Four months ago yesterday, I took the final step in coming out publicly about my sexual orientation. Since that time, I have wanted to write up something more detailed explaining why I decided to come out, as well as what kind of response I received when I did come out. This blog post will do just that.
The following is the letter I posted to my Facebook wall on April 12th:
My name is Adam Coon. I am Mormon, and I am bisexual.As mentioned in this post, coming out publicly wasn't a spontaneous decision for me. In fact, I've had thoughts about being open about my sexuality off and on for the last eight or nine years.
Several days ago I posted a link to a video created by a BYU student group in which several BYU students shared their stories of being Mormon and coming to terms with their sexuality. The courage these men and women showed in coming out publicly about their sexuality while attending BYU inspired me to open up about my own sexuality. Though I have never attended BYU, and my attractions are bisexual, otherwise the stories shared could easily be my own.
When I was a young teenager, I first started becoming aware that I was different than other boys, in that I had an interest in other guys that my friends did not share. My response to becoming aware of my attractions was the same as many in the video. Growing up, I had received the message from society, the culture I lived in, and everyone else around me that homosexuality was an immoral perversion. So I tried to suppress my attractions. And when that didn't work, I tried prayer and righteousness. Yet my attractions remained unchanged. As a result, I went through years of feeling shame because of how I felt and who I was attracted to.
Over the years since that time, I have been coming to terms with my sexual orientation and who I am. I no longer feel ashamed of who I am, or who I am attracted to. I know that I have value and worth, and that I have friends and family who value and love me. Just as importantly, I have come to believe that God loves and values me.
To some of you, this information may come as a surprise. Others of you may have suspected, but not said anything to me. And many others of you already know and have shown me love and support over the years.
Some of you may be shocked--or even strongly disagree--about my decision to come out publicly about my sexual orientation. Please know that this is not a decision that I have made lightly, and that this is something I have been contemplating for a number of years. I have long been tired of the secrecy. But it is only now that I finally feel ready to face the fears of being open about this part of my life.
There may be some of you that don't understand what I mean when I say I am bisexual. Some of you may make assumptions about what that means about how I live my life. And some of you may decide you no longer want to associate with me or be my friend because of my decision to be open about this.
But I also have hope that many more of you will continue to support and accept me. I have hope that you will know that I am still the same person that you have always known, only now more open and authentic about who I am.
Some of you may have questions for me. And I invite you to ask. I welcome dialogue around this issue.
Though I still have some fear about the responses I will get to this announcement, I am much more excited to face my life in an open, honest and authentic manner. I am eager to go forward and find out what my life has in store for me.
As I also mentioned in the post, I felt a lot of shame about my sexuality when I was growing up. In addition to all the messages I got, I also felt incredibly alone and different from everyone else around me. I was already very shy during my childhood. The shame and "terminal uniqueness" I felt about my sexuality once I first started becoming aware of it during my teenage years only increased the isolation I felt.
It was ten years ago that I first came across support groups for Mormons experiencing same-sex attractions that wanted to keep the standards of the LDS Church (particularly concerning sexuality). I first found online groups, and later attended groups in person. When I first started getting involved with these groups, I remember how amazed and thrilled I felt that I was no longer alone. I had finally met, and was beginning to make friends with others who understood what I was feeling. I'd finally found a place where I didn't have to keep a part of myself secret from everyone and where I no longer felt so different.
Although these groups were helpful for me initially, it did not take long before I reached the point where I once again began feeling different from almost everyone around me. I could be open in the groups I was in, but all of the rest of the time, I still felt like I had to keep this part of my life a secret. Over time, I realized that what I was feeling (i.e. shame and being so different from others) was in large part because I wasn't allowing myself to be authentic when I wasn't in my groups. My groups had turned into the only place I could really be myself.
At this time I started having thoughts about being open in my life about my sexuality. But nearly every time I mentioned this to a friend from a support group, or to one of my leaders in the Church, this idea was always shot down. I followed the advice of my friends and leaders, although I never felt that my reasons for wanting to be open were ever really fully understood.
I eventually decided that when I did came out (and I knew by this time that it was now a "when" rather than an "if"), it would have to be because I knew it was what was right for me, regardless of what anyone else thought. But then I realized that I was still my own biggest obstacle to coming out. There was a part of me that feared others' reactions, that it would change the way others thought of me. And there was also the fact that once I did come out publicly, there would be no easy way of going back if I later changed my mind.
Over the years, I got a lot of practice with coming out to those I was close to. In time, I'd told all of my immediate family. I'd also told many of my closest friends. I was soon living my life in such a way that I wasn't keeping my sexuality a secret, though I also wasn't broadcasting it either. I even came to a point where I was able to be open about my sexuality at work.
I eventually received the final nudge after watching the experiences of others as they came out. After watching the video I mentioned in my post, I knew that it was finally my time. And so I composed the letter, ran it by a couple of close friends, and then posted it on Facebook.
The response I received was more incredible than I could ever have imagined!
Overall, I received an overwhelmingly positive response of love and support, more than I was ever expecting. I even received support from extended family members and childhood friends that were at one point among those that I most feared telling.
There were some that encouraged me to live LDS standards, while still expressing their love and acceptance of me regardless of how I chose to live my life. But there was also a very small minority that expressed some criticism about my letter. One told me he questioned whether I was being authentic because I chose to use the term bisexual rather than Same Gender Attraction, which is the more commonly accepted term in LDS culture. And another told me that I should have made a stand that I was "living the gospel" so that all my "gay-affirming friends" would not assume that I was now looking for a gay relationship (I found it puzzling in particular as to why this would be the automatic assumption when I used the term "bisexual," and have never identified myself as gay).
I will say now that using the term bisexual and not speaking about what my choices were around my sexuality was very intentional. Saying that I was bisexual was a much simpler way of describing my sexuality than saying, "I experience same-sex attraction, although I am also attracted to women." And my choices around my sexuality were not the reason I had decided to come out. My decision to come out was to get rid of that last bit of shame around my sexual orientation that kept popping up in my life because I was still keeping it a secret.
And in spite of a few criticisms, overall my decision to be open about this has been a very positive thing in my life. After getting rid of the shame and the feeling of being different, the best thing that has come of it has been the ability to openly be part of the dialogue that I have dreamed about for so long and is now finally happening.
And that is the more detailed explanation of the "hows" and "whys" of my coming out process, as well as the effect it has had on me and my life. But if there is still something that is unclear or that you would like to know, feel free to ask me.
Also, if you have ideas for topics to discuss in my upcoming blog posts, please let me know. There is so much to discuss around this issue, and I'm sure I won't think of every possible topic on my own.