n the past I recall seeing posts about National Coming Out Day on social media and having a plethora of mixed feelings. In some ways I was annoyed – annoyed that someone would share things that appeared to only seek attention. I was in denial – denial that such a day even needed to exist and that an event like coming out deserved to be acknowledged. I was afraid – afraid that no matter how hard I had tried my entire life to change my thoughts, desires, and attractions that I was just like the people I was reading about. In many ways I was jealous – jealous that these “out and proud” gays were allowed, even encouraged, to simply live authentically and to be themselves.
At the same time, I was also inspired – inspired by the bravery and courage these individuals exhibited to live their truth no matter the consequences. Over what seems like a lifetime, these mixed feelings created a gap in who I am and who I appeared to be. And that gap became incredibly hard to sustain as the months and years passed.
As a boy I was taught in church to live a certain way, to follow certain rules. And that in order to succeed, to reach my eternal potential and become the best version of myself I needed to follow a certain prescription and formula to be truly happy and experience joy, satisfaction, and lasting fulfillment. This ideal and ultimate end I was trying to reach became a never-ending cycle that led to emotional turmoil, feelings of inadequacy and failure, and forms of fear, anxiety, and depression that is still difficult to explain. It formed layer upon layer of repressed thoughts, feelings, and denial that motivated me to make decisions that would affect the lives of others.
But on May 2, 2018 that all changed. My then wife of nearly ten years called me at work and said “Cameron, I found something on the iPad. Do you want to tell me anything?” My heart sank and I knew exactly what she was talking about. For years prior to this moment I would satisfy my urges and attractions by secretly and silently looking at gay pornography on the internet. It wouldn’t happen very often or for very long. Maybe once every 4-7 months, sometimes even once a year. And every time it happened the intensity of guilt and shame I felt was enough to motivate me to try even harder to avoid it going forward. It wasn’t fair to her. And in retrospect, it wasn’t fair to me. There were even times over the course of our marriage when she would ask me “Cameron, are you gay?” And I would never have the courage, maturity, or awareness to admit it. I was convinced that I was just weak and needed to try harder to change. This time, I had had enough. I was defeated. I was tired. And for the first time I admitted to myself that if I was able to change this part of myself, it would have happened by now.
“We can talk about it when I get home,” I replied. I hurried and hung up the phone and felt my whole world start to shake. I got home from work and waited for her in our bedroom to return from taking our kids to piano lessons at her mom’s. When she got home I texted her to meet me in the bedroom. She walked in, shut the door, and looked at me waiting for me to speak. I immediately started to sob. And for the first time I said those three words out loud, “I am gay.” Her reaction and the conversation that followed was too sacred, too personal, and too loving to share. But I will forever be grateful for her grace, understanding, and kindness shown to me in our bedroom that night. Of all the ways she could have responded she immediately chose love.
At that time her and I became fully committed to making our marriage work and were convinced that if we continued to follow the church-prescribed formula, to follow the rules we were both raised to believe in and whole-heartedly commit to that we would be blessed, happy, and satisfied in a mixed-orientation marriage. That never happened. In fact, the depression, anxiety, feelings of inadequacy and failure all but multiplied. As time continued on it became harder and harder to find joy and live with unconditional love. We had created three beautiful kids together and thank goodness for them. But they became witness to countless arguments, screaming, and slammed doors. I began to realize that no matter what she or I did it wasn’t enough. I knew she deserved better. I knew I deserved better. And so did our kids.
On May 12, 2019 – Mother’s Day – we both woke up following an exhausting day of arguing and talking about our future and together decided that the best path forward for us and our kids was a divorce. Once again, the details surrounding that conversation and the almost tangible feelings in our bedroom that morning are hard to put into words. It was heart breaking, crushing, even defeating in some ways. But there was so much peace. So much love. Navigating divorce since hasn’t always been pretty. Learning to co-parent has been hard. And those initial feelings of peace and love moving forward didn’t last forever. Divorce and grief are hard no matter how right of a decision it may be. It can be bitter. And it can be ugly. I knew that day from that moment forward my life would never be the same.
