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18 months ago I came out publicly for the first time. It was terrifying, I had knots in my stomach for weeks before and after… and it was also liberating. My life, and my mental health have improved drastically. I feel like a different person. More accurately, I am a better version of the same person.

That may not seem true to observers, because I worked very hard to keep my depression hidden. But now, I am not depressed anymore (it didn’t go away immediately, but it faded over several months as I leaned into and really, truly accepted myself). It’s amazing that taking that one step rooted out a mental illness I struggled with for 20 years.

What’s also interesting to me is that all those years I thought my big problem was that I was gay. I thought I “struggled with same sex attraction” as is often said in church circles.

Here’s the real tea: the only thing I struggled with was a homophobic society and the internalized homophobia I developed as a result. I was socialized to hate part of myself, and that, friends, is a very ugly, dark thing. We need to not do that. We need to encourage young people to see and value their own beautiful light. God did not make a mistake when he created me. But believing for so many years that he made a mistake for literally almost killed me more than once.

But addressing the depression which was mostly rooted in internalized homophobia, I started digging beyond that for the first time (thank you therapy), was finally diagnosed with ADHD which has its own set of strengths and weaknesses, and Sensory Processing Disorder… and that has given me a bunch of new things to work on to learn and grow. (this also explains SO MUCH about me and my life…). Even though I have a seemingly bottomless pit of issues and things to work on (don’t we all?), I have never had more confidence in myself and hope for the future.

And while I wouldn’t change anything about my life, because all of that is my experience, and made me who I am (and I am happy with who I am), I wouldn’t wish anyone to go through some of the things I have as a result of that societal and internalized homophobia. That is a dark place to live– there is no light there– and I am SO grateful that I finally was able to see the beauty that God sees in me, even when I was socialized not to see it.

Whether you have come out or might in the future, or you know someone who has or may (and that, folks, covers literally everybody), today is a day to celebrate improved mental health, stability, and livelihood for one of many marginalized groups in society. Be there for your friends and family. You never know who really needs you in their life to help them deal with what they’re dealing with.

I’m always amused when someone thinks that being gay is a choice… it most certainly is not. Why would someone CHOOSE to be part of one of the most historically marginalized groups of society? But just because I am part of that marginalized group does not mean that there is anything wrong with me, or anyone. I may be different in some minor ways from the majority of society, but in most things, I am not that different.

I love Star Wars. I love reading. I love writing. I love art. I love playing the piano. I love cooking and baking, I love hiking. The fact that I love men and not women is only one part of who I am, but does that fact make me less of a person? Less worthy of love? Less worthy of belonging and happiness? Of fellowship? Of brotherhood? Of family? Of marriage? Of children? No. No it does not. And I am so grateful for the gift that God has given me: of understanding, of self-compassion, and of the vision and acknowledgment of the divinity within me.

First and foremost, I am a child of God. If there is a single experience in my life that has taught me that, it is this one: coming to know and love myself for exactly who I am: to see me the way that He sees me; that has brought me closer to God and my own personal knowledge of who I am and the vast potential of the divinity within me.

Happy Coming Out Day 2020! 🙂