I’m Matthew. I have a slight southern accent, an addiction to sweet tea, and a smile on my face every time I hear James Taylor sing about “going to Carolina.” The older I get, I find myself resonating more and more with that old “Footprints in the Sand” poem. And I love reflecting and writing about all the whens and the ways God has carried me.
When I joined Your Other Brothers, a whole new world opened up to me. I had never heard of Side A or B or LMNOP, so I read new books, listened to new podcasts, and learned so much so quickly. Joining YOB felt like a master’s course in faith and sexuality. But the most impactful part of becoming a “YOBBER” was the feeling that I no longer walked the rainbow road by myself.
After years of feeling so alone, I started meeting all these guys just like me. I couldn’t get enough of hearing their stories!
These guys were so honest and hopeful as they described the ups and downs of their journeys; how God had brought beauty from brokenness, and praise from pain in their lives.
After a while, that same hope and healing started to grow inside of me.
And here’s what I mean. I really didn’t want to be gay. I hated how much I liked shoes and musicals and how I noticed every man in a room before I saw a single woman. It brought me so much shame.
So, for years, I tried to change it. When that didn’t work, I tried to ignore it. And when that didn’t work, I had to address it.
When I finally acknowledged my sexuality as something God could use for His glory and my good, it became something that endeared me to others rather than only alienate me from them. Sexuality was no longer just a source of shame; it became a catalyst for connection.
I moved to a new city around this time, and I needed a new job. I wanted to try aligning my external world with my internal: I wondered if anyone would like me if they found out I was gay.
Could I be open about my sexuality in a church? Would my work colleagues treat me differently? I needed to find out how strangers would receive this part of me before I could ever reveal it to loved ones. Rejection was something I didn’t want to risk.
I signed up for a gym membership within days of setting up my new apartment. During the registration process, a young guy asked me all the usual questions about which membership I wanted, as well as my personal fitness goals. Then he asked, “So, is this an individual or family membership? Are you married?”
My immediate response was, “No, I’m not married. I’m gay.”
I hope you’re laughing at that answer, because both of us did. It was ridiculous, and I knew that as soon as I said it. But you know what? It still felt good. He didn’t care about my sexuality. He just wanted to know how much to charge me on the 15th of the month.
But what he didn’t know was that I had never before said those words to a stranger. I had spent so many years deflecting and distracting whenever anyone came close to this subject, so it felt strange, yet satisfying, to own it. Finally.
Waiting for Spring
In the following months, I created several more awkward “coming out” moments with pastors at my new church and random servers at restaurants. I’m embarrassed by these moments now, but I think they were necessary growing pains. I was healing and making peace with my sexuality, taking baby steps toward integration. I don’t think anyone should feel the need to rush that process.
I finally decided to write a coming out letter that I’d read to my friends. I asked them all out on dates, pulled the letter out when they least expected it, and forced them to listen to thirteen pages of my mini-memoir. I was so nervous, but they were so loving. They listened intently and hugged me tightly, and they reassured me of their commitment to our friendship. Every conversation hasn’t been perfect since then, but those first few were amazing.
Something I noticed almost every time I mentioned my sexuality was that it wasn’t nearly as jarring to the other person as it had been to me; in fact, most people seemed much more comfortable with me afterwards, as though something about the revelation made me more accessible or relatable.
I had spent years feeling like my same-sex attractions would only distance me from others, but I discovered just the opposite.
I feared my sexuality could only limit my contribution to the kingdom of God. But I began to find this part of me that I had considered so unredeemable as a means for God’s strength to be perfected.
None of this happened quickly, of course. Nothing in my life ever has. But I think of it now like waiting for spring to warm the air and melt the winter freeze. It took a while.
But ever so gradually, my shame melted away so that grace could grow in its place.
How have you come out to loved ones in your life, or is this a vulnerability journey you’re still hoping to start? Where have you seen shame about your sexuality melt away?