I've struggled these last few days. My life has been on an immense high for a while now. There have been a lot of amazing things happening for myself and my family. Clare and I have worked really hard over the years to create the life that we want and we feel like we have been living in the middle of our hopes and dreams. It's surreal.
With that though, there comes doubts and fears. I've been sitting with it this week - this feeling of stuckness - and it hit me like a ton of bricks as I was walking outside to take in some fresh air. From deep down, I felt a wave of emotion. Tears emerged. There it was, that quiet but strong voice...it whispered to me, "I don't deserve this."
No one wants to hear that. But we can't not acknowledge it. We all have it.
We all have it because it has been embedded into our beings by society, religion, and our culture. For minorities...it is embedded even further.
I was being interviewed yesterday by a student at The Reflector about my experiences coming out in Starkville and my thoughts on how I think things have changed over the years. This student, a freshman, was a prime example of how things have changed. She felt safe enough to have our conversation at a busy coffeeshop at a table that was wedged between two others that were just a foot away from us.
I won't lie, I hesitated to speak too loudly.
When I realized my insecurity, I thought about what it was like to come out in 2004. There was very little representation on campus. I knew two people who were out and proud. One of them was beaten to death a few years later. I haven't talked about that before because it hurts too much.
So often, my issues around being too vocal are a matter of safety for me. And when I am vocal (like with my book launch) and things go well - God, it is so hard to let the love in. It has been harder than I thought it would be.
I don't need to be told that I am worthy or that I deserve the world. I know that deep down. I just have to work through the thoughts and fears that well up every so often. I have to honest about them - that they are there and that they need a voice so they can move on.
I am aware that things are different in 2022 than they were in 2004. The unwavering response to my book launch is how I know it - the majority of those who have contributed have been FROM STARKVILLE (my hometown). The most profound thing for me has been that I actually asked for help. It has been a very vulnerable position to be in. That's a long way from where I started.
Also, I have a wife. I have a child. Things I never dreamed I would have in 2004.
As I continued talking to this student she asked me another question, "What would you tell LGBTQ+ students today that would be helpful?"
I thought long and hard about that one.
My answer surprised me. As an LGBTQ+ community we have worked so hard to gather further representation and support for equal rights. Lets remember that you can still be fired for being gay in many states, Mississippi is one of them. There are many other laws that are being written that are making it harder for our community to feel safe. We make up 10% of the worlds population.
We all just want to feel safe.
My answer was, "Rest. Be yourself. We've come so far. Lets ask our allies to do the work for us now."
What we need now is further representation - our voices and our stories need to be heard and listened to. More than that, we need true allies. Allies who speak up for us when we aren't listening. Thank you for being an ally by supporting my story. There are so many other stories that need to be told and so much more work for us all to do, together.
I am letting the love in y'all - you have all so touched my heart ever so deeply for the support. Thank you.