It’s Thursday morning. I’m not sure how I made it this far without a cup of coffee, but here I am. I have a hunch that this day will require quite a few cups. Preferably black. Most likely strong.
Being the mid-twenties adult that I am, my Thursday has taken me to a favorite downtown spot. I am surrounded by folks who are “cooler” than me. The antler tattoos and expensive boots. Fixed gear bikes and impressive facial hair. I’m sitting in the corner, listening to my music, picking at my fingernails. I’m not necessarily nervous, it’s just always been a bad habit. I’ve checked my phone 30 times in the ten minutes I’ve been sitting here. I need someone to tell me that I’m doing the right thing. That these words I’m composing will set me free. I’ve gotten a SnapChat of a cat and an email about some cheap flights to the Caribbean. But no such message from my anonymous encourager. I suppose I will have to swallow the doubts and move forward. 24 years is a long time to be picking at your fingernails and checking your phone for love letters.
a written or spoken statement in which you say that you have done something wrong or committed a crime
the act of telling people something that makes you embarrassed, ashamed, etc.
And that’s where I lay the foundation that this is not a confession. I am not embarrassed or ashamed. I do not believe that I have committed a crime.
Maybe I am getting ahead of myself. Let me rewind. Let me introduce myself. My name is Ryan and I am a walking mess of inconsistencies and contradictions. I was born beside the ocean but live in the heart of Texas. I have hundreds of playlists featuring Bon Iver and Sufjan Stevens, but my most played songs are Taylor Swift and Pitbull. I live in one of the liveliest cities in America, but prefer the quiet conversations around a backyard bonfire. I care too deeply, and in the same breath I wound fiercely. My life is messy and it is beautiful.
6 years ago, while attending Bible college, I met a man named Josh. He spoke of honesty and vulnerability in words that shattered my soul and put fire in my bones. I longed to be known, to be accepted and to be loved. This longing brought me to write an email to Josh. “I think that I’m gay." My message was saturated in fear and shame. Punctuation marks screaming secrets. Paragraphs shouting "Love me. LOVE ME!" That was, by definition, a true "confession."
Much has changed since that February in the mountains. Friends have come and gone. I’ve cried and I’ve laughed. I’ve seen the world. I’ve locked myself in my room. I’ve moved across the country. I’ve been to counseling. I’ve slept in airports. I’ve stood beside friends as they exchanged vows. I’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression. I’ve taken thousands of photos and listened to millions of songs. Despite the 3 A.M. prayers of desperation and weekly support groups, I still sit here as a gay man. Typing those words doesn’t scare me anymore. It doesn’t make me embarrassed. They don’t make me want to hide under the covers or drown myself in cheap beer.
For the last 8 years, I’ve been involved, to different degrees, in the Christian church. I’ve been on staff for Bible colleges, lead small groups, organized missions trips across the globe. As I dug deeper and deeper into that culture, I realized that the walls around me were made of expectations and guilt. I was expected to grow up, marry a sweet woman, have 2.5 kids, buy a home, and spend my Sunday mornings passing out church bulletins. I’ve received far too much advice in regards to all of this. Some folks urged me to participate in groups that focused on changing your sexual orientation, which in my opinion, is not possible. Others asked me to remain celibate for the duration of my life. To sit silently as my friends took wives and had children. And most tried to pass me along to someone else. A true modern leper.
I swallowed the bullshit for years. I believed that something was wrong with me. I went to the support groups. I read the passages. I prayed the prayers. And I grew to hate myself. The kind of hate where you wake up feeling like a monster. You stand in the shower, wondering what it will take to glue on the smile and sing the Sunday songs. Clinging to thousand year old words and one-sided conversations.
If I have anything to apologize for, it is this. I’m sorry I didn’t have the courage to speak these things sooner. I’m sorry I was scared for so long. I’m sorry I ran from the calling to be brave and to make a difference. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you this in person. But this is step one. I can’t stress enough that I am not looking for a fight. I am not looking to argue. I don’t need to be told that I am wrong. That the world has deceived me. That I am making a grave mistake. I’m not.
I am still sitting in the same coffee shop corner. Probably listening to the same song. I have a nasty habit of over-using the repeat button. And I am smiling. For the first time in years, I am smiling. I have nothing to hide and nothing to be afraid of. My days are numbered, and I refuse to spend any more of them hating myself or being angry. This is a charge to love the world around me. Despite gender, age, race, sexual orientation or religion, I am going to love fiercely. I will stand tall for the persecuted and the lonely. Everyone deserves to be happy. And I mean everyone.
Please note: I have disabled anonymous messages for obvious reasons. If you have something to say- whether it be a concern or a compliment, please show me your face. If I don’t respond promptly, please forgive me. I plan on unplugging for a while, turning off the phone and laughing with friends. Climbing trees and taking deep breaths. Swimming in rivers and hiking mountains. Driving on dirt roads and having movie marathons. This is my life, and I’m not going to waste it.
As always, thanks for tagging along. I love you more than you will know, friend. Let’s chase the dream together.
“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”-Walt Whitman