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April 2005

#5.5 -- My Journey Out: Further Addendum

I had planned on writing this before seeing the last comment. I wanted to skipped ahead just a bit to spare folk confusion in my next series of blog posts.

John and I walked a long and often difficult journey in our relationship. We are now friends. As a mutual decision between the two of us, we realized that a longterm romantic relationship would never work. That was a good and right decision that we came to after a lot of talking through issues. It was fully mutual and fully rational. No one had to persuade the other or hurt the other when that decision was made. We are now friends and, as friends, care deeply for one another.

As to the other question, I've not specified the time sequence on purpose. I'm not writing a chronicle or a history. I am telling my story and am trying to unfold it in a storytelling fashion.

Further Addendum
The sixth post that I had planned I've decided not to post. It was to be entitled "The Happiest Moments of My Life." But I've decided that I don't want to share those with an audience this broad. Some of my friends were privileged to the story of my relationship, its high points and low points. For the rest of my friends who want to know that story, I'm sorry, but I'm not sharing that right now.

So I have to adjust course, meaning that a new number six (probably the planned number seven) will be a while in coming. Seven was going to be difficult to write anyway.

#5 -- My Journey Out: What Took You So Long?

That April when my relationship was falling apart, I realized that I didn't have a support system in Dallas. Though I had come out to a small number of friends from college, I was only out to two or three people in Dallas. I needed a support system to help me handle the pain and confusion.

So I called a friend and we met for lunch. I shared my story with him. This friend is also gay. One of the many questions he asked me was "What took you so long?"

And I've puzzled over that one a lot. There are a variety of answers. Maybe no one of them is the sufficient cause, but taken as a set they were sufficient to delay my dealing with my sexuality until I was twenty-nine years of age. I've mentioned a few in the previous posts, but here are some more.

All my life I've tried to live up to the expectations that other people have for me. This year with my therapist we talked about this a lot. It relates not just to my sexuality but in all aspects of my life. These were not expectations imposed on me, per se, but that I freely adopted. When they were praised then that encouraged me to continue to live that way. Just ask folk who knew me as a teenager and how I thought and acted like an old man (as some of my friends even called me). So I had to get over that big time before I could make this step. And since I've been trying to get over it in other areas of my life.

If you've been reading my blog any over the last year, you know the importance of family to me. Many of you are new to the blog (over 1300 hits today) so you probably haven't read all the other stories that would put this narrative into context with a whole life. This is just part of my life that I'm focusing on talking about at this point in time. Anyway, family has always been so important to me. My existing family and my future family. You my friends know that what I want more than anything in life is children and grandchildren. I've told you on many occasions that my dream in life is not some big ambition or lots of money or influence, it is to sit at my table at Thanksgiving dinner as an old man with my family -- my children and grandchildren -- around me. For SO long I told myself that if this is the life I wanted, then I needed to keep trying it with women. Part of my process of working through my sexuality was coming to terms with the fact that I may not get my greatest wish in life. Maybe a consolation is this promise from God given in Isaiah 56,

and do not let the eunuch say,
"I am just a dry tree."
For thus says the Lord:
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
I will give, in my house and within my walls,
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.

When I came to Royal Lane I met gay men and women who were professionals in longterm, monogamous relationships who were active leaders in their church. Though I had had plenty of gay friends before, I had not had friends like the ones I made at Royal Lane. These were role models for me that the kind of life I wanted to lead was possible. I have expressed my gratitude to all of them on many occasions, but I want to express it here once again.

One of the things I discovered in my final weeks at Royal Lane was how many straight church members had always known. One senior adult told me that she had known since she met me, before I had dealt with it on my own. Her daughter had said the same thing but included the caveat, "I'm not sure how much he knows it yet." That church member said that she had intentionally said and done things to help me in coming out. Another senior adult woman said that she had known I was gay when she met me and had gone around telling folk that Royal Lane had a gay youth minister. She said it was only later that she learned that I wasn't out. This week she thanked me for sparing her having to go back and tell folk she had spoken out of turn.

