Today, May 29th, 2022 marks 10 years since I graduated high school. I remember the redemption arc of my high school career. It was the truest of underdog stories. From a bullied, broken kid who was selectively mute to a leader among his peers.

10 years later, I sometimes wish that’s where it all settled.

What people didn’t see back on May 29th, 2012 was the fact I essentially had one foot in the grave. My mental health was failing me. I was in a crisis and I was in a crisis that I barely escaped out of with my life.

Truth be told, I never thought I’d see this day. I thought once I closed the high school chapter, my life was essentially over. I know that sounds odd, but at that point, it was all I knew. And in those days, I hated change. I struggled mightily to keep my head above water and at some point, it all became too much. Those were, hands-down, the darkest days of my life.

The past week, I’ve been looking back at old journals and Facebook posts from that period, and I’ve come to this conclusion:

It’s nothing short of a miracle I’m still here.

I wish I was embellishing. I shouldn’t be here.

Yet, here I am.

It took a long many years to get to a point where I can look in the mirror and be proud of all I’m doing. I still have regrets about how long it took, though. Maybe I shouldn’t. After all, I’ve always been a late bloomer. If anything, I have been remarkably consistent on that fact throughout my life.

As I’ve been looking back these last couple weeks, I’ve kind of been in awe but also sobered by the impact of it all on me. I wish I had known 10 years ago what I know now: That some of the truly best days of my life hadn’t even happened yet. It’s hard to see when you have the tunnel vision of the moment. It’s hard to see when you’re in a storm so great with the wind and rain crashing around you. But in hindsight, I can see it all now. The good. The bad. The downright ugly. I guess it’s true: With age comes experience.

Now, my hindsight is signaling what the next 10 years can be about. The sheer amount of potential they have. In the last 10 years, turbulent as they have been, I have found my voice. The next 10 will be about using it more. Speaking life into others with it. I also can’t help but shake the feeling still that something big will happen. Something good. Something that will help heal the landscape of not only my own life, but others’ lives, as well. I have never stopped believing that stories have an immense power that nothing else on the planet has and I am still determined as ever to tell mine. That’s been one part of me that will never change.

I’ve always been very aware of my mortality. When you’ve been on Death’s doorstep, it’s almost impossible not to be. I’m not afraid of death, but I also don’t want it to happen anytime soon. I’ve come a long way from those days where I was literally plotting my own demise. But I also feel a sense of urgency. We just never know what the future holds.

Steve Jobs gave a commencement speech at Stanford University back in 2005 and proposed the question “If this were going to be the last day of my life, would I be proud about what I am about to do today?” Then he said “If the answer has been no for too many days in a row, then I know something has got to change.”

That’s been kind of like a North Star to me these last number of years, and it’s even more so one now.

For the first time in my life, I’m seeing crows feet when I look in the mirror in the morning. I see people who were in grade school 10 years ago graduating now. I’m not getting any younger and I feel it. It’s kind of been a wake up call to take the bull by the horns and do what I feel I have been put here to accomplish.

I dream a dream of days gone by

It’s hard not looking back though. There are things I wish I could do differently. Different routes I’d wish I had taken. Giving college more of a chance. Being less dogmatic. Fewer existential crises. It all made me softer, sure, but dear Lord, I wish it had been easier.

I keep getting reminders of those final high school days on social media and it’s made me wish I had handled my qualms with my high school differently in the years since. My dad asked me the other day who I was mad at there, and I have to say, I couldn’t answer that question. That alone tells me what I have to do.

I seek to put that all behind me now and think about what the next 10 years will be about.

My 30’s are approaching. What will I do with them?

I’ve heard people say they settle in during their 30’s. Their lives are less turbulent than they were in their 20’s. I want that, for sure, but I don’t want to settle in. I want to be just as curious and just as thirsty as I’ve always been, even more so. I’ve always said the day I stop learning is the day I can pack it up.

10 years went by lightning quick. In the last 10 years, there have been three presidential terms, 3 different Presidents, 1 total eclipse, marriage equality, a pandemic, 3 different jobs, a few different failed career paths, a coming out, more than one existential crisis, 3 family deaths, 2 hospital stays, 5 new windshields, and a new cat. It’s been a journey. Looking back, it’s evident that I’ve had someone looking out for me.

Now, it’s time to signal the next big thing. I don’t know what that is yet, but I feel a shift happening. I have for some time now. Anticipation is growing for the future. But I first have to make peace with the past.

With that, to anyone I’ve been less than kind to, less than gracious to, or not been fair to, I am sorry. I seek to do better by you. And to anyone who’s hurt me over the years, I forgive you. There is no longer any ill will or animosity on my end. Let’s put the war to bed. Ceasefire. Let’s all do better together.

The last 10 years have been a ride, for sure.

