February 1998

Ha! This month I have new reason to thank and praise God. With His help, I finally worked up the guts to actually come out to someone. Not to a stranger that I would never see again, or to someone anonymously on email, but to a friend of mine I've known since the 10th grade. Someone I am close to, and go to church with, and who is connected to most of the other people in my life.

From what I read about from other writers, it seems most of us gay guys choose to come out to a girl first, and I was no exception. I was immensely more comfortable with the idea of coming out to a girl, and having done that, I'm still not ready to drop the bomb on any of my guy friends. I think girls are almost universally more supportive, open-minded, and receptive to long, emotional conversations. I'm not really covering any new ground with this line of thought, so I'll move on.

My roommate left for the evening with his girlfriend. My friend came over, with her dog. We played with the dog and walked it around the neighborhood. We talked a lot and got all of the usual topics and catching-up out of the way. We got back to the apartment and made hot cocoa and ate windmill cookies. We somehow started talking about schools and how public schools are going to pot because kids aren't disciplined and don't learn values from their parents or anyone else. We talked about how we both disagreed with schools handing out condoms to kids. I asked her what she thought students should be taught about gays. She wasn't entirely sure. She explained she shared the "hate the sin but love the sinner" view, but didn't know how this translated into what exactly students should be taught. I agreed for the most part. We moved on to a couple other things. During a pause, I asked her if I could tell her something. I told her it was a secret that might cause her some stress to keep. I told her she might want to tell others, but she could not tell another living soul. Only God. She agreed.

So I said: "I'm gay." My voice weakened, my hands started shaking, and I found myself cringing.

Her voice was quiet: "...you are? Are you sure?"

I told her I was as sure as she was sure she wasn't. She didn't need convincing.

Her next question was "What about your faith?"

I told her how being gay has brought me closer to God, and that my relationship with God is all I can really rely on in an imperfect world. I told her that God created me as I am, and He has a plan for me. I told her God was tearing me away from the comfortable, insulated, suburban world that never would have prodded me into a spiritual awakening. I told her I wasn't sure in my heart how God felt about me having sex with another man. I told her if it were ever to happen, it would be in a committed, lifelong relationship. I told her I thought I could handle giving up my friends, my family, my job, and the career I wanted. But the thought of doing all of this alone was what made me wish 5 or 10 or 20 times a day that I were dead. I explained God was the only hope I felt. I would never seek to dodge His plan for me by killing myself, but I still couldn't help wishing for the selfish, easy, solution of death.

"How long have you known?"

Since forever... since middle school.

"What about your family? How will they react?"

I don't know for sure, I told her. I'm not ready to tell them anytime soon. I need to leave West Michigan, to get away from them and the social network I've had forever. I need to figure some things out without their distractions, without being held back. I told her I intended to leave this town sometime this year.

She didn't have a ton of questions. She didn't have any advice, which in hindsight is good, because any advice would have been too quick. She thanked me for trusting her. She told me some personal things about herself, as a way of making me feel better. She promised to keep the secret. We speculated on who among our mutual friends might also be gay. None came to mind as definites.

Later in the evening, as she prepared to leave, she told me she never would have suspected that I was gay. But the feeling inside her was that nothing has changed. She didn't feel differently about me. In fact, she told me she felt "something unappealing had left." I think she meant this truth about me explained some erratic behavior in my past, including breaking up with my girlfriend for no good reason and rejecting the advances of some other girls she knew about.

The next day, I couldn't believe I had done what I did. I had to keep reminding myself. I didn't feel changed, which is good and bad. Good, because this friend of mine, who now had the power to ruin my life if she so chose, was someone I truly felt I could trust. I wasn't paranoid or nervous. Bad, because I had expected some huge burden to be lifted after telling just one person the truth about me. It felt good, but I am just as lonely and confused as before.

I don't know what the next step is. I think it will probably be easier to tell the next person. I'm still looking forward to having some more conversations with my friend, after she's had time to digest it a little bit. I do know that I never expected to come out to anyone just a few months ago. I am thankful to God for showing me the way. I'm at peace with what I've done, and I'm looking to Him for what to do next.


P.S.: One of my favorite poems, by Langston Hughes:


Sometimes when I'm lonely,
Don't know why,
Keep thinkin' I won't be lonely
By and by.

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