National Coming Out Day
This is my story. In my words. I always new I was different. I wasn’t sure how, or what that meant. I just knew. When I say I always knew, I am talking when I was in the 3rd grade, 8 years old or so. I was raised in a single parent family, and was always surrounded by “male role models”, and yet for the most part it was always mom and I sharing our life journey.
Mom and I had watched the movie “Early Frost” and I asked her how she would feel if I was gay. She said you are my son, it doesn’t matter. Fast forward a few month… I was working at Perkins at 38th and Dodge and met a guy who really gained my interest. He was older, and we could talk about so much. He was kind and connected to a large group of people. We had decided that I would go to California together. He had sent me a card in a card in the mail. Mom didn’t recognize it and she opened it. She read how this person cared for me, and was looking forward to going to California together. Mom came unglued. She was not having some man take me to California, NOR was she going to allow a faggot to live in her house. She told me that I am no longer her son.
Oh. okay then. That didn’t go as planned. I will remind readers that I am adopted within my family. My mother adopted me from her daughter at birth. That’s right, my grandmother raised me as my mom. And my birth mother became my sister! I surly thought that mom would be okay and my sister would have an issue. I got that wrong. Sis tried to talk mom off the ledge, but she would not budge.
I was about 19 or 20 at the time. I was scared. I was Confused. I thought my world was crumbling around me since my mom didn’t want me any more. Wow, two moms that didn’t need me. (I know that not to be true today, but you could not tell me otherwise then!)
I sat in the car, close to the river, and was ready to end my life. I was going to use a gun to do it. I waited in the car for at least 30-45 minutes, and then a couple of friends found me. They took the gun from me, scolded me sternly, and provided needed tough love. I eventually talked to a local Catholic Priest. YES Catholic Priest. Father Mac. Father Mac reminded me that I was made in God’s image. I was not a mistake. I was not the first gay person he knew, nor would I be the last. My reconciliation with faith, God, and what I know to be sacred was for me to understand, and figure out.
The next few days and weeks were the scariest. I had to go back home and face “mom.” It was a VERY slow and painful time. In the end, it was conversation, education, and love that brought us back together. She thought every time I was leaving to go out with friends I was going to an orgy, she that is all that gay men did, is have group sex. I reminded her of the values she instilled in me. When she met some of my friends she slowly came around and knew I had been in good company the entire time.
I never made it to California. The guy I met at Perkins still lives in Omaha, we don’t talk these days. Many of my friends from that time I am still in connection with. I can count on two hands the number of people I have known for 30+ years whom I love, admire and call friend.
I have had 3 important, serious, long term relationships in my life: Joe, Michael, and Jonny. I was with Joe for about 3 years. Michael and I shared life for about 10 years. And Jonny and I have known each other for 12, been together for 10, and have been married for 6. All three of them attended moms funeral in 2013. I cried a lot that day. Once knowing that they three important men in my life where with me when I needed them the most. Michael even lived with Jonny and I at one point during Jonny’s first few years here. I am glad that I have that connection with such great people.
In my life I have worked in restaurants and hotels, I have owned a security company, I have worked in logistics, and have studies, I became a community chaplain who serves all without exception and meets people where they are. I often take care of those people who are rejected by other churches and groups.
My mantra has become… you are not alone. no matter who you are, where you are from, who you love, what you believe or don’t believe: you are beautiful, loved, and worthy just as you are.
Today our outreach includes street outreach to homeless youth and adults. Sharing that message. Meeting them where they are at. Not proselytizing them. And loving them as they are.
I won’t say time heals everything, because I don’t think it does. Some of life’s baggage must be carried until you learn what it means and when to let it go. It is about surrounding yourself with people who help you be your best self. It is about believing in yourself. Loving yourself. And forgiving yourself. It is about being unapologetically you always! SHARE YOUR STORY!!!
Rev. Royal Carleton, Chaplain-Inclusive Life Center