Informed by the past and invigorated by the future, we move forward to the next 10. I’m excited and expectant for all that the future will hold.

Stay tuned. Greater things are yet to come.


I had to put down my cat this week. Blitzen has been a part of my life since the 6th grade and he has seen every iteration of me from puberty to adulthood. He was there when I was being bullied to the point of near-death in middle school and high school. He saw me struggle with my mental health in 2012 and 2013. He was there when I came out in 2016, and he had been there during my crisis of faith these last four years. All the while, with the most loving gaze that saw right through my soul.

I’m devastated by his loss. Some days, I stuck around this earth just because of him. He made my life better and richer, and he made me a better person. There were days when he let me cry into his fur for hours. He was my anchor while I navigated some incredibly turbulent waters, many times, on my own. I wouldn’t be who I am without him.

I believe, on rare occasions, two souls cross each other’s paths and they both see each other. They both know they were made the same. That’s the way I feel about him. I said earlier that he saw through my soul, but I also saw through his. That’s rare. It’s special, and I don’t know what I’m going to do without him.

A coworker told me when I mentioned to her that I was going to have to put my cat down, “you’ll just get a new cat.” But for me, it’s not like that. I can’t just get a new cat. Blitzen was not an iPhone where I can just run out to Best Buy and replace him. He was a part of me, he was a kindred spirit. He was family. 

You don’t replace family. You can’t replace family.

I don’t know how I’m going to go on without him, all I know is that I will. I’m strong, but this one hurts. A lot. Not much of anything or anyone has been in my life for as long as Blitzen has. I haven’t loved almost anyone or anything for as long or as much as I loved that truly special and unique cat.

The night we put him down, after everyone went to bed, I cried. I ugly cried. I ugly cried in a way I haven’t in over 10 years. But it’s not a bad thing. I’m giving myself permission to feel it all or to not feel anything, to be sad, to be happy, and not to judge any of it. That’s the example Blitzen set for me when he would cuddle up next to me when I was sad or angry. And that’s what I’m going to do for myself, now. The next few weeks and months aren’t going to be easy. There is no but to that statement. They will just suck. It’s okay not to be okay though, and right now, I am not okay. In time, I will be, but not now.

Pets are guaranteed heartbreakers, but I wouldn’t trade my time with Blitzen for anything. He cannot be replaced nor should he be.

The night before he died, I pointed to my rainbow shirt and told him I’d meet him on the purple part of the rainbow bridge some day, but I still have a mission to complete earthside. Blitzen has completed his mission, but here I remain, with a hole in my heart. That hole will become a scar eventually, not fully healed but able to go on best it can. I can’t say now when that will happen, but I know it will. There will be a day when Blitzen’s memory brings a smile to my face before it brings a tear to my eye. That day will be beautiful, indeed. 

He was loved. He loved me.

May his memory forever be a blessing.


I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve been around these parts.

I want to talk about the most recent development in my life: An official PTSD diagnosis. For many years now, I’ve suspected I suffered from PTSD. The signs were all there. Flashbacks, nightmares, triggers. Lately, however, things have been more tough. For years now, I’ve noticed my docile demeanor change around the holidays. Why? It’s Christmas, after all. Merry and Bright?

Turns out,

Not so much.

What follows is the story of what I believe now to be the origins of my trauma and PTSD. It may not be the first traumatic series of events to occur in my life, but it is, by far, the most potent, even twelve years later.

TW: Sexual harassment, bullying, mention of suicidal ideation

I don’t know why I didn’t realize it until now, but this time of year is deeply traumatic for me. Back in 2009, my grandma died. I was super close to her and her death crushed me. I knew it had been coming for months. It happened on December 3rd, my mom’s birthday. I was in my 7th and final hour of school, study hall, where my teacher got called out of the room. She was gone for a few minutes then came back and called me out of class. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on but as soon as I walked out and saw my parents standing there, I knew. They told me my grandma passed away while my dad and his sisters were singing An Irish Lullaby to her. If I were to die, that would be the way I would wish to close the scene out.

I wish the scene ended there. Oh, to this day, do I. What transpired over the next serval months broke me to pieces.

After my grandma’s funeral, while getting some of her affairs in order, my dad and one of his sisters discovered something that tore my family apart. 

It was my first day back at school after the funeral, after getting to school, my guidance counselor pulled me into his office first thing to make sure I was okay. I wasn’t. I melted down into a puddle of tears immediately. He sat and cried with me for an hour.

When I left for school that day, my aunt said she was going to make chicken and rice for us that night. My aunt, a southern woman, always had kickass food, so I was mildly excited. When I got home though, something was wrong. The chicken and rice were in the works, but my aunt was crying into the rice. It turned out, a family member who had been my grandma’s caregiver during the tail end of her life, and also someone I had grown incredibly close to, had stolen tens of thousands of dollars from her. (I’m withholding this person’s name and relation to me or the rest of my family for what I hope are obvious reasons.) It didn’t take long for my family to completely come apart at the seams.

