A Closet Comes Undone

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In the past few weeks it has come to my attention that I am Out. Exposed. Dangling on the proverbial grapevine that everyone is looking at, talking about, and passing around. We’re in the everyone knows just-right-now stage, and so my name is being dropped over coffee, at parties, through texts starting with GUESS WHAT I JUST HEARD? and ending with Did you see that coming? I am feeling around for my walls, my edges of comfort, but they’re gone. The closet, it’s gone. And the air is rushing all around me. 

 / / /

At the elementary school I work at, we recently took a field trip to the Children’s Theater in Saint Paul to see the play The Mitten. It’s based on a book we read in class. A little boy loses his homemade mitten in the forest and, one by one, all sorts of woodland creatures crawl inside it to escape the chill of winter. It starts small with a mole and then the animals gradually grow larger in number and size, leading up to a full-grown bear squeezing in. The climax occurs when the whisker’s of a mouse tickle the bear’s nose and the whole big ball of yarn launches into the air like a deflating balloon.

 

In my real-life version of the mitten, I started with a therapist, and it took me a year and a half to let her in. I couldn’t even say it out loud. I had to pass it to her in a crumpled up note. Years later, I let in my family, and a year after that, my friends, another year, my readers here on the blog and I have felt the warmth of such safe company. And… I have also felt myself hurtling to the end- to the great wide open, all eyes on me.

 

Over drinks the other night, a close friend told me that he was at a party recently where my name was the center of discussion. It was kids from my conservative Christian college, and he told me that some of them had really nice things to say. Others, not so much.

 

I heard again, last night, from another close friend, that people had been asking him more and more frequently if it’s true, if Ben Moberg is really gay. I gave my people permission to tell the truth long ago, so he did and I suppose these people told others who told others who told others.

 

And this is what coming out is: relinquishing control; trading your former, staged reputation for the real one, and then letting it out into an unpredictable world. A world that can love you or leave you. You can speak your truth to it, but you never know what will come boomeranging back. When you give up control, anything could happen.

 

But if you’re an evangelical, then you could probably guess what will. Here, coming out is seen as an act of leaving, of tossing away your faith, your cross to carry, and despite the fact that you’re still physically here, still spiritually strong, plenty will dismiss your life as if it were a tainted memory, a wrong turn, a deviant gone astray.

 

I remember in my own closet days when some classmate would come out and the kids in youth group descended like a pack of hyenas. Gossiped and gossiped like charismatics talking in tongues. Faces became contorted amongst the guys, who would then fake throw up, and the girls would get sad, say it was such a shame this person was disappearing into the darkness. And then, inevitably, someone would say, do you think there’s anyone else? And my face would flush, throat would dry up, and an acute realization would hit me that one day, they’d all be talking about me.

 

And so… Here we are. It’s happened and I’m all the way out and people are talking about me without me. In my head, I thought I’d be breaking out of dodge by now. I thought I’d be running away.

 

And I think it’s because for a long time I’ve clutched at my closet like a shield between the world and I. A brace keeping me from really moving forward. And it’s only now, with my story streaming through all this conversation, all this gossip, making people turn and reflect and think about me, can I see how brave I have become.

 

Every step taken out has shaped me. It has made me daring and sharp, more sure of myself and my ability to walk even there. In this place where everyone in my world knows and I should be a bit on edge, a bit anxious, making a dive beneath the blankets to cover myself up, I am seeing just how much coming out has changed me.

 

It started with a crumpled up note passed across a room, to a crawl into my parents bed, to pulling over the car and saying it straight out to a friend, and what I am learning about bravery is that you have to grow it. You have to face this unpredictable world and know that you are strong enough to not look away. Alive enough to run right into it.

  • http://upsidedowngrace.com/ Carol Vinson

    So hard…but yes, you are brave and handle the fallout at least in the online world with grace. Thanks for that. And know there’s Grace enough in private when you don’t feel quite as brave.

    I wrote a piece about depression and the unknown is killing me. The talk amongst friends and those who think they know me. I can imagine it’s only a glimpse of what you are feeling.

    Keep opening up. We’ll ride your coattails!! And hang on to Grace!

