coming out

This is my story

I’ve been writing this blog now for almost three years, and it’s been nearly four since my coming out 2.0. Just yesterday I returned from the GCN Conference 2017, so I’ve been reflecting on my journey so far, re-reading old posts, and taking stock of where I am today. After reading the coming-out story of a new friend, I was inspired to start fresh and write my story from scratch.

Gay, Christian, and Out 1.0

I grew up the youngest of six children in a Christian household with loving parents and a large extended family. I can picture little five-year old Greg sitting with my dad as he shared with me the message that Jesus loved me. How wonderful! With simple child-like trust, I felt the flood of God’s love as I asked Jesus to come into my heart. I was nothing if not sincere as a child. Throughout my childhood, I always strove to be good, wanting to please my parents and God.

In retrospect, I’ve known I was gay since childhood – well before I ever experienced any feelings I would identify as sexual. But I never would have used the term ‘gay’ to describe myself. In my family, my church, my social surroundings, there just wasn’t any connection between what I was feeling and the word “gay” – a word that described really bad people who hated God and did disgusting things.

But nevertheless, from about fourth grade onward, I had the growing sense that there was something different about me, and as puberty approached it became clear what it was. I was attracted to guys, and not girls. I remember in fifth grade finding a Playboy magazine (in a church parking lot, of all places…), and wondering what the other boys were feeling and why they were so interested in the pictures. And then about a year later stumbling across a Playgirl… aha! I started to understand.

But as I said, all that I knew about gay people was that were bad and disgusting and definitely didn’t love God, so I couldn’t be that. So how could make sense of what I was feeling throughout my teen years? My church provided me with a framework to understand it: Satan must be tempting me with these homosexual feelings, and so clearly I had to resist with all my might.

I graduated from high school and went off to college, where I got involved with InterVarsity – an interdenominational Christian campus ministry. I suppose college is a common time for faith transitions, and for me that meant a renewed fervor, a deeper personal commitment, and a growing faith in God. I got involved in leadership, and for my remaining college years, IV was the home of my faith development.

It was in this context that I “came out” for the first time.  Of course I could never have uttered the words “I’m gay” at that time (hence the scare quotes), and the extent of my boldness was to highlight passages dealing with “homosexual temptation” in a book on Christian sexual ethics, and then giving it to my staff worker. It doesn’t feel quite right to call it “coming out,” so I’ve taken to calling it Out 1.0. But nevertheless, it led to further conversation with my staff worker, and then subsequently to my coming out (still “1.0”) to several others – my closest friends, my parents, my sister, and eventually, my future wife. All were loving and supportive in their responses. But of course all of them also reaffirmed my own internalized belief that the only good response was to fight against these temptations.

Naive, Hopeful, and in Love

When my wife and I first met, we were both deeply committed to our faith, confident that God could do anything, and hopelessly naive. As I mentioned above, I was out (1.0) to her before we even started dating, and both of us were convinced that same-sex attraction was a temptation to be resisted at all costs. So we entered into our relationship cautiously, but optimistic that God would use our sincere love for one another as a part of my future “healing.” We dated, married, and started our family together.

Disillusioned and back in the Closet

Throughout all the years of our marriage, and especially in those early years, most things were pretty good. We had four beautiful, healthy children, a nice home, good jobs, and the love and support of our families. In most areas I was happy with how my life was unfolding. But my attraction to men never diminished, and my attraction to women never increased. As the years went by and it became clear that God wasn’t “healing” me, I began to lose hope. I internalized an unarticulated but persistent feeling that there must be something monstrously wrong with me. I still had every confidence that God could do anything, so if He wasn’t doing this thing for me, it must either be because He didn’t love me enough, or else I was SO inherently wicked that I stood in the way of my own healing. Too broken to be fixed. I experienced repeated bouts of depression over many years, and became withdrawn from friends and family. On the outside I tried my hardest to put on a happy facade, wanting to forestall any probing questions about why I might be feeling sad. But on the inside I felt alone, unloved, and unlovable.

