“Forgive, sounds good. Forget, I’m not sure I could.”
That simple line from a song became something of a theme song to me back in the spring of 2007. I screamed to that song. I sobbed to that song. I sat in a numb daze to that song. For days, hours on end. It was the perfect song for what I had just experienced, and even today – seven years later, it still fits in so many ways.
I had made the choice to come out to a group of people that had been an huge and important group in my life. I had been a moderator on the Jeremy Camp message boards for a few years at that point, I spent hours on there – helping out, hosting discussions, being an encouragement to young girls. Yet at the same time, I knew the time had come where I was sick of hiding who I was, sick of feeling closed off, exhausted with feeling like I was living a double life because I couldn’t be myself. I knew that I was potentially getting myself into deep shit, but I knew more than anything that I had to do this.
I couldn’t keep living a life where I couldn’t be myself.
Believe me, I knew going into this that it could turn into a big disaster, but I didn’t ever think it would turn into what it did. Did I question myself? Yep. Did I nearly delete the entire post I had written, spilling everything out, full of complete honesty just before I posted it? Yep. Was I terrified? Beyond terrified. I knew that I would face backlash, that I wouldn’t be accepted and that I could very well lose people I considered friends.
I was ready for that. I knew what I had to do.
I did it. One evening, I sat down and wrote probably the most emotionally raw, honest post I’ve ever written anywhere. I came out as gay to over a thousand girls in the section of the board specifically meant for women and young women to converse. Even now, I can still feel my heart racing when I think about that moment. Everything seemed to slow down and I walked away from my computer not knowing what to expect.
When I woke up the next morning, nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. Initially, I was relieved (and crying) to see that some of the ladies there were accepting of me. They still loved me, they still cared about me. Did they all agree? No, but they still cared about me. They still wanted to be a part of my life. It wasn’t until later that things started to change drastically.
It wasn’t until a few hours later that everything really began to unfold. I logged back in after doing errands and things around the house to find a private message calling me a liar, that I was unfit to be a mentor, much less a moderator because I was a liar. Shocked, I closed the message and took a peek at the post I had originally started. It was bad, because of how bad it was – I blocked out most of what was said. Seven years later, I don’t remember many of the replies I was given aside from a select few. I’m not sure I want to. What I saw was enough.
Monday rolled around and when I logged in to do my daily moderator duties, shit hit the fan.
Not only was my moderating status removed (look, I knew there was a chance it would happen and I had accepted that), but I was beginning to see the tendrils of something very hideous and hurtful unfolding on the message board, by none other than one of the site admins.
He posted on the general section (accessible to well over ten thousand members, plus those who are not even registered on the board) of the board a huge, detailed post of what I had done. It wasn’t done politely, it was explicit and very bluntly titled “who loves the homosexual more?”. He insisted that he had emailed me and told me exactly why actions to remove my status were taken, yet I never received any e-mail, PM from any of the other staff members. Not a word.
Until he made that post.
He continued to publicly go on in that post about how it was okay to hurt the “homosexual” but that they must keep “them” in prayer because Satan has a hold on all of us. For a community who is based on loving all as Jesus loved THEM, this was far from it. It was sickening. It still is. Seven years later, it still disgusts me. Another staff member posted how sorry she was that she never got the chance to get in touch with me, to help me “heal” and to “shine”. For years, she had my contact info. Phone number, e-mail addresses, etc – nothing. It was all a joke to her, a way for her (as well as the other admin) to make themselves look better than me in any way possible.
In the following days after everything started to unfold and take shape, I was:
- continually publicly humiliated
- stalked on various platforms
I was constantly begged to return. I had members stalking me, finding me everywhere they possibly could (several who found me on Facebook without knowing anything other than my first name). I was harrassed. I was told that I was a liar, that I was going to hell, that I would be stoned to death for being who I was. The public humiliation lasted for weeks.
The stalking? Lasted for years.
A long time friend asked me shortly after I came out, “why did you do it? You must have realized what possibly could have happened.” I did. I had seen how they talked about the LGBT community, the hate, the intolerance. I knew what I was going up against.
My reply to her?
“I was just so tired of hiding it. I was tired of keeping my mouth shut about it, especially when heated conversations about homosexuality came up. I knew it would be hard and I knew some really nasty things would be said, and I accepted that. It’s happened before to others. I just didn’t expect that the other staff would handle things like they did.
Most of all, I was just tired of having to hide it from everyone. After four years of doing that, it had finally gotten to the point where I just couldn’t do it anymore. ”
I was tired of hiding it. I was tired of not being myself.
After seven years, I still get angry. It still hurts. I still feel betrayed. I still have night terrors about the entire situation, but I can also say that I’ve moved on. I’ve grown. I’ve changed so much in the last seven years. I’m a better person today than I was on the day I came out. I’m stronger. I’m happier.
I am not ashamed of who I am. I am not backing down from the choice I made. I don’t ever regret coming out to them. I stood up for myself, and countless others who were (and are) in the same situation for others. I made a difference. It took a long time to see that, but I made a difference.
It took seven years, but I know that by finally opening up and sharing my story – I’ll continue to make a difference. I want my story to help others, to encourage others to be themselves. Coming out isn’t easy, it’s something you do so many times in your life as I’ve learned over the last few years. What I do know is that I want my story to reach out to others, and I want to be able to help others. That has never changed since the moment I took that leap to come out on the Jeremy Camp boards.
Seven years later, I’m better, not bitter.