(Editor’s note: San Diego Gay & Lesbian News welcomes a new contributor, the Rev. Jerry Troyer. His column, Heart & Soul, will be published every other Tuesday.)
Many of us in the LGBTQ community carry the scars of growing up gay. Maybe at least some of the people in our lives knew; maybe no one knew. But chances are that we knew.
Quite possibly we didn’t know what to call “it,” but we knew that we were somehow different. There was that friend of the same sex who we really liked, who hugged us, and we wanted to hold on a little too long. Or that first day in gym class, when we thought we were going to have a heart attack.
And there were all those hurtful jokes and hateful remarks made by people who were supposed to love us. You know the ones. Every time someone said something, it was like a kick in the stomach.
For me, part of the challenge in growing up gay was confusion. Not about myself or who I was, but about the world’s reaction to it. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide my sexual orientation. I must have been born this way. So how can it be wrong?
Growing up in the 1960s in northern San Diego County, there was no one to ask; no one to talk to. Certainly no one at the church. And thanks to my church’s teachings at the time, I was terrified that my family would find out, so I did whatever I could to hide. I was way in the back of the closet.
After three years of being married to a woman, and making a big mess of things, I finally was able to admit to the important people in my life that I was gay. Of course, we call it “coming out.” But even after we do, and openly begin to live “the life,” it doesn’t mean the past is washed away.
My family was incredibly loving and supportive when I told them. Sadly, yours may not have been. Many people in our community go through heart-breaking experiences and abandonment when their families find out.
So what can we do with those memories, those hurts, and the shame and regret from the messes we made? We can forgive.
Forgiveness is completely illogical. We may believe our parents don’t deserve forgiveness for the way they treated us. Our ex-lover doesn’t deserve forgiveness for leaving us for someone younger and cuter, or with a huge credit card bill. Maybe we feel like we need to beat ourselves up some more for the years of substance abuse, or the financial disaster we created, or for being so stupid when we (and you can fill in the blank).
That may very well be true. But we deserve the peace and quiet we will receive when we begin to realize that they, whoever they were, did the best they could at the time. And by the way, so did we. If we could have done better, we would have.
Forgiveness is the very best gift you can give yourself. You won’t get it all done today, because it is a process, not an event—like peeling away the layers of an onion. But begin today, to see, and feel, that you deserve to let go of old hurts, angers and regrets.
Now, forgiving someone doesn’t mean you need to meet for dinner. You may never want to see them again, and that’s just fine. But over time, you’ll find that the memory of whomever or whatever it was will be less and less painful, and ultimately will be like a book you read.
How do you do it? To quote a famous shoe company, “just do it.” Think about your father (for example), and say to yourself, “I forgive you.” You may have to do it kicking and screaming (so to speak) to start with. And that’s OK. But it will get easier.
There can be work involved in forgiveness, but it is so worth it.
You deserve all the good that life has for you. You deserve the peace and quiet that forgiveness can give you.
Take care of yourself.
(The Rev. Jerry Troyer, a native of San Diego, is the senior minister of Joyful Living Church, a non-denominational New Thought spiritual community. He is the author of the new book, “Coming Out To Ourselves … Admitting, Accepting And Embracing Who We Truly Are. Troyer and his husband, also named Jerry, live in the San Diego area with their golden retriever Roxie. Visit his website HERE. )