Still Gay, Desperate, and Out 2.0

I spent too many years hiding and merely surviving. Moving from  Gay 1.0 (recognizing that I was attracted to guys ) to Gay 2.0 (accepting that I am gay) took over thirty years. Moving from Out 1.0 (“I struggle with homosexual temptation”) to Out 2.0 (“I. AM. GAY.”) took a couple more after that.  Maybe I’m just a slow learner… But I eventually got there. It’s been a little over five years since I first uttered those three small but powerful words to myself. I am gay. I am gay. I am gay! 

But dammit! what lousy timing to finally arrive at Gay 2.0! My wife and I were approaching our 20th anniversary, we had four kids, and I was working for a non-affirming religious organization. And so it took me another year before I was finally ready to come out to my wife. We sat on the floor of our living room in front of the fireplace, and tears flowed freely as twenty years of pain and loneliness came pouring out. The depth of her love for me was revealed that day in that her tears were genuinely for me. She was profoundly sad that I had felt such condemnation and unworthiness for so many years, and especially that I had suffered alone. She told me she loved me just as I am. And I was undone.

While coming out to my wife marked the end of my suffering alone, it also marked the beginning of a period of pain and questioning for her. Has he ever really loved me? What do I mean to him? Has our entire marriage been a sham? How could I not have known? Why would God do this to us? 

Slow Progress

Change has not come quickly in the four years since I came out to my wife, but it has come in fits and starts. We started out by reading everything we could find on mixed-orientation marriages, learning a whole new domain of vocabulary. We’ve discovered a surprisingly large community of couples in similar situations, and among them a wide range or paths forward. We’ve been in counseling, both together and individually, and I started this blog as another place to process my thoughts and feelings. I’ve come out to a dozen or so other people, including close friends and family, and most significantly to our four children (read about When I Told my Kids I’m Gay). I’ve also attended two conferences for LGBTQ people and allies, focusing on faith issues and advocacy in the church. Even without the content of the conferences, the experience of being surrounded by so many LGBTQ people – amazing, beautiful, kind, and compassionate LGBTQ people – has been transformative.

Even as I write this, I can remember on an intellectual level how my sexuality at one time inspired such fear and self-loathing. But by and large, the emotional power has been broken. I can feel sad for that person (the younger Greg), but the thoughts and attitudes that caused him so much pain are being continually exorcised. Most days, most of the time, I can look in the mirror and say “I’m Greg. I’m gay. And I’m really glad that I am!

When did you know?

When did you knowThe signs were there all along, if only I had known where to look. Or better, if only I had been willing to look. And I’m not talking about Obviously Gay Traits. Who knows – there may have been OGTs telling everyone else I was gay, but I kind of doubt it. With four older brothers, I ended up with a pretty standard boyhood experience. playing in the creek with neighborhood kids, GI Joe, little league baseball, video arcades (OK, I’m dating myself a bit there…). But when I think back to what I felt, what I thought, and what I did throughout my childhood, I’d have to say that being gay is pretty consistent with everything I remember.

I’ve seen lots of other LGBTQ people address this question, and it seems to be pretty common to know early. Like very early. And then there are also the cases of “…and then I turned 40, and it suddenly hit me…” So like I said, I knew, or could have known, very early. Before puberty, before there was anything recognizably sexual about what I was feeling. More about the way I felt toward boys in general. And then later with the dawning of adolescence, my first experiences were pretty clear cut. I remember one time in sixth grade, I had to use the rest room in a convenience store. There I found several magazines, including both a Playboy and a men’s fitness / muscle magazine. The Playboy really held no attraction for me, but the muscle magazine… (!)

And in writing about the childhood indicators, let’s be clear that I’m really only looking for signs, not causes. The discredited ex-gay movement seemed to be obsessed with finding causes. “What made him gay?” Overbearing mother. Absent father. Sexual abuse. Early experimentation with peers. Exposure to pornography. Size envy. I admit that for a long time I looked desperately for the “cause of my affliction.” If I could find it, maybe I could fix it. Well, it turns out that there’s nothing to be found, and nothing to be fixed!

