They call it “Coming out of the closet”.
The moment that nearly every queer person faces at some point in their lives. The moment when they stop pretending, stop lying, stop hiding and step out with truth into who they really are. Usually it starts with just one person: a close friend, sibling or even a family matter. Before long it becomes easier to be honest and authentic with everyone. But there’s almost always a moment when the person inside, the gay man, the lesbian, the bisexual or the transgender person steps into the light to be seen and known.
The first person I ever told is still one of my closest friends. But it was only 5 years ago (On midnight of January 1st 2014) that I told my parents that I am gay. Five years may seem like a long time, but it is not nearly long enough to reverse over 30 years of hopes and expectations for a wife, and children and a “traditional life”. So while I’ve have a lifetime to come to terms with who I am and to find strength and confidence in who God made me to be, I know that it also takes those closest to us a long time to reach that point. And so my parents have only had 5 years to transition from expecting their son to settle down with a wife and start having children, to their son being gay and wanting to spend his life with another man. And so, imagine my surprise that when I told them, almost exactly 5 years to the day that my partner and I are planning to move to the U.K. and we are considering marriage, they responded with, happiness; joy… acceptance.
Their exact words were: “Our love for you and soon both (of you) outweighs any difficulties encountered. We love you so much. You are our only son!! We care about your happiness and welfare.”
It was a beautiful moment for me. One that I haven’t felt since many years ago when I first built up the courage to tell some of my closest friends my “deepest, darkest secret”. But what I remember from those times is a feeling of overwhelming grace. The need for acceptance is a universal trait. In some way or another, we are all looking for it, needing it, craving it. But for the queer individual, whether gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, that acceptance all comes down to a moment, the seconds after uttering the words are the most tense and nerve-wracking I have ever felt. It’s in that moment a queer person discovers the reality of their relationship. For some, revealing their sexual orientation to friends and loved ones has meant disappointment, rejection even repulsion. Far too many have lost their homes and families when being truthful about who they are cost them the safety and security of a place to call “home”. For others, including me, it has meant that the relationship with close friends is suddenly ‘not as close’; Being honest sometimes means losing the trust of people who they had thought would always be there for them. Of course, this should never be the case. No one should have to fear that by being themselves they will lose friendships or be kicked out of their homes. But sadly, it happens. And as long as people remain flawed humans, then our relationships will also be flawed.
So in that moment, in the seconds after admitting our “deepest, darkest secret”, when we find acceptance, when there is nothing but love and acceptance, it’s the sweetest moment of relief and joy. Because when someone sees us, for who we really are, no pretense, no illusions and nothing withheld and they accept us and love us regardless, to me, that’s true grace. For me, it’s a glimpse of Heaven on Earth: unconditional love, grace that wraps arms around us in tears and laughter warms the soul and calls us to what we were made for. The moment 5 years ago when after I had just “came out” to my parents, they hugged me, told me that they loved me and are still proud of me, and the text message from them this week that told me they are excited to welcome my partner into the family and celebrate our union together, these are the moments that we live for.
There is a seed of Grace hidden within every moment of raw, honest truth we choose to live out. The responsibility on all of us is to take those moments when we are faced to accept or reject the person in front of us, is to allow that seed to grow. Choose love over condemnation. Take the path of acceptance and away from rejection. Because when we do, we become that little piece of Heaven on Earth to someone who needs it.