All the while, with my family falling apart, my school life was also not going well. I was being bullied. Bad. So bad that I don’t call it bullying anymore. It was harassment. Up to and including sexual harassment.

There was a rumor going around of a sexual nature about me, the extent of which, I was unaware of until much later. When I ended up piecing it all together a few years back, I was floored at how far it went. Had I known then how far and wide it went (to the ends of the earth isn’t much of an understatement), it would have killed me. Hell, I knew enough then for it to make me want to harm myself. The school’s faculty even indulged. No one stood up for me. No one could be what I needed them to be, and I can’t tell you how close I came to the edge. I was close and no one knew it.

By May, I was looking forward to the end of the year and for a break from this hellstew. Still though, the hits kept on coming. This one, more than anything, still haunts me.

There was a student, a grade below me, who was my tormentor. He was the one sexually harassing me with these rumors. On May the 5th, his harassment turned into assault. In the hallways, he groped me and said “I love you.” As I write that, I freeze. It still hurts. Bad. It’s still raw. What hurts more though, is the fact that I did the right thing and what happened because I did.

I reported it.


I was forced to go back to my Spanish class where we were having a Cinco De Mayo party. I couldn’t keep my head on straight. I was traumatized beyond words. I was bullied for years, but this? This was horrible. I felt like dirt. I couldn’t hold back my tears. No one saw. No one cared to see.

Then, I was called out of the party by the person I reported this all to. She took me to her classroom where my gym teacher was standing with a third person:


She looked at him and told him to apologize. He gave a half-assed apology. Then, she looked at me and told me eight words I will never in my life forget: “Give him a break. His mother just died.” 

There it was. I wasn’t seen yet again. I was told to forget it even happened. Better put, I was told to stuff it, and that’s exactly what I did. For more than a decade, the trauma of these six months has been in my body, in my bones, unresolved.

It was a period in my life where all my heroes had fallen. It was a time in my life where my friends were no where to be found. I was dying in front of everyone and not a single soul saw. This period of my life, a time I feel so far removed from nowadays, still controls a large part of me. Over the years, I’ve wondered why I’m such a people pleaser, why I always threw my hands around my parent’s feet while they were trying to get away from an argument. I’ve wondered why I was physically unable to grieve my grandpa’s death a couple years ago.

I think I know now.

I’ve held all this in my bones. Literally.

Now, though, I know. I have a diagnosis. I have tools and a support system now that would have been so foreign to me back then. Still though, it’s early days and the trauma still haunts me. I still have major abandonment issues. I still wait for the other shoe to drop. I still fawn. It’s going to be a long road to healing. But I’m determined to get there.

A year after my grandma died, I was with my aunt in her truck as we pulled away from my grandma’s newly sold house for the last time. As we pulled out of the driveway she said “Well, this ends a chapter. On to the next one.” I took that as my cue. The page turned and my life went on. It got better. The trauma still lingered, it comes back hard this time of year, but that chapter did end.

I hope soon, it will again.

This time, with healing for my body and soul.

A Letter to Un-Affirming Family

Dear family,

You know who you are. You know who I am. Yet, I feel I still have to hide from you. I still fear your reaction if I’m fully myself around you. You’re my flesh and blood, you’re supposed to know me the best, yet here you are, not wanting to know me at all. At least that’s how I understand it. Granted, not all of you are this way, but enough of you are to warrant this letter to you. I’m done hiding from you. I’m done putting on a face. You are very different from me. But your homophobia is a learned behavior. Me being gay is not. So if someone’s going to have to change, it’ll have to be you.

I’ve been learning the past few months that I’ve been a serial people-pleaser for far too long. I’ve tried to make everyone happy to my own detriment. That mindset is not going to persist much longer, though. It’s only made it harder to be around you.

For five years, I’ve heard your feelings. For five years, I’ve endured your groans when I bring anything up about my sexuality. For five years, I’ve listened the backhanded comments.

Want to know why I came out in the first place? How I wound up accepting myself? It all started after one of you went on a homophobic screed in 2015. That’s where it stared. Your homophobia isn’t going to stop me from being gay, that much I know. But it will continue to strain our relationship.

Someday, I’ll have had enough and we will have to part ways. I don’t want that and I don’t think you do, either, but that option is on the table. I see what you post on social media. I see some of your conspiracy theories. It’s too much. We’re already distanced from each other in online spaces, so you may never see this, but I still hope you do, because I don’t think you realize the gravity of the situation.

Like I said, I’m done hiding. I’m done pretending.