There is another truth. Had I come out before entering full-time ministry, I never would have gone on into ministry. I wouldn't have thought the life was possible. Yet the one thing most true about me, more important than my sexuality, is that I have felt called to the ministry since I was five years old. My Mom would say that she felt it before I was even born. She didn't share that with me until I was already preaching. How do I know that she felt it way back then? Because she had written it down then and put it away and took it out to show me only after her feeling was confirmed.

In SO many ways, I wish it hadn't taken so long. I feel the waste of years I can never recover. I'd love to have spared myself some needless agony. But, then, I also feel that the way it happened has worked out for the best. Maybe it was the right time?

#4 -- My Journey Out: What About the Women?

My first kiss was in Kindergarten when Kristie Holstein kissed me once when our teacher was out of the room. It completely surprised and shocked me. Kristie and I did end up being "together" off-and-on through third grade.

Except that that story from Scott's past, told now and then, isn't really the truth. Because there is a story from preschool Sunday school class back in Miami, OK. I kissed a boy. And got in trouble. I was told that bad men did that and not to ever do that again. And it was a long, long time before I did. That's the story I should have been telling of my "first kiss" all these years.

In late elementary when classmates started "going together," it never worked out for me. In Junior High I couldn't get dates like other people did. Even in high school, I never dated, though I asked plenty of girls out.

As I got older and heard about all the pre-sexual and sexual encounters that straight and gay friends had when they were children or early adolescents, I was shocked. That just hadn't been a part of my world at all. I think things sexual were such a taboo in the world I grew up in, and I was a good kid who tried to live the way the adults in my life expected me to. I've said often that I think my sexual development was ten years behind other people's because of the influence of conservative Christianity in my upbringing. Those years in Junior High and High School I agonized daily over whether I was a Christian because I was having these thoughts and feelings that I was taught a Christian shouldn't have. If I got aroused, I felt guilty of mortal sin. Much less the confusion when my sexual fantasies were about guys. I kept thinking that maybe because I hadn't had any experiences with women that I was messed up and that once I had dated then I'd be okay.

I never was all that lucky with women. Between the ages of 19 and 29 I had only four genuine relationships. The second one lasted two weeks in 1996. The third lasted three months in 2000. And the fourth lasted four months in 2003. The first was the serious one. It lasted two and one half years while I was in college and included us getting engaged and then breaking up my senior year. In between these were various girls I went out with a few times but never considered girlfriends. Even that list I could count on one hand. I spent most of my twenties very, very lonely.

I had just not had a relationship of any kind before college and so much of that one was exploring being with someone else. Neither of us had ever dated anyone before, so the process of holding hands, kissing, etc. was very innocent and slow. We never did anything I'd even remotely consider sexual, even after we were engaged. But then we were good baptist kids!

What was this relationship about, then? Friendship, companionship, affection? I loved her. And still think that that was a genuine feeling. But I now know how different that feeling was from authentic, passionate, love.

We were sitting in his car outside his parents house in early March. "Now I know what everyone else has always been talking about all these years. This is so much more powerful than anything I've ever experienced. I thought I'd experienced passion before, but I hadn't. I thought I'd experienced love before, but I hadn't. I don't even recognize myself with you."

I meant that as a good thing. Any doubt, any confusion, any question I had quickly disappeared when John and I got together. Then all those years before seemed, in so many ways, wasted. Years that I could have been pursuing meaningful relationships that might have worked for me. What took so long?

#3 -- My Journey Out: A Revelation

Matt's response was that he never thought I'd have the balls to do it.

Matt himself had come out, at least to me, our sophomore year in college. We were roommates for three years. The director of admissions had put us in the same room because we were both leaders in our high schools. And we worked well as roommates, so we stayed together.

