With my heart beating fast, stomach churning, and hands trembling, I share…
I know that it has long been suspected by a handful of friends that I am gay. And the truth is this… I AM a guy who likes girls… AND guys. Yes, I am bisexual. I am not just an ally; I am part of the community.
I’ve been attracted to girls for as long as I can remember. Though, in the 5th grade I began to realize that I was also developing crushes on guys too. It confused me. As I grew older I continued to try and keep this secret deeply held within while I figured out what the hell was going on. Was I straight? Was I gay? I was so confused. And that’s an understatement! I kept feeling like I had to choose. Now at 31 years of age, this has continued for two decades. Yes, two decades! I am a night owl that often has a hard time turning my brain off at night. Almost every night since I was 10 years of age I would lay in bed letting the confusion of what was going on take over my thoughts. As I grew older, I spent many late nights reading articles online trying to figure it all out. I would read the personal stories of others who identified as LGBT to try and discover if I could see myself within those stories.
It wasn’t until earlier this year, at age 31, that I had my “ah ha” moment. That “ah ha” moment happened through one of the most cliché ways in the LGBT community… via entertainment. The first “ah ha” moment happened while watching an episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend back in March. In the “Josh is going to Hawaii” episode, one of the characters has the breakthrough he needed to be comfortable with declaring his sexuality. As this show often does, he embraced his orientation in the form of an over-the-top song called “Gettin’ Bi”. The lyrics state: “It’s not a phase, I’m not confused. Not indecisive. I don’t have the gotta-choose blues. I don’t care if you wear high heels or a tie. You might just catch my eye because I’m definitely bi.” That’s was my ultimate “ah ha” moment. It was me. I mean the “over-the-top” delivery was a little much but the message resonated with me.
Then a few weeks later the second “ah ha” moment happened while watching the “Death Will Have His Day” episode on Empire. In this episode, character Jamal Lyon is talking with his mother about being with a woman even though he identifies as gay. When she tells him to “pick a damn team”, he responds with the following: “I’m picking nothing. I do what I want to do. It ain’t nobody’s business who I’m getting down with… Sexuality is fluid… You have straight and gay and bi a lot of a bit of everything… Sometimes things happen. You feel a certain way. You act on it or you don’t.” He then followed that by singing the original song “Freedom” to declare the need for society not to draw lines when it comes to sexuality. This episode and song helped me begin the process of using the “Bisexual” label to describe myself even though it was only to myself. “Freedom” helped me to discover my own freedom with fully realizing and accepting my sexual orientation. I considered coming out this past Spring but ultimately decided to wait until later.
It was Tuesday, October 11, 2016. This is otherwise known as National Coming Out Day. I spent most of my time that day researching and reading personal stories of coming out, like I had done so many times before. I also began writing this post on that day. I didn’t actually want to use National Coming Out Day to publicly declare my sexual orientation because I wanted my own day. But it was on this day that I put a timeline as to when that would happen. The date I chose was today, December 5, 2016. For 23 years ago today, at the age of 8 years old, I was confirmed of the Holy Spirit and became a member of Community of Christ. This inclusive faith community and my relationship with God has been a constant since I was born. I’m not sure if I could come out like this if I was a full-time minister in another denomination. I am blessed to be a part of a faith community that values the equal worth in me just as much as it does the equal worth of everyone else. Over the past two months I have come out to close friends and some family. I have come out to peers in ministry that I work with. All have been supportive in one way or another. The experience thus far has been a blessing. Before mid-October, I had never told anyone before about what I have been going through all these year.
For those who have read my post-election blog entries as well as my posts on social media, you know that I have reacted strongly to what happened on election night. Now you know that this is the lens of which I was experiencing the election of Donald Trump through. Just as I was finally finding the courage to come out, election night happened. This is why I was numb. This is why I was angry. This is why I was in pain. Hate crimes towards marginalized populations, including LGBT, is now on the rise and the increase in use of hate speech is even more apparent. As I was beginning to open the door, it felt like society was trying to box me in. While some others might decide to not come out for a while now because of all of this, election night did the opposite for me. I wanted to come out that Tuesday evening in protest. I was so close to doing so.
