Thursday, June 6, 2013

Club Unicorn: a Retrospective



I'm not sure whether this post is supposed to be serious or funny, but tomorrow it's been one year since Lolly and I pressed "publish" on our coming out post and started... whatever the crap our life is now.

One year ago tonight, virtually nobody knew I was gay. And then the next day hundreds of thousands of people knew.

One year ago tonight, I was in a hotel in Las Vegas with the express purpose to celebrate my tenth anniversary. And then the next day, all celebrations died in a cruel death of crushing attention and Lolly and I spent all day sitting in our hotel room ordering room service reading thousands and thousands of amazing messages and talking to media outlets and looking at each other intermittently asking "what the hell just happened to our life????"

It was perhaps the craziest thing that's ever happened to me. Crazier than...
...being thrown in jail in Venezuela. Crazier than that one time I got sour patch kids and there were three stuck together like one giant kid but when I started eating I realized there were four. Crazier than James Holmes though that's not hard to do since he is expressly not crazy even though he's really good at doing crazy eyes and his new beard makes him look like a leprechaun.

I still kind of can't get over it. Like I've never really processed what happened that day. I may never be able to. My life is forever changed. And, as is typical with metamorphoses, the change is really great in some ways and not-so-great in others. Kind of like how a butterfly, after emerging from the chrysalis is probably like "WHOA, guys, guys, I have wings now! Look!" *flaps wings* *accidentally takes flight* *runs into a tree branch*

Yeah. Coming out as a gay Mormon one year ago was exactly like a caterpillar wrapping itself up in a house he crapped out his own body and then busting out as a majestic butterfly who then flies into a tree branch.

I'm so good at analogies.

I hope you'll indulge me as I share some memories:

--We posted the post on Thursday. It went viral on Friday. It was really hard to tell from our hotel room just how wide-spread things had gotten. Our first indication was when we went to church there in Vegas (Henderson, actually). The meeting felt geared specifically towards us as every talk spoke of letting your light shine, and we both wept knowing that had happened in a way we had never anticipated. Then there was a special musical number about "one voice" spreading far and wide and making an impact, and we looked at each other and knew God was speaking to us. And like some sort of confirmation of that sentiment after Sacrament meeting, a guy came up and shook our hand and said "I really appreciated the blog post you published this weekend." We'd never been to Henderson, Nevada. We didn't know anyone in Henderson, Nevada. So, yes, things had spread in a way we had never anticipated.

--I remember, several days after, Lolly and I sitting at the hotel pool and hearing some people near us talk about the post as we lay there in the sun.

--I remember saying to someone on the phone "I've never felt more clearly guided to do a scary and unexpected thing, and I've never seen the reason why so clearly and quickly manifested after taking the leap."

--Getting recognized for one of the first times in public (in Cafe Rio).

--Working out in the gym there at the hotel on Saturday, and getting a call on my cell phone from New York. When I picked it up, it was a producer from Nightline. We had a(n awkward) conversation, and at one point he said "so, are you willing to let us showcase your story" and I remember saying "well, I just outed myself to the entire Internet by accident yesterday. May as well finish the job and give you permission to out me on Nightline today."

--Going to a buffet and being too distracted to enjoy it. Tragic.

--I remember thinking, laughably, that I'd be able to respond to everyone that wrote me. I gave it a solid effort, and I'm pretty sure I got through the correspondence of 12 hours of day one.

--So many comments I couldn't read them all. I still haven't, and I've spent many hours trying.

--So many words of kindness and well-wishes, often from unexpected corners. So much support.

--I remember our first week back in our ward and trying really, really hard to act normal. I probably failed. But everyone was really nice. We felt nothing but love.

--I remember so many messages from people who described how our post changed their life. Deep, heartfelt messages. Some said it helped them know they weren't alone. Others said they felt God's love for the first time in years. Others said it rekindled their testimonies. Still others said they now, for the first time, believed homosexuality was real and could see that it wasn't a choice. They said they were able to see their gay loved ones in a new light, with less judgment. There were messages about families reunited, and bonds reforged. It was beautiful. I wish I could share it all. I wish I could express it.

