A coming out letter to her family

A young woman has shared with me this letter to her family. What better day to share it than Independence Day?

Dear Family,

I know that I should probably tell you this in person, but I’ve always been so much better on paper.  I have something important to tell you, and I want to ensure that my thoughts are as clear as possible.  We aren’t known for deep family discussions, for which I am glad, so the awkwardness of a family meeting would have been painfully evident. I also have no intention of putting any of you on the spot. Know this: I love each of you more than I can put into words. Please remember that always.

Over the past two years I’ve been wrestling with something very large in my life. There’s no way to ease into this, so I’ll tell you upfront and then try to explain. I’m gay. Now, I don’t know if this shocks you, disappoints you, or angers you, but it’s the truth. I have a feeling that it doesn’t shock you as much as I might think. I’ve felt this way most of my life, but only in the past few years have I come to question what we’ve been taught about this topic.

By the time I realized this about myself, I already knew that it was a very big sin—and it couldn’t be an option. Basically, I learned to ignore it and pray it would go away. I didn’t know how this had happened; when I was younger, I thought I had a demon. As I got older, I decided that it was something I just needed to beat—my test, I thought. So that’s how I’ve lived my life keeping this temptation under control and praying it would go away.

Several things have challenged this over the years, but probably the single most heart-wrenching challenge was watching [name omitted] suffer. Seeing him so desperate to change, but not being able to do so, made me seriously question whether the way he was was really a sin, a temptation to be beaten — or something bigger than simple explanations.  At the time though, I don’t think I ever related this to myself, because I had it so guarded and locked away.

Since then I’ve tried hard to understand what makes some people this way. I’ve read many angles, many sides, several books and hundreds of stories, most of which have dispelled a lot of untruths and half-truths about being gay. I still don’t know that I have any clear cut answers for why some people are this way, but somewhere along the way I realized this isn’t something people choose or control. I do agree that you can choose not to act upon it; I’m a perfect example of that. But I’m also a perfect example of doing all the right things and still feeling the same years later. If it were going to go away, I think it would have gone by now.

After finally being truthful with myself, it was quite another struggle deciding if I wanted to tell anyone. Honestly, at this point in my life, it might be easier to keep it to myself—and believe me, I’ve considered that option many times. I’ve been doing that for a long time, but I just don’t find any legitimate facts that support the belief that being the way I am is anything other than how some people are made. I have no desire to live a life that’s wrong; I think you know that about me. But I also don’t wish to live a life based on unfounded assumptions and misgivings either. I’ve come to realize that, whether or not I ever tell a soul, this is who I am.

To be clear, I’ve always loved my life! I’ve had an amazing life, which made the option of silence all the more tempting. To my benefit, I really do love being by myself, and consider myself lucky for that—it’s made things much easier for me. But as much as I love my life, it’s never been a completely honest life. My intentions were honest—I’ll say that—for I was honestly trying to live the life we’d been taught and believed was right.

I don’t really know where this leaves me. Acknowledging this to myself has been amazing, but it hasn’t changed much about the way I live, or the decisions that I make. It’s given me more compassion for people in general. It’s also made me more comfortable in my own skin, since I’ve stopped hiding from myself. This has given me a confidence that I didn’t realize I was lacking, and I’m thankful for that. In truth, I’ve realized that this is only part of who I am, and not something that necessarily defines me.

I hope you understand that I didn’t make this decision to tell you without a great deal of thought. It’s all but consumed my thoughts for the past two years. In the end, I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t want anyone in this family to be someone they’re not because they were afraid of what others might think. I think we’ve been raised better than that. I also appreciate the fact that I’ve been raised to search for truth. While this probably isn’t the truth you expected me to find, I am a stronger, more honest person because of it.

Whether this shocks you or not, this probably isn’t the easiest thing to hear. I regret deceiving you; I regret deceiving myself, but what I did, I thought was the right thing at the time. I’m not asking you to change your views or your opinions. But I am asking that you give me the benefit of the doubt and know that I didn’t make this decision lightly. I’ll talk about it as much or as little as you want. Know this too: I am even happier now. I never realized how tiring it was to live such a guarded life.

I’ll say it again: I love you all, I love being a part of this family, and moving back here has been the best decision of my life. I hope this doesn’t effect what we have; but know that you are free to respond and react however you feel is right. Again, forgive the letter and the length, but I doubted my ability to do this justice in person.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://lisainbc.blogpost.com Lisa Salazar

    John, thank you for posting this letter. So many people are at a loss to find the words to express things this clearly and honestly. I have no doubt anyone who has struggled to reconcile who and what they are with their faith will find this letter autobiographical, whether they be G, L, B or T.

  • Dave Bowling

    Wow, what a powerful and heartfelt honest letter. I hope that it helps many who struggle with the issue.

    The one line that stuck out to me (in the place where I am at presently) is, “In truth, I’ve realized that this is only part of who I am, and not something that necessarily defines me.” I could not agree more and dislike when I am considered the “gay” this-or-that … that is not how I define myself just like someone is not described as the ‘straight’ this-or-that.

    Thanks for sharing the writer’s letter.

  • Skerrib

    Big like. Thanks John, and thanks to the author for sharing this.

