A Step into the Open

The first time I came out to anybody, my hands were shaking.

I was sitting in a dark room, accompanied only by the sound of my increasingly panicked breathing, typing out the e-novella of pain and triumph, confession and terror that would change my world the instant I hit “Send.” I doubt if I have ever experienced, simultaneously, such fear or such boldness since that night.

That was four years ago.

Things are a bit different now. I am writing this in a gently sunlit room to the swirling melodies of an electronic indiepop playlist I’ve had on repeat for a few days, and I’m at rest. And the only reason my hands are unstable is that I haven’t had coffee in a while and my body would like to kindly inform me that I’m about to shrivel up and die from withdrawal. I didn’t even like coffee four years ago.

For those of you who don’t know me, I should probably introduce myself; for those of you who do know me, a little reintroduction may be helpful:

Hey. I’m Matt Jones, 23, from Portland, Oregon, which means that rain simultaneously depresses and excites me and that I’m so pale I could die naked in a snow-drift and nobody would find me until Spring. This is why I avoid Canada. Anyway. I am a Wheaton College graduate, a Fuller Seminary student, and if Hogwarts were real I’d be in Ravenclaw. I love poetry and magical realism, I’m addicted to tennis/ping-pong/badminton/soccer (Real Madrid and Manchester City), and I slightly prefer staring up from the shadows of a mountain to hiking it, but both are great ways to spend a Saturday. (For those of you from the Midwest, read this.) I’ve spent some time traveling and volunteering and would consider a Guatemalan orphanage to be my second home. I am passionate about social justice, can hardly sing, try to live out a grounded ethic of nonviolence and peacemaking, generally struggle to embody any of my own ideals of faith and life in Christ (by, in, and for whom I exist and find joy), and I’m attracted to men.

For some people, only four of those words really matter. Usually it’s not the Ravenclaw part.

The instant myopia that can result from the statement “I’m attracted to men” is one of the reasons I considered not writing this post. Wiser people than I advised me against making myself captive to the chains of people’s preconceived notions of what it means to be a guy attracted to other guys. It goes without saying that the current social climate regarding homosexuality is a little bit volatile – so why throw myself into it? Why put myself out there?

Why can’t I just be content to keep this between close friends and family? Certainly strangers don’t need to be involved, and certainly there doesn’t need to be another blog. What is, ultimately, the point?

I hope to address those questions more specifically in a separate post, but I figured it was probably a good idea to, you know, “come out” first and then discuss the pros and cons of the process, otherwise everybody would be all freaking out in suspense over how the series would end.

But before I wrap this up I guess I should probably give a brief sketch of how I understand and interact with my sexuality. So:

I’m trying in my own imperfect way to live with integrity, wisdom, and nuance. For me, this means first and foremost processing what I know to be true about myself in light of what I believe has authority over me – in my case my relationship with Christ and the Church. However, I don’t think such a hermeneutic is as one-track as some people make it out to be. Thus, although I have chosen to pursue a life of full and dynamic celibacy, I spend about as much time explaining why I think my brothers and sisters who possess and even practice an affirming theology can still be Christians as I do explaining why I’m not a self-hating homophobe. Thanks to the cultural furor, I am generally unsuccessful in both endeavors.

This isn’t something shameful for me – I don’t think my homosexuality compromises my humanity, masculinity, close relationships, or faith-witness (in fact I think it brings something beautiful to all of them), and thus I see no reason to hide it or lie about it. I can’t ignore the testimonies of a few people who claim to have made some sort of shift in their sexual orientation through “therapy,” and I don’t want to silence them or disparage their stories, but I find the practice of trying to make someone switch from “gay” to “straight” (via reparative therapy or some forms of “biblical counseling”) to be misguided and harmful in almost every conceivable way, damaging to the gospel and those involved. Therefore, I generally condemn it. If the only hope the church thinks it can offer non-straight people is the possibility of heterosexuality, then it offers no hope at all.

That said, I’m also not particularly interested in trying to construct a personality or “identity” around my sexuality. It’s an important part of my human experience and I am who I am because of it, but it’s just one strand in the web of my existence and it’s not even the most interesting one.

So, yea, that’s that. It’s a lot to process, and I realize some of you may be confused, concerned, upset, or various combinations of those (upfused, for instance), and that’s fine. I am more than happy to dialogue or whatever via email or Facebook. But it may be helpful to wait a bit, as I will continue to blog about various things that may answer some of the more common questions. Or, if you just can’t wait, you can check out a blog I wrote pseudonymously throughout the last year. I grew a lot over the months, so maybe start with the most recent material. My name was Jordan.

I hope you all are well.

