By Joshie Jaxon
I’m coming out! I want the world to know! Got to let it show! I am beyond overjoyed that we live in the world we live in. People are able to be their authentic selves, and don’t have to hide for fear of what society may think of them. That isn’t to say that we still don’t still have quite a ways to go, but I know that this forward momentum isn’t going to stop. We’re all going to be celebrated, rather than shunned. I sincerely hope that in my lifetime I’ll see it reach a point where no one has to come out, and that people won’t bat at an eye at sexuality. That wasn’t always the case. In honor of National Coming Out Day, allow me to share my story with you.
Born and raised in Utah, the religious right pretty much has it’s hand in all things that take place in my state. Growing up, I always knew that I was different, but I didn’t know it had a name. Before the onset of puberty, I’d had a friend that I used to experiment with. It would be considered sexual in nature, but as neither of us had reached sexual maturity, it was more playtime than anything else. I knew that my penis got hard, and that touching it while it was like that felt good. Nothing ever came of it though. Pun intended. As I grew up and hit middle school, at least in some part of my mind I knew I was attracted to guys. In gym class I had caught a glimpse of peen through the opening in a guys boxer shorts, and the image burned into my brain. I also knew not to stare, or anything beyond the glance I had. Perhaps it was a built in sense of self preservation. Maybe it was manners about being told it’s impolite to stare. Either way, one thing was clear, I’d liked what I’d seen.
High school came, and my social life dwindled. I was a game and comic nerd, and never had friends over. I was active in the church, and thanks to their oh so enlightened teachings, I spent most of those years feeling guilty for touching myself, and praying that the things I was feeling would go away. I was miserable through high school, and just wanted it over. That pseudo-societal structure isn’t a nurturing place for anyone that’s different. As much as I enjoyed some of my classes and friends, high school is a place I would never want to revisit. I’d had jobs through high school, and on my very first one when I was only 15, I’d been asked if I was gay. When I said no, I was told I should work on my mannerisms. At the job I had as a senior, I was called mariposa, and also told that the translation of my name into Tongan, I later found out, was the equivalent of faggot. Graduation was a happy occasion, as it meant I didn’t have to go through that daily torture.
At 18, I knew who I was, but I wasn’t ready to accept it yet. Despite having looked at gay porn online, I couldn’t bring myself to admit who I was. It was especially fun when my mom had discovered my browser history, and point blank asked me if I was gay. Naturally, I told her no. She asked if I were if I would tell her. I said yes. My mom and I were always close, still are, but I didn’t have my dad or brothers in my life at that point, and didn’t really have a male figure I felt comfortable discussing such things with. As my 19th birthday drew near, I knew I had to accept myself, as I could no longer deny who I was and who I was attracted to. There was an out gay man at a job I started, and I would talk to him on occasion. I’m sure he didn’t want to hold my hand through the coming out process, but he was at least polite. I began writing in a notebook, trying to capture my feelings in a way I could articulate them. I’m much better on paper than I am a speaker. Most people who talk to me think I’m an asshole. Those who write with me think I’m a sweetheart. I’m both, but that’s neither here or there.
Those of you not in Utah, or are non-LDS, may not know that when guys turn 19, they are expected to go serve a mission. It amounts to living with several other men, away from home, and trying to convert people over to the church. The living with guys part sounded fun, but there was no way I could serve a god whose teachings I no longer believed in, as they conflicted with who I was as a person. I decided to use the time most were using to prepare for a mission, to prepare to come out. I started with my high school girlfriend, as she had always called me a closet case even when we were dating. We went to dinner and a movie, and I told her she’d been right. Her reaction was an excited, “I knew it!”. Before I could tell mom, I told my sister. I needed a family member on my side in case things got bad. She was thrilled, and said we could look for guys together. The way I told my mom, was that I had her read some of the things I’d been writing. She cried, as I think most moms do, and was a little offended that I’d thought she would throw me out. Better to plan for the worst, and hope for the best. Despite what all the books said, it wasn’t turning into a negative experience.
That is, of course, until my bishop wanted to meet with me. I asked my mom why, and she said because of my age he probably wanted to talk about my potential mission. I figured there was no harm in letting him talk, and we went out for ice cream. The talk was casual, and unrelated to anything at all. It was just a friendly outing. When he dropped me off, he said, “so, your mom tells me you think you’re gay”. I cursed her name in my head, and told him no, I was gay. I then had to endure roughly half an hour of religious nonsense, most of which I tuned out. When I went into the house, I told my mother to never do that to me again. She knew full well I was going into an ambush, and didn’t give me the heads up. We’ve since resolved things, and no one in my immediate family is a member of the church, so it all worked out. My aunts, and grandma were far more openly accepting, and have been for all these years.
Next month will mark 15 years that I’ve been out of the closet, and while it feels like a lifetime ago, it also seems like it just blinked by. I’m proud of the person I’ve come, and look forward to seeing the person I’ll be. I encourage everyone to live their truth, whatever it may be, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone. Do right by you. You have to take care of yourself. As I’ve stated in prior Pride Posts, you are beautiful and deserve to have a place in this world. I hope that my journey may help you on yours, and that you have the love and support that every person deserves. Life is made up of moments, and they should be spent being the incredible person that you are. Accept yourself. Love yourself. It gets better when you do. All my love to you, whoever you are, and however you identify. Until next time, stay strong, and keep gabbing.