I think about how much being online has helped me the past few years. When I needed help dealing with being gay and Christian, trying to figure myself out, looking for anyone who I could talk to and who would understand, I was able to turn to online resources.
I found Exodus International to begin with. Now, I know a lot of people don’t like Exodus, and there are several reasons not to like Exodus, but regardless of those reasons, Exodus did help me… tremendously. You see, growing up where I did, being gay just wasn’t acceptable at all. There was only one person I knew who I went to school with who was gay and came out. And when he did, the harassing and torment the other students put him through drove him right out of school. And it wasn’t much better for anyone else who was thought to be gay. I was thought to be gay—even though I didn’t even know how to feel or think about the issue myself at the time. The point is that being gay was not at all something that one dared admit to anyone else—even if you were Christian trying not to give into your desires, as I was. There do seem to be a lot more high school kids willing to come out these days, but a good deal of them are still met by a very large degree of discrimination and bullying. They’re looked down upon.
I never thought I could tell anyone I was gay. To do that scared me something fierce. For anyone just to find out on their own I was gay scared me as well. I always feared that if people knew, they’d treat me far worse than a lot of them already did. And so I kept quiet for what seemed like a very long time, and pretended that a very big problem in my life wasn’t really all that bad at all.
When my brother found out I was gay in 2005, and confronted me about it, I was tormented beyond reason, and I had no clue who to turn to for help. Alone—for too long—I finally searched online for someone who could help me with my problems. What I found was Exodus International. On their website, I read other people’s stories, saw their pictures, and read their articles about all sorts of particular related issues. For the first time in my life, I discovered how not alone I really was in the world. I discovered there were a lot of other guys just like me, struggling with their identity. I saw how similar our stories were, how alike we looked, and I drew much strength and wisdom from their writings.
I eventually decided to seek out a counselor from Exodus so that I could talk to someone on a personal level. I found Paul. Paul was very good to me. He listened, didn’t judge, gave me advice when needed, and pushed me to be a better person. He helped me more than he could probably ever know. We emailed each other for a year or two, and finally I got the nerve to talk with him on the phone (keep in mind how terrified I was at the thought of other people knowing about me). We talked to each other a few times, and that in itself was a huge help. He talked to me like I was normal, a friend, and someone who still had value and dignity as a human being. Knowing Paul certainly helped change my life for the better. He helped me break down so many barriers and gave me so much hope and strength. I am eternally grateful for him.
Exodus also helped me in another way. On their homepage, they frequently linked to articles written by people on other websites. I soon found myself commenting to others on what they had written. By that, I met two very important people in my life. One was a young college student battling with same-sex attraction in Maryland, who had written about his struggles in his local university newspaper. I wrote to him at first to encourage him. I wanted him to know how brave I thought he was to write what he had, and to let him know he wasn’t alone, and that I would be praying for him and would help him if he needed it. We began emailing each other, and eventually we became great friends. This particular friend has meant more to me the last few years than he could ever know. He is a friend unlike any other I have ever had, and I thank God for introducing me to him. The other person I met, I also thank God for, because he pushed me to think about gay issues on a much broader spectrum and from many alternative positions (to not be as closed-minded), and because he introduced me to College Jay’s blog. When I read Jay’s blog, I loved it immediately, and I thought, “Why don’t you make your own blog?” And so I quickly did make my own blog—this blog. Through it, I have met so many people. I’ve made several friends simply because of this blog. And I’ve gained much strength, wisdom, guidance, and love from them, too.
It always amazes me how much one thing can lead to another. One website led to a much needed counselor, to an endless array of self-help resources, and to two friends. One of those friends led to a blog, which then led to many more friends, as well as sharing of ideas and encouragement. Everything becomes so interconnected. And that’s the power of the internet. It can connect the world in a way that just wasn’t conceivable only a couple of decades past. Without question, the internet has helped change my life, and a great deal of others’, in some very positive ways.
As I stated earlier, I live in an area of the country where being gay, in whatever sense you may be, is not a very popular thing to be. Growing up, this made me fearful, unconfident, self-loathing, and alone. But the internet helped change all that, because it allowed me the opportunities to meet some of the most wonderful people I’d have never known otherwise. And each of these people helped me. They befriended me, encouraged me, sympathized with me, taught me, prayed for me, and motivated me to become a better person. And as much as they did those things for me, I hope I’ve been able to likewise do for them.
We are the misfits, who found each other in this mysterious other world. And I thank God for leading me to each of you. I know I am a better person today, happier in life, mostly figured out, with more friends than I ever had before, and more possibilities and hope than I ever dreamed I’d have. Just ten years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined I’d be where I am today. And again, I have to thank God, because he led me to the ones who helped me to get where I am today. He saw me through. He’s answered so many of my prayers. And I can say without question, He used the internet to help answer a great many of them.