The Year That Wasn’t

2020. It started with World War III. Remember? When we almost went to war with Iran? I bet you don’t. So much has transpired in the world between then and now, it’s hard to keep track of everything. One minute, it feels like this year went by in a flash, the next, we forget that the month of March has long since passed, even though we feel perpetually stuck there.

I remember my last day of work before the world shut down. I knew what was coming. No one came in the store that night. But there I was. Trying to savor every last second of my shift. I cried on the way home. At the time, I didn’t know just how much my life would change or for how long. I don’t think any of us did. I just knew it was going to and I just had to grin and bear it.

I took it well, though. I survived the lockdown. My company survived. Many weren’t as lucky. Many are still suffering greatly.

I can’t lie, that does weigh heavily on me.

Then in May, we learned about George Floyd, yet another unarmed Black man killed by the police. Over eight minutes, he was there, gasping for his breath. Eight. Fucking. Minutes. He even cried out for his mother. So many were horrified. But for so many, like so much else this year, their concern did not last. 

Performative allyship continued to rear its ugly head over and over again this year. People only seemed to care when it was popular or convenient for them to do so. Never once giving social and racial justice another glace once the headlines and hashtags went away. Some even became openly hostile to the cause, taking their cues from the likes of Candance Owens, because she at least made them feel comfortable. At least that’s what I gathered.

Summer was hard. My uncle died after his battle with cancer in August. He was the kindest, most gentle man you could ever know. I loved him. And I miss him.

Then came election season. Stress added to stress. 2016 was a nightmare, and the way 2020 was going, it looked to be the same this time around. And isn’t it just like 2020, where now half of us believe a whole different set of facts from what the actual truth is? 

Man, we sure have work to do, America.

In many ways, I kind of wish this year had never happened. If it could only be the year that wasn’t. But in other ways, I think this year can teach us something, if we let it. This year has shown a bright light onto many of our broken systems in a way I don’t think anything ever has before. At least not in my lifetime. Take your pick: Healthcare, policing, mental health, racial issues, election systems, government, social safety nets.

We do have a lot to work on. Maybe this year is the inflection point. Maybe, just maybe, in 2021, we can start to turn it around. Reform what needs to be reformed. Discard what no longer works. And build back what needs to be repaired.

We can do this. But it’s going to take our concern lasting beyond the headlines and the soundbites. So when we do get beyond this year, we don’t forget it.

We don’t let it become the year that wasn’t.

Old Me

It wasn’t too long ago that I was a religious fundamentalist with a horrible view of self and a bad mental state. I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately. I’ve felt the need to apologize for him much throughout the last number of years. Man, he got so much wrong. But I’m learning not to beat on him too much.

This is all a journey, after all. He is me and I am him. We’re very different people, but somehow, the same. It’s almost as if he was holding his breath. He was trying to fit into a group and a worldview that would never have him. He was always different, after all. Not afraid to break with the status quo, even if that meant a blow to his own reputation. He, like me, wasn’t afraid to be blunt. He wasn’t afraid to tell people what he thought. That hasn’t changed. God, has it not.

In many ways, I’m thankful for him. I’m thankful for what he went through. His experiences and his stumbling. If it wasn’t for those, the current me wouldn’t be possible. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. I simply wouldn’t exist in my current form had it not been for growing up the way I did.

I’ve done things nowadays that would drive the old me mad. There are people who I’ve called out that I never thought I would. These people who I once considered close now see me and the causes I care about in a very negative light. I’m not being facetious. They seem to view me as an enemy. But to paraphrase Paul the Apostle, when you grow up, you put childish things away. Some people simply can’t join you on your journey forward because you’ve grown up and they have not.

But that comes with the territory of change. Somehow, the old me propels me forward in a way not much else does. It’s not that I’m trying to undo everything he did, he simply wasn’t that powerful. Which is a good thing. But he inspires me to continue to be better. To continue to do better. And like I said, some things between us are the same. We’re both people who have a fierce conscience and the courage to change.

Old me reminds me of where I’ve been. He shows me that progress is possible and things are in constant flux. He shows me that change isn’t a bad thing. That we should normalize changing our opinions and worldviews when presented with new information. He shows me how to sit and listen instead of speak. He prophetically tells me to look out for my mental well-being and just how quickly life can come undone.

The old me has taught me more about this life than almost anyone else. He’s taught me to be myself, despite the consequences. The twists and turns that got me here to this moment, are because of him trying to find his way. And I know in ten years from now, I’ll be saying the same of who I am today.

Life is in constant flux. We’re always hopefully growing and changing with the seasons. It’s something my twenties have taught me more than anything else. That I don’t know it all. That I should listen to my gut instinct, it has rarely steered me wrong. If something feels off, it’s usually because it is.

Old me teaches me how to be authentic. I try to never hide who I used to be. I can’t. He’s a part of me. It would be like denying my dad is my dad. He may not be who I am anymore, but he made me who I am. He’s important. As much as I think he was wrong about so much, I cannot and should not disown him.

