August 12, 2006:
More than coming out gay, this night was my emancipation from self-loathing.
It was not easy.
We had tried hard to change me but after almost seven years of ex-gay therapy and a lifetime of well intentioned but misguided religion, I no longer believed I could change and she no longer believed I should.
So on that evening and through the early morning, we sat down and hashed it out. Over the next few months, we would untangle our day-to-day lives as a family who lived together. But we never untangled our hearts.
True, our family suffered some scars from my decision. Scars caused by ridicule and abandonment remain, as do some spiritual scars. Yet they are mostly distant memories, reminders of the strength and resilience of a family formed out of love. A family who could not bear for me to remain in a closet where shame consumed me, limited me, prevented me from ever being able to find spiritual wholeness.
A family who has only grown stronger, closer, even more loving.
That brave moment in my life–doing something I did not understand how I could do or how I could live without doing–freed me from a lifetime of allowing shame to rule my life and limit my potential. I was afraid I would lose everything–the love of my children, the love of my best friend, my job, my dignity.
But coming out ten years ago served only to bring me more love, deepen kinship, and develop pride in who God created me to be. And, unwittingly, this decision would set me on a vocational path of justice-seeking, standing-in-the-streets-with-a-sign-proclaiming-God-loves-us-all, and–who coulda seen this coming–joining the struggle to reclaim the church and the message of Jesus as a sanctuary for everyone, dammit. W-sticker-on-his-SUV-Todd would only have done more damage to himself and the people he loved, spiraling into a life of limited happiness, mitigated joy, and an unfulfilled existence.
Reflecting on ten years as the authentic Todd, I am struck by irony and also a touch of melancholy.
I’m still pretty much the same guy–deeply loving, flamboyant, hairstyle-variant, wannabe-fashionista, goofy, zealous–Ok maybe moreso. But I can’t help but wonder: what if I could have been this same person all along but without the layers of shame and guilt I have labored to scrub away? What if I could have prepared myself better, gotten to the fight sooner, hurt others far less.
Or…is it in part these layers that have made me who I am today and that I am precisely where I am supposed to be more-or-less right on time with a deeper understanding of grace than I could have ever felt otherwise?
I may never know.
But what I do know is that I got here as quickly as I could–thank the Goddess and thanks to so many people who helped me get here and loved me through it and in spite of myself! And I know that every day I am given is an opportunity to live up to the chance I took, show gratitude for the grace I have been given, and honor a God who has only ever wanted for me to love myself like she does.
Happy anniversary, Todd. I’m so glad you took the chance to be you.