  • A’isha

    I agree with the others who commented. This letter was great! Like Lisa said, I found it very much autobiographical. What I particularly appreciated was the kindness and understanding the author showed his parents. Knowing the rest of the story, or the parts you’ve shared already anyway, I’m so thankful that the author has loving parents who responded compassionately. Much love to him and his family.

  • http://Facebook.com/molinarecords Enrique

    Truly a wonderful coming out letter. I also came out by letter, and see many similarities in this person’s life as are in my own. Being openly gay has changed my life. It’s wonderful!

  • A’isha

    This seems as good a place as any. Here’s an article I read and have been commenting on. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/julyweb-only/gay-marriage-religious-freedom.html

    BTW, I’m the Christian Democrat, but I imagine that’s obvious. :) The comments are where it’s all at. Holy crap, these people are lunatics! This is what we’re up against, my LGBT brothers and sisters and allies. It’s a scary world where the fundies live.

    • http://gaychristiangeek.blogspot.com Rainicorn

      Hahaha, “Godslion Godslion Godslion” calls you “godless, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, an enemy of righteousness”! Maybe I’ve been reading too much of this stuff online, but it’s honestly gotten to the point where my first reaction is to laugh. My second reaction is pity, and my third reaction is dismissal. It doesn’t even bother me how judgmental and ignorant these jackasses are – or rather, it doesn’t bother me for my own sake; obviously it’s horrendous that they’re perpetuating an overall culture of hatred and condemnation that causes some people to feel utterly isolated and rejected (does the recent rash of gay teen suicides mean NOTHING to these people?).

      • A’isha

        That’s the sad part. It doesn’t matter to them that their hatred and discrimination hurt so many people.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          A’isha: You entertaining those fools is like fine lace used as a saddle blanket. Total waste. You’ve got real things to say. Over there, you’re singing opera to tone-deaf pigs. If you’re going to write stuff, write it HERE. Guest post for ME. Over here, people will actually LISTEN to you.

          • Mindy

            Yes! What John said. Those people are loons! I read for a bit, then I felt like my eyes were on fire and had to stop. When I read them, all I see in my head is the newsreel footage of all those righteous people protesting the integration of public schools back in the early ’60s in the south. And I just keep telling myself that when my daughters are my age, they will look back on this time in history and remember, appalled, at the way people used to talk about gays. Or so I pray.

          • A’isha

            Ah, John, this is why I love you! Yeah, I’m done over there. But big thanks to DR and a couple others who stepped in and posted. At least we’ll leave those fundies knowing that there are plenty of people who are love-minded instead of hate-minded.

          • Don Rappe

            Thought you did a good job A’isha. More people read than comment. You came away being and looking like a Christian. Glad you have the energy for it. I think its well not to leave it as though the Christian (or Biblical) position were anti-gay.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ sdgalloway

      This is part of my reply to this over at Thruway Christians, and I thought it would also serve well here. Its tough to try to reason with those who don’t want to hear another view……

      Ignorance is a great perpetrator of lack of understanding, openness to better or new thought, or the discovery of new and wonderful relationships.

      So, we keep trying, picking battles carefully, lovingly, respectfully. We may never sway the minds of those that chose the path of hate, but we can at least present a different way of looking at things, then see what happens.

      Of course this just reminded me of the parable of the sower that Jesus talked about. Don’t worry about the unfruitful grounds, just rejoice in that which takes roots and thrives. I think love, the love commanded of us to share fits that parable so wonderfully. Its less about salvation, and more about the simple acts of love. How best to show the kingdom of God by displaying one of its best attributes..which is of course love?

  • Mindy

    Beautiful!!

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ sdgalloway

    It is a beautiful letter. I hope and pray that this family accepted the news with graciousness and love, and that there is even more unity between each one.

    • Debbie

      If I recall correctly this person was accepted by their family

  • Richard lubbers

    I had a talk about homosexuality with a fundamentalist friend last week. He told me about a gay man who came to him for counseling in order to stay faithful to his partner of 15 years. My friend told me that he informed this man that homosexuality is an abomination to God, according to scripture. My response to that statement was to tell him that, according to that same scripture, wearing clothing made from more than one kind of fiber was also an abomination to God. I said therefore, what I do in wearing a cotton/polyester shirt is as displeasing to God as the sexual acts of his gay client, if you believe scripture the way he does.

    He was flabbergasted! My guess is that he doesn’t remember that part, or he never read it in the first place. In my opinion, the most dangerous person is the one who precedes every doctrinal comment with the words, “My pastor says . . .”

    Most funddies are to afraid of pissing off God to dare to entertain ideas like this. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do in preaching the gospel of love and reconciliation to all people.

  • http://peoplewhodeservehappiness.blogspot.com Joanna Hunter

    Heartfelt, well said. May we soon come to a day when someone’s sexual orientation doesn’t even enter the question.

  • Brent Harland

    John,

    Thanks so much for sharing your letter. It has inspired me to come out and tell those around me this secret I have been keeping for so long!

    Brent

  • http://vacuumsite.info Giovanna Degeorge

    I value the article post.Really thank you! Fantastic.


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