It’s been a long, painful and perilous journey from a life of suffocating fear and self-loathing toward a life of fearlessness and love. I spent most of my teenage and adult years trapped in the impenetrable coffin of my self-loathing, absolutely convinced that I was unlovable to God. As a young boy growing up in the evangelical world, I somehow absorbed the message that being gay makes a person loathsome and subhuman. When I started to discover that I was gay myself, I became the victim of my own undying disgust and hatred. Like a supernova, my being collapsed upon itself, the object of its own unquenchable disgust.
Once upon a time, there was a fast talking, chain-smoking bisexual Texan pastor named Robert who sat me down and gave me a stern talking to.
“Listen Stephen,” he said. “The world is full of assholes. And if you lose your sanity over them – if you lose your happiness because some asshole out there thinks you shouldn’t get married, or thinks of you as less than human, what then? Have you changed their minds? No. You’ve just lost your own life to them. You’ve let them win. They’re still assholes, and you’ve sacrificed your happiness to them. Why should you give a fuck what they say, man? Live your life.”
I provide everything on this blog as a free service to whoever may enjoy and find refreshment in my work. Over the years of writing I have received numerous emails from people telling me that my work on faith and doubt, homosexuality, and depression have deeply touched them and helped them through dark times.
After years of battling depression and anxiety, I’ve learned that some weapons are more potent than others. I’ve learned that exercise is as indispensable as food, that sleep is magic, and I can’t be afraid to ask for help before depression robs me of the ability to ask. But also, surprisingly, I’ve learned that reading – what I read and how much – is an indicator of my mental health.
Every day, I go to work as a grocery store cashier at a family-owned business in a prosperous region of the more generally depressed Appalachian mountains. This work has transformed my life, not because it is the exciting, high-impact, high-power job so many of us dream about in our twenties and thirties, but because it brings me into direct contact with humanity.
I’m happy as a gay man. In fact, with the exception of when I sit down to write about it, I rarely think about being gay. It’s simply a fact, fading into the details of life. I think of myself as simply Stephen, with a myriad of interests, and I think of my partner as my partner, whom I love dearly. Very rarely now do I ever stop to consider that we are both men. I love my partner’s masculinity (I am gay, after all) but that doesn’t mean I stop to dwell on the fact. This lack of dwelling is a mark of happiness and freedom for me.
January through March are my dark months – the months that I am most likely to get depressed, the months when I hunker down and survive the mood winter that comes over me. To celebrate spring finally being here, I thought I would take a detour from my regular writing and share with you some of my favorite things this spring.
I’m slowly coming to the realization that the faith of my childhood: the Evangelical, middle-of-the-road, straight and narrow faith that was passed down to me by my parents and community, no longer fits. My faith has gone through a myriad of transformations, and I’ve always prided myself on having an adaptable faith. But this feels different: the faith itself is no longer working. It’s an old, trusty Toyota that has carried me through forests and over deserts, but it’s sputtering now, starting to break down.
I was traumatized by my time in church. The years of sitting in pews, Bible studies, and coffee shops with Christian leaders, listening to variation upon variation of how wrong homosexuality is, slowly eroded me. Words might not seem that powerful, but if they are a steady trickle, coursing over your young mind which is porous as fresh soil, they carve out whole canyons of self loathing.