The Story of Esther in the Bible means a great deal to me. On the day I decided to come out it was Esther who gave me the last push. She was the one who told me–you aren’t just doing it for you. You’re doing it to save your people. Every act of coming out is about saving people. But more on Esther in a moment.
Some background is in order: I had kept the secret of being gay for five years before coming out—three of them I was gone from the Yukon, a student in Texas, researching whether or not God was okay with me being gay. He was uppermost on my mind. If He didn’t like it, I would go through therapy, I would become a monk, I would do whatever was necessary to change myself to fit what He wanted. Thankfully, not only was He cool with me being gay, it was how he created me to be. So it was quite a revelation. However, just because God was okay with it, didn’t mean I was itching to tell my church. People are unpredictable.
At first, I wondered if I really HAD to come out. It wasn’t anyone else’s business. I had known many gays who told me to go live my life and not bother with coming out at all. Who needs to know? — Well, I had lived my life pretty open to this point, and it was difficult to keep part of myself from people I loved. In fact, it was so difficult it was hitting me on multiple levels that I had to come out.
1. I had become deceptive. This was hard for me to accept. That I would have to hide who I was in order to keep the life I had been living, to keep the friends I had. I was never a liar growing up—and never a liar as an adult. But suddenly, I was a liar in order to keep the peace, to keep friends, to keep interacting with the church and people I loved. It made me into a person I didn’t want to be.
2. I wanted to share who I loved with the church. They loved me, and I wanted to be as open as I could be with them–letting them know, like anyone else, when I was dating, when I was happy, why I was happy, who I loved. One day I wanted to stand up with my boyfriend like so many other couples in the church and declare that we got engaged. The whole crowd would clap. There would be such a renewal of love and hope in the congregation whenever a young couple announced their upcoming marriage.
3. God told me, point blank, that he couldn’t use me until I came out. How could he use someone that had a secret to spill–a secret that might endanger whatever mission he would give me? And further, how could God put me on any kind of road to minister to other gay christians–when I couldn’t be honest with them?
4. I was hurting others who knew. A woman in the church whom I’d told many months before came up to me and said–we can’t keep your secret any longer. You have to tell the pastor. She set in motion a pressure that would just increase every day until I came out. She wasn’t threatening to tell–but she said that the pressure to keep the secret was hurting her family.
And then Esther came along. I realized what I had to do—but for some reason I thought Easter was the best time to do it. I knew that I would go from family to family, but just like it’s hard when you skydive to let go of the safety of the plane… I was lingering at the door, looking at the thousand mile drop below me. I knew if I went to one family, it would get away from me and I would never be able to control who knew what. The truth would be out and then they could decide to hurt me with it.
I didn’t think that God would REALLY want me to mess up Easter Week, nor did I think he wanted me to REALLY go through all that ordeal just to come out… Geesh. It seemed so selfish. I demanded one night that God prove to me that it was really Him speaking and not some grandiose plan of my own to steal thunder from Jesus during Easter (I didn’t trust my inherent need for a bit of dramatic action). I grabbed a Bible and opened it at random. “Do it! Use the Bible to tell me to come out—or else I’m staying put.”
I flipped open to the first chapter of Esther and began reading her story for the first time as a gay man. I was shocked at how closely she paralleled what gay people go through. She had been raised by Mordecai after her parents had died. She was his cousin. When the King suddenly wanted every beautiful virgin in the kingdom rounded up so he could pick a new queen, Esther was rounded up. This was not her choice. Mordecai forbid her to tell anyone that she was Jewish. Instead, as all the other virgins, Esther was given a lot of beauty treatments–which just made her look more beautiful. And, of course, the King picked her as his new Queen because he found her more beautiful and was “more attracted” to her than the other virgins he was quickly making into concubines.
Through a series of events, Mordecai finds out about a plot to assassinate the king, tells Esther, the plot is foiled, and Mordecai gets credit–but no reward. Haman, a nobleman the King favored, got a promotion above all other nobles. So lots of nobles and other royalty bowed in his presence, but Mordecai, and other Jews, refused to bow. Haman, annoyed, told the King that he had a lot of people in his kingdom who had other traditions–who did not follow the king’s laws–and that this was dangerous to have in a kingdom. Further he asked that any man who did not obey the King’s laws be put to death–meaning that every Jew would be rounded up and killed.
Mordecai heard of this–and even though he’d told Esther to hide her nationality–he now told her to come out.
Esther was in a pickle. It wasn’t like she could just up and go to the King and ask him something. Vashti, her predecessor angered the king by not following his rules, and so Esther might end up like Vashti, deposed, or worse, dead. Queens had power only as the vassal of Kings—at least here. If she didn’t say something to the King, her people would perish.
“I will go to the King, even though it is against the law. If I perish, I perish.” The most telling, and famous, line from the Book of Esther. She decides that her own life is not worth the death of her people. So she risks everything for them. In her case, the King is favorable–the genocide is stopped, Haman is killed, and Mordecai is promoted and honored. Esther is a good Queen and her husband loves her.
Is Esther applicable to gay Christians today?
Esther clarifies why coming out is so important. Coming out is not just about saving yourself, but it is about saving others. Every gay person who comes out helps introduce the normality of gays to other Christians. Gay people are already in their lives. We are not weird, or strangers. We are not anti-God, or anti-Christian. We are those they already love. Just as Esther showed Xerxes, her husband, that Jews were already a people he loved.
We come out for everyone else first.
Today, many GLBT folks are inside churches, or raised by Christian families, told that they must choose between being gay or being Christian–and that’s just not true. For many gay Christians, suicide looks like a viable option–and suicide rates are statistically higher for LGBT youth. It makes sense that Youth and Adults outside of a fundamentalist religious or conservative environment have less pressure to change–the “secular” world is generally more accepting. These GLBT folks have fewer moral and spiritual issues to have to deal with than youth and adults raised in a religious, or conservative environment. If their environment is accepting, youth will generally make an easier transition into accepting themselves. If their environment is hostile, then there is greater risk to the GLBT person both from the people around him and from himself. These people need to see gay Christians come out. They need to see that it can and should be done–that they will be loved by other Christians.
In the end, though, coming out saves us too. It is a great risk–but the reward of integrity, honesty, relief and Love are worth the pain. In my case, there was a lot of pain–as people had to firmly stand against homosexuality, even as they tried to stand for me. But just as you cannot take the color out of your skin and just hate the color–you can’t take the homosexuality out of a gay or lesbian and separate it. It would be like me saying, I love you, but I hate your straightness….
But coming out saved me. I am so glad I came out. I came out to my church in 2009. I am a much different person now in 2011, and all of this because I came out. I am happier, more stable, more confident, and willing to take stands knowing I am standing on my own integrity, and on the truth that God loves me as a gay man, and wants the best for me, which will include, one day, a good man as my husband. I can stand firm knowing I have God watching my back.
And because I came out, I can now talk to others about coming out–through this blog, in person, and it makes a difference. I know if I had had other gay christians to talk to, it would have been less painful. And I hope that I am helping others. When others come out–they give us all strength. Thank you, Ray Boltz, for coming out. You gave me strength. I know that Ray got strength from Mel White, whose book, Stranger at the Gate, started most of us on this journey.
Finally, thank you, Esther, for coming out. You came out so long ago–but for me, you came out April 6, 2009, so that I could too.