How I got here is just as important than the fact that I am here. From where I’ve been, I can get an idea of why I truly care about the things I do nowadays.

I hope because I’ve grieved. I love because I’ve lost. I find because I sought. I healed because I’ve hurt. I live because parts of me have died.

It’s not in spite of the negatives that I am where I am today, but chiefly because of them. They made me who I am more than anything. I know I can never go back to who I used to be, but I can look back and see clearly, that it’s because of who I was that I am who I am today.

So, here’s to the old me. You made me a better person. You showed me so much. I love you. I’m rooting for you.


Four years ago today, my life changed forever and in ways I would’ve never expected. When I came out as gay four years ago, I did so with caution. If I were to have come out today, I probably would word some things differently, and maybe the whole blog post I wrote back then would take a different tone overall. But that’s the thing, really. If I didn’t come out four years ago, the monumental changes I’ve gone through wouldn’t have happened. I would maybe still be floating in the same headspace I was back then. I’ve learned a lot, taken many steps forward, and a few steps back. Through it all, however, I’ve learned to love who I am and who I’m becoming, more and more each day.

Coming out changed my life, it changed my outlook, it changed my beliefs. It gave way to new ways of thinking, new ways of living that have all been for the better.

We can never predict where the future will lead us, and I sure couldn’t have predicted back then, just where these last four years would go. 

It’s been wild.

Wonderfully Made From The Beginning

My sexuality is not a mistake. I didn’t choose to be gay, but the question remains: Would I change it if I could? After four years of this new life, after living as an out gay man and all that entails, the answer is a resounding “No.” I wouldn’t change it for the world. God knows I’ve tried. Even though I’ve lost people, the new friendships I’ve formed have been some of the most fruitful of my life. 

The new people who’ve filled the void in recent years have profoundly changed me and given me a sense of comfort that I’m not alone. That never would’ve happened had I not ventured out on this path in the first place.

When I was making the decision to publicly come out, I spent months counting the cost. It was the hardest and bravest decision I believe I ever made. I knew people wouldn’t like it, I knew everything was going to be subject to change. In many ways, no stone has been left unturned. Much has changed, and very little has stayed the same. 

Through many trials, toils, and snares, I’m finally living as my authentic self, and I couldn’t ask for more. These last four years have brought challenges, but they’ve also brought peace. 

I’m genuinely happy with who I am. I’m discovering more of that person each day. I like him.  I think he’s a badass, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.

I spent my formative years in a very right-wing, evangelical setting, one where the worst thing you could be was gay. I dissociated from a very important part of myself. I wasn’t able to fully be me. As I entered my late teenage years, I started to realize that I was gay and it terrified me. 

Someone would find out, I was sure of it. I could casually mention a cute guy and my secret would be out. 

But no, I kept this secret strapped tightly to my chest for years. No one knew. I’m a terrible secret keeper, but my entire social survival hinged on this.

So, I suffered in silence.

I suffered in silence until I couldn’t any longer.

I came out late one fall night on an old blog and then went to bed so I couldn’t take it back.

The secret was out. The toothpaste could not go back into the bottle.

Bird Set Free

But oh! I tried a few times to put that toothpaste back in. But there comes a breaking point for everyone, where you just have to say “fuck it, I’m being who I am, to hell with the consequences!” It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done, to be honest. Probably the best. It’s empowering to be who you are and to be unapologetic for it.

Truth be told, I’m still finding my wings. 

Sia’s song “Bird Set Free” speaks to me on this one.

“I sing for love, I sing for me, I’ll shout it out like a bird set free”


For years, I was a caged bird, held down by my own shame of who I was and who I loved. Typing that out now, I realize how silly it really all is. That is, being ashamed of love. It’s sad I spent so many years of my life worried what certain people would think, or what my reputation would be if I came out.

Yes, some of my community couldn’t join me on this journey, others came late, and still others were already miles farther down the road than I was. I also found new people on the journey that I would’ve never found otherwise.

I also found my voice.

A voice that speaks up for those who are persecuted. Namely, the LGBTQ+ community and the mental health community. I’ve found incredible, strong people in both these wonderful communities and it’s made such a difference in my life getting to know them.

It’s been said that it just takes one voice. My voice is a quiet one but don’t be mistaken: It’s fierce. I’ll always stand up for my communities against bigotry and stigma and bullying. I’ll educate, I’ll learn, and I’ll continue to grow.

I’m far away from where I was four years ago when this all started to go down, but I wouldn’t change any of it for anything.

My life is wonderfully complex. While there have been bumps in the road, things did get better. Then, they got fabulous. 

They also got much more glittery.


