There’s nothing left in the closet!

October 3, 2013 I told my wife, parents, brothers, closest friends and the leadership of the church I was pastoring that I am gay.

My greatest fear was that once people learned of my secret they would treat me differently. I knew people would and they did.  A Pastor friend of my said “I get it Robb, it’s like you have had these helium balloons you’ve been trying to hold down your entire life and you’re tired.  You can’t do it anymore.”    He was so right.  I had to tell the truth no matter how great the fear was.

This year has been an incredible year of reflection and shame reduction. How did I get here?  I’m 39 years old, divorced with three children.  What will I do now?  What will I do after working 18 years for the Church? How do I live in my current state of hating myself because I believed I was broken?   I wondered how I would change after the truth came out.  Did I create so much trauma for myself that my personality and passions in life would dramatically shift?   I headed into a new vulnerability that whatever the cost I had to be who I am.  I am gay.  I did not choose to be gay. I am not ashamed of being gay.

To my surprise, I am still the same person with my passions and personality intact.  Coming out, telling people that I’m gay, the pain of divorce, the loss of relationship with people who don’t know how to love and be-friend me has changed me so much.  However, I am still recognizable to those who know me and love me.  I’m still me.  The major difference is that now I’m open and unashamed of what I had kept a secret for decades.  My favorite response this past year comes from my dad who I overheard on the phone to one of his friends.  He said “yep, Robb is here in Florida for a few days.  Yep, he’s doing good, same ole Robb, Just a little different love life”.

This year I’ve dealt with many responses to my coming out.  “I’ll call you later Robb to set up a time to take a look at your furnace” and no return call. .  Learning later that the guy who had fixed my furnace issues in the past stated that he couldn’t help me because he wasn’t going to condone my lifestyle.  I wonder if he has an interview process for all homeowners?

I’ve also had 3 former students who were a part of my youth ministry call me up and say “Robb, we know what’s going on and we want to let you know that we love you. We don’t think any differently of you and we want to take you out for a beer and talk”.  They spoke about how I had always been there for them and they now wanted to be there for me because I was hurting.

I experienced the fear of discrimination for the first time as I started my first ever full time job outside of working for the church.   I laughed internally as I heard my fellow sales staff correcting one another about their foul language around the guy who was a former Pastor.  I thought to myself, I wonder what’s going to happen when they learn that I’m gay?  Will they treat me differently?  Will I lose my job?

For years the mentioning of homosexuality had caused so much anxiety in me that I would avoid speaking with people about it whenever it would come up in conversation. It was just too close to the truth.  A don’t ask and don’t tell (or even talk about “it”) mentality is prevalent among the religious culture of West Michigan.  People know that I’ve come out but are paralyzed in how or what to do or say. In some circles I’m brave and in others a coward.  People who believe that being gay is not a choice believe that it took great courage to come out.  They have told me that they are proud of me.  Those who believe being gay is a choice see my announcement pointing to a despicable addiction and will continue to pray (and have told me they are praying for this for me) that I renounce my choice to be gay.  Or that I will not enter into any relationship with another man.  Consequently, it is this second group that I feel most compelled to influence.  I get it.  No one knows what to do with the Pastor who comes out and says he’s gay and divorces his wife to live openly as a gay man.   It’s not that common.

A young man I met this year was scrambling to come up with a plan “b” for where he was going to live for fear that when he told his parents he is gay they would kick him out.  After meeting with him several times he made a decision that he was going to tell them.  His report of their unconditional love was remarkable. Unfortunately, this is not always the story as other’s have told me the opposite response from their parents and families.   Another friend reported that as he shared the news with his family his mother exclaimed “you have ruined my life”.   There is nothing more devastating than being rejected by someone who is supposed to love you unconditionally.

I’m not sure what this “telling” will do.  But, I hope that maybe in me telling my stories, engaging in some conversation, that I may be able to help bring some consideration to some of the ways in which our beliefs and actions about homosexuality cause so much damage to the name of the one who loved unconditionally and to the soul of the homosexual.

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32 thoughts on “There’s nothing left in the closet!

  1. Hello Friend,
    “Just Robb” is a perfect title for this! In High School so many people would insinuate or flat out ask me if you were gay. I always said, nah – he’s “just Robb”. The only thing that has changed about you over the years is your openness to the subject, otherwise you have always been “just Robb”.

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    1. Thanks John! It’s funny to hear that people questioned my sexuality when I was younger. I thought I had it so under control and had everyone fooled! 😉 Much of it was easy to hide in my self righteousness of being a good christian boy I suppose! “of course i’m not going to have sex with her, Jesus is watching”

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  2. Good for you for “coming out”
    I wish you all the best. You did the best thing you can do for yourself!
    I hope that you can live comfortably knowing you can now (hopefully) relax and live a happier life.

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  3. Your story is so close to mine. So I want to applaud you for the courage and strength. I was married for almost 28 years with three grown children and was in full time ministry overseas for most of my career. My former wife had always knew of my same sex attraction but suppression and years of ex-gay took a toil. After returning to the States I was teaching at a Christian university where I lost my job because it came to the board’s attention that I was gay and in the process of a divorce.

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  4. My experience was nearly identical. When I came out to individuals, I would often say, “I’m still the person you knew 10 minutes ago, but I’m no longer the liar you knew.” Living the lie made me feel like an actor portraying my life instead of a real person actually living my life… BIG difference! Thanks for sharing your experience, you are not alone!

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    1. Thanks Harrison! It has been so interesting to experience the difference in the way people have treated me this past year. So refreshing that many have also continued to be my friend and have shown their support and love!

