I didn’t come out as gay until I was 21. Of course, I always knew I was gay. All it took was one glance at my second grade teacher (of whom I had a mad crush) to know as much. But I always felt like my sexuality was something I needed to hide. Having been raised in a conservative part of Montana in the early ‘90s, I was very much what you would call a “tortured gay.” (Okay, I totally just made that term up, but the trademark is definitely pending): My sexuality was always a source of pain and struggle. I was instilled with the belief that being gay was a sin, dirty, and something that needed to change.
So that’s what I tried to do. For two years, I underwent therapy to change. I must have went through four different counselors. “Is change actually possible?” I’d ask, desperate for a miracle that would make me straight.
“Yes, all it takes is a change in cognitive thinking and prayer,” they’d say, before handing me photo copies of “success stories” of gay men who were now happily married to women. At one point, I even met with a man who said he was “cured.” (We met in a sketchy parking lot, before awkwardly moving to talk in his car, but that’s another story).
Of course, all this took its toll. Eventually, I reached a point where I was tired of being a depressed, tortured, gay cyborg, and decided I wanted to be happy.
So like any good millennial, I came out the only way I knew how: Over social media. More specifically, I wrote a Facebook message to my mom. (Hi, mom, since I am sure you are reading this!)
“I really want to tell you something,” I started the message, with more drama than an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. “For the last 2 years I have been seeing a counselor, because I have been struggling with the fact that I am gay. I feel completely disgusting, dirty, unclean, sinful, and I really hate myself for it.
All I know is that the only way I am ever going to be happy is if I start telling people. I understand if you do not accept it…I don’t even accept it myself. In fact, I want it gone and have tried so hard to change, but I am at the point now where I have realized that it will always be a part of me.”
Fortunately, my mom responded with nothing short of grace (and LOLZ of course).
“Josh, you are perfect just the way you are,” she said. “I am so glad you finally told me everything that’s going on with you. I am so proud of you and all you are doing and I wouldn’t change anything about you not even that you are gay. I’ve always believed everybody should have a gay best friend (I have one at work) but now I have a gay son too! Woohoo.”
Every year when Pride comes around, I’ll often re-read my coming out message to my mom – partially because I am a complete narcissist. But also because it is a reminder of how far I have come, not only as a gay man, but as a human.
In a time when LGBTQ rights are no longer 100% certain, I am thankful for the journey that has brought me to where I am today. I am thankful that I no longer feel like I need to hide. I am thankful to work for a company that not only accepts all people, but embraces them as well. After years of internal turmoil, it is so beautiful to come to work where I can be completely, 100% myself. For me, being able to live openly and authentically is the ultimate definition of Pride.
After all, love is love is love is love. At least that’s what my mom says.