Jaime's Coming Out Story

Where do I even start? Coming out for me has been such a complex and emotional journey. What I do know is, everyone’s coming out story is so very different and unique. I’ve said on numerous occasions that I wish I had the strength to come out a long time ago, but the truth of the matter is, I would not be who I am today, I would not have the two biological kiddos that bring me so much joy and pride, and wouldn’t be married to the most amazing man who gave me two more sweet kiddos! So, the truth of the matter is, despite all the good and the bad, I came out at the right time in my life.

I realized at a very young age that for me, something was different, but I could not quite put my finger on it or admit to what my feelings or thoughts were. I grew up in a very Catholic family - well my grandparents were devout, and my parents were nominally Catholic, but nonetheless, you see my point. Additionally, in southeastern Virginia and at that time, homosexuality was very much looked down upon, so at the age of thirteen, the idea that I could embrace the thought that I was gay was out of the question.

I am an only child and the first grandchild on both sides of my family. I spent most of my weekends and summers with both sets of my grandparents, and some of my aunts and uncles – some of the only childhood memories I can recall. There is a good part of my childhood that I cannot remember. My therapist explained that it is likely a mental block caused by emotional trauma that will not allow me to remember. The good times I do remember quite vividly. They were times of happiness, warmth, and acceptance for the most part. As I sit here typing, the picture of me looking out the back window of the car as we drove away from my grandparent’s house and the hurt of my heart is still so real. I didn’t ever want to leave, but why? Home was not a happy place for me. Home life with my parents was the antithesis to those pleasant experiences.

My parents for as long as I can remember struggled to maintain a meaningful marriage. I watched them separate and when they got back together, they both seemed to live their own lives separately. Dad would go out with his friends and mom would sit home with me or go out with her friends alone. Mom took me everywhere, I was glued to her side, she was my everything. I saw my mom hurt for many years and I bore the weight of that pain. For this very reason, I didn’t want to pursue college because I didn’t want to leave my mom alone with my dad to hurt alone. And my dad, well he just was never around, and when he was around, he wasn’t present. While the abandonment of a father was painful, the interactions we had hurt me more. I was never good enough for him, my grades were never quite up to snuff, I didn’t want to play the sports he wanted me to play, I just couldn’t do anything right in his eyes. I do remember conversations where he would say, “Why can’t you be like so and so’s son?” or “Please don’t embarrass me.” What does a young boy who longs for the love and acceptance of his father do? He acts out, he resorts to food for comfort, struggles internally for the rest of his life, denies any thought of living a life of true authenticity.

Why do I share this very raw part of my life? It is what hurt me to my core, and what ultimately defined me. If I could not live up to the approval of my father, how could I ever be happy with myself? How could I ever confront and deal with the fact that I was gay? In early 2000, we eventually reconciled. I was determined that I would not take that baggage into the rest of my life. I sat down with my dad for the first time and boldly shared with him how his actions affected me. For the first time in my life, I saw this man I grew to hate soften and begin to weep. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting that reaction. After many words and many tears, I knew that we could never regain what we had lost but I was willing to move forward in a positive way, to which he agreed. Today we have a good relationship, and his relationship with my mom is stronger than ever. I’ll never get the dad I longed for, but I do have a friend in him who supports me in a tremendous way.

I continued to suppress the idea that I was gay all throughout middle school and high school. In the middle of my 7th-grade year, we moved to a new school district. So, on top of struggling with my own identity, I was now trying to navigate the awful time of middle school – then called junior high school. I did slowly start to make friends and tried my best to assimilate into the heteronormative life, often still having thoughts about being gay. I dated a few girls and even had sex with girls. I do remember thinking this feels ok, maybe I’m not gay after all. (To my closest guy friends growing up, please don’t worry…I wasn’t attracted to any of you – LOL!) I tried my best to conceal this part of me, and for the most part, I believe I was successful. There was a time in my early teen years when in passing, my mom told me that my uncle had asked her one day if she thought I was gay. I feel like she responded with a hard no. Despite her objection, I remember being mortified that someone, a family member close to me speculated. From that point, I was very deliberate in making sure I didn't give any indication of this secret.

