Thursday, November 11, 2010

One year out

One year ago from today was a day unlike anything I've ever experienced. I felt emotions I've never felt before. It was a day I will never forget. It's been 365 days since I let the world know another part of who I am. A secret I had been holding onto for too long. That secret was that I'm a gay man.

I've been extremely blessed in life. I was fortunate to be brought into a happy and loving family. But at the same time, I've had such a challenging life. Growing up in the Mormon church, obviously there have been some conflicts with my sexuality. I tried to live in denial for as long as humanly possible. But it got to a point where my mind was too exhausted to function properly. I have one side of me telling me I'm gay and this is who I am, and another side of me telling me I can change and that being gay is wrong and being gay is a sin. Do you know what that does to a person? I do. It's called depression.

One of the hardest things for me in my life before I came out was being around friends, family, or random strangers, and hearing them bash on gay people. To hear their feelings about me was like a dull, rusty knife through my heart. I just want to let you all know now, that hearing those negative things left a deep permanent scar. So please be careful about the things you say about other people. You never know who will hear your words, and you never know how many hearts you'll break. Be kind. You may not understand why someone lives the way they do, or why someone likes the things they do. Just because someone likes or does something differently than you doesn't mean you can tear them down. I'll admit, I still struggle with this. There are people I just don't understand. Just today I was at the mall and I saw a guy wearing black leather pants, a netted tank top and a red feather boa. My immediate thought that passed through my mind was... "What a weirdo". But I immediately erased that thought and made a conscious decision to not judge the guy. Who am I to judge someone else for who they are and the way they dress? In fact, I told myself "Wow, that guy has awesome confidence to wear something like that in public. Good for him." Please make a change in the way you think. I am. Some people like Chinese food, some don't. Some people have brown hair, some don't. Some people have an interest in politics, some don't. Some people get up for work at 6:00 A.M., some don't. Some people are attracted to the opposite sex, some aren't. The point is, we are all different. We need to stop judging others because they don't live the same way as you do. Our beliefs should not divide us. I hope we can put our differences aside and live peacefully with one another.

It took me about 21 years to accept myself. It took another 3 years to fully accept myself. That's when I decided to come out to the rest of the world. For weeks before I came out, the thought of coming out kept coming to mind. But then I would immediately cast that thought out. What's going to happen to me? What's going to happen to my family? What are people going to think? These are questions I've had for years and years and years. When I was younger, I always imagined what it would be like to not have to hide. But I honestly never thought I would EVER get there. I envied those that were out and cringed at the thought of having to come out myself.

I thought and thought about how I wanted to come out and what the best way to handle it would be. I could tell people face to face, but that would be awkward for both me and the person I was telling. The last thing I wanted to do was to put someone in an uncomfortable position. Should I put it on Facebook? No, I thought. That seems a little weird to come out on a social networking site. But then I kept thinking about it, and it made the most sense to me. To let everyone know in one clean swoop was going to be the best choice. November 11th, 2009 I started writing my feelings. Those feelings ultimately turned into my coming out letter. As I sat there writing, it was pretty easy for me to do. My feelings have been so bubbled up at the surface for so long, they were able to boil over easily onto the computer screen. What wasn't easy was publishing those feelings to everyone. At the time I was living on a tiny rock out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Away from everybody. Isolated. I completed my letter but just sat on the couch in fear. I so badly wanted to hit "publish" and get it over with. I couldn't. I was terrified. I sat there staring at the screen. The letter was typed up and ready to go. I remember the sun was setting and I could see there was a beautiful Hawaiian sunset outside the shutters. My favorite thing in the world. As I sat there, literally shaking, Rusty was by my side letting me know how things will be ok. He was comforting me and telling me how much he loved me and that he would be there for me. At that time I honestly had no idea what relationships I would lose in my life. I thought by doing this it would be the end of many friendships. He talked to me for quite a while. Sharing his own experiences, and giving me words of love and encouragement. Finally, at 5:40 P.M. my time, I slowly dragged my cursor over the "publish" button... and clicked. My body went numb. I turned off my phone, closed my computer, and fell into Rusty's arms and sobbed. I cried harder than I think I've ever cried. The fear was so intense. I felt like it was a dream. My body felt like it was slowly lifting out of itself and hovered about 3 feet above me. The feeling was pretty indescribable. I laid there crying, not really knowing what to do or what to expect. The sky still pink and orange from the sunset... I remember feeling a feeling of inner peace. After I cried myself out, Rusty decided it would be best to get out of the house. He took me a mile down the street from our house to have dinner out on the patio at The St. Regis Hotel. It was the hardest but best night of my entire life.

When I returned home, fear immediately overcame me. I was now around my phone and laptop. I didn't want to look at my Facebook page or turn on my phone. I was fearing the worst. I put it off for a while, but couldn't take it any longer. When I logged onto my Facebook, I was so overcome with loving and supportive messages from so many people. I sat there reading the messages and cried. I instantly knew that coming out on Facebook, even though I had doubts about it, was the best decision for me. To see email after email of love was exactly what I needed. I still have those messages. And they mean the world to me.

There is so much I have been through. I have come a long way. It's been a rocky road, but I believe it's made me a stronger person. Life is difficult when you're constantly discriminated against. And for something you can't control. I want you to know that being gay IS NOT a choice. I'm tired of people saying you choose to be gay. You absolutely do not. Why would I choose a life that's extremely difficult? Why would I choose this life in which people discriminate you and don't give you equal rights? I chose to be gay as much as you chose to be tall, or short. Or male or female. God doesn't make mistakes. He didn't make a mistake when creating me. And he didn't make a mistake creating you. I want anyone who may be reading this who is struggling with this issue to know that you can talk to me without fear. I know how important it is to have someone in the same shoes to talk to. I have a great group of friends who helped me along the way and I'm very thankful for them. Just know that I'm here if you need me. And also know that things do get better. Despite what you're telling yourself. I wish I could go back to my teenage self and tell him things will be ok. Time heals all wounds.

I love you all. And thank you for loving me for who I am, and not what I am.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tanner - You brought back a lot of memories from one year ago that I had let fade. I am so happy to have been fortunate enough to stand by you during the difficult time you faced. Even better has been seeing you develop and mature into a more confident and assured man since then.

You will always have the love of others as long as you love yourself. God has big plans for you, keep your head on straight and know that you are loved.


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