One time I was describing to my therapist an incident from my childhood. At a communal campground bath house I saw a muscular naked guy in the shower, and I was mesmerized. My reaction wasn’t exactly sexual – I think I was too young for that. But close, perhaps on the cusp of my sexual awakening. Over the years I revisited this event, wondering if maybe that is what caused me to be attracted to guys. (Never mind that seeing naked women in Playboy at around the same age didn’t cause me to be attracted to women!) So when I described the episode to my therapist, his only question was this: “Do you feel like your reaction at the time was consistent with who you are?” That one question brought me waves of relief. This one experience didn’t make me gay. Neither did a dozen others that I can recall from various points in childhood. But they sure as hell are consistent with me being gay!

I wonder whether this urge to figure out what we knew and when we knew it is particular to LGBTQ people. In a recent post in Psychology Today, W. Blue writes about an experience in her first university class on women’s studies:

“After a walkthrough of the semester’s course syllabus, our teacher stepped away from the blackboard, toward my desk. Standing in front of it, he surveyed the room… Then he addressed the class, instructing us each to take out a piece of paper and a pen and write down the moment when we all realized we were gay. Well, or straight. Or bisexual. Or queer. Or whatever sexuality we identified with.”

Love this! I’ve seen this question before “When did you know you were straight?” but only as a snarky come-back to some straight person’s unwelcome probing. But it’s great as an actual question. Blue suggests that gay people face that question often, either posed by others, or in their own minds, while straight people never give it a thought. Seems plausible to me. Straight readers, help us out here. Is this a question you’ve ever asked yourself? or been asked by others? Is it one you could answer in a sensible way?

Maybe we’re just uncomfortable thinking of children identifying as gay. I would say “uncomfortable thinking of children as gay or straight,” except that I think there’s an underlying assumption that kids – even young kids – are straight by default, and being gay is something they can only figure out later in life. When five year old Mikey says “I’m gonna marry a girl just like mommy,” we say “aw shucks, isn’t that cute.” But if Mikey said “I’m gonna marry a boy just like daddy,” many Christians would probably respond with uncomfortable silence, reassuring themselves that Mikey is too young to know what he’s saying. Amelia at Huffington Post describes a situation exactly like this. Her son has been identifying as gay since he was seven years old, and at age ten he found himself the only boy in the after school Zumba club. A common reaction when people found this out was what Amelia describes as “that nudge-nudge, wink-wink, he’s-got-his-pick-of-girls reaction.” It bothered her that everyone was assuming her son was straight.

“No,” I’d say, “he’s not interested in girls like that. He’s gay. He says girls are for friends.”

Then the response came, and almost always the same response: “Really? How can he know that? He’s so young.”

These people failed to see the contradiction in their words. They’d just implied that my son had picked his after-school club so that he could get some fourth-grade-style action from the girls, but then they said he’s too young to know he likes boys. They assumed that he would be after girls, which means they assumed that he already knew he was straight, yet the idea that he might already know he is gay came as such a shock.

So there you have it. When did I know? The signs were there as long as I can remember. Even as young as five years old, my memories of self are consistent with the gay man I’ve grown to be. Alas it took me quite a long time to actually read the signs, but they were there all along nonetheless.

I did it!

iamgayI did it! I said the words “I am gay” to a friend.

If I count correctly, this is only the fifth person I’ve said those words to. First was my wife, 22 months ago. Then our counselor, a month or so later (his response was hilarious!). Then to my therapist, a year after that. And then to my writer friend, who has a heart of gold. So not counting the two professionals, this is only the third person I’ve come out to!

Well, sort of. During my college years and several years after, I “confessed my struggle with homosexual temptation” to quite a few of my closest friends. The staff worker for the Christian group on campus. My best friend at the time. A girl I had dated. The vice president of the Christian campus group. A missionary organization I was applying to. My future wife. A guy who also turned out to be in the closet (and who used it against me… that was the only one that ended badly). My parents. Another best friend and his wife. With one exception, all were kind in their responses. But all shared the opinion that I also held at the time – that it would be wrong to “live the gay lifestyle.” (Ugh, I’m rapidly using up my allotment of scare quotes!)