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  5. You wrote that many people have said that they will be praying for you. I, too, will be praying for you, but not that you will see the “error of your ways,” but rather that as you deal with judgement and a lack of understanding, that you will continually be reminded of God’s love for you and that there are many people who are so glad that you can finally be honest!

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  6. Hang in there Robb…Thanks for being honest! I had an affair during my second marriage and now divorced…Was I wrong? Only in the fact that I went against God…But, to be honest I am the happiest I have ever been. I talked to God, told him I knew what I did was against his word but I still loved him ….I move on in this world day by day as a single mom able to provide for the kids …people that have come in my life have been removed only to find out down the road the relationship I would have had with them was going to be toxic….Many blessings have happened to me that only God can be responsible for. Everyday he proves to me how much he loves me. Be true to yourself Robb, talk to God and it will all work out.

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  7. Being a married gay man myself, I understand the pain you have gone through. What I don’t understand is how your new found freedom is affecting your former wife and children. My wife knows my orientation, but I cannot imagine life without her and my children. As strong as my attraction to other men has been, I cannot foresee a same sex relationship that could take the place of what I have with my wife. SHE loves me unconditionally. Knowing all along that you are gay, why would you put a woman through that? I am happy you are happy, but is she? I would love to continue this dialog and would be very surprised to see this response on your post. Your happiness came at the cost of other’s pain. Are we celebrating that also?

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    1. Craig, you bring up on obvious point that there is a lot of pain that I have caused in making this decision to come out. There are two sides to this story and unfortunately there is no easy way to talk about specifics without causing her much more pain. That is not my intention. She is deeply hurt by my decision to end our marriage. I lament the fact that my children may barely remember a time when mom and dad lived together, that they have to split their time between their mom and dad instead of living in one family unit. I hope that someday she will find happiness and someone who can love her the way she deserves to be loved. There is celebration and lament! There is also hope for her as well. I hope to be able to speak further into the pain and confusion I have caused in future posts. I remember thinking prior to coming out that my decision was selfish. That I should just keep my secret so everyone else could be happy. Nevertheless, I felt I had a clear directive that I hinged my decision upon. I had a peace come over me that stated “if you tell the truth, everything will be ok”. I have held on to that peace as I move forward with my life.

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  8. Hey Robb,
    Really appreciate everything you had to say. Continuing to pray for you, as you continue to walk with God on your journey of discovering who you are in Him. Keep resting in Him and His word, as your final security, and final authority. Love you brother!

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  9. Hey Robb,
    Thanks for sharing and being so vulnerable!
    I’m continuing to pray for you as you walk with God on your journey of discovering who you are in Him. Keep resting in Him as your final security, and final authority!
    Love you brother.

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  10. Interesting that one of the respondents mentioned the term “same sex attraction” which is a term that I am most familiar with. God gives all of us crosses and in some cases, SSA is one of them. Having been married for 40 years, two grown kids (son and daughter), two grandsons, I don’t identify with my SSA. I am a loving married man, husband, dad, grandfather. Long ago I moved from having “sex” with my wife to making love to my wife.

    My ssa started when I was abused as a child. I contribute my ssa to my being abused. For all intents and purposes, I am a normal man who has a cross.

    No one in my life knows I have ssa. When I struggle, it’s generally about sex, which is no different then a committed straight man’s wondering eye, I turn to the Lord and He pretty much helps me through. I belong to a great internet support group for men and women with ssa.

    In my world, “chastity” is the key. I love you brother and would never turn my back on you. Though I may not approve of some behaviors, I most certainly love you as a brother in Christ.

    I wish you the best Robb.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your experience! I have had several people in my life call me to a life of “chastity”. Saying that I should look at my orientation as SSA and that it should be something that I resist and bear! For too many reasons to account for in this short post I decided that I would embrace my sexuality and seek to be authentic. I have chosen the opportunity to be able to develop intimacy with someone whom I’m wired to be sexually attracted to. If I may say, I’m sorry that you have had to keep your secret and not had a real friend to confide in all these years! I wish you the best as you also continue to work out your salvation.

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      1. Robb, thank you for your kind words and I truly appreciate your candidness. I would like to correspond with you and I mean what I say, I have no intent or interest in converting you to a life of chastity. And for that matter, I don’t live a chaste life in that my wife and I do still make love. I will admit that there was a time where I “thought” that perhaps I should move on and be who I am sexually but as one of the people who responded said, I can’t see myself without my wife. I also came to the realization that my sexuality is a small part of me and that I have so much more to give. Something else that’s changed me are the relationships that I’ve developed with other men. A closeness that has nothing to do with sexuality but instead a bond which allows for many different emotions to surface.

        It’s funny but through the years I have had gay friends who didn’t/don’t know of my ssa. In my mind, although I’m against gay marriage, something that always came to mind and a belief that I had was that the standards for gay marriage be set to the same standards as heterosexual marriage. Accordingly, to abstain until marriage. IMO, if we place gay marriage on the same level as straight, I’m gonna hold the same values to both. Am I making any sense?

        I’m rambling … sorry. In any event, I do wish you the best. Take care and God bless. Your a good man Robb

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  11. Hi Robb,
    How fantastic!! It takes so much strength and courage to do what you did. The reward for being so authentic will be evident as you find peace in your life.
    I also came out two years ago. I was married with three kids and I am the daughter of a baptist minister . I bottled it up for years and it took its toll on me. I suffered terrible depression and self loathing for years until I could take it no longer. I’m proud of being a gay Christian woman and I’m proud of being true to myself so that my children got to know their real mum.
    Well done for doing it and I wish all the happiness and peace you deserve.
    Louise

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  12. So proud of the courage this took, Robb. Just want you to know that we love you and Jesus loves you and nothing’s going to change that.

    I’d love to get together for coffee and catch up sometime soon.

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