Peace,

Matt

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42 thoughts on “A Step into the Open

  1. matt, thank you for everything you’ve written, everything you write and will write. i’m reminded of myself when i look at your words…it seems we’re conductors on similar trains of thought. i appreciate you and the sweet honesty with which you share your spirit. looking forward to reading much more. :)

  2. Hey Matt I was reading your blog off and on where you wrote under the pseudonym Jordan and I have to say, I was always encouraged. Your stance of love peacemaking forgiveness and brave openness (ESP to people who don’t understand) remind me so much of Christ’s character and I have to proclaim Glory be to God I see Christ in you brother. :)

    Love in Christ,
    Eugene Lee

  3. Matt,

    Thank you so much for your honesty (and comedy!). Your openness is a fresh breathe of air within the body of Christ. Loved what you shared. I look forward to reading more from you.

    Shawn

  4. Hello Matt! I’m from the midwest, have two children living in Portland, and I hope that sometime you blog about nonviolence and peacemaking – those are two of my deeply held beliefs and I think that they can be difficult topics as well.

    I have been a longtime reader of SteveGershom and am often struck from his writings how universal many of our struggles really are. I wish you well on your journey and look forward to following the parts of it that you choose to share.

    In His wonderful love – your sister in Christ, Lori

    • Trust me, I will! One of the reasons I wanted to switch from the pseudonymous GaySubtlety to this is so that I could engage topics like non-violence and peacemaking from a place of wholeness and integrity, because my experiences with my sexuality have contributed to my thoughts on that but writing about non-violence on GS wouldn’t quite have fit. And isn’t Steve the best? He’s the best.

  5. Bravo, brother. Much love to you. Surely God is smiling and saying those words we all long to hear, “this is my beloved child. I’m super proud of him.”

  6. I just realized that we haven’t talked since Thanksgiving. We should probably catch up sometime. Love you, buddy! Chris sends his regards!

  7. As your friend and brother in Christ, I’m so excited for you to continue to pursue Christ and His Kingdom. The line that says “If the only hope the church thinks it can offer non-straight people is the possibility of heterosexuality, then it offers no hope at all.” That is soo raw and real and true. Thanks for expressing yourself and also putting Jordan to death.

  8. Matt! So good to hear all of that from you. And so well written it warmed my heart. Thanks for encouraging me with your honesty and earnest seeking after Jesus and all he has for you. Keep writing.

  9. Hi! You don’t know me, but we share a few things in common: Wheaton, Fuller, Stevjan Slaggens. Thanks for this post — my small group has been discussing homosexuality and the church (various perspectives), so I will be sending them a link!

    p.s. I saw in one of your comments that you will be taking classes in Pasadena in the fall. My husband (Fuller student) and I (Fuller alum) live in Pasadena — you may already have tons of connections down here, but let us know if you need anything as you transition to life in California!

  10. Major props, Matt! This was such a fantastic expression of yourself that if you were straight, and I was straight, I would have a crush on you. So excited to watch your adventure unfold over the next few years. Hopefully it involves a real life encounter at some point as well. Cheers, brother!

    • Ha! I laughed pretty hard. Thanks for that :)

      And thanks for all you’ve done and continue to do. I’m a fan! America is so large, it’s really quite sad. Hopefully our paths will cross some day.

      Peace!

      Matt

      • Okay, I’m 100% creeping but the whole “if you were straight and I was straight” comment made me giggle uncontrollably for about ten minutes.

        But seriously, I’ve said similar things to my fellow SSA/gay/whatnot friends and we all have a good laugh out of it. It brings such a healing relief, y’know, to say, “we’re human. let’s joke about it.” Helps to fight the stigma that we’re sub-human monsters with uncontrollable passions.

  11. Thanks for your insights from Australia! If you will allow me to say God chooses to work within the choices of human persons. It is a great mystery that God, who is perfectly gracious and merciful, seems to allow Divine power and authority to be dispensed by we imperfect humans. But if that were not the case, how could any of us give God’s blessings to others? All of us are a mixture of goodness and frailness. And the mystery is that God chooses us despite our weaknesses, to both receive and share the gift of Divine Blessings. For this we can sing the Psalm: “Praise the Lord for the Lord is good!” Thank you

  12. Matt, you are such an encouragement to me as a fellow Christ-follower. Your love for Jesus and your trust in him is very evident, as is your keen-mind and courage! Thank you for all your insightful, honest and witty posts at gaysubtlety and for these last two posts. I look forward to following your writing here now!

  13. I guess, as long as we’re sexual beings, and inasmuch as we experience homoerotic attraction, it’s only natural to refer to oneself as “gay.” So, unless my sexuality is altogether eradicated or transformed, the “gay” appellation is merely descriptive… Is that the reasoning?

