Todd Hauptman: Coming out remains a painful journey for many LGBT Canadians
Life. This word describes not only the breath that enables us to exist but also describes the journey that each of us walks in our lives. Each life is invaluable simply because we exist.
Yet for many groups in Canadian society, that feeling of acceptance and value is not possible. Despite progress in the fight for equality under the law of our nation, many members of the LGBT community in Canada, myself included, still experience significant turmoil and hurt in their coming out journeys.
Like many, my coming-out journey has been marked by moments of deep self-hatred, fear of rejection, and fear of abandonment by loved ones.
While I’ve known deep down since I was about 16 years old, my journey didn’t begin until many years later. At the age of 19, I became a Christian by joining a large evangelical church in Langley, B.C., which marked the beginning of my heavy involvement in the Canadian version of the “religious right”. I joined, volunteered, served on boards, and worked for various Christian organizations and initiatives.
Looking back on that period of time, my family and friends will recall my zealous support for Christian teachings that professed a strong conservative worldview. I increasingly became convinced that I could and must change my “homosexual” feelings. I grew increasingly repressed and determined to pursue a “normal” Christian life as part of my work advocating for moral and justice issues with MPs, whether it was abortion, transgender rights, or anti-prostitution efforts.
Every word spoken by someone in a conversation, every sermon heard, every article read, every video watched that prescribed that homosexuality, was a harmful sin to society and myself. I knew deep down that I was gay, yet everything I was accepting as truth told me that I could and must not be gay if I wanted a happy, healthy, and live a prosperous life. On the outside, I looked together, joyful, and like a passionate Christian believer. But every day, I was hiding and repressing a major piece of the fabric of who I am.
Another crucial piece of this journey is a kidney disease called alport syndrome that I was diagnosed with at age four and, which in June 2007 resulted in the need to begin daily kidney dialysis. While I always knew that the kidney disease that had been monitored throughout my life could one day result in dialysis, nothing prepares you for it.
Suddenly, shortly before my 21st birthday, when I should have been partying or at least having fun with friends, I began lifesaving treatment for kidneys that were declining.
During three years of dialysis, my life inevitably became focused on my physical health, which meant stopping university, reducing my social life, and facing an uncertain future. My faith held me and my life together during that time because it let me have a glimmer of hope for something more.
November 30, 2009, is a date that will forever be a turning point in my life because, at the age of 23, I could have passed away from three grand mal seizures I had that evening. Such monumental events you expect on television or in movies, but not in your own life.
Ten days after the seizures, I walked away from the hospital and, on March 31, 2010, I received a kidney from my dear friend Tanya. Walking away from a near-death experience and experiencing vastly renewed health cannot help but force an individual to majorly re-examine everything about their lives.
At that moment, I decided that I was truly on borrowed time, and that I would be wasting my time being anything but 100 percent my honest self. January 2011 marked the beginning of my coming out journey and, without hesitation, I can be proud of who I am today.
Through 2011 and 2012, I took moments to share my news with friends and family who were close and dear to me. My closest friends and family largely had affirming and loving responses, including my mom Debra. The reception from my former church community was, largely, extremely hurtful, but bright spots did exist with those who always cared about me.
I am a gay man who finally loves himself. I have experienced significant push back from many of those in the Christian community who have said and done hurtful things. But my true friends and family have stood by me and loved me for me.
While there is much more to say, it must be said that I believe that love, hope, and courage make our world more kind and just.
I ask you today to please love life, yourself, and those around you.
May 31, 2013 at 11:12pm
Good job Todd
Jun 2, 2013 at 12:54am
Todd, I'm sorry for the hurt and rejection you experienced as a result of your coming out to your fellow Christian bros & sisters. I hope this has not turned you away from the Lord and pray you're still walking with Him, regardless.
Jun 2, 2013 at 10:00am
Todd,you are a brave man to have come out so openly to expose the ugly underbeely in the Christian Right and the Liberal campaign in your riding.Sadly,bad behavior on their part seems to have rewarded at the polls.Thank you as well for giving a voice to those who daily struggle with being true to who they are, even when it clashes with one aspect of the dictates of their faith.Finally,you are indeed a role model, especially for young people who are trying to reconcile competing loyalties.
Jun 2, 2013 at 10:42am
I truly appreciated your article that reflect in many ways my own journey. Today when I balance the negatives against the positive I must say that the positives surpas the negatives, because I am liberated from the chains of pretending and I can be me without any hidden agenda and that it is the most healthy feeling that one can ever has. Thank you again and the best in the years ahead, Max.
Jun 2, 2013 at 5:14pm
"Like many, my coming-out journey has been marked by moments of deep self-hatred, fear of rejection, and fear of abandonment by loved ones".
I can definitely relate. I also ran to the church to hide from my true self after some experimenting in my teens. The closet was a very toxic place for me. I tried to take my life when I was 18 because the pressure to conform overwhelmed me. I spent the next ten years in solitary confinement running away from myself. I came out of the closet right before my 28TH Birthday after having spent the previous four months contemplating suicide. Coming out was a extremely liberating and scary experience to say the least. I am so glad you were able to find peace with yourself Todd and thank you for sharing your story.
Jun 3, 2013 at 5:52pm
A tough read. Good on you, Mr. Hauptman.
I am not gay but have some acquaintance with the topic through friends and family.
I was thinking that being gay in 2013 was not all that painful anymore. Friends of my school-age children have 'come out' in high school (unthinkable in my time) and have not only retained their friends but are considered to be somewhat boring and normal.
So I was thinking that being gay is kind of like being left handed or preferring Voyager to all other versions of Star Trek: a definite minority, sure, but not socially objectionable.
I am sorry to read that my view is wrong.
Alternatively, maybe that view is not wrong. Maybe it is not being gay that is tough - maybe it is being part of a repressive traditionalist community.