It’s World Suicide Prevention Day today. If you’ve been around these parts for a while, you know my story and my multiple brushes with death by suicide. This year, I didn’t want to rehash those stories. You can always go to the archive and read them if you wish and I encourage you to do so.

This year, I want to take a look back at what the last year has been like, how I’ve grown as a person and how my advocacy moved from this blog and Facebook, out into the real world. I’ve made so many new friends this year in the local mental health scene and I’m probably more proud of that than anything. These people are warriors. Each and every one of them. They all have incredible stories of heartbreak, fear, pain, loss, resilience, courage, and strength.

Last year, I was a part of an event that changed my life. The event was put on by my local NAMI chapter. It was a Kevin Hines event. If you don’t know who Kevin Hines is, I encourage you to pick up his book “Cracked Not Broken,” here. His story is absolutely incredible and he tells it best. A lot has changed in my life since the last time I wrote about suicide prevention and how much this cause means to me.

After that Kevin Hines event, everything seemed to go in an entirely new direction. My story took off, as a matter of speaking. I was able to tell Kevin a little about my story at the event and give him a hug (this was obviously pre-COVID). Almost right after that, my local NAMI got into contact with me and asked me if I wanted to partner with them. Since then, I’ve been able to tell my story of a suicide attempt survivor trying to live mentally well, and in some ways, I feel, at least on a small scale, I’m making my hero, Kevin Hines, proud.

A couple months ago, I woke up and discovered something: That I am doing exactly what I feel I need to. I’m fulfilled in this work and it makes me feel I’m making a difference. I’m no longer content to sit on the sidelines, typing away on a keyboard. While my blog is a large part of my advocacy, this last year has shown me the importance of showing up, making my presence known and my voice heard.

I’ve gone through hell and back and I want everyone around me to know that they matter. I want to be that someone that I desperately needed when I was at my lowest. Someone devoid of the toxic positivity that so often plagued my friend group at the time (they’ve all since grown and have become mental health warriors along with me). Someone who can acknowledge the hard truth that yes, life does suck. Your depression is real. Your suicidal ideation is something that we should talk about.

I’m doing this all the while having to pay extra attention to my own mental health. I was on solid footing before COVID-19 ever came along, and I’ve been able to, for the most part, maintain being mentally well throughout the pandemic. But I’m finding that may get more difficult as fall rolls around and the days get shorter. I’m someone who’s incredibly susceptible to seasonal depression, and this year’s already no different. The past few days have been in the 50’s and raining here, and for the duration, I’ve felt a tightness in my chest and I’ve been lethargic to a high degree.

But I think I’ll be okay. No toxic positivity here, it’s just what I feel in my bones. And I trust by bones more than anything else.

For you, I hope life is treating you well. I know, for many of you, this year feels like another gut punch almost every day. Some of you may be on the edge as you read this. Please know that I’ve been there. I know there is no quick fix. I know recovery is hard work and it takes time. But I also know that it has been worth it in my own life.

Growing up, my parents took my brother and me on long, cross-country road trips. I simply loved them. I loved being in the car for sixteen hours at a time. I loved road food, Casey’s Pizzas, seedy motels, driving through the never-ending flatness of Nebraska and enjoying the peaks of the Rockies in Colorado. Every summer, I was blessed to go on one of these grand journeys.

Recovery is like that: It’s a journey, as well. There’s mighty peaks and long times of flatness. There’s seasons of seedy motels before you get to spend the night at the Four Seasons. But as beautiful as the purple mountain majesty, my recovery has to be to date, the most challenging, rewarding, and encouraging journey I’ve ever been on.

It’s an experience I wouldn’t trade.

So, today and every day, I echo my hero, Kevin Hines’ motto: Be Here Tomorrow.

Gay Christian

From my earliest memories I was taught God loved me, but somewhere over those years, that message got lost. I went to a very conservative evangelical Christian school growing up that gave me views about my faith, my humanity, and my sexuality that were very toxic. Being gay was something I could never openly be at school. Mainly because they erased that being an option for people.

“Gay” wasn’t something innate to you, it was a choice you made and it was a choice that could be reversed.

It wasn’t until junior year of high school when I started to realize I was different. I thought I liked a girl but when someone told me that attraction was important in a relationship, I stopped dead in my tracks and thought, “I’m not attracted to her. But I *am* attracted to that guy over there.”

I stuffed that thought right away. I was a good Christian boy, after all, a model student, how could I be gay? From then on and for years after, it would come up in my prayers late at night, in the most hushed tones, I would ask God to take my sexuality away. I was deeply afraid someone would eventually figure me out. In many ways, I feel my high school robbed me of my ability to be myself. Fully and completely myself. It wasn’t fair. And to this day, they do this to students. They’ve even doubled down.

