This blog, as I have said before in another post, is my way of sharing my life and experiences in the hope to give encouragement and inspiration to others. I am a normal guy, and I’ve been blessed with extraordinary events that have shaped me into the man I have become. If my story gives hope and courage to other young men and women who are scared to come out, or who are waiting for the perfect moment, then I am happy. If you are waiting for the right moment you might be waiting a really long time, because there is no “right moment”. It doesn’t matter how or when you tell your family, just tell them! That is the right moment, and how they take the news is then their business. You will know when to come out, you will just sense it. Do it when you all are feeling comfortable and relaxed, take a few deep breaths and come out.
If I had known back in September 2008 how much my life was going to change, how many obstacles I would have to overcome, then I can honestly say I would have been to terrified to even take the first step. Please don’t get me wrong, I love how far I’ve come and the man I am now, all I’m saying is thankfully I didn’t know the future before I took the first step. That first step was Facebook contact with Marc, he was a friend of a former pianist for Celtic Woman, and because I was in love with Celtic Woman back then I became friends with one of the pianists on Facebook. Marc was a middle aged man living in London with his boyfriend, Marc had just finished working on his solo album and I was looking to do a article on Marc for the community college newspaper I was apart of. I had just turned 18, and I was attending Highland Community College in Freeport, Illinois where I had lived in my teen years. Marc and I wrote each other every once in awhile, it was so good talking with him, he was at that time my first gay friend and it was nice to have someone to open up to; and to this day Marc and I still talk occasionally, and considering everything we still get along and can talk for hours. During one of our conversations back in late September 2008, Marc mentioned his german boyfriend Christian, so it wasn’t too long before I sent Christian a friend request on Facebook. He accepted my friend request and sent me a message saying “I guess we are friends now”. Christian always replied to my messages faster than Marc did, so it was easier to have a conversation with Christian. We would talk about everything, and mid October 2008 we were in love. He told Marc that he fell in love with me, and that he was going to come meet me in December. I was happy, finally I “out” in the cyber world.
Throughout October and November 2008, Christian and I were constantly messaging each other. (Somehow I always manage to find a long-distance relationship as I think about it now). Christian bought his plane ticket to Chicago, he would be in Illinois from December 6th-12th (I think it was 6 days). Now things were going well, we were in love, we were going to finally meet in person, it was incredibly exciting except the fact my family didn’t know I was gay yet.
My family are Baptist, and we attended the baptist church where my father grew up in Lena, Illinois. We not only attended the church every Sunday, all 3 services and Wednesday night’s too, but my father was one of the two deacons and my uncle was the other deacon. My aunt taught Sunday school and my mom taught Awana club on Wednesday nights. I played the piano for our church services, controlled the sound system, and once a month I taught the teen Sunday school. Back in the day I considered being a missionary, because I loved the thought of traveling and living in a foreign country. All in all not only in my eyes, but also in the eyes of the other church members I was the perfect example of a young christian man who was on his way to do great things. It’s no secret that the very strong steadfast Baptists don’t approve of homosexuality, according to the Bible homosexuality is an abomination and one of the deadly sins. I grew up hearing that so often, especially in the teen service when my grandpa Cochrans best friend would be teaching. He was over 60 and would get side tracked and start talking about homosexuality and the gays, and how back in his day the word gay meant happy. It was hard to sit there and here a man you look up to, the best friend of my grandparents, telling the teens that homosexuality is an abomination. Men sleeping with men is not natural, it’s the lusts of the flesh and it will lead to destruction just like the city of Sodom and Gomorrah where homosexuality was rampant. Yes, I’ve heard the stories and know what the Bible says, but I also know who I am and how I feel. I won’t get into that know though, that will be in another post.