After I turned 21, still lost and bewildered, and really starting to struggle with the thought that I could be gay, I was introduced to conservative Christianity. I remember thinking, “this is my way out”, “I could pray the gay away”. Even though I was hiding the thought of being gay deep down inside, I had some hope that I could completely move past it. Unfortunately, it never went away, but would be suppressed somewhat by this life of Christian service I was now living.

So, what does this guy, living the Christian life, still struggling with same-sex attraction do next? He gets married – married to a woman. Wasn’t this what I was supposed to do? Wouldn’t this somehow solidify me being straight? We were married for almost twenty years, many years of which were great times. We also had our share of struggles throughout our marriage. We had traumatic family losses early on, we had a home built, and we struggled with infertility for nearly seven years. Having children was definitely a distraction for me, albeit some of the best years of my life. To say that my marriage to my ex-wife was a mistake would be a complete lie. I have two beautiful biological children to prove that thought wrong. Many of you, straight and gay alike, know that having children can add good and bad stress to life. You are no longer just the two of you; you have other lives interacting with you, naturally causing distance between you and your spouse. Add the dilemma of struggling with same-sex attraction being thrust into the forefront – this is where I found myself in late 2018.

So, here I am, a 45-year-old man faced with the reality of my situation, struggling internally with my marriage, my relationship with my kids, my relationship with God, and more than anything struggling with my own identity. The emotions were overwhelming. I remember struggling with the thought of what I should do with this reality? I couldn’t hide it anymore, and it was beginning to erode my closest relationships. After months of contemplation, my ex-wife and I had reached our breaking point. On Easter 2019, I was backed into a corner and had to come face to face with my reality, our reality. After about thirty minutes of trying to find the words to say, replaying in my mind what I had already contemplated for months on the ramifications of what I was about to say, I said it out loud, finally! With mixed emotions, I finally uttered the words “I’M GAY”. As you could imagine there was a rush of emotions for both of us. I felt a weight lifted off me, but that weight was immediately transferred to her. Her emotions, as she shared with me were mixed as well, she finally understood that the frustration we both were experiencing, and the lack of intimacy was not her fault. There were definitely many “AHA” moments.

So now, the elephant in the room. I’m married with two kids and I’m gay. There was no way to hide this elephant away any longer. Many conversations, many arguments and tears, my ex-wife wanted to work it out – because, with her Christian faith, divorce was not an option. She wanted to try and accept me for who I was and stay married, also graciously trying to give me space to make friendships in the gay community. In my heart of hearts, I wanted this to work as well. As time moved on and the reality of our situation was ever more real, my frustration grew stronger. While I wanted to keep my family, I also wanted to embrace myself and finally be true to myself. We were not happy; we were constantly on edge and the kids knew something was not right. Unfortunately for her, she had no one to really talk to because I had only come out to her; however, I did. Her inability to verbalize what she was going through and my inability to embrace who I really was began to eat away at us more.

I was now faced with a decision. The decision to stay or leave was all on me and was not easy to make. I went away for a week on a business trip back home and took that time to decide what would be best for us all. I also took the time to talk to my parents, as they had no idea. That conversation went amazingly well and the love that was exchanged there was unreal. You’ll get to hear their side of this story in the next few days. Ironically, my dad, the person who caused much of my emotional damage, has become my biggest cheerleader, supporter, and ally. While I sometimes wish things were different between us, I would not change a thing. I am a stronger person because of it, and I love him more than ever! I came home from that trip and discussions ensued about how we would move forward. Although not her desire, she ultimately knew already what my decision was going to be. This decision did not come easy for me! But weighing everything, I knew if I stayed, we all would be miserable, and we began the hard conversations to put things into motion to separate, and ultimately divorce.

Two years have passed, and despite the many years of hurt and struggle, denying myself, and not living a life of true authenticity, I find myself in a place of peace and contentment. Married to the most amazing man and a brood full of kiddos. My kids are beautiful examples of grace and forgiveness. It goes without saying that my divorce from their mom and the realization that their dad is gay has not been easy for them to navigate. I can honestly say that they are a true picture of grace and love, as we are daily learning to love and respect each other in a new way. All I can hope that they can gain from this experience is a better understanding of the love their dad has for them and the example of living authentically no matter what.

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