process through some things that I had suppressed my entire life. All of the pain that I had hidden away came crashing to the surface and poured into the forefront of my mind. The feeling was overwhelming, and there were nights that I couldn’t imagine continuing. A few nights in particular, I strongly considered taking my life.

On one of these nights, I did what I always do and went for a walk. As I slowly walked down the dark street, trying my hardest to avoid openly weeping in front of some stranger’s house, I closed my eyes. I continued to walk down the street with closed eyes, aware of my surroundings yet no longer fully present.

I pictured myself slowly rising, my head turned heavenward as the earth slowly fell away. The pain, fear, despair, hopelessness, and desperation fell with the earth, leaving only me and my breath. I was weightless; the problems of the earth below had no hold on me. For the first time in what seemed like a long time, I was free. I slowly kicked my feet back and forth, the rhythmic sway in tune with my heartbeat. For a few seconds, in this mesmeric trance, I was free.

I know I can’t fly. I know I never left the ground. My feet were still chained to the pavement, with no hope of defying gravity. My problems never really fell away.

But for a moment…

These verses remind me that even though I’ll never be able to fly on my own, I can still find freedom. I will get weary. I will stumble and fall. But if I hope in the Lord, he will strengthen me, and I will soar. No longer bound to the earth and its entanglements, but finally free.

I may not be able to fly. But through the Lord, I can be free.

That’s why I have this tattoo.

Paintings, Light Breezes, and The Little Engine that Could

As many of you know, I have been struggling with depression for years now. It was only within the last couple of weeks, however, that I was diagnosed with Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder. Basically this means that I will most likely struggle with depression my entire life. While this is a scary thought, and certainly a daunting challenge, this news was somewhat of a relief to me.

Yes, I really did just say that. I was relieved to learn that I have this condition. It validated my thoughts; it gave me an assurance that this wasn’t just all my own twisted way of messing with myself or getting attention. I have a legitimate mental disorder that causes my brain to throw me into depressive states and hinder my ability to come back up to a normal state of mind. It gave these thoughts and these doubts and these feelings a definition. I can’t express enough how important that was to me.

I have been trying my best ever since to shorten the depressive states and to make them less frequent. Obviously, I try to distract myself. To quote Car Radio, one of my favorite songs by Twenty One Pilots, “silence is violent.” When I find myself alone and bored, my mind quickly plunges into a depressive state. Here is a sample of just some of the thoughts that plague my mind:

Why is nobody here? Do they all think I’m annoying?
Are they only my friends because of some obligation or pity?
Does anyone truly care about me?
Why do I have to even do any of this?
What is the point?
When can all of this just end?

These are the thoughts that constantly plague me. They have lead me to some dark places, and they only get worse. I can’t control these thoughts, I don’t want them to come to me, but that’s how depression works. So, to battle that, I have decided to fill my life with as many positive reminders of the sanctity of life as possible.

To that end, let me tell you a little story. One of my best friends also suffers from depression. A good portion of our conversations revolve around this very topic. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, the importance of someone that understands can’t be overstated. Anyways, we were both pretty bogged down in life and whatnot, and I decided we were going to have what I so eloquently call “A Night of Spontaneity.” Basically, we met on campus and my friend had no idea what we were going to do. We walked to the Kroger off campus and each purchased something that reminded us of our childhood and brought up positive thoughts. She bought a Finding Nemo coloring book. I bought The Little Engine that Could. This was one of my favorite books as a kid, and still is to this day.I remember reading this book and thinking that it meant I could fly, or I could become President, or I could bring my stuffed dog to life. Now, this book means so much more. It reminds me that I can beat this; that life is not impossible. I don’t have to just wonder when this life will end, I can try and enjoy it. I can live.

The other day I went to a local park with my friend Matt. We sat down on a bench and looked out over the fields at the white, puffy clouds floating lazily across the sky. The way the light fall breeze combined with the breathtaking view laid out before us made me stop for a minute. Finally, I had a moment of silence that didn’t end with me questioning everything and falling deeper into the darkness that engulfs me. I felt God’s creation, and for a moment, I felt like I could fly.

Last night I went to an open mic night with two of my closest friends. One of them was performing (and did a fantastic job). Soon after I walked in, they had a raffle and gave away a painting that one of the artists had painted. As soon as I saw the painting, I could feel my mood improving, I could sense once again that little bit of light that was piercing the darkness. There was just something about the painting that made me feel at peace. I knew that I wanted that painting. God must have known as well, because out of about 30 people that were present, I won. This painting (pictured above) is now prominently displayed in my dorm room. Every time I look at it, I feel a little bit of peace.

You may wonder why I am telling you all of this. I mean, who cares? It’s just a bunch of odd, quirky little experiences. Well, here’s something else you should know: I am a very sentimental and symbolic person. I always have been; I always will be. These little symbols help to remind me that life is not only possible to accomplish, but worth the fight. I still have down days and I always will, but it’s the little things that bring me back up.

If you are struggling with something like this, then look around. Tell someone. Let them know. Don’t do it alone. And find your own Paintings, Light Breezes, and The Little Engine that Could. It may save your life.

Recovery

As many of you know, I struggle with depression. In fact, I have struggled with it for so long that I hardly know what life is like without it.

It’s become a part of me.

This year has been especially rough. I have not been my usual self. My friends began to worry about me and my family began to notice a change in me. Every day I thought about the futility of my life and felt completely alone. I overthought everything from jokes to quick glances. Everything somebody said or did was, in my depression soaked brain, a statement of their disdain towards me. I worried that every relationship I have ever had was just a superficial relationship out of mere obligation and pity. I had become susceptible to the idea that I was worthless.

That’s what it’s like to deal with depression. At least, that’s what it’s like for me. There is no trigger, nothing to indicate when it will hit me. Most of the time I am overcome with loneliness, doubt, and self loathing. I doubted my faith and felt abandoned by my God. That alone threw me even deeper into the pit of depression.

At least, that’s what it was like before.

4 weeks ago, I started attending therapy through the Counseling and Health Services offered by my university. 4 weeks ago I was in utter despair and lost in my depression to the point of thinking I would never see happiness and joy again. I spent more time collapsing in on myself than anything else, and I was pretty much at the end of my road. Remember, this was just 4 weeks ago- 4 sessions with my therapist.

I am not ashamed to admit that I need therapy or that I am depressed or that I don’t have all the answers. God created us to rely on Him. As a ministry major, I have always had this idea that I need to have my life together all of the time and never waver or struggle, and if I do I could certainly never show it. My job- my entire future- depends on helping others through this very same storm that has been plaguing me for so long. It is through that storm that I am growing into the minister that God intends for me to be.

4 weeks. 4 weeks ago I was broken, battered, bruised. I had no hope, no ambition, my entire life was full of apathy. Today, I am writing this with the joy of being able to say that I am in recovery.

This does not mean I am cured. I still have dark moments, dark days, and crippling thoughts. But I am once again able to experience hope, joy, ambition, life. I can finally see the end of this road I have been traveling for so long. I don’t know how much longer I will be struggling with this, but I am finally able to say that my struggle is turning into strength. It’s a long, arduous journey, and it’s one that we can’t travel alone.

If you are struggling with these same issues or any like it, please let me or someone else know. You can’t recover on your own. We weren’t created to do this alone. We are creatures of community.

It’s a long road. Don’t do it alone.

I love you guys. May God grant you all peace and joy. Thanks for your continuing prayers.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” -Isaiah 41:10