29 October 2009

The Meaning of Matthew

A few weeks ago, I picked up The Meaning of Matthew. I couldn't put it down. It's a book written by Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard, who was killed eleven years ago because he was gay.

In October of 1998, I was 15 years old. I remember hearing about it, but didn't really have any reason for it to have an effect on me. My teen years were rough and I was just trying to make it through another day. So before I read the book, all I knew about Matthew Shepard was that he was killed in Wyoming, tied to a fence and beaten to death, because he was gay. Reading about who he was and the influence he was on his family, how much they loved him, and the raw details of his ordeal was very overwhelming and very powerful for me. Yes, he was killed horrifically, but he also lived. He's more of a person now instead of a headline.

Yesterday, President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. This adds the qualifications of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability to the already existing federal hate crime laws.

Matthew Shepard died eleven years ago. Without him, everything would be different. His sacrifice and the sacrifices of others have made it possible for me to live a little easier, to live honestly as myself. He didn't give up and he didn't give in and the price he paid is still being felt today. He was a kind-hearted young man, compassionate, passionate, and true to himself. He cared about others.
So thank you Matt, wherever you are. Because you died, we live, and each day move closer to being able to truly live free. That's the meaning of Matthew to me.

27 October 2009

Facebook Results

I took a baby step on Facebook. Those of you who are my Facebook friends might have noticed. I know a couple of you did, so I thought I'd follow up, because if you're like me, your inquiring mind wants to know.

I changed my relationship status to "In a Relationship." I got 17 comments and 3 likes on it.

To break that down in little further...

9 came from people I currently work with
3 came from people that used to work at the restaurant
3 came from blog followers
2 came from people who work with my mom and I see a lot because of that

1 came from someone I currently work with
1 came from someone I used to work with
1 came from a blog follower

Given that I met my girlfriend at work, I think it's understandable that the majority of the comments came from other co-workers. There's been speculation and we've told some people, but this last week we decided that we didn't want to hide it anymore. We're very professional at work and we don't want any dramatic problems, but if people ask me there's no reason I should be ashamed of dating her. When we're at work, we're working, plain and simple. Both of us are very clear on that.

The overwhelming response is very positive. People are saying they're happy for me, proud of me, that they support me, and that my girlfriend and I are so cute together. I've had some good conversations with people I've worked with for a long time and was able to be really honest and not feel bad about it. I think it's funny that some people thought it was so obvious and some were completely oblivious, but both groups are just happy that I'm happy.

I'm pretty happy with the result. I know that if I write a note that spells it all out, that says "Dear Facebook World, I'm gay," the results could be drastically different. But it might not be all bad.

The most incredible part is that I feel like I have a freedom I've never felt before, and that makes me feel like I'm making the right decision to come out, even if it's just in baby steps.

22 October 2009

Where I Am In My Journey (October Theme)

First off, thanks to Abelard for making this the theme this month. I think it's kind of interesting and ironic that he would pick this for October, because it's been a year now since I acknowledged to myself the truth of who I am. It's a good chance to reflect on where I've been during the last year.

How did you get to where you are today?

It's been a painful process, that's for sure. For a lot of my life, I thought there was something wrong with me. During junior high and high school especially, when being a teenager is all about how you compare with everyone else, I felt very different. I would look at my sister and at the other girls my age and I just knew that I wasn't like them. But I never really had a reason that could explain it.

I spent my first year of college at Westminster College in Salt Lake. Coming from a very conservative town and a high school where 90% of the student body was enrolled in LDS Seminary, it was a very eye-opening experience. I took a philosophy class and one day we had a discussion about gay marriage and things along those lines. That class got me thinking, and that's the first time I wondered to myself if I might be gay. As a nineteen year old, it wasn't something I was ready for, and it scared me. I was scared of what it would mean for me if it was true. So I buried it beneath anything else I could.

I met my husband in early 2003. We dated for about five months before we got engaged and were then engaged for six months before we were married in 2004. We got married in the Salt Lake Temple. Marriage was not easy for me. I was more than happy to blame it on my emotional/mental health issues, and so was my husband. Intimacy was anything but easy. Every single time we would have sex, I would end up in tears, because it just felt wrong. There were other issues too, but we really shouldn't have gotten married. We divorced about a month before our 2nd anniversary. I think it was being married that really made me take a close look at who I am though. If it wasn't for that, I don't know if I would have had the courage to say that I'm gay.