Then for twenty years, nothing. I was married, and I never talked to anyone about it. Until 22 months ago, when I had my “second coming out” to my wife. First time, twenty years ago, it was “I struggle with homosexual temptation.” This time it was simply “I am gay.”

So last week, I did it again! A life-long friend. And it couldn’t have gone better. He listened. Was sorry to hear of the hurt in my marriage. But said it really didn’t matter to him. That he wasn’t totally surprised (my OGTs, I suppose). And that he loved me.

To top it all off, as we were hugging goodbye, he asked “so, are you OK?” and I answered “better than the average day,” which he misheard as “better than the average gay.” I laughed the whole way home.

Embracing my OGTs

Obviously Gay Traits

“Well, here’s to your first OGT – Obviously Gay Trait. Mine are: love of The Carpenters, culinary interests, and intense fear of blood sports.” (Dennis, to Kevin, in Broken Hearts Club).

I recently watched Broken Hearts Club (at the recommendation of oaplascencia). Lots of good stuff in there, but I want to write about one thing in particular today. In one scene Kevin, a younger closeted guy, mentions to Dennis that he likes Karen Carpenter. Dennis replies that it’s Kevin’s first OGT – “Obviously Gay Trait.”

As a life-long closeted gay guy, I’ve spent lots of energy trying to hide or deny any OGTs. Didn’t want to “give myself away,” as it were. This shows where the power of stereotypes resides – the dominant group uses stereotypes to mock and shame minorities, and in a natural response, those minorities try to avoid the stereotypes. But there’s another way to take away their power. Maybe by embracing the stereotypes we can liberate ourselves of their power. I’ve gotten so used to distancing myself from gay stereotypes in order to avoid being labeled gay that it has become second nature. Don’t mention that you like Bette Midler, or they might think you’re gay! Well guess what? I. AM. GAY!

There are numerous examples of minority groups reappropriating derogatory terms to rob them of their power. LGBT groups took on the label queer to destigmatize it. Other examples include geek, nerd, nigger, dyke, fag, bitch, and guido. These are all linguistic examples, but perhaps we can do the same with stereotypes. By embracing them, we liberate ourselves of their power.

The truth is that even though I tried to avoid giving off a “gay vibe,” I suspect I wasn’t always “successful.” I have this nagging suspicion that it must be totally obvious to those around me that I’m gay. So then, what are my OGTs?

My OGTs (Obviously Gay Traits)

  • loving Karen Carpenter, Bette Midler, and Judy Garland
  • crying at sappy movies (think Beaches, Titanic, and Ghost)
  • good at (and totally enjoy) learning languages
  • not a fan of football or baseball
  • I enjoy cooking and baking
  • reading GQ and Men’s Journal (when no one is looking)
  • wearing skinny jeans and tight graphic Ts
  • earrings (two, both in the right ear)

My SSTs (Seemingly Straight Traits)

On the other hand, I’ve also got a few SSTs – Seemingly Straight Traits:

  • I love playing competitive sports
  • I like yard work and home repair
  • relatively low pitched voice (baritone)
  • my index finger is significantly shorter than my ring finger
  • I’m married and have kids
  • I’m a techie and good at math

Even as I write these, I’m aware of how offensive these can be (“But gay people can be good at math! Gay people can play competitive sports!”)… That’s exactly my point! I’m GAY, and I’m also these things. I guess what I’m trying to do is to play off of what I imagine my culture’s stereotypes to be (in particular, that all gay men are like “Jack” on Will and Grace). But we’re not! We are as varied in skill and temperament as any other group.

So then, how about you, readers? What are your OGTs and SSTs? (Straight people can answer too!)

