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?
Wow…you have such a great gift of writing! Thank you. I love the statement, “Knowing I’m loved and accepted for who I am when I bare the deepest parts of me has meant so much” is a blessing. I lack any confidence in this area…it has been so easy to hide behind a mask never letting others know much about my life, background, experiences. etc. I have much to learn in this…but thank you for sharing!
I feel like I write more about successes in my life and less about the rest of my life where I do end up hiding behind a mask. *sigh* I have a long ways to go. Having these little (and not so little) successes along the way really helps though.
I recently had a gentlemen in my Bible study actually address (kindly) my shame surrounding my sexuality. He insinuated that maybe I was isolating myself through my shame more than others were purposely doing so. He was dead right. Too often we define ourselves by our “struggle.” As men who deal with SSA it’s hard not to feel inferior or out of place. Great story and inspiring thoughts, thank you for sharing!
I do feel like I tend to make a bigger deal out of my SSA than others would make. Part of that is valid, I think, since straight people often just don’t ~get~ how different my experiences are from theirs. But feeling shame for something I can’t change about myself isn’t really a good thing either.
Exactly. I always think of Lewis’s line from the perspective of Psyche in Till We Have Faces, “Don’t you think the things we are most ashamed of are the things we can’t help?” Shame on that level really isn’t something we should feel much…yet somehow I always do. I’m sure God completely understands our circumstances but it doesn’t always translate to our straight brothers and sisters unfortunately. In my experience they usually don’t make it a big deal, but they rarely understand the feelings that plague an SSA Christian.
I definitely understand- there’s some so refreshing about being able to not be “too gay” for your friends. You can be yourself and there’s no need for shame or fear of judgment. It’s liberating for sure.
Love you, Thomas- you the best. Thank you for opening up about this. So proud of the man of God you are!
I don’t even feel like I act that “gay” even in my truest self lol. But I still often worry about that—or at least adjust my actions to be just a bit farther from “gay”.
Loved this post! One of the most validating things for me has been other men seeing me in my brokenness and loving me and accepting me all the same. Whether they are SSA friends or not, having others accept me as me has been refreshing and healing.
Sometimes I’m afraid I put too much value on what others think of me, but on the flip side, validation and friendship from other men has saved my life and my sanity on multiple occasions.
Wanting validation from other people seems to be a core theme in both my strengths and weaknesses. In its best, it’s gotten me a long way in so many areas of my life. But the other side of that are the many times when I can’t tell where others’ thoughts and desires for me end and when my own begin (if they’re there at all). The good thing is I’ve gotten better at noticing when this is happening, but still, it’s really difficult.
Boy do I wrestle with self confidence. One moment I feel like leading an army and couldn’t care less what others think. The next I feel like I’m the dirt from the dustbin. It’s funny! It depends on who I’m talking to. With some friends it’s like I’m tiptoeing around them. Then there’s the friends who I’ve been able to bare my deepest dirtiest secrets with. They don’t flinch at all! Loved your post Thomas!
I’m totally the same way around different groups of people. Even with people who I’m “out” to, there are definitely some I am more comfortable sharing with than others.
I love the perspective you bring here, T. Friendships have done more to show me about God, life, and myself than any other thing. They’ve also killed me the most, but alas. I guess you take the growth with the gruesome.
I have way too much self confidence. What I lack is trust. I spent many years not trusting people. It was because I had a secret. But even now that the secret is out, I find I still distrust people. It became a habit that is proving hard to break and it makes it very hard to grow deep relationships. It’s complicated. I’m trying to deal with it, but….(insert excuse here)
I trust too much, to the point of naivety. Except Christians; I still have a hard time trusting them because of a incident about two months after I came to the Lord. I heard in the church I was attending a sermon where the speaker declared that all gays go to hell. As a result, I was apart from the faith for twenty years, and came back only after I had a massive stroke (the stroke happened on the exact day that my best friend killed himself; this I COULD NOT ignore).
Trusting Christians is tough. They do the strangest things in the name of righteousness.
Yeah, but I let my own pride get in the way of having a relationship with the Lord.
I really like the way you write and draw some random similarities to your story (I’m going to go to college for computer science). I notice you write a few times a year; I hope to see more from you in the future!
My self confidence comes and goes. Right now I am in a high period as my writer’s block has broken and I am seriously working on my third novel (the first has been published on Amazon and the second is under edit). I have also been doing a lot of things graphically, only hindered by lack of money. I love it all. Used to, I thought I would be satisfied by doing ‘manly’ things like changing the oil or hanging sheetrock. Afterwards, my creative juices would flow and I would cook up a storm, even doing the impossible: making Hamburger Helper edible. I find true satisfaction when I create, not doing the ‘manly’ stuff. I can do these things and I have those skills (saves money on contractors)
When my creativity goes, I just want to watch TV or surf that newfangled internet thing (LOL!) I am bored to tears when I can’t create, and it hinders my self confidence (fights with my kids don’t help as a feel like a failure of a parent. I hate the adulating thing.
Thomas, thanks for this post. I think confidence is something that all men struggle ieth whether they are SSA or not. I think that finding a community with which you can be open with plays a huge role in helping a guy be comfortable in his own skin. I have s Hangul of people that I get that with, but they are all back how much in Louisiana and I am now 400 miles away. I’m dying for that group of guys I can get together with and just feel like I can fisnnly take off the mask again. It’s hard tip-toeing around peopel feelings or my fear of how they will react if I get really honest about who I am and the things I struggle with.