    • Basically. I actually don’t even feel like “gay” fits me perfectly 100% the time (not to say I’m ever attracted to women, it’s just that, sometimes, it doesn’t feel totally comfortable), but of all the labels it is both the most convenient and most immediate. I’m pretty “blah” about labels, but they are certainly helpful in life! Writing this post while trying to mostly avoid the word gay (I’ll use it more later, but people can react poorly to it at first) was a bit of a chore – it made me miss it haha!

  14. Hey Matt! (FKA J.)

    So nice to make your cyber-acquaintance. You continue to impress me with your grace-filled perspective and your freakish ability to articulate it so beautifully.

    This seems like a big moment for you and I am grateful you are giving it to us as a gift.

    I just wanted to affirm something you said here which I think is important…

    I am not a homosexual. Yes, I’m a man who is gay and yes, I’m married to a man who is gay. But my sexuality doesn’t define the whole of me any more than a straight person’s does.

    Conservative Christians often try define me by my sexual orientation. They make my sexuality a noun when it is one many adjectives. If I were a car, my sexuality would be one of the tires. Important for sure, but one of many essential parts. I am not, as they suggest, making my sexuality my identity. I am a person who is Christian, male, married, gay, musically-inclined, crossword-loving, pizza-eating, HR-practicing, city-dwelling, and so much more.

    OK, I’m off of my soap box (which is really best for all involved).

    Sending you lots of love from the big apple.

    Ford.

  15. Matt, I applaud your candor and courage. Forgive me if my question comes too soon after, I suspect, such a taxing couple of days.

    A recent article (one you’ve likely seen) from a family who lost their son to overdose argues that the way of faithfulness you’ve been led to choose is a recipe for self-hatred. In your post here you argue self-hatred is not only inevitable but in some sense antithetical to how you’ve reconciled (and I know that’s not in the pluperfect tense) faith with sexuality.

    I know you have plenty to do already and in the wake of your self-disclosure have plenty more issues to take up. But as a pastor who will be called upon increasingly to give counsel to many who resonate with your pilgrimage, I’m looking for insight from those who’ve personally wrestled.

    I hope my question does not unwittingly cast you in the role of case study or guinea pig, and I pray Enduring Mercies upon you.

    With great respect,
    Rev Patrick lafferty
    Texas

    • Hi Reverend,
      I’m not Matt and am looking forward to seeing his response to your question. I have gone through that reconciliation of faith and sexuality and would offer this unsolicited thought: there is a big difference between celibacy offered as a beautiful gift of one’s sexuality to God, and chaste singleness chosen in the face of emotionally-coercive demands of one’s family and faith community. I’ve spoken to too many middle aged men who were not gifted with celibacy but chose it in order to please others; so many of them have been crushed by the loneliness. Many of them have abandoned their faith entirely. Many are now bereft of the social skills to form intimate relationships. I probably shouldn’t have chimed in here, but there’s been a lot of damage done. If you subscribe to the conservative sexual ethic regarding homosexuality, I would encourage you to explore the accommodation view (if you haven’t already) as a potential pastoral approach.

      Please forgive me if it wasn’t appropriate for me to respond.
      Best
      Ford

  16. Matt, thanks for this post. I have really appreciated your thinking about this and other matters during the short time I followed you on GaySubtlety. I particularly like your comments about identity. I am in my 40s, and for many years I tried to suppress my attraction to men and embrace an identity that excluded that element of myself. Only recently have I accepted my sexuality as part of who I am. However, I see my identity as complex and nuanced, and do not wish to focus on just one piece.

    I am new to Oregon, and am beginning to understand your ambivalence about rain. However, coming from Southern California, I did not need the mountain definition. I look forward to continuing to follow your “stammering!”

  17. So glad to meet you, Matt. I have thoroughly enjoyed gay subtlety, as well as (just now) catching up with your Guatemalan adventures on this site. Your personal growth and humor are an encouragement to me; thanks for sharing your journey publicly.

  18. Thanks, Matt. Many gracious words are due, but let the following suffice: Jesus Christ is alive and accomplishing His good work in and through you. Praise God!

  19. Sure. I’ll follow you over here. Coming out doesn’t mean you have gone over to the ‘dark side’. May His Word continue to be a lamp for your fee, a light on your path, until the end of your pilgrimage.

  20. Thanks for your words and honesty! I think that in this moments your experience can be very helpful!
    P.s. And also thanks for helping Guatemala, my second country! We need people like you

  21. “Thus, although I have chosen to pursue a life of full and dynamic celibacy, I spend about as much time explaining why I think my brothers and sisters who possess and even practice an affirming theology can still be Christians as I do explaining why I’m not a self-hating homophobe. Thanks to the cultural furor, I am generally unsuccessful in both endeavors.”

    This statement made me smile. I appreciate your candor and inner strength and independent thought.

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