Gay man, straight wife

FreierFallScreenCapsApparently we’re not alone. Perhaps it’s just that I’ve been looking, but I’m seeing more and more stories about gay men married to straight women. Movies like Brokeback Mountain (trailer) and the more recent German film Freier Fall (trailer); essays like Tim Rymel’s I’m a Gay Man Who Married a Straight Woman, or Josh Weed’s Club Unicorn: In which I come out of the closet on our ten year anniversary.

I find that I relate to many parts of many of these stories, and yet there’s also something missing. Almost without fail, the wives in these stories are flat, boring, lifeless. I feel like the wives in the two movies could have been replaced by any generic woman; They barely qualify as stick figures.

In truth, I’ve known women (and men) who are like this in real life. Dimensionless, monochrome, untouched. I think of a couple of the women in my church growing up: smiling, distant, impervious to the ups and downs of life. But my wife is not one of them! She’s not at all like that. She’s gutsy, earthy, funny, and quirky. Strong, kind, and generous. Independent, but relational and loyal. And she’s hurting. Grieving and anguished by the second-time-around revelation that I’m gay. Still gay.

If they were to make a movie of our story – hers and mine – it wouldn’t be like Brokeback or Freier Fall. Her story, and her character, would would compelling in their own right. Her half of our story would be rich, resonant, raw. We’ve laughed together,  played together, cried together. Glorious days of adventure and travel. Sleepless nights mourning those we’ve lost or worrying about our kids. Ordinary days spent shopping or painting or working in the garden. Trips to the beach; driving cross country; dreaming together of our shared future. And now, traumatized. Wracked with confusion and angst. Questioning why God didn’t come through for us. Don’t forget her half of our story.

My World Vision

World Vision

I have a vision for the world, and this ain’t it.

Last Wednesday started and ended for me on positive notes. First thing in the morning, I got some kind and uplifting words of encouragement from a group of previous students. And that night my volleyball team won a hard-fought match against a team that’s beaten us twice before. I love playing, I love playing well, and I love winning! But in between these two positive bookends, I felt like crap*.

People who know me know that I’m not one to use coarse language loosely, just for the sake of it. But that word is the best I can come up with to describe how I felt through most of the day. I could write fancier words – disheartened, defeated, despondent, wretched – but in the end, those four letters say it all.

It took me a while to figure out what had brought me to that emotional state. When I first recognized how I was feeling, I couldn’t quite trace the path that got me there. So I let my mind wander, and it just kept settling back on the same thing: World Vision’s reversal on accepting gay married employees. I’m gay, and I disagree with their decision, so naturally I’d be expected to feel disappointed, disillusioned, or even rejected. But this was more than that. It felt so raw, so personal. Why? A little of my history to explain.

It’s my senior year in college, and things are going great. I loved my college years – the classes, my friends, a newly budding sense of purpose. I had joined a Christian student group on campus my freshman year, and I became part of the leadership team for the next three years. This “ministry” part of my college life felt like the most significant thing I had ever experienced. It seemed like God had reached out to me, and had been working in me and through me in ways that made me feel, well,  as if I mattered. I had been on two life-changing short-term missions trips, and during my senior year I attended my second Urbana student missions conference, where I had made a commitment to take steps toward becoming a full-time missionary. I had identified a missions agency that seemed like a perfect fit, and so I started the application process. (I should clarify at this point that it wasn’t World Vision, but another major missions agency.)

As I filled out the application, I had a moment of trepidation when I saw the following question:

Have you ever struggled with homosexual temptation? If yes, please explain.

By this point, I had already “confessed my sin” to a couple of close friends and a campus youth leader, and I had “asked for prayer” and arranged for “accountability partners.” And it had always gone better than I had expected. Nobody had rejected me or cut off our friendship. I hadn’t been asked to leave leadership of the Christian group. People’s response had typically been something like “good for you, struggling with this terrible burden, yet committed to remain pure!” So I tried to answer the question on the missions application succinctly and honestly.