I came out to myself in October 2008. I didn't tell anyone until February of this year. But as I've let more people in and felt their support, acceptance, and love, it's become easier for me to be who I am. I've only recently told my family and they are struggling with it. But I can't blame them. I struggled with it for a very long time too.

Are you happy with where you are?

I wouldn't say I'm necessarily happy, but I'm feeling better about what I'm doing and how I see myself. I've always struggled with self-compassion. I knew though that if I couldn't accept myself I could never expect anyone else to, so that has been something I've had to learn to do. But I'm glad I have. And I think the more I can be at ease with myself and be happy with who I am, the easier it will be for people around me to feel that too. I'm a work in progress, but I'm definitely progressing, and I'm happy with that.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I don't think about the distant future a whole lot. I hope though that I'll still be with my girlfriend. She's absolutely amazing to me and I have completely fallen in love with her. I hope that I will have the support of my family, but if I don't, as painful as that will be, I know that I'll be okay, because I'm finally living for myself.

What roadblocks do you have and/or have you overcome?

The biggest roadblock for me is just part of my nature. I am a HUGE people pleaser and have always been, most often at my own expense. So trying to be who I am in spite of what others may say or think has been really difficult. Being gay in this day and age is easier than it has been, but it's definitely not easy, especially when you're surrounded by Utah Mormons. But I've finally realized that the opinion that should matter most to me is my own.

What advice do you have for others following a similar path?

As alone as you might feel, you're not. Through the miracle of the internet, there are people all over who can help you and support you if you feel like there's no one in your daily life who can. Find whatever resources you can to support you. Know that there are days that are better than others and there will always be people who care about you, even if it's someone you only know by a screen name.

What advice do you have for family and friends?

Like I mentioned before, this is a painful process. As much as it might pain you to hear that someone you know and love is gay, I promise you that it hasn't been a walk in the park for that someone either. No doubt it has taken them a lot of sleepless nights, fighting through moments of fear and panic, and soul-searching thought before they were able to come out to you. I know with my family, they will never understand, and I won't ask them to. I just want their love and support, not their judgment. The rest of the world certainly has no problem judging me, and there will always be people ready and willing to share their opinions in harsh terms.

Be willing to get more information. Look into finding supportive and accurate resources. Above all though, remember that we are still your son or daughter, brother or sister, and the only thing that really changes is that we trust you more with our lives than we did before, because we're letting you in.

21 October 2009

Recent Discoveries

1) There is joy in a 20 minute shower. I used to only take 5-10 minute showers, never knowing what I was missing out on.

2) I think laser hair removal would be worth it if I never had to shave my armpits again, but I don't mind shaving my legs.

3) Baseball is more amusing to watch when you're watching with someone who is really passionate about it.

4) I like being random.

5) I can be completely comfortable with my life and how I live, be a good person, be myself and be happier than I've ever been, and the fact that I am doing so still might be a trial for someone else.

6) Standing up to my own fears takes a courage that I didn't know I had, but I'm grateful that I've found it.

7) I've been really busy lately and I've actually missed blogging.

8) Giving unconditional love is completely worthwhile and life-changing.

9) Receiving unconditional love is completely worthwhile, completely life-changing, and absolutely amazing, and I continue to be amazed at its power every day.

10) Life goes on, life is good, and I can have sad days and still not be sad.

19 October 2009

Tell Me What You Think, Part I

I'm thinking about coming out on Facebook.

Maybe that sounds kind of cheesy to some of you, but that would cover coming out to a lot of people in one, rip-the-band-aid-off, quick motion.

I know there are some of you who have done that, so if you'd like to let me know what your thoughts are about it, I'd appreciate it. Pros? Cons? Would you do it differently if you could?

I'm feeling like it's something I want to do. Open this closet and let me out. I'm done hiding. I want to breathe.

14 October 2009

Feeling the Stress

I think that pretty much says it all.

Because the conversation with my parents was so short, I feel like I have a lot more that I need to say, so I'm working on a letter. Maybe that's a chicken way to cover everything but I think that's the best way to have it go down. Then they can do whatever they want with that information. If they're not going to speak to me, I can at least make it for all the right reasons instead of the ones they're imagining.

My middle sister hasn't talked, texted, or contacted me in any way since I sent her that email.

My youngest sister has been my lifeline.

Despite it all, my girlfriend has been amazing, has been there for me, and has promised me that we're going to get through it together. And because of that, even though I'm really stressed, I think it's going to be okay. Every day I get up and it gets a little easier to just be me. What other people say and do will probably always affect me, but it's not going to change who I am.

Someday I hope it won't be so stressful. I just have to get there, one day at a time.