Our room that year was your basic square. In the SW corner was the door; the bathroom door in the NW corner. The bunkbed was along the north wall, perpendicular to it at the mid-point. Matt's stuff was on the west side, mine on the east. I was sitting in the bean bag on my side of the room when he told me. I don't remember what had precipitated him telling me in that moment. A few months before, the school had discovered that our friend Sean was gay. We had been through months of fighting with university administration. Also, one of our suitemates had moved to another room over the whole ordeal. So we'd been having lots of conversations about the topic in recent months. I guess Matt was finally ready to really deal with it (he had dated seven girls our freshman year).

That time and process with Matt was tough. I wasn't prepared for it at all. As friends we had walked that journey, and I now wanted him to be the first person to know about me.

Back in November after my day of private retreat, when I had prayed and meditated on the topic for hours, I left feeling tranquil and joyful. If I hadn't had plans that night I probably would have called John that afternoon. Instead, I went to see two of my youth play football, and the whole time I was in this great mood. The mood persisted the next day as I went to dinner at the Lucketts' (I had just recruited them to teach in the youth Sunday school). I was bursting with excitement, and it's a wonder I didn't tell people then.

That night I woke up in the middle of the night. I can't do this. What was I thinking. Glad I didn't do anything stupid.

But it wouldn't go away. So for the rest of November I pondered the question.

What I had felt during the day of prayer seemed right. My anxieties and fears were what seemed wrong. Should I talk to someone? Who? Marty I decided. At Thanksgiving, when we would all be home in Shawnee. As the days played out I spent time with Marty, but there were always other people around, and I wanted to have this conversation in private. I wanted his input, his blessing. We never did get to talk then.

The Vickreys hold an open house every year in December for all of the church members. It is a fun event, with great snacks. Sharon wanted me to come stay for most of it so that I could get to know more church members in an informal setting. Most of the day I stood at the door taking coats. I left a little early in order to make it home by seven p.m. so that I could watch Angels in America on HBO. I hurried home. When I got in, I turned the tv on, changed the channel to HBO and . . . nothing. The image was blurred and the sound was garbled. Try the other HBO channels. The same. Except for the Spanish-language. I called the cable company. Having some problem with the line. I watched for about 30 minutes in Spanish (I don't speak Spanish) but gave up and went to bed.

Luckily they played the first three hours over many times that week, and I watched them over and over again. I watched the second three hours the next Sunday night. And I've seen the whole thing or parts of it multiple times since. Every time it's on tv, I watch part of it. And I own a copy and watch it now and then.

The Angels in America film, based on Tony Kushner's play, was simply a revelation. I identified with the characters. And I was inspired. Words are inadequate to describe the feelings I get watching this film.

Sitting in my house in mid-December 2003 I watched the final installment. In the closing scene, it is five years after the main action and some of the major characters are meeting. Prior speaks directly into the camera giving this benediction:

We are not going away.
We will not die secret deaths anymore.
The world only spins forward.
We will be citizens. Time has come.

Bye now.
You are fabulous, each and every one.
And I bless you.
More life.
The Great Work begins.

I stood up from the couch and knew that I had the courage to do this.

#2 -- My Journey Out: Beginnings

The night before everyone kept asking when I was leaving to drive home for Christmas. "I'm going to try to leave by 6 a.m.," I would say. The women at church always responded with looks of concern. The men just kinda nodded with the acknowledgment that that was early. "Yeah that's why I'm going to rush right out after the second service," I'd say next. We have two Christmas Eve services.

Six a.m. was early. I'd been up for an hour getting cleaned up and finishing my packing. All the gifts were already in the car. I wasn't sure how long the drive would be, probably close to six hours, so I was trying to get there by noon. I hate arriving late to a family get-together. I hate being the one everyone is waiting on.

The day before I had spent mostly alone, until I went up to the church in the afternoon to help get things ready. I had spent the day cleaning the house and getting it ready for my return. I'd put the flannel sheets on the bed because they are so warm, and they make me feel like I'm being hugged. I had also got everything I could packed into the car in order to make the morning go more quickly.

Close to six I was cleaned up and dressed and the car was ready. I turned down the thermostat, left open the doors on the kitchen and bathroom sinks, took one look around and paused for a moment. When I returned all would be different.

