Coming Out: The Other Side of the Coin

I recently came across this article through one of my friends. The love and compassion of this man brought me to tears, and brought back a wave of memories.

Michael was one of my closest friends during high school, and we grew even closer the summer after we graduated. We were the best of friends. We had inside jokes about silly things. We spent at least one night a week just hanging out, and countless hours talking on the phone, even after seeing each other earlier that night. Our families were close friends. He was the only male allowed into my room with the door closed. We shared another bond in our Catholic faith.

We talked about dating at one point during the summer, and decided against it. I valued Michael as a friend far too much to potentially destroy that through dating. He had been accepted to the University of Washington, and I attended the local community college that Autumn. Michael was in the Air Force ROTC program that year, and he enjoyed the sense of community that it fostered. We still talked frequently, and remained very close.

One night, Michael called me, and he sounded both upset and nervous. I will never, ever, forget this conversation.

Michael: I have something to tell you, and I’m not sure how you’re going to react.
Me: Okay…
Michael: I just hope, that no matter what, we will always be friends.
Me: Michael, you could have killed someone, and it wouldn’t matter. I will love you no matter what. You’re my best friend.
Michael: *deep breath* I… I’m gay.

I was immediately thrown into a whirlwind of emotions. I was honored that he trusted and loved me enough to tell me, even though he knew how deeply I believed in the Catholic teachings about homosexuality. My heart ached for him, and I immediately understood how hard this had to be for him to reconcile with his own Catholic faith. I knew that this was the beginning of a huge struggle for him, both internally and externally with his family and other friends. I understood that my new role as his best friend was as his cheerleader, advocate, and unwavering supporter.

I was also angry. I was absolutely livid that through the church, I had been taught to believe that homosexuals were sexual deviants, depraved beings who could only be reconciled through denying their feelings and never acting on their attractions. How could my best friend, someone that I trusted and loved, be a bad person, just because he was attracted to the same gender? It just didn’t make sense.

In that moment, I started questioning my faith, and a lot of the Catholic teachings I had internalized. If I knew in my heart that they were wrong about this, then what other things had I learned that were just as wrong?

I am not sure exactly what I said after Michael came out to me. I’m sure that I was awkwardly supportive, and I probably said something ridiculous. When we ended the conversation, I hoped that my reaction had given him the courage to continue this brave journey. I’m not sure if it did, but I continued being supportive and encouraged him as he told his family and his other friends. Some people were immediately accepting, and others had to take some time to get used to the idea. In the end, the people who honestly and truly cared about Michael have become his biggest supporters, myself included. Michael is entirely responsible for helping me to become a more loving and compassionate person. Though the years have brought both physical and an emotional distance I still feel honored to be counted among his friends.

I know that it has been a long hard road for Michael, but he has blossomed into a pillar in the Seattle gay community. He is thriving, and although I haven’t been there to see most of it, I couldn’t be prouder of the person he has become. His alter ego, DonnaTella Howe was recently crowned Miss Gay Seattle 2012.  Through this title, DonnaTella has been a driving force in gay rights and equal treatment in Seattle.

I love you, Michael, and I am so fiercely proud of you that it almost hurts. I am honored to be a part of your story.

Posted on April 16, 2012, in Personal Stories, Sex Positive and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I remember running across that same article about a year ago and being so inspired by it that I shared it right away.

    Thank you for sharing this experience with your readers. I’m actually quite surprised to learn that you weren’t always so open to the LGBTQ community. But once it’s introduced to you, it really does change your perspective, doesn’t it? I also wasn’t aware that you were (are?) Catholic. I know that we went to the same high school and therefore grew up in the same town for awhile, and I’m curious to know whether or not we went to the same church. Perhaps it was because I didn’t fully pay attention in church, or maybe it was because I went to different Masses than you did, but I have to say I was extremely lucky that the “homosexuals are sexual deviants” message never stuck with me. I never remembering hearing it or learning about it. What I learned through the church was to practice love and acceptance in order to practice a more God-like existence. And really, who are we to judge? We’re not God.

    But I digress. And I fully know, especially after reading your post, that you would never be the type of person to shun someone just because they happened to be attracted to the same sex. I also wonder…do you still practice Catholicism? (If you have the time, feel free to read my Easter Sunday blog post. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, because it touches on the same subject.)

