A friend I met when he was 16 (with his parents) at an ex-gay ministry has been in contact since I came back out. He is in his thirties now and a well-adjusted gay man. It’s still shocking to think how time flies.
I am glad he made peace with himself and eventually grew beyond what I was teaching back then. Graciously, he said he looked back on our interactions positively because they helped him communicate his true feelings and what he was thinking. I’m glad about that.
Also, in our getting reacquainted conversation, he asked:
How’s your experience being back in the gay community?
It’s been over seven years since coming back out. Plenty has happened. At first, the responses I received from the gay community to coming back out were one of three things:
- Condemnation – some will never accept or forgive me. I understand the feeling; it’s hard to forgive myself at times.
- A ‘welcome out’ but still suspicious of my intentions. Some directly stated they were looking for “proof” of my change of heart.
- But the vast majority (unscientific guess of 90%+) of LGBTQ+ people I heard from were incredibly kind and gracious. To the point that even some former opponents went out of their way to encourage me privately. A few even defended me to some of their peers publicly.
Since then, I keep being astounded by the real-world grace and kindness extended by the LGBTQ+ community. This unconditional kindness opened my eyes when I shared my story early in June 2016 with the local HRC Orlando / Central Florida group. I talked too much, but through a few tears and lots of hugs, many people were incredibly encouraging afterward. That night and since then, I have had more than a few people share this one essential message:
Stop apologizing. We don’t need your apology. We understand because we have all had a hell of a time finding our way out of the closet. You are here now. You are home, so let’s do good for others and be good to one another.
No disclaimers. No hoops to jump through. Be who you are, and do what you can for the greater good and the individuals you run across along the way. I don’t deserve any of that, yet kindness prevails over and over in a way I rarely saw in the church culture I was a part of.
Do you know what else I have learned? All the good and bad social dynamics, interpersonal relationships, and personalities are all the same from one community to the next. Human social dynamics aren’t bound to a particular belief system or community. Human social dynamics manifest in every belief system and community. Relationships of any kind are often complex and take time. They are usually a mix of beauty and hardship. That’s only more evident the further the roots of the relationship go down.
And over seven years, my relational universe has taken a lot of hits, bad hits. But it has also dawned a great new supportive community and friends.
The kindness and grace in the LGBTQ community have brought about love and joy in a way I had not experienced before. Hope for the present and future has replaced myopic fear, self-loathing and unnecessary burdens. Plus, it helps that I am operating out of authenticity, not fear.
I am so glad to be home.