And it hasn’t been.
To say these last 18 months since my divorce have been a journey of discovery is a total understatement. I have gone through stages of grief I never knew existed. Grief for a woman I loved with all that I could give, knowing it was not enough. Grief for a life – a future – that I was taught to seek, imagined having, and fought so hard to build since I was a child. Grief and anger towards a god I believed in. A god I had so much faith in, committed to serving, and in return expecting Him to change something in myself I believed was wrong and evil. Grief for the “normal” life I expected my kids to have with me as their father. And all sorts of guilt and shame for the choices I had made throughout my life in my denial and refusal to accept a major part of my identity.
These feelings were incredibly hard to face. Sometimes they still are. But one thing I have come to learn in my experience is that feelings are for feeling. And if parts of them ever resurface there Is no point to ignore them. I sit with them. I feel them. And then I let them pass. Because that is what happens when we let ourselves feel things. The feeling doesn’t last forever. It eventually ends. It passes. And it’s in those moments when a true change in me was finally able to occur. I realized that there is nothing wrong with the way I feel, the way I was created, and the natural desires I ignored and denied myself my entire life. I noticed all the good that existed in my life, in my personality, my work ethic, my relationships, my parenting, etc. because I am gay. For the first time in my life I learned to love who I am and always was. And my perspective shifted.
On November 8, 2019, almost six months post-divorce, I made the decision to publicly come out. Something in my mind I never imaged doing. But because I had spent so much energy throughout my life creating a gap between who I am and who I appeared to be I felt it was necessary. And I am so glad I chose to do so. Letting go of the weight on my shoulders has been so freeing. No longer having to pretend to be someone or something else has been more liberating than I know how to put into words. Letting those in my life truly see me for the first time was such an exhale of emotions.
Since my divorce, my ex-wife has already remarried. I am beyond happy for her and excited that she now gets to be loved the way she always wanted in a way she always dreamed of and deserves, a way that I could never give her. I’ve come to realize that perhaps letting her go, as hard as it was on so many levels, was the kindest thing I could have done in the situation we were in.
I am excited and grateful I get to now do the same. And it feels so good to be free to do so. I’m incredibly grateful we were together while we were in order to get our three kids here. They were meant to be here on this earth and if I did not make the choices I did, regardless of the ideas and beliefs and denial I was in that motivated my decisions throughout my life they would not be here. I have come to believe that that was the point of it all. And now they get to experience even more as their mom moves on and brings more people into their lives to love and care for them like her and I do.
The events since May 2018 have definitely flipped my three kids’ world upside down. But they have navigated these changes better than anyone expected. I have noticed they are not afraid to ask questions, to seek to understand, and that they want to learn. Instead of asking me to read a bedtime story at night when I tuck them in bed, I’m met with requests of “Dad, can you lay by me and talk?” And we do! They ask me about boys and being gay, about the divorce, about God and church, and all sorts of things. Over the last year and a half, we have been able to learn and connect in ways that have only brought us closer together as a family, and as their father.
Since coming out I have been able to experience connection, intimacy, and love in ways I never imagined. Ways I never felt in my marriage. And these experiences have felt more real, more natural, and more divinely designed than I ever expected.
I came across a phrase recently that hit home with me: The past is practice. And it certainly has been. It wasn’t a waste. It wasn’t for nothing. It has a purpose. Now when I think of National Coming Out Day I think of all the people – particularly the men and women in marriages like mine, the young teenagers feeling trapped in a culture or religion that actively preaches against them, and all the fear and anxiety I once lived with. And I am reminded of a scene in the film Love, Simon where Jennifer Garner is sitting with her son on the couch after finding out he is gay and she says, “You can exhale now, Simon.”
Why should we encourage, support, and celebrate a day like today? Because every single human on this planet deserves to exhale. To live and feel safe in their own skin. We need this day so we all have the opportunity to truly see, love, and accept people exactly as they are. All of us are here to practice authenticity, to cultivate the courage to be imperfect and vulnerable, and to learn the greatest lesson of all: Love always wins.