I gradated from that school and went on with my life. After some major mental health challenges in 2013, I was forced to take a hard look at my life, my viewpoints, and my faith. This marked the beginning of a seven year journey that lead me to where I am today. I started softening my positions, I started listening to fellow members of the LGBTQ community. Their words continued to inspire me. With each passing year, my prayers began to change from, “God take this away” to “God, will this be the year I come out?”

2016 was that year. When the attack on Pulse nightclub happened, I remember staring at the TV in horror. I cried hard that night and I made a promise to myself that over the course of the next few months, I would come out to those closest to me and ultimately, maybe come out publicly.

By that October, I was out to everyone. And I was happy to identify as a gay Christian.

But a few events that year and the years following shook my faith more than anything ever had.

For starters, soon after I came out, a former high school teacher of mine sent me and all my friends an article by someone claiming to be “ex-gay.” This article was dripping with homophobia, condescension, and hate. The God this person was describing did not sound like the God I knew. This former teacher of mine wrecked my faith that night and I spent a long time away from the church because of it.

At one point, though, I went back and was actually thriving in church again.

But one night, I was at an elders meeting after my former pastor had left. The meeting was centered around how the church would go forward. During this time, diversity and inclusion were brought up and someone asked a question about the church being more accepting to the LGBTQ community. I was sitting there, inspired by this person’s words. I was proud someone was finally saying something. Maybe, just maybe, I would be accepted. Of course, I thought I already was, but getting them on the record would just codify that. Maybe things would change. When this person finished their question, one of the elders spoke up.

He said that, while LGBTQ people are welcome to attend, they cannot serve, and they especially cannot serve with children because they could “influence” the kids in negative ways.

I still don’t know what that means, but I can take some guesses.

What happened next broke my heart. The congregation gave the elder a round of applause for his “bold” answer. I sat there, arms crossed and horrified. I was about to cry. I realized in that moment, a large part of who I was would never be accepted here in this church.

A bit more about this: Clarity is important. You can’t say “all are welcome” and put an asterisks on it. You can’t say “come as you are” and then expect people to change who they are. I’ve seen too many people in the LGBTQ community, myself included, crushed by churches they thought were accepting, but in a moment like my elder meeting story, find out they were anything but all along.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

It’s now 2020, and I’m still a Christian, but it looks far different, and frankly, a lot more colorful than it used to. I hold my faith very lightly these days. I strive to embrace all the uniqueness of people, those like me and unlike me. My faith has to be affirming and inclusive of everyone. I mean, why would God create all this diversity if everyone had to be the same? I’ve reconciled my past and my faith with my sexuality. They now sing the same tune.

I’m proud of the person I’m becoming. I’m more myself than I ever was before.

To put it another way, as I look at the life I’ve created, I say that it is all very good.

Queer as Folk – Growing Up Gay in Jesusland, USA

“Why do you think I asked you to get lunch with me today?” I asked my best friend. “I have an idea, but I don’t want to offend you.” He said. “Just say it, I think you might surprise yourself.”

“Is it because you want to tell me you’re gay?”

In that moment, a weight had been lifted. A weight I carried around all my life, but was conditioned not to pay it any attention. Like a frog in boiling water or the dog in that burning house, I always just smiled and said “This is fine.”

This is how I got here.

For any onlookers, my childhood would seem like any normal, midwestern child’s of the 90’s and 2000’s. Nickelodeon was always on our TV screens, I grew up on Rugrats, Catdog, and SpongeBob. I loved them all. I had a gameboy, a Nintendo DS, had every Maxis game ever introduced, even well before The Sims had ever become a thing. (SimAnt, anyone?) It was all normal.

But I also had something others didn’t. I went to a private Christian school. I was also gay. And that wasn’t a combo that played nice.

From very early on, I learned to stuff my sexuality, to the point it became invisible, even to me. In my little Christian bubble, “gay” didn’t exist. It couldn’t. How could God create someone like that? He doesn’t make mistakes, after all. I was taught that people who were gay chose to be that way.

For me, that meant I couldn’t possibly be gay, since my seeming attraction to men wasn’t something I chose for myself. I just chalked it all up to thinking that I respected women more, I was on another level, but that cute guy I kept looking at? No, that’s nothing, he’s just someone I wanted to be friends with.

I always liked more feminine things growing up. I would play dress-up at daycare, and I even asked for a Barbie family car for Christmas one year, and I actually got it. Kudos, Mom and Dad.

But after years at a Christian school, I felt ashamed I wasn’t more “masculine.” I’ve honestly tried to bury a lot of the trauma this school put me through when it came to my sexuality and to purity culture. “Modesty” was also very heavily pushed, down to girls getting their skirt lengths measured and boys getting their hair length checked. It was like Big Brother was always watching, and because of that, I disassociated. It was almost as if my queerness didn’t exist and never had.

Looking back, it was obvious, but I was conditioned not to see it.

