I do a lot of coming out. It’s quite the hassle.
There is, of course, garden variety coming out. This has gotten rather dull. I mean, how many different ways are there to tell people that you’re attracted to other guys? Mind you, there aren’t that many people in my life who know this. There’s no reason for most of them to know. I mean, it’s not like my life is inexplicable or unrelatable without including my attraction to other men. If you want to talk to me deeply about my self-image, sure, it plays a role. But it’s not central.
Still, garden-variety coming out is gut-wrenching, simply because so many people harbor very conflicted and/or negative feelings toward men who experience attraction to other men.
The second type of coming out is, perhaps, harder. This is coming out as a Christian — which can be hard enough, in normal circumstances, but it well nigh terrifying in academia. (Did I mention I’m in grad school?) In a secular university like mine, people often give off the aura that religion is completely backward — in Valley Girl lingo, it is “so, like, 17th century.” When you get to know people better, you see shadows and suggestions that they might have a faith life. But finding another Christian in academia can be very much like finding a Jewish sympathizer in 1940 Germany.
I’m somewhat “out” in my department. I still remember with trepidation the moment I told my department head that I was looking into publishing a paper criticizing a recent argument in support of abortion. I felt like I was about to tell him I had gone to the Dark Side.
Coming out as a Christian among academics may be the scariest kind of coming out, but there is a third sort of coming out that is far, far stranger than either type of coming out I’ve mentioned so far.
You see, I spend far too much time online, and online, I’m usually pretty open about my attraction to men. When I tell people that I have such attractions, and yet that I’m committed to chastity, other Christians often praise me for the “tremendous self-sacrifice” that involves. In the context of all of that, I sometimes feel ashamed, though, about another terrible fact about myself…
I’m … married.
To a … woman.
And she … knows.
I know, I know, it’s all too much to take.
Actually, it’s totally awesome. We have five kids. I love her, she loves me, it’s pretty sweet — I mean, except for the fact that marriage and family life is awfully hard. Every vocation has some major trials attached.
In future posts, I will be discussing some of the misunderstandings that come up when I say I’m married. For now, let me leave it as this: God has been good to me, and blessed me with the most wonderful person imaginable to share my life with. I wouldn’t be surprised if my married life involves less self-sacrifice than if I had remained single and celibate — but then, I don’t think it’s all that helpful for us to compare crosses, as if the Christian life were some sort of hardship contest. Let’s just say that love always involves dying to self…
But man, is it worth it!