A couple years ago, my pastor and I grabbed coffee at Starbucks. “How’s your week been?” he asked as we sat down, me with my hot green tea and him with a cup of coffee.

“I’ve had a few rough days this week,” I replied hesitantly. “School is stressing me out, and figuring out my plans for college next year isn’t making it any better.”

“How about your struggle? Anything I can pray for in that area?”

Having people like my pastor make an effort to know how I’m doing while genuinely caring about me has been monumental as I’ve processed the reality of my sexuality.

For what seems like most of the time in these conversations, however, I beat around the bush instead of being clear and direct. As much as the vagueness gives a semblance of privacy when conversing in a public space, one of the unintended consequences of talking about “the thing” or “my struggle,” is perpetuating a burdensome shame about my sexuality.

My sexuality shouldn’t be the elephant in the room.

Sure, my sexuality affects a lot of different areas of my life, but there’s still so much more to me than what kind of person I’m attracted to. Even in my friendships where attraction comes up frequently in conversation, that is far from the only thing we talk about.

Fast-forward to the beginning of this year; I had lunch with a friend who also has SSA. At this point, I had never felt comfortable forgoing the euphemisms, even as much as they frustrated me. This day seemed different, though.

Maybe I had a bit more courage that day; maybe I felt more comfortable around him than most people.

But “coming out” didn’t become “open up,” and “my sexuality” didn’t become “my struggle,” at least by the end of our time together. I didn’t even bother hiding the frankness of my vocabulary with a hushed voice.

Talking with my friend, I started to let go of my worries about what people around us were thinking and treat myself as normal. My friend didn’t think of me as “Thomas, that weird SSA guy” sitting across the table from him.

He understands that part of me, and it doesn’t change how he views me.

This summer, some of the other bloggers and I spent a long weekend together — the first time I’d met them in person. It was such an amazing, life-giving time. We spent the weekend getting ourselves full of sand on the beach, finding new restaurants, exploring California landmarks, and bonding at a Korean Spa.

But what we did together wasn’t anything particularly special. What was new about that experience for me — and what made it so good — was being able to express myself without inhibition.

I couldn’t be too “gay” or too needy or too broken to be their friend. I could love them and express that love without worrying what they’d think.

Knowing I’m still loved and accepted for who I am when I bare the deepest parts of me has meant so much.

And it’s through these particular friendships that I’ve grown more confident in myself.

Do you wrestle with self-confidence? How has friendship with other men helped or hindered your journey toward self-confidence?

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