The memories of that trip are mostly sweet. Sunshine and adrenaline and good food and confusion and excitement.

And now, things that I have learned:

--I have learned that there are awesome people in pretty much every demographic: gay, straight, Christian, Mormon, non-religious, etc. who are so loving and kind and supportive and warm. That was really neat to see.

--I've learned what it feels like to be blatantly libeled against, and have talked to lawyers about cease and desist orders for the first time in my life. (Never went forward with it, and it all ended up dying away anyway.)

--I have learned that people can be so, so, so, so rude on the internet. Breathtakingly rude.

--I've learned that the best way to respond to the rudies is to laugh. It diffuses a lot.

--I've also learned that people can be breathtakingly kind and beautiful. (That's you, if you are reading this.)

--I've learned that I am totally horrible at correspondence and writing people back, and that there is no rhyme or reason to who I respond to or why. If you have tried to communicate with me over this last year and never heard from me, I'm so sorry. I can't allow myself to be consumed by guilt about this, or I wouldn't function. Just know that I love you and appreciate your message so much.

--I've learned that a kind comment can make my entire day.

--I've learned that an unkind comment can really hurt. For a while. Even though I logically know it shouldn't matter.

--I've learned that there are several things I do in interviews that I hate. (Interrupting Lolly constantly because I have ADD aka low impulse control, looking up at the sky making my bad eye bug out, saying "you know?" way too much, to name a few.) I also learned that I like doing interviews and, overall, I feel like I do a decent job of expressing the crux of what I'm thinking.

--I've learned that being vulnerable is worth the costs and risks.

--I've learned the importance of having good friends.

--I've learned that Lolly and I are even more amazing together than I had previously known.

Because it's the one year anniversary of the post, that also means it our 11-year anniversary. This last year has been so amazing for us. We are closer now than we were before, and we were already very, very close before.




We have had moments this year where we felt totally alone in a scary, menacing universe. Where we looked at each other and knew that nobody else alive quite knew what we were going through, except each other. We have relied on each other a lot. We've laughed a lot, and had long talks late into the night. We've written blog posts and chapters of books. We've told jokes. We've quarreled and made up. We've prayed together and fasted together and gone to the temple together. We've made really big decisions and felt guided by God as He has led us down the path He wants us on. We've had moments of genuine doubt, and brilliant moments of illumination and confirmation. We've done scary things, TV spots and talks and panels, and held each others' hand, and looked at each other and said "this will be okay because, no matter what, we have each other." We've trusted our instincts and our guts and our spirits as we've participated in projects that we felt led to do even when it seemed impossible that they would end well, and then we have thanked the Lord when each one of them has turned out better than we expected. We have built beautiful memories with our girls, and relished in the wonderful life we share.



I'm so grateful for this last year. And I'm so grateful to be married to Lolly Shea. Our life is not perfect--no life is. But it is a life well lived. It is rich and full and beautiful. We suck the marrow of life together, and find wonderful things to share every day. Our love is raw and special and vulnerable, and I feel like the luckiest man alive to have such an amazing wife.



11 years. And I can't wait to see what the future decades hold.


Happy Anniversary.

59 comments:

  1. Happy anniversary, Josh & Lolly!! Your metaphor reminds me of one of the best movie moments ever (IMHO), from A Bug's Life, when Heimlich says "I am a beautiful butterfly!" ;-)

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  2. Happy Everything (including Anniversary) love you guys lots!

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  3. Thanks for a great year that provided me with deeper understand and love for my fellow man.

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  4. You're story is so beautiful. The love you two share is unique and special. I love that you have allowed yourselves to be vulnerable to become an example not just to be that struggle with SGA, but what a true marriage should be like. Working together. Thank you so much.

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  5. Got super teary-eyed reading this.

