2016 Boston Pride Guide

Page 159

Coming out and around When the media began to focus on the suicides of many of my ily may have been okay with my life, many of my peers are less forLGBTQ brothers and sisters, it brought to light their stories and the tunate. As I mentioned before, my coming out sparked a conversation realization that others went untold. I realized that we need solidarity within in my family that was religiously based. In my community we in the LGBTQ community. We are stronger standing together as hold religion in high regard, especially when it comes to things we one oppressed group than we are as multiple groups, separated by the see as “Sins”. different races, sexualities, and gender identities within the commuI have often seen the damning of gays in my community and renity. ligion, but not the damning of those who have been divorced, or have I want others to be able to identify with my story and understand other issues that are deemed as “Sins”. We run to the Bible to justify that, while the struggles I faced when coming out as a gay man are our hate speech when we know that our God is love and that Jesus common regardless of race, culture can play a role in a person’s coming was known to hang out with prostitutes. We are all human no matter out experience. When I came out to my mother she was upset be- how we look at it, and given that we are a people who were, and concause she had spent her whole life defending me from accusations of tinue to be, oppressed, you would think that we would be welcoming homosexuality. She truly believed that I was not gay, but just had towards another minority dealing with similar societal discrimination. some stereotypically gay characteristics. After coming out to my If you replaced the word “gay” with the word “Black” 20 to 30 years mother she explained that in the past she had asked me indirectly if ago you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the treatment I was gay or not, and because I changed the subject she assumed that that one group received and the other. Even though my family has I was not. Despite this past miscommubeen okay with me, I still am part of a nication, my mother and I went only community that has problems We all have a story, and larger one day without talking to one another, with the way I live my life. and then we picked up and spoke as if no matter how nominal As part of my full cycle of coming out, I nothing ever happened. Not many peohave returned to religion and have been you may think your story embraced by an amazing church family ple in my community can say that their parents reacted to their coming out in at Myrtle Baptist Church, where we are is, it matters. such an uneventful way. working to become officially known as When I told the rest of my family, an open and affirming church. I have rethey simply asked what took me so long! Some of my family mem- turned to religion to help create an affirming place for other LGBTQ bers are religious, and my coming out started a small debate in which Black people to worship and find fellowship. Steeped in African we agreed to disagree, because I truly don't see the way I live as a sin American Baptist tradition, we are welcoming of all races, sexualities, regardless of what any religions teach about homosexuality. From the and gender identities. The work of helping to heal those in the day I came out, my family was very supportive – even to the point of LGBTQ community who have been riddled with Bible bullets is onasking when I was going bring a partner into the family. I couldn't going in my church. have asked for anything more than this. We all have a story, and no matter how nominal you may think While it may seem like I had the least stressful coming out ex- your story is, it matters. We come from so many walks of life in the perience imaginable, leading up to my coming out I had many of the LGBTQ community, and these vast differences should pull us tosame experiences as other people struggling to come to terms with gether. By acting as a unified community to stand against the hatred their sexual orientation. I dated guys and girls (not at the same time) and bigotry of this world, we will continue to change the hearts and and tried to convince both that I was sure of myself. I was always minds of those closed off to the reality our lives. changing the subject when friends and family members asked whom I am living my life as free as a bird and looking forward to marI was dating. As the oldest grandchild in my family, there are a lot of rying my partner of five and a half years this September 23, 2016. expectations. I assumed that I wasn't living up to one of them by not being a heterosexual. I just wanted to be considered normal for the Earnest Offley is Director of Human Resources at Cambridge Housing feelings that I had inside of me. My life only got better after I came Authority in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In his spare time, Earnest out, and this is because of the love and support of my family. remains active at his alma mater Roger Williams University, serving on My life and my coming out experience are different from many its Alumni Board. Since summer 2014 Earnest has been on the Board of of my peers in the African American community regarding family. The Theater Offensive (TTO). He appreciates the work that is being done However, from a religious standpoint I had similar experiences. In by TTO to help change the way we think about race, gender, and sexual my experience, African Americans tend to be more conservative on orientation. Earnest can be found traveling, checking out a local vineyard, this issue than any other group in the United States.. While my fam- or running a 5K. #WickedProud | 159