    I’m also so happy to learn that people are working to change the shunning of the LGBTQ community in Catholic churches. Recently, a friend of mine, admittedly outspoken and quite liberal, shared this article on his Facebook page:

    http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2012/04/09/archbishop-turns-every-seattle-mass-into-an-anti-gay-political-rally

    He was infuriated by the article, using choice expletives when it came to describing these people who “shoved religion down people’s throats.” I, however, took a different approach to the article. I saw an extremely bright glimmer of hope. I’d like to share with you how I responded to his FB post:

    ‎1) I’m so happy to read that this archbishop’s stance “angers local Catholics.” This means that the archbishop’s stance is not necessarily the stance of the whole Catholic church.
    2) Good for Guzzo for seeing this as a call to action to form Catholics for Marriage Equality in Washington. I hope that more people look at THAT action and other actions within the church that preach about what Jesus would preach: love and acceptance. Unfortunately, people tend to point the finger at the person that’s making everyone else look bad.
    3) (and perhaps most importantly), I think it is FREAKING AWESOME that the crazy anti-gay group is called NOM. Irony at its finest. :)
    Oh, and 4) I’m so proud to see that the Seattle Archdioses has “long [been] considered a font of progressive thinking and social conscience.” That gives me hope.

    I reread this article today and saw the update about St. James Cathedral, and that gives me yet more hope…hope that we as humans are intelligent and compassionate enough to question whether what we’re being taught is wrong. I’m really hoping for change to come about, and I think Guzzo and Ryan’s actions are a wonderful start.

    I must say I share the pride you have in Michael. What a long way he’s come, from being nervous about who he is to being a shining example for others to look up to. On a related note, I’m also proud of you for proving yourself to be exactly a good a friend to him as you had been all along. I’m sure he’s just as thankful to have you in his life. :)

    ~Violet~

  2. I too was raised Catholic & did my tour of 8 years in Catholic School. I questioned a lot of it probably b/c it was shoved down my throat. My parents & their entire generation are VERY zealous Christians of differing Christian faiths. Praying for HOURS on end at every family function isn’t knew to me.

    They come from a place where separation of church & state don’t exist. Anyone who deviates from these basic tenets is bound for hell fire & are prayed for constantly to bring about a change of heart. Often I would hear how they’re all going to heaven saved as they accepted Jesus teachings where I questioned them challenged their faith constantly. I have been accused of being possessed by the devil, witchcraft, disowned several times b/c I dared to ask the obvious.

    I am the rebel in my family. I have no problem arguing the bible with them nor am I afraid to walk out disrespectfully when they start preaching hatred toward gays in front of our gay family members alienating them to their faces before they even have a chance to come out or recognize they ARE gay. Why would they come out in an environment to breed fear like this while it is so obvious to all of us which of our cousins are gay & being shoved in the closet! One I feel is pregnant w/his g/f just as a beard to cover up his homosexuality.

    I am proud to hear that parts of the Catholic Church recognize this part of their dogma & teachings are wrong! I was very proud my parish was more progressive than not letting girls altar serve; eventhough, my father being a purist & traditionist wouldn’t allow me to. I myself am not a practicing Catholic. My sister is. My parents pray at home creating an isolated cult of their own. I distance myself from that closed shop of thinking & am sick of it. I’ll endure an Easter Sunday or Christmas & Thanksgiving with them, but I used to volunteer @ soup kitchens partially b/c it felt great to be of service 2nd it was a great excuse NOT to come home to them.

    Where am I going with this? I agree, support your friends & family to come out & prevent them from living the lie that would make them miserable people. My unlce who we all know to be very effeminate chose the closet b/c he is a minister in his own church a leader in his community and one of the eldest in our family. I can’t tell you how many signs from God he so blindly refuses to see as proof that maybe he chose the wrong life & SHOULD be openly gay. Too late though he must think about his wife and remaining children homeschooled & raised under false pretenses. Such a dark & deep rabbit hole we dig for ourselves when we deny our true natures and decide to hide it…

  1. Pingback: Coming Out Still Matters | Nice Girls Like Sex Too

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