Sometimes, this erasure took on a more insidious nature. Slurs like “f*g” and “tr***y” were overlooked by administrators and teachers alike. A very flamboyant classmate was constantly picked on by the staff, conversion therapy and expulsion were threatened on students who came out in high school, and suicide attempts happened more often than the school would ever admit because they didn’t allow people to be who they were.

A former classmate of mine has a great piece on all of this. If you want to read more stories from women and sexual minorities who graduated from my former high school, her article is a great and thoughtful resource.

But I’m here to tell my tale. How did I get here, right now. How did the right-wing, evangelical, “solid Christian man,” as one teacher put it, become so outspoken, and even reviled, by the people he used to look up to?

Truth be told, it was a slow burn.

I started questioning things after a major bout of mental health problems in 2013. I started to realize something for the first time in my life, and that was simply that life wasn’t as simple as I thought it was. My bubble was burst through a string of events in 2013 and 2014.

Honestly, it was the best thing that has ever happened to me.

I started fighting for those looked down on by society and Christian culture alike. It started with the autistic community, and grew into the mental health community, and by late 2014, I had quietly become gay affirming, yet still not ready to come out myself.

I remember what turned me. It was when Apple CEO, Tim Cook, came out in October, 2014. The public face of a company that I admired was gay, and that meant so much to me, as a closeted gay young man. Cook wrote in Bloomberg, “If hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.”

This line had me in tears that morning. I was who he was speaking to.

I felt heard. For the first time, I felt heard.

“The Enlightened Path”

But I still had the baggage of my past. How could I reconcile who I was with how I grew up? I started planting that seed. I began asking my friends how they felt about certain LGBTQ+ issues to gauge who was safe and who was not.

In the early summer of 2015, a heartbreaking but powerful moment happened for me.

My southern, very charismatic aunt was visiting from Kentucky. My brother ended up getting into argument with her about marriage equality. She was vitriolic with her rhetoric against gay people, all the while claiming she “had gay friends.” She kept yelling at my brother that she “was on the enlightened path” and therefore couldn’t be wrong.

Somehow, this all seemed to make her think her bigotry was okay. I stood up that night for the first time. After she had left, I told her in a facebook message how her rhetoric on her trip to see us hurt me. There was no apology and somehow, it was my fault for being an angsty teenager (I was 21 at the time. By no means, a teenager.)

During that trip, her homophobic rhetoric had an unintended result, though: It allowed me, for the first time, to literally look myself in the mirror and tell myself, “I’m gay and that’s okay.” It would be over a year before I publicly came out, but I was unmistakably on that path by this point.

Pulse, Coming Out, and Trump

The Summer of 2016 was a whirlwind. My futile attempts to be in a career field that didn’t suit me crashed and burned, the election was in full swing, and I was beginning to come to terms, more and more, with who I was as a gay man.

Then, something happened. Late one night that summer, I came downstairs to get a glass of water, when I saw NBC News had some breaking news. It was yet another mass shooting.

Whenever mass shootings would happen, I would usually retreat from the news, because of their frequency and the raw emotions that transpired in the aftermath was too much for an empath like myself to take in. This time was different, though. This time, I soon found out that LGBTQ people were the targets.

I stared at my TV and wept.

The next few days were a blur. Anderson Cooper on CNN, who is gay himself, read off the names of the dead, chocking back tears the entire time. That’s when I knew. I couldn’t let these people’s deaths be in vain. I had to do what little I could, in my own little corner, to remember them, to follow their example of bravery.

I was going to do it. I was going to come out.

I first came out to my best friend, who took it very well. And that would be the seeming experience I’d have with many of my friends, they all seemed okay with it. It all lead up to the day I publicly came out on an old blog that no longer exists in October of 2016.

Then, the election happened and I had to learn how to be an activist real quick.

I was initially in shock that something like this could’ve happened. How could so many of the people, who mere weeks earlier, said that they were fine with me being gay, go out and vote for such a bigot and authoritarian? I felt betrayed by my community, I felt alone and exposed. How? Why? And now what?

I discovered quickly that I could no longer identify with this group of people. So, I left everything I had ever known. It was brutal, but in hindsight, it had to be done. I started speaking out more. I started insisting that queer voices be heard over the loudness of the bigots. In this, I found my people, to say the least.

Looking at my life today, things are better than they ever have been for me. I’m happy to be who I am, fully and completely. I’m finally comfortable in my own skin. As for my faith, that’s a more complicated story, but one I’m not worried about. There doesn’t always need to be an answer to everything unexplainable, and I find freedom in that.

It’s so far removed from the “all or nothing” approach my Christian school taught me, but it works for me very well. I don’t know what you call a worldview like that, but I just call it me. And all I know is that it makes me happy. And happiness is important, after all. Being yourself, even more so.