    Happy Anniversary, guys! *hugs*

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  6. You guys are so great, and good golly, Lolly you're just breathtaking! Please keep up the good work you are doing, and know that you are paving the way to open minds and acceptance and love. Awesome Awesome Awesome!

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  7. Happy anniversary, Josh and Lolly! My husband and I are coming up on 33 years ourselves...and reading what you've written, I know that your marriage is every bit as "authentic" as ours and I know yours will go on as long as ours and into eternity. Keep being true to yourself and your convictions :-)

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  8. Thanks for the great year in which you and your family taught me about love and true understand of a person.

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  9. Are you gonna be at AMCAP again this year?

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  10. Are you gonna be at AMCAP again this year?

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  11. A year WOW!!!! Amazing how much my attitudes have changed, how much more in sync I feel with Father in Heaven towards a topic I had never had to examine before. Thanks for helping me grow!

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  12. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I sure do love you guys.....you know in that "only really know you by reading your blog" kind of loving way :-) Happy Anniversary!

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  13. Wonderful Josh and Lolly. Thanks for the courage and love you share. You're example is most definitely changing lives

    Mike

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  14. So sweet - happy anniversary!

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  15. Been waiting anxiously the past few weeks, knowing this post was coming up. Just as wonderful as I knew it would be. Miss you two so much.

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  16. So grateful that you pushed the publish button! I am a better person for it! XOXO May you both have many more wonderful years together in life and joy for eternity!

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  17. Beauty. I love the Weeds and the Sheas, so you guys are alright.

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  18. You both are a wonderful example to an LDS young woman of what she can have when she marries in the temple. Thank you.

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  19. Ok seriously this post made me cry! You guys are a wonderful example to us all about what it takes to succeed in a marriage! Thank you!

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  20. I will always champion you and Lolly, Josh! I've said it before and I'll say it again, you are both brave, beautiful, truly inspirational people! I am blessed to know you! Happy 11th Anniversary! My husband and I are celebrating our 11th anniversary next week!!! Keep shining!

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  21. Always impressed by both of you. I'm so lucky to be around you often. Happy anniversaries you guys. Crazy that it's already been a year. Love you both!!!

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  22. Happy anniversary! I thought of you both this morning as I was weeding the garden and thought about your wedding day. :)

    And I so appreciate you articulating the value of being vulnerable. Worth it.

    Love you guys!

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  23. YESSSS!!! Creeper pictures reigns again! You guys don't even know how awesome and second-hand famous I feel right now.
    Oh, and also, your post really DID strengthen my testimony, as both of you continue to do in your stunning example of love and courage. Woohoo for the Weeds! <3

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  24. I am grateful that you pushed "publish". Your first post, and continuing posts, have answered many questions I have always had about SSA, and how we need to reach out to those that experience it. Much love to you and your family - we support you!

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  25. Your post of a year ago truly changed the way I view not only homosexuality, but a host of other challenges that people deal with. During the past year I have had a son return early from his mission due to an anxiety issue that no one (him, healthcare professionals, clergy, us) really understand yet. Another son has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. I have met parents and children struggling with a variety of behavioral issues. People experience very real challenges that are difficult to see and that have no easy (or sometimes no) solution. Yet a little bit of kindness and understanding can help someone cope a little longer, can help them sense their innate value. Thank you for your exercise in vulnerability.

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  26. Thank you for your faith and courage all along that lead to you
    both knowing your mission that is so unique and valuable!

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  27. Weed things- you truly make my heart sing. You've expanded my vision of love, faith and hope at a time when I, and the world apparently, REALLY NEEDED IT. Your blog has become a beacon of light and laughter to me. Thank you! And Happy Anniversary!

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  28. Thank you for your courage and love you offer through your words. Happy anniversary! So happy you are on this journey together.

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  29. Love is love, and everything else doesn't matter. There's no need to ever focus on sexual orientation. If you're with the person you love, that's the only important thing.

    I adore your blog and have since the moment I started following it a couple of years ago. Also, your butterfly analogy made me laugh out loud. Happy anniversary!