The following Sunday I attended a protest vigil with a friend. During the vigil we heard stories from people present who were experiencing deep pain and fear. People who had been harassed because of who they were since election night, including those who identified as LGBT. As I was driving home that evening, I burst into tears. They just kept flowing. For the first time since I decided to come out, I cried. The tears were a reaction to the pain that so many were going through but the tears were also a reaction to the realization that I was now becoming vulnerable to experiencing a similar pain and harassment. I am fortunate to have the support system within my faith community and group of friends that I do but even then, the reality is out there and right now, it’s dangerously strong. In the midst of that though, I claim my freedom from the chains of a culture that might otherwise seek to oppress the marginalized.
I know some will wonder why it took me so long. Here is what I have been processing all these years:
- This was the biggest thing. I had to wait until I could put a label on who I was. Yes, while so many in our society speak out against labels (and with good reason), I wanted to discover my label so that I could embrace it! And, of course, the label was there in front of me the entire time. I can now proudly embrace my bisexual label.
- Our culture has progressed so much in understanding that being gay and lesbian is not a choice but we still tend to get stuck in realizing that there is a population that is naturally attracted to both sexes. Yes, naturally. We often use language that defines it as one or the other. Even within the LGBT community, as well as “straight ally” community, there are some who say that bisexuals are just people who need to choose or be honest with themselves about being gay. What it means to be bisexual still seems to carry a lot of misunderstanding and preconceived notions with it but like the song lyrics stated, “It’s not a phase, I’m not confused. Not indecisive.”. This isn’t just a 20-year phase that I can’t seem to get out of. I know who I am. I know my sexuality. I am straight. I am gay. I am both. Therefore, I am bisexual. Period. And no, I won’t eventually decide that I’m gay. So don’t say it because that will likely harm our relationship. I know who I am.
- Let me be honest and just call out the elephant in the room, I’m a full-time minister. This is not just my calling, it’s my livelihood. There are so many people in Community of Christ who are fully supportive of LGBT rights and our faith community has made some major advances in the United States and other countries on issues relating to LGBT members and priesthood. Even then, a part of me still feared how some people would interact and relate to me in my various ministry roles.
- There is the stereotype of the LGBT community being over-the-top, eccentric and flashy. Of females being masculine and guys being feminine. And yes, some of this is surely true. It just isn’t me though. Not that I don’t have a “feminine” side, I just think we all do to some degree. So I struggled with whether I would fit in with others who identify as LGBT or if I would continue to feel like I fit in more with those who identify as straight but then still be trapped in a world where I never truly felt like myself. The struggle described here in number 4 will likely not make sense to many but it has been a part of the struggle within my own journey.
I have contemplated those four things described above for years and am now to the point where I have processed them enough to come out. Here is why I now feel like today is the right time to come out:
- They say the truth will set you free and it’s time that I declare my truth. There is freedom in being secure and honest with who you are. As I continue my journey to better physical health, I need to make sure that my emotional health is being transformed as well. To harbor a secret such as this can be crippling. It has weighed on my soul for way too long. It is only in recognizing my truth that I can be authentically liberated to live as I was created. This is also why I am using social media as my platform for “coming out”. I decided to come out on social media because when you have intentionally hidden something for as long as I have, you need a platform for which you can claim who you are. There is a freedom in publicly declaring a part of you that you have kept hidden for so long. If I am to be authentically me, I need the world to know who I am.
- Specifically, there is not a lot of visibility in men who identify as bisexual which adds to the lack of its understanding by others. Though, it really is simple. I am attracted to guys and girls. Period. I can be physically, emotionally, and spiritually attracted to both. This was a huge element of my struggle all these years. So, as a bisexual man, I come out to bring more visibility to a population that struggles with trying to find peace in the extremes of life, when the extremes aren’t the answer for us. I come out to bring visibility to a group of people who don’t belong on the opposing ends of the human sexuality spectrum.
