Gay-J: MY Coming Out Story
In honor of pride month and in memory off all of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters who never lived long enough to tell their stories, I’m going to tell you my coming out story. You’re not getting the whole story, because I’ve been coming out in some way, shape or form the past two decades, but I’ll give you what I can.
Also, to be clear, I have never come OUT of the closet. I have, however, ALLOWED those I trust to step into my world. The whole concept of coming out is so absurd as if it is our job to expose ourselves so that those in the world who’ve never taken the time or put in the effort to get to know us, can now feel more comfortable. It is not the job of any member of the LGBTQ community to make the ill-informed feel comfortable; so let’s drop that outdated way of thinking right now.
Lastly, before I get into my personal story I’d like one thing to be crystal clear. I am a child of God and a follower of Jesus Christ. That hasn’t always been the case. I stepped away from my faith for about 15 years, but that had absolutely nothing to do with Christ and EVERYTHING to do with His followers. If you can’t wrap your head around the whole gay Christian thing, I get it; maybe this blog post isn’t for you.
OR…maybe this blog post is specifically for you. I’ll let you decide.
I knew I was gay by the age of 5 or 6. I didn’t know exactly what that meant at the time, but I did know that I had zero interest in girls and found other boys to be fascinating. I was loving and deeply compassionate, even as a young boy and thrived on making everyone around me smile; I still do.
My first “sexual” encounter with another boy took place before I was 10 and had nothing to do with pleasure of any sort and everything to do with curiosity and exploration. I was intrigued by the male form and instinctively wanted to know more about it. That boy grew up to be very straight; I grew up to be gay as the day is long.
For many years I would cry myself to sleep every night, praying for God to change this part of me that was slowly moving from curiosity to full-on desire. I tried to suppress these feelings and decided I’d one day become a priest. It seemed like the most logical way to avoid a lifetime of “sin” and burning in the fiery pits of hell for all eternity.
I was young…this is how my brain worked.
Around the same time, the Catholic Church was being consumed by pedophilia sex scandals that involved young boys. The church handled these scandals abhorrently and so did society. Suddenly, the word pedophilia had become synonymous with the word gay; the two issues were being conflated. Now, not only did I know that if I were to ever reveal my true self as a gay man, I’d also run the risk of being singled out as a pedophile too. Of course, I wasn’t and the mere thought of such an accusation seems absurd now, but back then it was very much a fear of mine.
By the time I entered high school I had become really great at hiding my true self from the world. I was the fun, witty guy who got pretty good at sports and who made sure to always have a girlfriend to throw suspecting peers off my track!
While I was in high school, a couple of guys in my grade decided it would be funny to start calling me Gay-J. Luckily for me the initials of my name BOTH rhyme with the word gay, so sometimes I was even called A-Gay. The only name I’d ever known and the one thing I felt full ownership of had now been taken from me and used to hurt me. Even worse, I was called these names in front of not only my classmates but teachers as well. I can’t recall a single time when anyone ever stood up for me. I had a math teacher who was admired by many and the head coach of the volleyball team. He was the “cool” teacher that everyone wanted to see on his or her class schedule at the beginning of the year.
I cannot count how many times these two guys would call me these names right in front of him, with zero repercussions. He might tell them to knock it off every now and then, but he’d do it with a supportive smirk and a chuckle. I knew that my teacher was laughing at me and they knew he was too, so the bullying continued.
By college, I couldn’t hide my true identity anymore. During my sophomore year, I finally began to explore my sexuality with other guys. It usually involved alcohol and some level of sexual risk, but I didn’t care. I was so tired of living my life according to everyone else’s rules, while I saw my straight friends partying and hooking up and being praised for it. In my heart, I knew that neither approach worked for me.
I was naïve in many ways but mature beyond my years in others. I’d spent a lifetime observing others and adjusting my speech, my mannerisms, and my personality accordingly. I was content diminishing my true self in order to make others feel more comfortable. Instead of finding happiness, each time I allowed another person’s view of me to alter my authenticity; I fell deeper and deeper into depression.
This depression hit its first real low point during my sophomore year. This is the year I ALLOWED my family into my truth. It didn’t go well and for a time, I lost both of my parents and my baby sister Kari. I failed out of all of my classes and dropped out of college.
Over the course of the next few years, I found myself in a series of broken relationships, still struggling to find my voice in the world. Eventually, I was able to get myself back in school and just 6 ½ short years after I’d begun, I graduated college with a Bachelor’s Degree. I’ve never used that degree once, but it remains one of my proudest accomplishments. If I ever need a reminder that I am capable of seeing things through to the end and accomplishing big goals, I just look at my Navient student loan statement each month and I feel deep pride.
Also, I was totally being sarcastic and student loans are the worst!
As a grown man working in the entertainment industry, I’ve often struggled to find my authentic voice. I’ve had some great successes, but have always felt there was something missing. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog about the choice to walk the red carpet at the Billboard Music Awards with my boyfriend Emile. We’ve been together nearly 6 years and while we’ve certainly never hidden a thing, we also realized that we haven’t been living as openly and as authentically as we could’ve been and that serves no one, ourselves included.
Representation is so very important and if living authentically and publicly helps a young LGBTQ person somewhere find the courage to do that same, then I’m all for it!
I am so proud of the man I’ve become and grateful to have survived the long, difficult journey here. My sexuality, which I’d spent years trying to pray away, is now the thing I am more grateful for than anything. God BLESSED me with this gift and I am ready to use it to serve the world. I am ready to ALLOW the world in…I hope you’re okay with that!
P.S. The picture that I chose for this blog post was taken while Emile and I were celebrating our anniversary in Mexico 2 years ago. The trip was gifted to us by his incredible mother, who also happens to be the wife of a pastor.
If you, or someone you know, would like to know more about the LGBTQ+ community and find out how you can show the type of love and support that is so desperately needed, I've attached some websites below that offer incredible resources.
Also, if you're a person of faith, regardless of your orientation, here are a couple of phenomenal books that really helped me come to terms with my sexuality and helped my loved ones as well.
Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community
The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World