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  30. Happy Anniversary!!!!!! Your story has truly changed my life and has given me whole new perspective on my struggle. Because of your courage countless lives have experienced a brand new love for the father. Thank you for all that you and Lolly have done through this year. I pray you experience many more joy filled years. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Again, congrats to you and Lolly!

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  31. Congratulations and I pray many more to come. Thank you for your courage and your graciousness. Your story has truly changed my life in so many ways. I can only hope to find my own Lolly some day.

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  32. Josh & Lolly -

    Happy Anniversary! Beautiful writing Josh, I am truly touched by your spirit. We feel very close to the two of you and have a genuine understanding of so much of what you write as we relate to many of the experiences and feelings. It has definitely been an amazing and crazy year..... for us too. We sure love you guys - I'm confident you have many great and wonderful years ahead (we've been married for 30+ years and it's awesome). High Five to you both! :)

    God Bless You,
    Mrs. IDM

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  33. Congratulations!Happy anniversary! I read your article last year, and I must say it opened my eyes and I will be forever grateful to you. I, like many of your readers, found new love and respect for my gay friends and acquaintances.

    I have often wondered since then what has gone on in your life. Thank you for posting this update.

    It's so brave of you to post what you did. It can be hard to stand for what you believe when you know of the potential backlash. You guys are a light to the world.

    Thank you so very much.

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  34. AuntSue
    Congratulations on eleven wonderful years! My there be eternally more to come. It is wonderful that you have so much joy together; that your early years of pain and confusion and distress have led to fulfilling happiness. May the Lord continue to bless your faithfulness.

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  35. I remember reading the first post a year ago and saying ... Oh, my gosh ... they've done it ... they've shared their story! I am forever inspired by the you, by the gift of your courage, by the demonstration of what marriage is and what it isn't ... what faith is and what it isn't. Happy Anniversary ... and may life only grow more juicy and beautiful!

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  36. Props to you and your family sir. You have told your story knowing there would be haters out there who would want to silence you. You have done a great deal of good and helped the world to better understand the struggles for Latter Day Saints with same gender attraction. Ignore the haters angry speech. Honesty is always the best policy. This gay Latter Day Saint thanks you for your courage and honesty. Haters be hatin'. Just be you :-)

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  37. a year later I am still not a Mormon but have read more Mormon blogs than one would think could actually exist.

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  38. Josh & Lolly

    Thank you for your story. I missed all of it last year (I live under a rock), but I found it while frantically searching the internet this weekend. You see, my wonderful husband of two years (who has loved me and loved God with me) has just come out to me. We are facing the biggest trial we have ever faced as I fear for my ability to love him through this while he is terrified that his sexuality will only hurt me.
    We want to preserve our marriage. It's worth fighting for. We need help and we don't know where to find it. Can you recommend help for us?

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  39. I'm grateful that you published that blog post and I've learned a lot too. I'm afraid I still have a lot of crap to learn. I think maybe that's what the universe is telling me this year of 13. I'm not a person who's good at learning things the easy way, and that's a problem. But I'm grateful to you that I have slightly less to learn than I did last year.

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  40. It was such a treat to meet you & Lolly at Konrad's last week. You two have definitely been through a whirlwind this last year it sounds like, but have come out stronger for it. I love the message of our Savior's unconditional love that you emanate, and I love that you & Lolly share that together. I know there will be more bumps along the way, but the bond that you & your family share (and your friends around you) will always be a strength for you. I wish you nothing but joy & I'm sure we'll run into you again at the next celebration.
    -Melody (aka: the non-butch Mel) :-P

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  41. That was the sweetest post ever. You made me cry (good tears). Keep up the good fight. Love reading your testimonies.

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  42. If you never do anything else "remarkable" in your lives, you can always know that you changed the world. Everyone impacts the world, but together you really changed it.

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  43. Happy Anniversary you two world changers!! Can't wait to see what these next 10 bring!

