Vulnerability is uncomfortable, even scary, so why do we value it so highly in our community? Sharing our story, including our sexuality, may have once felt like the most daunting or impossible task. And yet what would have been the cost to our lives had we not been vulnerable? What if we had stayed silent, closeted, cut off from such a significant aspect of ourselves with ourselves, God, and other people? Indeed, what if vulnerability that feels like weakness is actually strength – especially when practiced in a community? Join Tom, Ben, and Aaron for quite the “bread and butter” discussion on YOB’s fourth value!
When I’m not wandering, I live in Asheville, North Carolina – the Jewel of the Blue Ridge. I’m YOB’s cofounder and editor, and I also host our two podcasts. I’ve written a couple books as Thomas Mark Zuniga, including a 2013 memoir in which I first came out. Once upon another universe I anonymously blogged about my faith and sexuality under the Xanga username, twoBeckonings. I’m an INFJ, Enneagram 4w5, and my spirit animal is the buffalo. I love to travel, and my favorite place in the world is the one where coffee and vulnerability meet.
Financial professional by day and SSA author by night, I have the privilege of discussing people’s most private affairs: their money and their sexuality (though typically not at the same time). When I’m not discussing people’s darkest secrets, I am a reader, gamer, and enjoyer of the outdoors. For those who care, I am an ISFP and Enneagram Type 6; for those who don’t, suffice it to say I’m easy-going and enjoy both time alone and with friends. Jesus is the author of my story, and I look forward to sharing His work in my life!
Call me Ben, or call me Beamer. I am in my early thirties, married, pastoring in the Midwest, and Jesus is my reason for living. I’m either an ENFJ or ENFP. My Enneagram is 2 or 6 depending on the day. I am a chameleon – being who I need to be to care for others. Most of my favorite activities center on being with people in any outdoors setting, whether hiking a mountain trail or simply lying in a hammock and drinking a beer.
I believe I first cried out to God about the pain I felt around my sexuality, namely that I found myself far more attracted to guys that girls, in my early teen years. I remember desperate feelings and times of anguished crying, begging God to change me and making promises to be “better.” The first person I told about experiencing same-sex attraction (very generally) was my youth pastor when I was around 15-16. His response was casual and non-judgmental, which felt amazing at the time. However, that relationship ended badly, so that disclosure ultimately brought more pain that comfort or relief.
I would say the turning point in vulnerability with others came shortly after I had my first sexual encounter with someone (a guy) at age 21. For two days I was so wracked with shame that I literally felt like I was dying inside. I was hanging out with my cousin and she could tell something was wrong. She waited, pursued, and wouldn’t give up until I broke. It felt knives were trying to pass through my lips as I grappled with telling her. Finally, the words came forth in a torrent of tears. She held me and comforted me, not an ounce of judgment or condemnation in her response. It was the beginning of the very long, very slow journey of becoming fully known, a journey that is still unfolding 23 years later.
To bring it into the now, a recent step forward in vulnerability occurred about a week ago, which was one week after I found YOB. I had just returned from meeting my first YOBBER in person who lives local to me. I was talking about the meeting with my wife, who was very encouraging and supportive when I told her about YOB and about going to meet someone from the community. The joy, awareness, and freedom that has been flooding my journey since I joined YOB – no doubt the direct work of Christ in me – propelled me to share more detail about my sexual orientation than I have previously with my wife.
For context, she knew about my same-sex attraction before we were married, but our conversations have been minimal over the 17+ years of our marriage, and I’ve passively left the impression with her that it’s a minor, in-the-background struggle. I’d also told her I was bisexual (which, to be fair, I believed I was for much of my life). In this most recent conversation, I told her the truth that I have come to terms with over the past year and a half, that my orientation is primarily gay. It felt so scary to tell her, and I have often thought of it but haven’t dared to. There were tears and heartache, but also a deeper sense of knowing and intimacy.
It’s all so fresh and recent, I have yet to see where it will go next. I’m still scared, but there’s also a hunger stirring, a longing for a deeper knowing and being known. I’m praying for the courage to take more risks on this front. I want the belonging that Tom, Ben, and Aaron talked about on the podcast, the kind that requires full knowing and accepting.
Thanks for being vulnerable with us, Drew. So glad you found YOB and have even started meeting members of our community! What a cool journey of late. I hope our community gives you more tools and more support for the journey. We’re all learning as we go!