Coming Out and My Agony in the Garden
I remember when I decided to come out to my parents. After nearly two years of being in the closet to all but my close school friends and therapist, I choose a family therapy session as the moment I would bring my parents into the circle.
I should back up. Our therapist wasn’t a licensed psychiatrist or secular therapist of any kind. She was a Christian family counselor who met with clients in a church, and displayed no certifications of any kind in her office. Looking back and recognizing the era this took place in, I shouldn’t have been surprised at what she did.
You see, after confiding in her about my ‘secret’ in our first session over a year earlier, she had seemed generally receptive and non-judgmental. She disliked when I used the word ‘queer’ as a self-descriptor, and didn’t seem to understand that it—unlike ‘gay’—wasn’t used in a pejorative sense by schoolyard assholes any longer, but she seemed to genuinely be trying to affirm me.
For weeks leading up to the session I came out in, I informed her of my plan. We met occasionally as a family, but I was her primary client, not my parents, so the family sessions were a rare occurrence and—thinking like an adult concerned for his family—I wanted to make the most of our next group session and wanted my parents to immediately have a therapist available if they needed one to help process their response. She strongly advised me against coming out, but I pushed back at the urging of my friends and the desire towards authenticity deep in my soul.
A Day in Early Winter
It was around Thanksgiving when our family session happened. I remember that because I was hoping to strengthen our sense of gratitude and familial bond.
I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I do remember more or less blurting it out, unable to face my parents when I did, and instead staring deep into the carpet on the floor. I had packed a backpack which I brought into the session with me. It contained some clothes, my sketchbook, and a few other things I considered valuable. If things went horribly, I’d planned to runaway. A friend’s parents had already offered to take me in.
I don’t remember what my mother said, but I remember her disbelief and her anger. I remember my father’s silence. I remember tears. I remember being asked to leave the room for a moment so the therapist could talk to my parents alone.
In a dissociative daze, I made my way into one of the church classrooms next door. I thought about running. I thought about whether or not I regretted saying I was ‘gay’ rather than ‘bisexual’ (my justification was that I thought it would be easier to go with a more familiar term than to give an impromptu Bisexuality 101 class in such a vulnerable moment), or if, as my father had said when another friend had come out, I really was ‘too young’ to know for sure.
Alone With a Painting
I realized in this moment of silence and isolation that a large painting of Jesus praying in the garden hung in the room where I had gone to wait. The weight of that coincidence was excruciating even then. I think I scoffed, feeling as forsaken as this savior reduced to his knees and begging for relief, and feeling as distant from Christ as Jesus must have felt from G-d in that moment.
I had so many questions. And I was so unprepared for the answers. How could you leave me like this? How could you make me like this and punish me for it? Why doesn’t this sin feel wrong like everything else I know to be wrong? Are you even there or am I truly alone?
There were no answers then. There was only silence broken by the appearance of the therapist in the doorway asking me to re-join the session. She presented my parents with an ex-gay conversion manual. Football and contact sports, along with a rubberband to snap on my wrist every time I had a ‘gay’ thought—these were the solutions offered to a recovering self-harmer trying to be an honest Christian and man in his family.
We are yet to speak about the session again. We are yet to speak about my sexuality again. In the following decade, I weathered physical assault by a former lover, depression, addiction, gender dysphoria, and a whirlwind spiritual journey on my own, no parents, no pastor, and no Jesus to turn to. The absence of honesty became us in the name of this homophobic cult that had ensnared us.
But I Have Conquered Hell
Looking back, I see so often in my life and in the lives of other people I know where the absence of G-d is the catalyst for coming home to Her again. Where would I be if I had not gone through all of that?
It’s easy to critique my mentality there and to ask why any god would abandon us or cause any pain whatsoever, but I think the answer to those questions and others like them is in the assumptions we make about gods. G-d is not a wish-granting genie. G-d is not a free doctor, considerate landlord, or wealthy investor. G-d is more a state of consciousness, a state beyond being, beyond form—a brilliance we only catch glimpses of now and then from this world that is the furthest point from Her, us plankton on the fin of Her leviathanic whaleness. Our conditions here are more or less of our own doing. And I have learned to see now that the religion I was raised in, the religion of the churches we attended, and the religion of the therapist who saw my family is not the true religion of Christ, and it is fundamentally flawed in its theology and comprehension of cosmology. Those religions are entirely human delusions and misunderstandings.
In his ministry, Jesus spoke specifically of the people who today we would recognize as gay, queer, or transgender. And through Christ, scripture teaches that these distinctions are no longer needed. To other another, to try and correct another—these are blasphemies to the Holy Spirit and sacrilege committed in the name of Christ Jesus who gathers our souls, each and every one as one whole.
Yes, I have known pain. Yes, I know pain still today. And it is through my pain that I also know the true religion of Christ, and am brought closer to the G-d whose separation from me is the drama of creation emanating from Her sacred mouth. Knowing all this, I can no longer blame G-d for the actions humans choose in the confusion of our separation from Her. Nor can I blame any other human for the mistakes they make struggling to rediscover the path of righteousness, even when they have hurt me, blessed be.
We are so lost sometimes. We are so deluded and so conflicted by the delusions we ensnare one another in.
In my pain I align myself upwards, I take solace in Jesus Christ and a thousand other Christs encountered along the way. I pray for all the lost to find their way to recognizing this path they are already on. Out of my agony, I have come to understand the nature of this world and its disorientation. I have learned to seek Christ without the paternalistic mediums of contemporary Christian culture. Forsaken sons, crucifixion, the conquering of Hell—these are perhaps the guide stones to the path we must each walk to remember our way home.
To use an affirmation I’m found of: even when surrounded in darkness, a seed must believe in sunlight. Every moment of suffering and alienation, every iota of pain has been a blessing, for it is my journey through these moments which has led me closer in homecoming to G-d.
Pat Mosley (NC LMBT #16882) is a licensed massage and bodywork therapist in the Winston-Salem area. His work is rooted in compassionate touch, permaculture, and deep ecology with the resilience of all Earth's children in mind. Connect with him via email to email@example.com