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  44. I've been a "Weeder" for the past year. I'm so grateful for your insight and wisdom into a subject that has been talked about a lot in my family. Your family has been a beacon of light for us and others. You've helped me to think and feel deeper and smoothed out some of my rougher edges. I am eternally grateful. Happy Anniversary!

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  45. Happy Anniversary! I got acquainted with you guys because of that post last year. I've never had a blog make such an impact on me with one single post, and I'll always be grateful for it. I'm glad you have experienced an outpouring of kindness; it must have been very weird and surreal at first, but ultimately, there are so many kind people. Their comments gave a lot of hope that kind, loving people are alive and well. God bless you.

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  46. I just watched your show on VH1 and I was so moved! I am not gay or Mormon, but I found your story both beautiful and inspirational. :) I think you found a wonderful way of finding harmony between your faith and your sexuality, and I appreciate your message of love and acceptance. Marriage is so much more than sex, and the love and support that the two of you share felt palpable just in watching the two of you on TV. And to your beautiful wife, I appreciate so much your example of unconditional love and support. I am so proud of you for standing by your man, and that both of you chose to stand strong for what you believe. You guys are amazing and will be in my prayers!
    <3

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  47. Thank you deeply from the depths of my heart and also from my son who doesn't really know how much he owes to you :) I have told you many times before, but it can always be repeated. I am so grateful that I read your blog just a few months before my son told me that he was gay. Before reading your blog, I had zero experience or opinion about homosexuality. Reading your words and the loving way your family responded made an interesting transition substantially less painful for our family.

    THANK You!

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  48. I embrace the complexity of life more fully. I allow love to win without knowing the answers to everything. Hard things don't scare me anymore (okay, yes they do, just not as much as before...) I allow myself to be more vulnerable even though people stuck in a lot of hate and pain see it as the perfect opportunity to wound me. I've stopped saying hurtful things on the internet even when people's dumb is showing and begs to be addressed. I know God loves me... not DESPITE my imperfections and struggles, but because of them. I trust the Spirit more for guidance.

    You know, because of you guys.

    So... um... thanks.

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  49. Wow! This was super heart-felt and touching! Words don't describe how much light and love with perspective was lit in this story. And I commend you two and your family for your wonderful example! Truly perfect examples of the pure love of christ! Seriously cannot express everything running in my mind, I'm not gay but just wow this was inspirational.. I struggled living surrounded by those so close minded and even though I do not agree with it I still accept those that are. And this makes me hope and love them more thank you for sharing!

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  50. amazing. inspired. so needed. thanks for the hour I just spent being uplifted by your life! your wife is amazing, you really are a lucky and blessed man.

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  51. just watched your story on tv. Love love love! Being gay is not all that you are, you're a Morman as well and I truly respect your decision to choose faith as your main priority. I support homosexuality just as much as as heterosexuality and I think you and your wife are amazing. During the show you said you just want acceptance for everyone. I agree with you 100%. All the best to you and your family!

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  52. Hi the weeds family! How are you? Hope your day is going well! Im watching you on" i'm married to a....." and i find what you did so courageous i cant imagine how hard it was to admit to the public that your gay and are staying married to your wife! I dont think i could do it! Anyways i hope you guys can stay together forever! Good luck,congrats on your anniversary,and hope you day goes great and your family stays well! Goodnight and goodbey! :-D <3

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  53. I just watched your VH1 episode. I cried over how sweet Lolly is. God bless your family!!! <3

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  54. Your next blog post is "twice gross".

    Not meaning you are, just meaning 2*144.

    Now, I just shortened the url for "thank you club unicorn" into:

    http://ppt.li/4u

    But I am in France, in Paris, and some times passions are getting hot about "gay marriage" here (I am against, not meaning I were against all gay people, notably ...), and about a few more things (a minister of education who is devout for a "lay spirituality" and a mayor who is tearing or who was trying to tear down a Church after deliberately neglecting upkeep so as to get an excuse).

    Can I publish this short link among a list of links (mainly to my blogs) in posters in Paris, or should I delete that out of concern for your safety?

