I decided to write this blog post because it’s the most beneficial form of expression to reach a social group that I don’t get to communicate with on a regular basis. I wanted my first writing to be something that has been a taboo in MANY conversations I’ve had with people: my sexual orientation.
The other night I went out and got drinks with a new friend. In our conversation that night a topic came up about coming out as a gay individual to friends and family. He shared with me about his worries and fears and then mentioned something that I’ve personally dealt with: “I wish I could just make everyone understand.” I’ve spent countless nights thinking about that one sentence. Our talk, not surprisingly, stirred something in me. I’ve been wanting to share this for some time now and I couldn’t think of a better moment than this.
I’m a very out and openly gay individual. I’ve spent countless hours reading and studying the topic of homosexuality in regards to biblical context. I could probably quote every scripture relevant to the topic. I could give you cultural relevances and translational issues. I’ve prayed about it and talked it over with family and friends. I’ve listened to concerns and taken them to heart. I’ve laid awake at night wondering who this would affect & how certain people would respond or react. I’ve thought this decision through.
A Brief History:
Growing up in Utah as a conservative christian was a challenge to say the least. Our family believed in traditional christian values and family values: humility instead of status; honesty and generosity instead of wealth; self-control instead of self-indulgence; forgiveness instead of revenge. We went to a church that had hymnals and bibles in the pews. I remember memorizing scripture in Sunday school and royal rangers club (the equivalent to boy scouts). I was out of place for not being in the religious norm; it set me apart immediately. That disadvantage didn’t stop me from pursuing friendships and relationships. Almost everyone who knows me will tell you I generally seek approval from people in my life (a validation of sorts). I remember having my first crush on another guy but I suppressed those feelings in fear of losing the approval of friends and family. I continued to hide away feelings that religious leaders taught me were a sin for even thinking. I knew being gay was an unspeakable lifestyle that would most certainly rain down the wrath of God. And in turn I was never able to express the incredibly confusing situation going on inside me.
Well a little over two years ago I came out to the very first person. When I told this individual it was under some very extenuating circumstances that I wish I could go back and change. I was so ashamed of myself and embarrassed. I remember calling my mom that night and told her that I was “out of the closet.” My mother’s response made me feel her embrace & her love. With my mom being only the second person I told, it was such a relief to know she had my back. After talking with my mom I knew I did not want it to be a secret anymore. I decided to come out to my close friends first. Their reaction was very positive; I vividly remember feeling their support as I tried to communicate my broken thought process to them. It was at this point I decided to study the topic biblically and dig down internally to know myself better. I wanted to be able to more clearly articulate my beliefs and feelings.
Fast forward in time and at this point about a year had passed since my initial coming out. My dad came to visit me in Texas, and this particular visit I knew I wanted to share with him about my sexual orientation. At the time I was dating someone and it only felt right for my father to be involved. Coming from a very religious background I knew he would not be happy with my decision. His reaction was mixed. He reassured his love for me but also his sorrow and disappointment of my decision, and I reassured him nothing was broken in me, I didn’t have a chemical imbalance, I wasn’t raised incorrectly, I’m not possessed, and I was still the same Matt Barrio. Just because my sexual orientation was different didn’t mean my values or personhood was different; my sexual orientation was just an extension of who I already was.
Over time my friends and family realized I’m no different than before. My dad still comes to visit and we continue to go play golf, watch movies, talk and laugh. I still visit Utah and go hiking and goof off with my brothers and friends. Did all this take time? Oh, hell yes. And to be honest a lot of conversations still happen. A lot of disappointment still gets shared. But it has been worth every growing pain experienced along the way!
I know I can’t make everyone understand this decision and that there will be people I lose approval from, but I’ve never been happier in life and the elation of even writing this blog post is indescribable. Coming from such an oppressed and scared mindset to now being able to share this amazing journey with so many of you makes me smile. I would never push anyone to come out if they aren’t ready but there are so many people there to support and love on you. I’m not going to say you won’t disappoint people along the way but your happiness is worth so much more than their approval. I hope this post inspires someone to feel more comfortable in their own skin. Wear it with pride my friends.