Tuesday, July 6, 2010

4 - Coming Out

Making the Decision to Come Out
“Hope will never be silent” Harvey Milk
For any gay person the “coming out” process is possibly the hardest one to make, but at the same time it can be the most invigorating and exciting. For me, understanding that I liked boys as a high school student and then knowing I was gay as a young adult male was something I didn’t want to deal with.

I understood, through Church, that being gay was not what the Lord wanted me to be. I didn’t so much struggle with this doctrine because I believed it to be true. I struggled to understand why Heavenly Father had chosen to impose this temptation on me, what had I done to deserve this? I’m not sure I had done anything nor do I really believe now that this was a temptation that was imposed on me.

As far as the “nurture or nature” debate goes, I think they’re irrelevant. They seem to me to be an intellectual debate by heterosexuals to try to explain why I am the way I am. I believe I’m simply the way I am because I am, it’s as simple as that. As I started to associate with more gay men I began to understand that there are as many individuals within the GLBT community as there are within the straight community. Labeling people serves little purpose or benefit.

My first interaction with gay men was a job when I was about 26. I was working in a call centre with about 110 people, at least 10% of the staff were gay men. The thing that struck me was the variety of guys from the ‘screaming queen’ through to guy you’d get changed with after a football match in the locker room. You would have had no idea he was gay. I became friends with a number of these guys, they knew I was LDS and were respectful of my faith and values and I of their lifestyle and their choices.

It was an interesting two years working with these guys. I had been curious about what a gay man was like for years, I knew I was gay but really didn’t know what that meant. 

I was active in the church until I chose to stop attending in 2009, so the idea of coming out didn’t really enter my mind as I worked with these guys for almost two years. I’m fact, during the time I was there I took two weeks annual leave to travel to the US to propose to a LDS girl in Salt Lake City. We’d met when she was in Australia. I even took a ring with me, within the first week I realised this was not something I could do. I knew it wouldn’t t work because I was gay, however that reason was buried deep inside me. I didn’t consciously think about being gay as a hurdle, I just knew getting married couldn’t happen.

One of the managers at the call centre was an ex US Navy nurse. He was about 6’3”, African American and very handsome. For some reason his ‘gaydar’ was fixed on me. We would discuss many topics, usually religion and the gay community. I was always respectful of his lifestyle choice and he was generally respectful of mine.

All of these interactions helped me understand that gay men were quite normal, they weren’t weird, they wanted to same things as most people. Some even talked about having a family with their partner and children were a part of that plan. If they were able to have what appeared to be a normal life, perhaps I could also. Again, the idea of me coming out was not a conscious thought at this stage.

I was now in my mid to late twenties and coming to terms with who I was as a gay man, although I didn’t think about it, like that, at the time. I would pray about being gay and plead for Heavenly Father to take this temptation away from me, it never happened, but I found the process of articulating out loud during prayer how I felt, a healthy process. What was perhaps less healthy was asking for forgiveness of the things I’d done. It got to the point where I felt demoralized constantly seeking forgiveness for the things I enjoyed and knew that I was never really going to stop doing. Eventually I stopped asking for forgiveness and changed how I spoke to Heavenly Father in prayer. I decided that I was who I was and that wasn’t going to change.

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