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      Read that piece, Carol, and it was one of the most moving things I came across this past weekend. I find so much empathy in your story (and the exquisite way you communicate it). I have hope for us both. When you shine the light on those inner places that are tough for others to look at, but important so that we might be known and liberate others in the process, it is hard. But I’m beginning to believe that our inner confidence, sureness of self and acceptance of that grace, is what comes boomeranging back. And really, that is all that matters in the end.

  • carolb12

    This is so hearfelt and beautifully written Ben. i think it’s important for me to tell you that I do not pity you–I envy your bravery and courage. So few people live authentic lives that when I recognize someone who is doing just that, I am slayed. There is so much to you Ben–layer upon layer of just pure goodness!! Thank-you for being such an incredible part of the puzzle for me in understanding my own gay son. Your willingness to share your personal feelings with others has taken on a life of its own, with tentacles that have reached out, and wrapped themselves around my heart and soul. This is quite a ministry you have my friend–one that I do not think you will fully realize this side of Heaven—Praying for you every day! Beth

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      Carol!!! You seriously always have a way putting a smile on my face. That means so very much, especially to hear you call my writing a ministry (perhaps, the best compliment I have received here.) But I should also say, you and other parents that are swimming these waters with us are also so brave and so loving. I can’t tell you how many heartbreaking stories I’ve personally heard from kids with parents who up and left them. People like you give me hope, Carol.

  • Erin

    “And it’s only now, with my story streaming through all this conversation, all this gossip, making people turn and reflect and think about me, can I see how brave I have become.”

    I was thinking earlier today about something very similar. I’ve done so many things in the last few years that seemed utterly unbearable for the longest time, things that I thought would be The End of the World. But I’ve survived and grown stronger and braver in the process.

    Thanks for posting!

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      Thank you Erin! The best part is always when you’re able to look back. It makes the whole thing worth it.

  • Caiobhe

    hi – being real about who we are takes such bravery. and yet it’s the only authentic place to be. I’m not fitting the mould myself these days, and it’s hard, but also ok. and God has never been closer. that doesn’t make sense to many people, but isn’t it great that it’s true ? You are brave and loved. Go well.

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      Yes, it is so, so great that it’s true! I feel so privileged to hear of your closeness with God, it is a unique and winding road for all of us. Thank you so much, Caiobhe!

  • Amy Mitchell

    I’m such an intensely private person when it comes to things I share with close friends and family that it absolutely makes me cringe to hear your story about being the center of gossip. My first thought was actually wondering why people can’t just leave well enough alone. You really are brave, facing this head-on and even confronting it publicly with your writing. And really, you never know who will be affected by hearing your story, even through gossip. I remember hearing that a college friend had come out, but I was told in a gossipy, mean-spirited conversation that left me feeling hollow. It was a huge turning point, and that was the moment I decided that most people’s anti-gay stance has very little to do with it being “sinful” and more to do with just being grossed out. Somewhere, someone is hearing your story and realizing the same thing–and letting go of their old beliefs.

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      That means so much to me, Amy. And yes, it is cringe-worthy, it seems some bridges have already started burning. But hey- they probably weren’t the bridges I needed anyway! Those that I have heard from directly, who’ve reached out to me after hearing it from someone else, have been incredibly encouraging. Very similar sentiments to what you just wrote.

  • southernsara

    Yes! I can relate to everything you’ve written here. It was hard for me to let go after tightly controlling my “image” for so long. It was difficult, but so worth it!

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      Thank you SouthernSara- and yes, it is worth it!

  • Roo James Wilson

    it is always a joy to read your thoughts. i am deeply intrigued by your experiences and how they can further the kingdom of God…especially since we Christians have decided to build our own kingdom infused with the mismanaged words of Jesus. Keep it up and know you are a joy.

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      Thank you Roo!

  • Aidan Bird

    It takes great bravery to do what you did. You are an inspiration. Although I’ve only taken one step out of my own closet, I’m struggling to take that second step and finally leave it behind. Part of what’s holding me back is the fear of rejection, of losing potential jobs over it, of being a potential target for hateful people.

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      A fear that has to be thought through, prayed over, and approached appropriately. It is by no means an easy transition, but hopefully you will find a place where it safe to do so. I am keeping you in my thoughts Aidan!

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    Well said. You really are brave. <3

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      Thank you, perfect number. I miss our conversations!