today, on “National Coming Out Day” i thought it might be good to share a bit of my story.
though the lightness of this photo taken just 3 weeks after I’d come out might say otherwise, my coming out was an excruciating process–mostly to the people who were (and still are) attached to my life: Pam, the boys, and many friends. “coming out” required me to:
- leave a marriage…
- potentially end a relationship with two boys who’d become as my own sons
- possibly rob two boys of the mother they’d always wanted
- risk further breaking my adopted mother’s already broken heart
- sever ties with many friends
- leave a church body i’d grown up and raised my children in
- risk my job and my role as a parent volunteer within the school system
but despite all these risks, i simply had to come out. and not so much come out gay but come out Todd. (for more, read this.)
simply put: i had to do it to save my life.
i could no longer tolerate the lying, the deceit, and the denial of my true self. and quite out of nowhere, the opportunity presented itself and just as quickly, it was done.
the cost was enormous: within days, i found myself bereft of lifelong relationships and friendships with men i had once turned to with my raw heart; i was stared at, some people avoided me or looked at me with sad eyes; some dared criticize me for what i did to my children while others told me they hoped i didn’t get AIDS. within days, my former church even told the parents of the children i worked with that i “was never left alone with the children.” that hurt perhaps more than anything.
but the good news…tho still far from perfect, i no longer hate the “gay” in me. i celebrate it, embrace it, and treat it just like any other part of me: my creativity, my empathetic nature, my klutziness, my willingness to help others, my love for my children, my family, my friends. my “gayness” no longer defines me and it still does not.
- i may have legally ended a marriage but there has been absolutely no finality to the relationship with the woman i married, someone who still loves, accepts, and honors me as her marriage vows indicated she would.
- instead of losing sons, my relationship with daniel and drew has only grown stronger and deeper. and i feel loved and respected by those boys now more than i ever have before.
- although one mother has completely abandoned zach and hayden, pam did not ever leave them and to this day remains a vibrant, essential part of their lives. and always will.
- to this day, my adopted mother exhibits unconditional love for me. while she does not accept my choice, she does not withhold her love and support of me or make it an issue with respect to our relationship. my birth mother instantly accepted me for who i am and i know is still smiling down on me.
- my true friends never really left me and “rose to the top,” weeding out many extraneous, unhealthy, non-beneficial relationships. and what’s more: being open and honest with myself has led me into relationships with many new friends–gay and particularly straight, female and male–many of whom i’d judged as closed minded and unfriendly.
- i may have lost a church but i now understand the difference in empty, false, shallow religion vs. spirituality as well as what authentic Christian love really is. spirituality is still a journey for me but the “Universe” is leading me and granting me awareness daily. And God’s love has never left me.
- being open and honest with my sexual identity has hindered me socially and professionally but in the end, people may hate my identity but they cannot argue with my talent, ability, or productivity. and as many people know, my parent volunteering has only increased!
- and, perhaps most profoundly: coming out has alleviated the ignorance many people had about gays and abolished some stereotypes about us.
through my day-to-day life and an unwillingness to flee my rural, narrow-minded little town, i have been able to show people that we’re NOT pedophiles after their children; that we cannot be defined by or limited to the weak and unimaginative stereotype of “limp-wristed, lisp-speaking, sexually deviant;” that we are families just as normal (and dysfunctional) as any heterosexual family; that we are not after every man; that some of us like sports; and that we’re not all flag-waving, in-your-face fags yelling “we’re here and we’re queer.”
[that said, i must admit not all stereotypes were removed: people do still think we’re pretty much fabulous in general, have great hair, and excellent style.]
- you will experience the life-saving relief that i have.
- that you will have friends (and hopefully family) around you to remind you how loved you are.
- that you will never again be afraid to embrace and love the wonderful creation that you are.