Now you know a bit of my family background, and that I couldn’t just introduce them to Christian as my boyfriend and the man I love. I convinced Christian to send my dad a message on Facebook about how he was going to be in the area for vacation after an important meeting he had at a bank in Chicago and that he would like to attend a good Baptist church on Sunday and would like a tour guide to show him northern Illinois. Yes, this was our plan and big lie, the only truth was that Christian was a banker and that he did have vacation and wanted to see the area. Things went as planned, on that Saturday we made our journey to Chicago in the train, my parents wanted to meet Christian before they let me be his tour guide for the week. Christian met us at the train station, he was extremely handsome and fit, 37 years old and well mannered. He loves talking and can do it very well, so he had no problem talking to my parents over a cup of coffee. This was my first time seeing Christian in person, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him, he was slim and as I’ve said very hot. I have no idea what they talked about, I was too nervous and excited to concentrate on their conversation. After an hour so, Christian and I went to the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower if I’m correct), and my parents with my two younger sisters went exploring a bit of the city. I’m afraid of heights, but it was still amazing to see the city of Chicago from the top of the Sears Tower. In the elevator on the way back down, I don’t remember what Christian did, but it got me excited and aroused. We quickly slipped off to the Hyatt Regency Hotel where Christian was staying. That hour or so we were in the hotel room was incredible, my first time having sex and with the guy I loved. Everything was perfect, the way we kissed and feeling a connection with him. I entered that room a virgin and left with the biggest smile on my face. We went back to my family and together took the train to Crystal Lake, where we had parked the car and left my bag just incase my parents didn’t like him. They said it’s ok and I can show him around the area, as long as we are at church the next morning and I have my own hotel room. Of course I was going to have my own hotel room, why wouldn’t a complete stranger pay for my extra room? Honestly, I am not sure what my parents were thinking and apparently they really trusted me.
The time Christian and I spent together those 6 days in December 2008 are forever in my memory. We literally spent the week hotel hopping, Sunday he attended church in Lena with us and Sunday night we drove up to Dubuque, Iowa. There we stayed at the Grand Harbor Resort directly along the Mississippi river. It was so cold that week and Illinois was hit with a lot of snow. We stayed at the Baymont hotel outside if Freeport, our room had a hot tub and the hotel had a beautiful indoor pool. Later in the week we drove up to Madison, Wisconsin where we stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn. It snowed so much, that we called my parents and said we couldn’t make it to church Wednesday night because of the blizzard. We ended our week in Freeport, Illinois at the Country Inn & Suites for our last night together. It was great having gotten to know Christian, all the conversation we had talking about our pasts and our dreams, all the sex we had and the laughs we shared together. We were happy and that Sunday morning he left at 5 in morning to drive to the O’hare International Airport, I was heartbroken and depression set in. My week of what I wanted my life to be like had ended and I was left with the reality that I need to find a way to be with Christian.
A few days before Christmas 2008 was the night my life changed, the night I came out. If I remember correctly it was Tuesday the 23rd of December to be precise on the date. My two sisters were upstairs playing and my dad was either in the kitchen or upstairs too, I was laying on one of the couches all cuddled up in a blanket and mom was also wrapped in a blanket sitting on our 2nd couch. We were watching TV, our Christmas tree was lit up, presents were under the tree. Mothers know everything (or at least say they do) and my mom sensed that something was wrong, I was depressed and not the smiling guy they all knew. Mom asked me asked me what was wrong and I said that nothing was wrong, thankfully she stayed persistent and tried talking to me. She knew I was sad and I’m sure she knew deep down why. Eventually she very bluntly asked me if I love Christian, I couldn’t look her in the eye so I looked at the star on the top of our Christmas tree. I looked at that star as if it were life, and the minute I look away I die. There was silence and I couldn’t look at mom, I finally nodded my head. She then yelled for my dad, when he entered the livingroom mom whispered something in his ear and he very directly shouted “Are you gay?”. Again my eyes were not going to leave the star, and I couldn’t say anything. I never said yes or no, because no I’m not gay is a lie, and yes I am gay was too terrifying to admit to my parents. Dad told mom to put my sisters to bed, then the three of us talked. I apologise because I have no recollection of the rest of the night, I know we were all in shock and had no idea really what was happening. I was finding myself, my voice and I’m sure they felt as if they were losing their only son and all the dreams they had for me.
Christmas is a blur, I have no idea what we did or which family members came over. The week between Christmas and New Year was also uneventful, the only notable thing was the decision to move to London as soon as possible. Christian was going to make it possible, all I needed to do was get a passport. The pain I went through being away from him, the endless conversations with my parents, it was exhausting and honestly I couldn’t feel my own heart beating. It wasn’t with me, I felt that emptiness and knew it was with Christian. After New Years I filled out the form to get my passport and payed the fee at the post office, things were moving forward. Nothing could stand in my way, I was going to move to London, I was going to be myself.