I have struggled with both heterosexual and homosexual temptation, but in both, I strive to remain pure. I am committed to a Biblical understanding of sexuality, and I trust that God will heal me or continue to grant me the strength to bear the struggle.

I finished up the application and sent if off in the mail, proud that I had answered such a tough question so honestly. I got back to student life and waited for a response, figuring I would be heading off to training after graduation.

A couple of weeks later I got a response from someone at the missions agency, indicating that they wanted me to call and speak to them about my application. Again, I was a little bit nervous, but still confident that we would work through this little problem, so I waited for a time when no one was home (this was in the days of land-line phones), and I made the call. I was patched through to a lady in the counseling department.

Hi Greg – thank you for calling back, and for your application to serve with us.

Sure – you’re welcome.

First of all, I wanted to thank you for your candor on the application. You’ve written about some difficult things, and we appreciate your honesty.

Um… sure.

We wanted to talk with you further about one question, though – the one that asked about your history with homosexual temptation.

(Heart racing, stomach drops) OK…

We’ve worked with many missionaries on the field for many years, and in our experience, we feel it would be best for you to withdraw your application at this point. We recommend that you seek counseling with a qualified counselor – I can send you a list of counselors in your area we could recommend. And perhaps someday after you’ve worked through some of these issues, you might resubmit your application.

I’m not quite sure how the conversation went after that. I think it probably ended pretty quickly and I got off the phone, feeling crushed, defeated, rejected. Suddenly my future didn’t make sense. There was nothing else I wanted to be but a missionary, and now I’d been told  – by this organization that I respected so much – that maybe I wasn’t cut out to be used by God in that way.

I quickly tried to convince myself that it was all OK. God would use this to strengthen me, to challenge me, and I would come through it stronger. His mysterious but undeniable workings in my life over the past three years had taught me to trust in His goodness and His power. So I think the emotional impact of that moment didn’t last long in the short run. But as a rock tossed into a pond sends out ripples across the entire surface of the pond, I think this event  sent ripples of emotion across years of my life, rising and falling, even to today.

This post is already getting long, so in the interest of brevity, I’ll blow by the next few years quickly. I contacted a counselor from the list they sent and dutifully went through the process. I worked a few odd jobs after graduation and eventually started through the training program for that same missions agency. And after two years of preparation and training, growing close to a group of other young people who were all on a path to becoming missionaries, I submitted my application again. And again, I was asked to withdraw my application. “We don’t feel the timing is right.” So much more painful this time, as I had given two more years of my life toward this goal, and all of my closest friends from this period were moving on in the process. But not me. They didn’t want me. Their years of experience placing missionaries all over the world had told them that people like me were dangerous.

So last week, when World Vision announced that it would begin accepting gay married couples for employment, for a brief moment I had a vision of living in a world where that wouldn’t happen any more. Where sincere young men who wanted to serve God wouldn’t be excluded because of their nature. I had a moment of hope that Christians had surpassed me – learning to accept gay people, while I still struggled to accept myself as gay. For me it was wonderful, healing news.

And then the backlash came, and we all heard the message loud and clear from American Christians:

We hate gays! We hate them so much that we’d rather see children starve than to allow our money to flow through an organization that tolerates their presence among their ranks. Gays are a cancer to our precious church, and we won’t rest until we can excise them all!

That’s the message I heard, anyway. And it made me feel like crap.

Have a good life

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From Have a good life, goodbye on Susan Cottrell’s blog FreedHearts, the following brutal letter from a dad to his son.

“James: This is a difficult but necessary letter to write. I hope your telephone call was not to receive my blessing for the degrading of your lifestyle. I have fond memories of our times together, but that is all in the past. Don’t expect any further conversations with me. No communications at all. I will not come to visit, nor do I want you in my house. You’ve made your choice though wrong it may be. God did not intend for this unnatural lifestyle. If you choose not to attend my funeral, my friends and family will understand. Have a good birthday and good life. No present exchanges will be accepted. Goodbye, Dad”

WHAT THE HELL is wrong with a dad, that he would write something so hateful to his child? As far as I know, none of my kids are gay, but if they were, I sure wouldn’t respond like this guy. OK, wait. That doesn’t make sense. Of course I wouldn’t respond like this jerk did, because I don’t think it’s wrong to be gay.