- In regards to Community of Christ, I am grateful to be a part of a faith community that affirms my worth as a member and minister who identifies as LGBT. I am grateful to know that if I do ultimately fall in love with, and choose to marry a male instead of a female, that it could happen in a Community of Christ church building by a Community of Christ minister and would have no official impact on my ability to provide ministry here in the United States and some other areas where the church is established. Notice I said “official”, I am aware that the relational impact, especially in some areas, would be different. Furthermore, I am grateful for other full-time ministers in Community of Christ of past and present who identify as LGBT. You helped pave the way for me and others! As a minister, I might have some relationships that are fractured because of this. Some will be uncomfortable with my orientation. Some may, even subtly so and without realizing it, stop interacting with me as much. Others might intentionally stop interacting with me altogether. I have come to embrace that this is just the reality of which I live and work in. I am thankful to know that this will be the exception, not the rule. For I am blessed to worship with, and serve, so many people who are kind, accepting disciples. I am also thankful that I serve in a faith community whose leaders will support me. And I know that even some of those in my faith community who don’t understand, or maybe even agree, will ultimately not let this get in the way of our friendship. As a youth minister who is a young adult, I hope that finally accepting who I am might also help others in the Millennial and Generation Z populations who struggle with identifying their sexuality. May they know that they have a minister who they can talk to who truly understands where they are at. I only wish I did when I was younger. And let me be clear, I am not the bisexual minister. I am a minister whose orientation is bisexual. There are aspects of this that will impact my ministry but my ministry will not be focused on it.
- So I’m not always going to be the stereotypical member of the LGBT community within our culture. No, I don’t want to go to drag shows. For the most part, I don’t have a desire at all to participate in pride parades. And I hate to break it to you, I am actually not a big fan of Broadway musicals. J They often bore me. In movie form, with current music, then yes! Haha.
Now to speak to some of you directly:
To the heterosexual allies: If you suspect that someone identifies as LGBT, show them your support with actions and not just words. Most importantly, don’t use humor to to try and get someone to come out to you. As if nonchalantly saying it in the form of a joke will give them the courage to come out. Whenever someone did this to me, I felt like I was being stripped naked in a room full of all my friends and family, even if I was just with that one person. My friends who typically would do this have all been people who are supportive of the LGBT community and who love me so I know it was never done with any malice but, on some level, it did harm my relationship with them for a while. One of the worst things that you can do to someone who is “in the closet” is to do something to make them feel pressured into “coming out”. Express love. Show support. Create safe space. Give them time. They need to do it on their own.
To the conservative/traditional allies: From the bottom of my heart, thank you. One of the things that has been helpful in me recognizing and embracing who I am, is seeing many of my more conservative/traditional friends begin to support, even strongly so in some cases, the need for full LGBT inclusion in our society. It’s one thing to see my more progressive/liberal friends and family advocate for who I am, it’s another for my more conservative/traditional friends and family to do so. I would just ask that as your views expand in this area, that you also continue to listen and seek to understand. You have the ability to be a powerful bridge builder between people like me and the next population that I am going to address.
To those who do not understand or agree: I know you may not understand or agree. I can even understand it on some level. I would just ask that as I have had heard from so many people through the years who are in the same place as you, that you seek to listen and try to understand the stories of people who are in the same place as I. And even if you don’t ever understand, I can only hope that our friendship isn’t negatively impacted because of this. There is greater work before us than understanding or agreeing with my sexuality, even though this is important.
In closing, this is not the end of my journey in embracing who I am. This is but a milestone as I continue to embrace my truth. I haven’t reached the mountaintop of vulnerability where it now becomes easier. Yes, I do hope that it does become easier and imagine that in some ways it will but with this comes the possibility of being exposed to new pain and new struggles as well as new opportunities and deep joy. And remember… There are no stupid questions, just some annoying ones. So when asking me about my journey that I have now made public, please know that I am more than willing to share with you but also know that discernment is a pretty powerful tool for weeding out those annoying questions. And lastly, I’ll leave you with this. My new motto in life is “Freedom from the fear”. For all who fear, in any way, please know that you are loved. May you find freedom as well.
Updated to clarify: I’m not coming out because I’m in a relationship. That’s not what is propelling me to do this now. I’m coming out simply because it was the right time to do so.