Back in October I'd seen him again. He came to town for the weekend to spend time with his sister Sarah and her husband Lucas. They invited me to hang out with them that weekend.

I had a youth Halloween Party that Saturday night. I went dressed as "the Paint Nazi," a name the kids started calling me on the mission trip that previous summer because I'm such a stickler for painting properly. When I got to Lucas and Sarah's I changed clothes. I had brought my nice jeans and a nice shirt. Why? We were just sitting around the apartment, not even going out to do anything.

John was there; that's why. John supposedly had a crush on me. Sarah had said for years that she wanted to set me up with her brother, that we were perfect for each other. The only problem was that I was "straight" (she would have said it with the quotes). Back in the spring of 2001 I had met John for the first time at Sarah's apartment, when she and Kelli Kiser lived right next door to my house in Shawnee. At that time, I was preparing to move from Shawnee to Fayetteville. John laughs about how unattractive my outfit was that night we met -- Star Trek t- shirt, shorts that he thought were too short (though he admitted that's what folk were wearing then), and Tevas (which he doesn't like).

But why was I now dressing up for this guy? That thought bothered me for weeks.

So, on Christmas morning I was finally headed north for Miami and Grandpa's house for Christmas with the family. But all I was thinking about as I drove was John. I'd specially picked the music for the drive -- Elton John, Indigo Girls, Rufus Wainwright, etc. You see, John was coming to visit the weekend after Christmas. In two days I'd be driving back to Dallas, and John would be there that evening. For the five hours of the drive, that's all I could think about.

The Tuesday before Christmas it looked as if John wasn't going to come to Dallas. Originally, he was coming for the weekend to stay with Lucas and Sarah and to hear me preach that Sunday. On Tuesday Lucas and Sarah found out that they'd have to leave town for the weekend and go with Lucas' family to a wedding in Arizona. I was excited, because this solved my problem really. I had been wondering how I'd get a chance to talk to John if he was at Lucas and Sarah's. Now all I'd have to do was invite him to go ahead and come for the weekend and stay at my house.

That Tuesday night Sarah and Lucas came over to my house. We were sitting in the living room chatting casually when Sarah said, "You're being cruel. You know John has a crush on you and now you've invited him to stay the weekend with you." I said, "I'm not trying to be cruel." The conversation went on its way. Then they were getting ready to go when I said again "I'm not trying to be cruel, about John." Sarah looked at me. I then added, "I want to explore the possibility of a relationship with him."

Lucas was getting up about to leave and when he heard that said, "I guess we're staying. How about a drink?" So I told them the whole story.

After John's October visit I couldn't get him out of my mind. Clearly I was attracted to him and had been the previous times we'd met. He was attracted to me, at least this is what I had heard and sensed. What did this mean? And what was I going to do about it?

For years I'd told myself stories. The story of late was that I was bisexual, but was going to act on my (minimal) attraction to women because that was easier. There was some point in every single day for most of the last decade that I had rehashed this conversation in my head. Why did I have to go through it every day?

Because I think I really did know the truth. I knew that my earliest memories of sexual feelings were homoerotic. I knew that my sexual fantasies had been about men since I had begun to develop sexually in late childhood. I knew that I spent most of my adolescence racked with guilt over my sexual desires and worked as hard as I could to repress them. I knew . . . There was so much I really, really knew, but I was working so hard to deny it and live the way I was expected to.

Now faced with my attraction for John, the old stories weren't working anymore.

By mid-November I realized that there was no way I was going to avoid "this" this time. Finally I had to deal with my sexuality.

Mid-November I took a day of private retreat. There are these church members who have a gorgeous home in the Southern style. The foyer has these heavy antique English doors with brass knobs. The living room has huge comfy leather chairs and big windows that look out over the lake. When I first moved to Dallas they offered their home for private retreat space anytime I needed to get away.

