I’m not sure whether this post is supposed to be serious or funny, but tomorrow it’s been one year since Lolly and I pressed “publish” on our coming out post and started… whatever the crap our life is now.
One year ago tonight, virtually nobody knew I was gay. And then the next day hundreds of thousands of people knew.
One year ago tonight, I was in a hotel in Las Vegas with the express purpose to celebrate my tenth anniversary. And then the next day, all celebrations died in a cruel death of crushing attention and Lolly and I spent all day sitting in our hotel room ordering room service reading thousands and thousands of amazing messages and talking to media outlets and looking at each other intermittently asking “what the hell just happened to our life????”
It was perhaps the craziest thing that’s ever happened to me. Crazier than…
…being thrown in jail in Venezuela. Crazier than that one time I got sour patch kids and there were three stuck together like one giant kid but when I started eating I realized there were four. Crazier than James Holmes though that’s not hard to do since he is expressly not crazy even though he’s really good at doing crazy eyes and his new beard makes him look like a leprechaun.
I still kind of can’t get over it. Like I’ve never really processed what happened that day. I may never be able to. My life is forever changed. And, as is typical with metamorphoses, the change is really great in some ways and not-so-great in others. Kind of like how a butterfly, after emerging from the chrysalis is probably like “WHOA, guys, guys, I have wings now! Look!” *flaps wings* *accidentally takes flight* *runs into a tree branch*
Yeah. Coming out as a gay Mormon one year ago was exactly like a caterpillar wrapping itself up in a house he crapped out his own body and then busting out as a majestic butterfly who then flies into a tree branch.
I’m so good at analogies.
I hope you’ll indulge me as I share some memories:
–We posted the post on Thursday. It went viral on Friday. It was really hard to tell from our hotel room just how wide-spread things had gotten. Our first indication was when we went to church there in Vegas (Henderson, actually). The meeting felt geared specifically towards us as every talk spoke of letting your light shine, and we both wept knowing that had happened in a way we had never anticipated. Then there was a special musical number about “one voice” spreading far and wide and making an impact, and we looked at each other and knew God was speaking to us. And like some sort of confirmation of that sentiment after Sacrament meeting, a guy came up and shook our hand and said “I really appreciated the blog post you published this weekend.” We’d never been to Henderson, Nevada. We didn’t know anyone in Henderson, Nevada. So, yes, things had spread in a way we had never anticipated.
–I remember, several days after, Lolly and I sitting at the hotel pool and hearing some people near us talk about the post as we lay there in the sun.
–I remember saying to someone on the phone “I’ve never felt more clearly guided to do a scary and unexpected thing, and I’ve never seen the reason why so clearly and quickly manifested after taking the leap.”
–Getting recognized for one of the first times in public (in Cafe Rio).
–Working out in the gym there at the hotel on Saturday, and getting a call on my cell phone from New York. When I picked it up, it was a producer from Nightline. We had a(n awkward) conversation, and at one point he said “so, are you willing to let us showcase your story” and I remember saying “well, I just outed myself to the entire Internet by accident yesterday. May as well finish the job and give you permission to out me on Nightline today.”
–Going to a buffet and being too distracted to enjoy it. Tragic.
–I remember thinking, laughably, that I’d be able to respond to everyone that wrote me. I gave it a solid effort, and I’m pretty sure I got through the correspondence of 12 hours of day one.
–So many comments I couldn’t read them all. I still haven’t, and I’ve spent many hours trying.
–So many words of kindness and well-wishes, often from unexpected corners. So much support.
–I remember our first week back in our ward and trying really, really hard to act normal. I probably failed. But everyone was really nice. We felt nothing but love.
–I remember so many messages from people who described how our post changed their life. Deep, heartfelt messages. Some said it helped them know they weren’t alone. Others said they felt God’s love for the first time in years. Others said it rekindled their testimonies. Still others said they now, for the first time, believed homosexuality was real and could see that it wasn’t a choice. They said they were able to see their gay loved ones in a new light, with less judgment. There were messages about families reunited, and bonds reforged. It was beautiful. I wish I could share it all. I wish I could express it.
The memories of that trip are mostly sweet. Sunshine and adrenaline and good food and confusion and excitement.
And now, things that I have learned:
–I have learned that there are awesome people in pretty much every demographic: gay, straight, Christian, Mormon, non-religious, etc. who are so loving and kind and supportive and warm. That was really neat to see.
–I’ve learned what it feels like to be blatantly libeled against, and have talked to lawyers about cease and desist orders for the first time in my life. (Never went forward with it, and it all ended up dying away anyway.)
–I have learned that people can be so, so, so, so rude on the internet. Breathtakingly rude.
–I’ve learned that the best way to respond to the rudies is to laugh. It diffuses a lot.
–I’ve also learned that people can be breathtakingly kind and beautiful. (That’s you, if you are reading this.)
–I’ve learned that I am totally horrible at correspondence and writing people back, and that there is no rhyme or reason to who I respond to or why. If you have tried to communicate with me over this last year and never heard from me, I’m so sorry. I can’t allow myself to be consumed by guilt about this, or I wouldn’t function. Just know that I love you and appreciate your message so much.
–I’ve learned that a kind comment can make my entire day.
–I’ve learned that an unkind comment can really hurt. For a while. Even though I logically know it shouldn’t matter.
–I’ve learned that there are several things I do in interviews that I hate. (Interrupting Lolly constantly because I have ADD aka low impulse control, looking up at the sky making my bad eye bug out, saying “you know?” way too much, to name a few.) I also learned that I like doing interviews and, overall, I feel like I do a decent job of expressing the crux of what I’m thinking.
–I’ve learned that being vulnerable is worth the costs and risks.
–I’ve learned the importance of having good friends.
–I’ve learned that Lolly and I are even more amazing together than I had previously known.
Because it’s the one year anniversary of the post, that also means it our 11-year anniversary. This last year has been so amazing for us. We are closer now than we were before, and we were already very, very close before.
We have had moments this year where we felt totally alone in a scary, menacing universe. Where we looked at each other and knew that nobody else alive quite knew what we were going through, except each other. We have relied on each other a lot. We’ve laughed a lot, and had long talks late into the night. We’ve written blog posts and chapters of books. We’ve told jokes. We’ve quarreled and made up. We’ve prayed together and fasted together and gone to the temple together. We’ve made really big decisions and felt guided by God as He has led us down the path He wants us on. We’ve had moments of genuine doubt, and brilliant moments of illumination and confirmation. We’ve done scary things, TV spots and talks and panels, and held each others’ hand, and looked at each other and said “this will be okay because, no matter what, we have each other.” We’ve trusted our instincts and our guts and our spirits as we’ve participated in projects that we felt led to do even when it seemed impossible that they would end well, and then we have thanked the Lord when each one of them has turned out better than we expected. We have built beautiful memories with our girls, and relished in the wonderful life we share.
I’m so grateful for this last year. And I’m so grateful to be married to Lolly Shea. Our life is not perfect–no life is. But it is a life well lived. It is rich and full and beautiful. We suck the marrow of life together, and find wonderful things to share every day. Our love is raw and special and vulnerable, and I feel like the luckiest man alive to have such an amazing wife.
11 years. And I can’t wait to see what the future decades hold.