I have two “coming out” stories. I don’t recommend it. Coming out once is difficult enough but twice is #NotFun. Once you are out, please stay out. You’re good, God’s good, it’s all good. The first time I came out in the ’80’s resulted from my Mom finding a gay Valentine’s Day invite in my pants pocket. Conservative Christianity told her it was ok for a mother to stigmatize and abandon her child and throw me out of the house. I was homeless, afraid, and alone. It was a Christian Drag queen that took me in, and I credit God for using our wonderful Mella (George Timothy Reed) for saving my life.
However, even though I was “out,” I was a mess. I got involved in the dark side of club/party life and had no social/coping/survival skills. At age 24, I was seeking a way to become healthy and responsible. During that process, I became a “born-again” Christian (I still am as a gay man). However, I was susceptible to buying into a worldview and a stigmatized gospel that opened the door for me to enter the church closet of “ex-gay brokenness” which is code for shame, condemnation, and legalistic behavior modification.
I stayed in that stained-glass closet for 23 years and went from a shut-down neurotic substance abusing gay man to become a top leader in the ex-gay movement the Executive Vice President of Exodus International. After several heartbreaking years of conflict with hardliners in the ex-gay world and the death of a friend to suicide, I couldn’t ignore the truth. The blinders ripped off and I had no choice but to see the true damage that world had facilitated. I came out, again, on January 12, 2015.
Once again, culturally derived Christianity taught almost all of my conservative friends it was ok to condemn and abandon me; the same ones that helped me find my voice and gifts. A few were loud and boisterous about disowning me, most silently walked away to gossip with others instead of talking directly to me. As heartbreaking as that is, not everyone did that and other LGBT+ people of faith have rallied around and made up for lost friendship and community.
Plus, God affirms and loves me. Always has, always will. He loves all of me, and I believe created my relational state of being. Like the Good Shepherd He is, he is with me to guide and protect every step along the way no matter how much of an asshole I act like sometimes.
Culturally derived Christianity stigmatizes and abandons. Grace and love filled Christ followers, run to and lift up their LGBT+ brothers and sisters. Also, when people come out, we MUST help them find the resources they need. Unlike the ’80’s we have a large number of organizations like Zebra Coalition and the Trevor Project (who part of the proceeds from this book will help support) that help support homeless and desperate LGBT+ Youth. We have mental health counselors, substance abuse programs, issue-specific resources, faith communities, and more to plug newly “out” people into if they need and want them. There will be an appendix at the end of this book with a list of helpful resources.
Plus, we need more of our stories to get out there. Author Diva Jackie Collins once said (paraphrased), “Everyone has a book to write because everyone has a story within them.” I agree and want to add my story to the myriads testifying to the fact that “coming out” is in and of itself a miracle. Being a healthy and thriving LGBT+ person is a lifelong opportunity and gift.
My genuine hope is that you find this book challenging, encouraging and yes entertaining. I mean I cuss in it and everything! That makes me cool, right?! My somewhat bizarre life isn’t any better or worse than anyone else, but it sure was and is not boring. The following pages will reveal quite a cast of characters I hope will humanize the issues from the dramatically different viewpoints I have lived out. Because there is some truth to the accusation I can be a bit vain, of course I would love it if after reading this book you would say, “that was the most awesome memoir EVER!” But, more importantly, if you walk away with a deeper understanding and compassion for the LGBT+ community, understanding for why some of us get ensnared by ex-gay/conversion ideology, and how to escape it, I will accomplish the reason for writing this book. I also want to help add perspective to a better understanding of the enemies of LGBT+ equality and why Christ’s command to love our enemies appears out-of-place but is so appropriate and powerfully important today.
The antidote to stigmatizing is humanizing.
Now, let’s get to deconstructing a few “closets” by sharing with you the story of the two I am most familiar with walking out of.
You are loved,