Due to the stress of moving, or not wanting to be an embarrassment to my parents or maybe I just didn’t even think about it, but I didn’t tell any other family members that I am gay. My mother did tell my aunt and uncle (the other deacon in our church), they all also talked with our pastor. It wasn’t long after that meeting that our pastor invited me to breakfast at the Big Apple restaurant in Freeport. We are breakfast and just chatted, small talk is all. He did ask me about my plans in London and I told him I was going to try to get into a university there. That was a dream of mine, but not really in the plan. Pastor then said that there are plenty of good universities in the USA, which was obvious and I know which ones my parents wanted me to attend. Breakfast was good, I actually enjoyed talking with pastor and watching him nervously eat the ice cubes in his water. He was uncomfortable and too nervous to talk to me about being gay, so he didn’t even try. Thankfully breakfast was only 2 hours or so of small talk, then we left and he dropped me off at my parents house. That following Sunday though my parents told me that because I am living in sin I am not allowed to play the piano or serve in the church services as I used to. It was ok, I wasn’t that great at playing the old hymns.
A few weeks passed and my passport still had not arrived in the mail. The date I was going to fly to London was February 13th, 2009, so time was ticking and I needed my passport. One afternoon my dad was at work and my mom was in town running errands when my sister Christi (she is 3 years younger than I am, so she was 15 at the time) told me that a package came for me in the mail a few days before and mom hid the package somewhere in my parents room. Yes, I searched and searched their room until I found my passport between some clothes in their closet. It wasn’t long after until my mom commented that I must have found my passport, yes and I carried it around with me everywhere, afraid they would take it and hide it again.
End of January 2009, after the Wednesday night service I had a meeting with pastor and the two deacons (my dad and uncle). That is when they told me about Church Discipline, which is when the church separates itself from the sinner who does not want to repent. It wasn’t new to me, I grew up hearing about church discipline and how it works. They asked me again if I would repent, they were willing to buy books and research the issue to see how they could help me. There was no talk of sending me to a conversion camp, but I am still thankful that my parents and the church were too poor to even afford to send me there. No, I told the pastor I was not going to repent and change my ways, so they told me that the following Sunday after church there would be a meeting, only the church members would be there and they would vote.
Sunday came around, it was 2 Sundays before my planned flight to London. Sunday was always a potluck dinner, we would arrive at church around 9:30am (Sunday school and the first service) and around 12:30 or 1pm we would all eat lunch together, the 3rd and last sermon would go until 3pm. It was easier on those that drove long distances to church and everyone was able to watch Sunday night football at home. After lunch my uncle took me aside into another room and told me again that he is willing to research homosexuality and the church and how to change me, he also told me that if at any point during the meeting I felt like repenting or at least felt the desire to try and change, that all I needed to do was tap him on the shoulder (he always sat in the row in front of us) and he would stand up and call the meeting off. The church meeting began, my aunt and uncle were sitting right in front of us, the pastor prayed for wisdom and for God to soften hardened hearts. I was very stressed and the pastor named my name and told the congregation that I was living in sin and did not want to repent, he did not mention the sin but I’m sure most every knew. Our church was small and over half the church were relatives, and housewives like to gossip. There was a moment during the meeting when I strongly thinking about tapping my uncle on the shoulder, I was scared and doubting myself. Is my character strong enough to build a life in a foreign country? What will I do if Christian breaks up with me? So many questions in mind, so much fear and in two words my fears were gone, I “hardened” my heart. Pastor then started with Church Discipline, and to this day those two words still make my decision, to live my life the way I wanted to, all worth it! I sat through the rest of the meeting thinking about Christian and my future. When it came time to vote me out of the church, it was the pastors wife and my grandparent best friend who made the motion. Pastor asked me to leave the building, I walked out to our van and didn’t look back. In the van I was a wreck, I tried calling Christian but due to the time difference he was already sleeping. The whole meeting felt like an execution, but I survived it.
February 13th 2009, a day I will never forget. The night before I said my goodbyes to my sisters and parents. There were tears and heartbreak, but I was leaving and my mind was set. I seemed to have slept well that night, too well. I over slept and took a taxi to O’hare, I could have still gotten on the flight but without my check-in luggage. All the way from London, Christian rebooked my ticket and he called me every hour until the next flight. I spent 9 long hours at the airport, then around 8 or 9pm my flight took off and I was on my way to London.
That is my coming out story. I will eventually write about my time in London and everything that has happened since I came out. If you found this article encouraging, please feel free to comment. If you want to get to know me a bit more you can also follow me on Instagram: joshco08 .