It’s not a good look, I know, but it is what it is and it led me to where I am today. Where am I today? We’ll get to that, but first, let’s take a look at where I was.
After realizing I was attracted to girls and getting a divorce, the real work started for me. For the longest time, years really, I couldn’t accept myself. For starters, there was my Christian faith. I couldn’t comprehend how this could be my truth, nor could I see that I was still equally as worthy of God’s love as anyone else. I feared what my parents would say, and I feared their rejection. I feared losing my friends. I feared losing my job. I feared losing my reputation, my life as I knew it, my normal.
And I did. Every fear I had came true, yet it was exactly what I needed.
After meeting H, my wife, I was outed on social media. Within days of the post that was taken down only twenty-seven seconds after it was posted, my sexuality was questioned by my Principal. At the time, I was working as a fourth grade teacher at a private school in Mississippi. It was 2015, and discrimination within the workplace was still a legal practice. My Principal sat me down for one of the most horrendous and heartbreaking conversations I’ve ever had. I was informed that a board meeting was being held that night to announce my relationship, a relationship I’d only been in for weeks, and a decision would be made about whether I could continue teaching or not. Fearing the words “you’re fired”, I let her know that I’d simply leave on my own.
If I would have known what I know now, if I would have had the confidence that I now maintain, that conversation would have gone a lot differently. For starters, I wouldn’t have backed down. I would have been present at that board meeting. I wouldn’t have stayed silent. Instead, I kept my head down until my last day. I snuck in and out without making eye contact with anyone, did my job, and deleted all of my social media like I was asked to do. I moved out of the town completely, starting over where no one knew me or my story.
I didn’t teach for a year and a half after that. I worked in Memphis, Tennessee as a Billing Coordinator at a law firm during my time away from teaching. When I finally decided I was ready to teach again, I knew I wouldn’t settle for a school that didn’t hire me KNOWING my truth. H and I decided to move to the West Coast, and quickly decided on Portland, Oregon. I attended a job fair there, where I went into every interview being open and honest, and I landed the greatest teaching job at the most incredible school!
For those that fear being openly gay and a teacher, I would like to argue that you’re actually critical to the school and the students. Statistically speaking, every classroom has students that do or will identify within the LGBTQ+ community. Seeing adults that are open, successful, and accepted simply and truly saves lives. Period. I would never again want to work for a school that doesn’t accept openly queer teachers, because in truth, that means they also don’t fully accept all of their students. Read that again.
Other fears I had were losing my friends and my family. While I did lose a great deal of friends, (my three very best friends stuck by my side) I also gained new ones. I gained unconditional friends–friends that don’t just tolerate me, but celebrate me for being exactly who I am. Everyone deserves friends like that, so I encourage you to find yours if you haven’t already. They are out there. Anything less than an unconditional friend isn’t worth your energy, no matter how long they’ve been in your life.
The same can be said for family members. This can be the strongest string holding you back from coming out, but why? Why does their opinion of you get to dictate your life, your love, your marriage, your passion, your self-acceptance? Side note: I completely understand if you’re under the same roof as them and you fear for your safety (not everyone is able to come out and I see you!) but for me, I was twenty-three, on my own, and simply afraid of them fully knowing me.
I ended up telling my mom over text message because it was the only way I felt I could. She immediately called me, screamed Satan out of me…I kid you not…and then didn’t really speak to me for close to a year. The only advice I truly have for coming out to parents is this: for some of us, it took years to accept ourselves. Even though it shouldn’t be this way, it may take equally as long for family members to accept it as well. Give it time, and if nothing changes, it’s okay to let them go. After all, that was their decision, not yours, and it’s a reflection of them, not you.
I lost a job, I lost friends, I lost relationships, but I gained so much more. I refused to let the negative be the narrative of my story. I started living openly on social media with H. We sold all of our belongings and moved across the country to Portland, Oregon. We got engaged and our Halloween proposal went viral, gaining attention from Inside Edition, the Advocate, Yahoo News, Pink News, Business Insider, MSN, and more. We got married and were featured in The Knot Wedding Magazine as one of the most influential couples of the year. Our wedding was also featured in The New York Times. I quit my incredible teaching job in Portland to work from home with my wife as a full-time Social Media Influencer. I started writing my first LGBTQ+ Young Adult novel, and we’ve started trying to have a baby.