Today is National Coming Out Day. You’ve probably already seen a bunch of posts on Facebook and Instagram by people who are bravely sharing the truth about their sexuality or gender identity for the first time. And I will be the first to cheer these folks on. There is nothing like finally telling the truth about your life, finally living in congruence with reality.
I’ve written posts like this before, first in 2018, when I was only two years on this side of the closet door, then again the following year. Then the pandemic happened and I stopped blogging so much, but last year I returned with a love letter of sorts to my closeted queer siblings. I remember the pain of days like this when I was in still in the closet, but it’s not always the right time to come out. Frankly, it may never be the right time to come out, and you have to determine that for yourself. It’s an intensely person decision, one that no one else can make for you.
It took me a very long time to get to my Coming Out Day, but I’ll never forget July 15, 2016. On that day, an email went out to over 1,000 people in the church I was serving at the time, letting them know that I was gay and that… well, a lot of things in my life were going to be changing. I was 44 years old, and I had been married to my wife for 23 years. We had 4 children together. I had been an evangelical worship pastor for decades. Let’s just say that this moment of truth-telling didn’t exactly make my life easier. I was plunged into financial insecurity. I had to work four part-time jobs just to pay my bills. I lost so many friends. It was really hard. But even so. I think this clip from a sermon back in 2018 captures some of what it felt like for me.
“Even though I struggle today, even though there’s pain, even though it’s hard, nothing can take away that joy. Nothing. I will hold on to that joy the rest of my life.” Yeah. That about sums it up. I love this clip from the 2018 film Love, Simon too…
For so many of us, young or old, coming out feels like we finally able to exhale, finally able to breathe freely. And I don’t think it’s insignificant that so many of us LGBTQIA+ people find home and healing in contemplative spirituality, in coming back to the basics, to the very breath in our lungs. The Hebrew word Ruach means spirit, wind, or breath and can even be used in the Hebrew scriptures to refer to the very essence of God. One of the prayers that I use again and again in my contemplative spirituality groups and in spiritual direction with queer clients is that we would simply “breathe deep the breath of God.” I pray this prayer because I need that reminder again and again too. To simply bring my authentic self to God and see what happens. And what a joy that we can finally do this with no shame, no masks, no costumes, no hiding.
There’s still a lot of misunderstanding in conservative circles about why LGBTQIA+ need to come out in the first place. Believe me, I hear the confusion on Twitter every day.
“Why do you make your whole identity about who you want to sleep with?” (Hint: That’s not what sexual orientation is all about.) “When are we gonna get a straight pride parade?” “I don’t walk around calling myself a ‘straight Christian’!”
::sigh:: Well, lots of us have been answering these questions again and again for a long time. When you’re swimming in a sea of heteronormativity, representation matters! I probably don’t talk about being gay enough! Ash Hardell says it so well:
As our patron saint, Harvey Milk, shared all the way back in 1978, when queer people come out, it helps normalize our existence. The plain and simple truth is that we are everywhere and we always have been. When you start to realize that we are your siblings and parents, your teachers and pastors, your children and friends, your aunts and uncles and cousins… Well, it’s a lot harder to think of us as the scary “other.”
As I always tell my clients, there are as many ways to be queer as there are queer people! Coming out is about BEING AUTHENTICALLY YOU! And authentic you might be raging introvert with absolutely no social media presence and no desire to say anything publicly! YOU GET TO BE YOU! Gloriously queer you, whatever that looks and feels like to YOU.
So if you can come out today, and if you want to come out today, and if you’re ready to come out today, and if it’s safe for you to come out today, then by all means come out today! And do it however it feels right for you!
As always, I’m rooting for you, and I’m here for you. Please feel free to reach out anytime. My inbox and DMs continue to be full of people just you who just need a loving, listening ear, and it’s one of the great joys of my life to provide safe, sacred space for these kinds of conversations.
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