Sitting in the living room of that house I prayed and meditated and thought. What was I considering? "Am I gay?," I wondered. What would happen to my life? My family? My job? Everything and everyone around me? Hours I prayed about this, spending a good deal of the time lying prostrate on the floor.

Finally I felt a peace and tranquility. Maybe what I was about to go through would be a "dark night of the soul," but I had this sense that it would be a positive transformation for me and for other people. I left there that afternoon with an overwhelming joy.

When I told her all of this, Sarah was thrilled. She was so happy for me and so happy for John. For years she had wanted us together. She said she wouldn't say anything to him, but that she would want to hear all when they got back from Arizona.

My drive to Miami didn't seem like five and one-half hours. I was in ecstasy the whole way. I kept rehearsing what I would say to him. I kept imagining how the weekend would play out. I kept dreaming about the possibilities for the future. I was hopeful that a year from then we would be making this drive together.

Christmas with the family was weird. To think what might happen within the next year. How would they respond? Would I even be spending another Christmas with my family? Would I have a family left in another year? I stayed a couple of days longer than everyone else in order to spend time with grandpa and his wife. At the time I figured that would be the last time I'd get to spend with them like that.

My high school friends and I hung out one day. I got to see Amie's new baby boy. It had been almost a year since I'd seen any of these friends, so we were doing a lot of catching up. They wanted to hear all about the break-up with the girlfriend that had occurred months before. As I recounted this story, Jason started talking about my miserable record with women. "Have you tried being gay?," he asked. I almost didn't know how to respond, but just smiled.

The drive back to Dallas was just like the drive to Miami. I never got bored; all I was thinking about was John. When I got home, I put the finishing touches on cleaning the house. Here I was, about to take this major step into a new life. Everything was about to change.

We were watching The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. I pushed pause on the DVD player and turned to him, "I want to explore the possibility of a relationship with you." That's what I'd rehearsed. It was both the opening line and the closing line of what took most of an hour to say. I explained my sexual history, my confusion, my excitement, my worries about the future, my desires, what had happened since I'd seen him last. I asked him if he wanted to take all that on, with all the risk, becasue if so I wanted to explore that possibility with him.

He said he did. But we had to go get Tums because he was now so nervous that his stomach was upset. Once we were in the car headed for the convenience store, I reached over and touched his hand and started caressing it and had the most amazing feelings I'd ever had.

After he left that weekend I called my old college roommate, Matt. "I'm dating someone," I said. "His name is John."

#1 -- My Journey Out: Introduction

So I've been publicly out for a few weeks now. Actually, it was published on the internet and a matter of public record on March 24. I assume that anyone who reads this site regularly already knows (especially if they read the sermon I preached at CoH), but I had planned to wait to explicitly talk about it until last Friday out of respect for carrying out my current duties. But I also didn't want to leave Dallas completely without beginning to share my story. This post and the one following were up for one hour last Friday morning, but I took them back down and waited till tonight.

The post that is about to follow I wrote the first draft of in early January and have had it waiting for the right time to use it. My favourite series on this blog have been the stories I have told from my past. The name of the blog is MyQuest: My Thoughts on Life's Journey. Since the blog's inception, I have not been sharing openly all of my journey. I wish I had been able to, but I don't regret the last year. In fact, I think telling these stories in retrospect will be better. I can more easily reflect upon them and structure them into more of a narrative.

Beyond the first post, I have ideas of what I want to write about, but how I write about it will be difficult. I won't be able to share every detail. I want to protect friends and family and colleagues, because this was a journey of lots of people. How to write about the difficult moments without hurting someone, especially when someone's initial reaction might not be their settled position? Some of those stories may have to wait to be written and published years from now.

You've heard the stories of my faith journey. You've heard the stories of my journey as a minister so far. You've heard the stories of my political journey. Now hear the story of my journey out.

I'm really looking forward to this.