So let’s try for a better analogy. What if one of my kids shared with me something that I DID feel was terribly wrong – they were dealing drugs to toddlers or vivisecting animals? Both very disturbing images, right? (I tried to be as disturbing as I could think of…) So yeah, I’d be upset, horrified, saddened by the news. But I still can’t imagine telling my kid that I never wanted to see them again.

Why is it that some straight people are so distraught by the mere existence of gay people? Even more, why do conservative Christians take it as a personal affront when they encounter a gay Christian? A new friend was telling me recently how, after he wrote a letter to the editor as a gay Christian, he got threats, had his windows broken, and received a lengthy letter from a complete stranger telling him how immoral and evil he was. Who would write such a letter? Do such individuals spend all their time writing letters to everyone in the world they disagree with? Or is their hatred reserved for gay people?

Maybe they’re simply distressed by the possibility that they’ve been wrong. Terribly, horribly wrong. Slaveholders once used the Bible to justify their actions. Nazis used the Bible to justify their persecution of the Jews and other minorities. The Crusades, the Inquisition, the witch hunts… there’s a long list of atrocities committed under the guise of religion. And most people today recognize how wrong these things were. We look down on the perpetrators of such acts as being of a less-advanced ethical age. We think we’re better than that. So I suppose it must be pretty shocking, pretty inflammatory, to be accused of being on the wrong side of moral justice. Could the explanation be as simple as that?

Whatever the explanation, I still can’t imagine disowning my child.

Public anonymity

ImageIt’s an odd experience, writing a public blog pseudonymously. Yes, in case you wondered, “Greg” is not my real name. If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you can probably guess why I use a pseudonym: I’m out to my wife, but not to our kids, and not to anyone else in our circle of friends. I love my wife deeply. I’ve caused her profound pain, and we’re striving to find a way forward as a couple. Any step of my coming out won’t just be self-revelation, it will be revealing things about us, about her. And so she has to have a say in this too. And some day our kids will know some of this; but we want them to hear it from us, not from friends at school or from strangers. So for now, I’m “Greg.”

So why write a blog at all, you might ask? If it’s all so personal, why not keep it private? Well basically there are two reasons. First, writing is cathartic. One of my goals is to make sense of my life, to construct a coherent narrative that can help me understand and reconcile two profound but seemingly incompatible realities in my life: I genuinely love my wife and yet I am gay. I’m hoping to find clarity through transparency.

Second, by sharing my story, I hope to be an encouragement to others who may be struggling and who feel alone. I have known the fractured feeling of isolation that comes from hiding a secret that I considered shameful. I know what it is to be in a dark and hopeless place, and I have been buoyed by reading other people’s stories. An anonymous author at SafetyNet puts it this way:

When I was closeted at Westmont College and Fuller Theological Seminary, I remember feeling profoundly isolated.  I was unable to share my secret for fear of the consequences in my family, church, school, and professional life, even though I deeply longed for someone who could understand what I was going through, who could help me sort through my emotions and options, and who could help me carry the burden of not being truly welcome in most of my social world.

The most painful lie of the closet, whether it’s our sexuality, our gender identity, our political allegiance, or even the “guilty pleasure” we take from enjoying My Little Pony, is the belief that everyone will reject me, “if only they knew.”  This fear, formed through experiences of rejection combined with a cultural climate that all too often others, condemns, and demonizes those who are “different,” silences us when we choose to hide a part of ourselves in hopes of protecting ourselves from the reactions of others. (You Are Not Alone)

So I write publicly both for my own sake and for my readers. Still, it’s odd. On the one hand, I feel a freedom to share things so personal that I haven’t even shared them with close friends. So now complete strangers know things about me that friends and family do not. And yet they only know my story – not my name. Maybe this is just life at the closet door?