Today is National Coming Out Day, and I think it’s auspicious tha the date is a clean 10/11/12. I think it’s fitting to tell my coming out story. Ready?
I was born.
No joke. That seems a bit ridiculous but that’s about where the whole thing begins. Of course, from day one my family knew how spectacular I was/would become. My birth mother says that she always knew I am gay. Always. I think my dad has always, too. I know, through the years, a number of other family members from both my paternal and maternal sides have told me that they knew (or could have guessed) from the time I was a very young age. I think if there was any doubt while I was still young, my infamous My Little Pony birthday party would have cleared things up, as well as my exhaustive My Little Pony collection (which included Seaponies, Flutterponies, etc…) some of which I still retain. I’d liked to have been able to post a photo with this entry that proves the party was a success, but alas, that evidence is filed away (with thousands of other photos taken through the years) in the family’s many-multi-tome Family Photo Album collection.
Truth be told, after the point of my birth, my coming out is fully a three-part experience. Keep reading.
At one point, not super long after diving into Christianity head first, and after getting my driver’s license, I found myself at the family computer with my father suddenly sitting next to me. He asked me a few lead-in questions like if something is wrong or …I forget what else he asked. He used my behavior at a recent family birthday get-together as an example. You see, it was my habit to disappear. I’d always bring a book or cassette/CD player, and then wander off into another part of the house, preferring seclusion.
I attempted to answer as vaguely as my young mind knew how. I recall saying something like, “Well, maybe there’s a lot going on in my mind right now and I can’t talk about it.” The truth here is that there was a lot going on in my mind. I’d already figured out that I’d never marry a woman, and was beginning to tackle how I’d approach my newest love, the Baptist Church, regarding who I am. I’d also just read a number of alarming stats on youth homelessness, and learned that an overwhelming majority of homeless youth are homeless because their parents kick them out for being gay. It was after I gave that first response, my father replied with the question, “Well, are you gay?” Suddenly feeling my heart in my throat, I looked down and didn’t answer immediately. Since I had stalled, my father stepped back into the conversation and said, “‘Cause if you are, get over it. Sex is great, but it’s not something that should rule your life.” I later answered him in the affirmative, still not realizing how sagely his advice was, but was very glad he hadn’t threatened to un-home me.
That’s part one -the most important part in my story. There’s never been a moment in my father’s life where he didn’t put his children above his own self. From the time I and my brother, Justin, were born -all through a marriage that was crazy and doomed and into a second marriage and ceaselessly for the last thirty years – he’s never shown anything except love to my siblings and me. The very same is to be said of his second wife, my real mom, Connie.
Part two, naturally, comes after part one. Feeling somewhat more stable knowing I wasn’t verging on homelessness, the next person I needed to know was my then-best friend, Sara-with-an-H Kidd. I recall writing here this LOOOOONG letter and asking her to meet me at the church we both attended. She did. We found our way up to the balcony in the sanctuary, and suddenly terrified, I gave her the letter to read right in front of me. Umm… but then because I feared she’d read a different tone than the one I’d written in, I took the letter back, and insisted that I read it to her, instead. I recall her being a little perplexed (after all, why not just tell her my words instead of reading them to her?), but she obliged. And so I read. And she listened. And when I was done reading/coming out to her, and asking her not to tell anyone yet, she said, “Oh Joshua, I love you and your secret is safe with me,” while opening her arms and squeezing them around me. Thus concludes scene two.
I had no idea when I came out to my best friend in the church balcony that the next big thing I’d do would be to come out to my church. I think to a lot of people, the weight of this is lost. I grew up in a very small town. At the turn of the last century, it still hadn’t reached even 20,000 inhabitants. In that town, two groups of people were just about the most influential: the farmers and the churches. Obviously a lot of overlap between the groups exists. In my hometown there were three main bodies of believers. There were Catholics. And then there were two quasi-mega churches, which were kind of really the same congregation that had split over an argument about money. These were the Baptists. There was Calvary Baptist Church and Baptist Temple. I always liked the name “Baptist Temple” better than the other, but the other is where I attended due to some band camp karma my freshman year of high school.
After I knew it wasn’t likely I’d be homeless, and after my best friend hadn’t (yet) shunned me, I decided tackle the church. The long-and-short of this is that rumors began to spread -not that I was gay, but that I was spreading “false doctrine.” This false doctrine was, of course, that I not only don’t feel the Bible condemns gays, but also that there’s proof of the contrary within it. Before I knew it, I’d been called to the home of my youth pastor, Dudley. He’d just built a really great home for his family and everyone loved being there. I don’t recall whether I knew why I was being called there or not, but I remember having a McDonald’s vanilla milkshake with me (the only thing I could keep down at the time, because of being upset due to a recent break up). After I arrived, we went into his library. I sat on the couch and he sat at his desk chair. He started right off with the accusation of spreading false doctrine. I explained that I thought it was neither doctrine, nor false. He disagreed and for only a few minutes we back-and-forth’ed on it all. Finally, he stopped us and asked me, “Do you consider yourself a homosexual?” I confirmed this. His response was, and I am quoting, “Well, there’s no place in the youth group, or anywhere else in the church, for someone like you.” As with my father, I looked down, only this time I wept. Honestly, I don’t recall what he might have said after that. In my memory, I can still see my feet and the McDonald’s cup that was beside them as I looked down crying as quietly as I could. At some point I just nodded that I understood, arose, and left.
I remember driving away that day with this dual feeling of immense pain and simultaneous relief. I had no idea what ordeals the following year would bring, both with the church and just about everywhere else. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say it was a time of “therapy,” loss and loneliness, and of strengthening.
Were it not for this window of time in my life, I certainly wouldn’t be who I am today. I think I’ve always been a bit independent and came here with a pretty finely tuned compass, but experiences like this offer a great opportunity to learn and grow. Indeed, that is the intent of all forms of pain. And not to sound arrogant or conceited, but each day reminds me that I’m about as awesome as I’ve ever been, and helps me look forward to the new awesomeness I’ll reach someday soon.
My heart sings a little when I think of how things were and what I went through, and how things are now and where they’re going. I’m so happy at what the youth of today are able to do and how they’re more able to truly and honestly live. They’re benefitting from the brave people of our past, and generations yet to come will benefit from the brave people of our today. Regardless of what our battles might be, bravery and honesty can’t be cheapened or downplayed. We owe it first to our own survival to be brave and honest, and also to the survival of those walking here after us.