My Story.

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So a little about me… I grew up in the Church. My parents are ministers and have a missionary organization they started before I was born, with teams set up all around the world. My younger brother also now pastors the church I grew up in. I grew up in the ministry, went to Christian schools, and then I gave 10 years of my adult life to the work. I was set up to take over this international organization. My life was comfortable. Then I decided to come out. 

At some level I had always known I was gay. I had different experiences with other boys in my peer group growing up, even though I always prayed and thought at some point the gay part of me would just go away and I would be magically attracted to women. That. Didn’t. Happen.

My life had gotten to the point to where I just couldn’t bear to live a lie anymore. I was drowning in shame. I was so unhappy. I felt like no one really knew me. I was burnt out at work, and withdrawing from my family and my group of friends — the ones I so desperately wanted to hold on to.

I didn’t want to deal with losing friends, hurting my family, disappointing countless people, losing my job, losing my home. I knew on some level all of those things would happen. And I’ll say this: It’s one thing to know that. And it’s another thing to actually live through it.

Something else happened though before I came out. I started to understand God’s love. I mean really grasp the unconditional, never-ending, overwhelming love of God. I knew that is where my security had to be. And again, it’s one thing to know that, and its another thing to hold onto it too. 

So I came out to my parents and close friends.  I didn’t tell them about the guy I was dating at the time because I just wanted it to be about my truth and not have them try to shift the blame on someone else, or make it seem like it was someone that had been influencing me. 

Initial reactions from my family were, “have you thought this through?”, “we’re going to have to close down the ministry because of this”, “who seduced you into being this way?” 

My friends on the other hand seemed, at the time, to handle it better. But at the same time, coming from the Christian bubble we all grew up in and also worked in, no one really know what to say, and many of my friendships that had gone on for a decade seemed to suddenly just peter out. 

During this time I had my parents read some books that I had read while gaining the courage to come out, and they seemed to be coming around. And then, just like with my friends, conversations stopped. We didn’t talk about it again for 6 months. Suddenly I felt trapped again. I didn’t know when the topic would come up. I didn’t know when I would be caught off guard. Each day I would go to work at the ministry and thought I would lose my job… and my home. So finally, terrified, I brought it up again. I was like, you know this hasn’t changed. I’m still gay. And I want to be able to share my life with someone and build a family. My dad’s response: “You need to find another job!”.

Now, in fairness to my parents, they told me they wouldn’t let me lose my house, that I wouldn’t be out on the street, and that they would take care of me in this transition. They told me that they loved me. I know I had the privilege of this security that so many other people don’t get. But still I was fired. And unaffirmed.

The last jobs I had before working in the ministry was a summer bagging groceries and then two years at the GAP. I hadn’t had to look for work for over a decade and it had all changed. You can’t just walk in with a resume any more. Everything is done online. I couldn’t even get someone to talk to me on the phone. I must have applied for 40 jobs in those next two and half months. I didn’t hear back from one. Now if that doesn’t make you question your self-worth, I don’t know what does? Again I felt like I was treading water. I didn’t know how to move forward. I was still pretty fearful of sharing my story with a lot  people because of the loss I already had.

 

I also knew that the only way to keep moving forward was to tell my parents about Marc. We had dated on and off (mostly on) for a year and a half at that point, but I never thought our relationship had a fair chance because I was closeted for most of it. I wanted it to have a fair chance. Again I was paralyzed. I didn’t know how to have a conversation so I wrote it down in a letter. I told them about my online dating the year before I came out. I told them about experiences I had growing up. And I told them about Marc. While my meeting with them later wasn’t light and happy, I felt free. It was the first time I hadn’t cried when talking to them. I wasn’t hiding anything anymore. I didn’t feel shame anymore. I felt known. Maybe not accepted, but known. And being known changes everything.

A year and half ago I rented out my house and moved to downtown Los Angeles. Marc had always offered my a temp job with his company in interior design, so I just took the chance and haven’t looked back. I have gotten to see a side of Los Angeles I’ve never seen before and would never have access to either. Six months ago we bought a house together in the suburbs. It feels like a dream. Not that it’s perfect, but I never thought I would be this happy. That I would be able to build a life with someone I love. That I would have a chance to start my own family.

In closing I’ll say this, you never have to live in shame. If you’re hiding something from your loved ones, just be honest. It may be the scariest thing you’ll ever have to do, but it will be the most freeing thing you can do. 

-Justin