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  55. PS, I am too late to congratulate to your anniversary, but hope it was great!

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  56. My first though: Dude, you are hilarious! Even I can't think of analogies like that! XD"

    But next, I commend you for your faith and diligence. You are one of the shining examples of God's power and love. You are brilliant!

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  57. First of all I would like to congratulate you both on 11 years of marriage and unconditional, all-encompassing love. Secondly I would like to thank you for sharing your story as my marriage is very much like yours. I have known my husband since we were 14 &15 but we unknowingly crossed paths many times as children. Once playing together at a wedding for his cousin and my Mom's friend...After being married a few years and having our 2 children he saw a pic of my parents at his cousin's wedding and freaked out..."WHY is YOUR family at my family's wedding??" Anyway my point is we've been in each others' lives even before we knew it. God's plan, no doubt. I've known since our first date that he was the man I wanted to spend my life with, to raise a family with...the 1. I still know that even after he came out to me June 18th, 2012; 9 days before our 20th wedding anniversary. Long story short: he had been depressed, suicidal even for a few months. I suspected he was unfaithful because there were hours of missing time. I couldn't take it anymore and he wouldn't open up so I threatened to divorce him if he didn't tell me what was going on in his life and in his head. It was the most terrifying, beautiful, sad/happy thing I've ever experienced. He sat down and said 1st that he loves me and then opened up about childhood sexual abuse, confusion, realization, fear...and not wanting to be anywhere or with anyone but me. The struggle for me is in the knowing that he had acted on his attractions and thus felt unworthy of my love, our marriage or life itself. He said "I thought you'd beat me up, leave and hate me when you found out." HOW could I hate the him? I have spent many (bad) days praying asking God where he wants me and its always the same answer, here with him. Its difficult for me because my father taught me that men use you then leave and so I've always subconsciously waited for my husband to say I'm outta here! When I'm having a bad day, when Satan tries to drown me in fear my husband says "Hon, I don't know why you don't get it...I'm NOT GOING ANYWHERE! Everything I want in my life is here, with you, everything, period." So thank you Josh for being the 1st gay man who uttered those words of being happy and where you want to be regardless of your sexual orientation outside my husband. For being the 1st gay man made me believe that you don't have to have a same sex relationship just because you're gay, to feel fulfilled and happy. I prayed for this and found this blog. Thanks again God! I'm here, I love my wonderful GAY husband and I'm not going anywhere. Yes it is worth it.

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  58. Thank you and thank the Lord for directing me to your post. I am married to the love of my life, 21 years now, and a gay man. I didn't know my husband was gay when I married him...well he never came out but I always knew he wasn't typical. I did know from the first time we went out that he was the one God had chosen for me. We have been together since were 14 &15 but our paths crossed many times in childhood without us even being aware. In fact, we were married several years when he saw a picture in our album of my parents at his cousin's wedding (he and I were there and played together!) and he said "WHY is your family in my family's wedding pic?" for a moment he was terrified that we were related! After explaining that my mom was his cousin's good friend and the Maid of honor, we realized we'd met there and had a good laugh. Anyway, I needed to find this, your story, your marriage to help me with mine. My husband came out to me just over a year ago after being very depressed and suicidal. We sat facing each other, hand in hand and I listened as he cried and spoke of years of CSA, knowing he was different, feeling like there was no place in this world for him. He told me that he had acted on his attractions and now felt unworthy of my love, our marriage and life in general. As I looked at him; through tears I asked why he had never shared this with me when we were always so open and such good friends. He said "I thought that when you found out you would leave me, hate me, maybe even turn our children against me." I simply said "I could never hate you and would never turn our children against you. I love you, completely, don't you get that?" I will never forget the words he said then: "I have never been loved by anyone unconditionally, not even my own mother. I can't believe you love me so much." I held him as he broke down and told him I was sorry for him, that God loves him unconditionally. Now when Satan throws fear/doubt my way I will be here with you and God! God Bless you and thank you both so much!

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