Living Authentically

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Image birthday cake

My 16th birthday. I made my own cake!

Why is it so important for gay people to “come out?” As far as I go, I haven’t cared much for dating and I’m definitely not interested in sleeping around. I had someone tell me recently that I should be one of those gay men who are active in the church and live their life in celibacy. So why is it important to “come out” for people like me? Especially when you risk severing relationships and estrangement from your community?

I think “coming out” has less to do with our view of ourselves sexually and more with the ability of living our lives in an authentic way.

Growing up, there was a certain amount of information that couldn’t be divulged and a personality needed to be developed that would be more socially acceptable.

As a child, who I was didn’t really matter. I liked to crochet doilies, I played the piano, I loved flowers, etc… That really didn’t matter at the time, but I wasn’t like other boys. I didn’t like wrestling with my brothers or playing sports for one. Even with these differences, however, I was never treated very differently.

Adolescence was a different story. Going through puberty was not fun for me. I grew increasingly different from my friends. It wasn’t just the fact that they were all talking about girls or things sex related. I grew apart because I couldn’t identify with them. I was different; my interests, what excited me as far as entertainment went, and social activities all differed from what other boys my age found interesting or worth their time.

I never liked basketball; I couldn’t care less about sports. The point of the game did not motivate me to play well. I don’t even know what straight people really liked because I took no interest in it. I liked classical music, playing the piano, gardening (except for dirt… dirt always drove me crazy. I had to wash my hands immediately after handling it), cooking, and being creative. I spent money on gardening projects. I wanted to build a beautiful pond so I saved my money so I could finance it. I enjoyed houseplants.

I’m not saying these are typical of gay men. What I’m pointing out is that I was different and found it increasingly harder to relate to people.

I learned to compensate by finding ways to distract people from how different I was. I became a perfectionist at piano performance in order to get some sort of approval from people. I became a hard worker and demanded a lot of myself in work and college. I did well. I won state competitions for piano performance at least every other year. I also was consistently on the Dean’s List in college every semester and had a GPA of 3.95.

Despite these accomplishments, I was also very depressed. I used to starve myself because I didn’t want to grow up. I wanted to be a kid again where what you did or what you talked about didn’t matter. I found it a great accomplishment when my jaw didn’t grow big enough to support all my teeth that I needed to get a molar removed. My lack of respect for my body reflected the mental and emotional maturity I developed.

Our sexuality, in reality, influences every aspect of our lives. A very small part of that deals with our sexual preferences. Sigmund Freud in his book “Sexuality and the Psychology of Love,” wrote:

“The behavior of a human being in sexual matters is often a prototype for the whole of his other modes of reaction in life.”

It wasn’t until I learned to accept myself in my 19th year that I was able to actually grow up both mentally and physically. My mission played a big part in my self discovery and helped me further my acceptance of myself.

I came out publicly after my mission in 2011 – not because I wanted an excuse to do whatever I wanted, but because I wanted to be accepted for who I was. Until I gave everyone the chance to actually love me for whom I really was, they could never really love me because sexuality is such a central part of who I am – And that has very little to do with sexual preferences as I said. If someone has a hard time accepting me as a gay man, then they never really loved me because most everything I did was in an attempt to distract people from what was inside; they just loved an empty shell that I built for myself. As Dr. Brene Brown states in her book, “Daring greatly,”

“If you divide the men and women I’ve interviewed into two groups – those who feel a deep sense of love and belonging, and those who struggle for it – there’s only one variable that separates the groups: Those who feel loveable, who love, and who experience belonging simply believe they are worthy of love and belonging. They don’t have better or easier lives, they don’t have fewer struggles with addiction or depression, and they haven’t survived fewer traumas or bankruptcies or divorces, but in the midst of all of these struggles, they have developed practices that enable them to hold on to the belief that they are worthy of love, belonging, and even joy.”

This cannot come while we continue to rely on what we built to get us through life. It can only come when we accept ourselves and tell ourselves that we are good enough to be loved and that we are deserving of peace and joy.

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