My Youth Ministry Benediction

The following were my last formal ministerial words as a youth minister, delivered at last night's End-of-Year Youth Banquet:

On Wednesday night, I was using movies, poems, music, and novels to illustrate the basic theological themes that have guided my ministry here. I want to call you back to the image from Les Miserables. Valjean has stolen the bishop's silver, yet the bishop protects Valjean and gives him even more silver. This is the essence of what it means to be a Christian. As I have said, the purpose of youth ministry is not to create polite citizens. The purpose of youth ministry is to create radicals. Because Christianity is not about a list of things to do or not do; it is not about rules. Christianity is about completely and radically re-shaping community.

So, this is where the great adventure myths come in. Because the one virtue most needed is courage. Faith, hope, and love are only platitudes and sentiments without courage.

Therefore, my benediction to you all is: be not afraid. May you have the courage to live as Jesus--to live as a radical.

The Blessing that is Royal Lane

Now I'll try to write the post that I had planned to write last Wednesday night (I actually wrote the following post early morning last Friday).

The last few weeks have been pretty incredible. Over-the-top wonderful, in fact. In so many ways I have finally gotten to live the life I wanted to in Dallas. To be completely open and honest has been refreshing. A blessing.

Of course we wondered how the announcement of my resignation would go over, because of all the other issues involved. The last two Wednesday nights we've had more youth present than we have had in months. After youth group last week a handful of us went out to dinner. Natalie explained that she had figured "it" out and that they all had and that the parents had talked and that "nobody cares" were her words.

Within two days of my announcement lunch and dinner booked for the next two weeks. As I sit down to lunch with these church members they want to hear all about the new church and the process that took me to CoH. Then they want to hear all the back story. Some express sadness that they didn't get to share in the journey. I've had to do a lot of explaining as to why I didn't tell them. Others rejoice in the fact that Royal Lane provided an opportunity for me to explore who I really am.

Last week it was wonderful to stand in the pulpit one last time and to then celebrate communion.

I hear that the one effort to make an issue of it was dealt with successfully by church leadership. For that I was very grateful and very proud.

So for weeks now I've been floating. That's all the more reason I got so angry on Wednesday, but I don't want to talk about that anymore.

Because Royal Lane has been an amazing blessing to me. Royal Lane blessed me beginning six years ago when I met Tim Youmans and received his ministry. Royal blessed me as I got to know their folk while I was in Fville. And it was SO exciting when they said they wanted me as their youth minister, even if I did tell them "no" at first. What an honour to come here. What an honour to really develop as a minister here.

And what an honour to have lived through the last few weeks.

Benedict XVI

This morning during my walk, I was enjoying the useless activity of speculating on the College of Cardinals. No one knows what's going on or what they are thinking. But it is fun to act like you can figure it out. I thought that if we got a pope today it would be Ratzinger. I figure the early favourite gets a few ballots to see if they can build the supermajority before his voters start moving to other candidates. So I feel pretty good about my speculation. But I still didn't think he'd get it.

I'm disappointed. For a decade I've been an Arinze fan and had hoped for some sort of bold step. I must say that Cardinal Ratzinger scares me a little bit. I'm afraid he will head the church in an even more conservative direction, backing even further away from the gains of Vatican II.

But I will have to give him a chance. We'll see. So, God's blessing upon Benedict XVI.

Judicial Activism

Good NY Times editorial criticizing the conservative's recent attack on judges. An excerpt:

The classic example of conservative inconsistency remains Bush v. Gore. Not only did the court's conservative bloc trample on the Florida state courts and stop the vote counting - it declared its ruling would not be a precedent for future cases. How does Justice Scalia explain that decision? In a recent New Yorker profile, he is quoted as saying, with startling candor, that "the only issue was whether we should put an end to it, after three weeks of looking like a fool in the eyes of the world." That, of course, isn't a constitutional argument - it is an unapologetic defense of judicial activism.
When it comes to judicial activism, conservative judges are no better than liberal ones - and, it must be said, no worse. If conservatives are going to continue their war on the judiciary, though, they should be honest. They do not want to get rid of judicial activists, a standard that would bring down even Justice Scalia. They want to rid the courts of judges who disagree with them.