Jeff Howard

“Mom, I have something to tell you.  I’m Gay.”  

Those were probably some of the toughest words I’ve ever had to speak. I was a sophomore at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. Think the Bible belt of the Midwest. A church on every corner. I attended a somewhat conservative Christian college. I was also in the midst of a personal crisis.  

I had come out to my college roommate in a late-night dorm room conversation. The kind where you’re both in your beds talking until 3 am. The initial reaction from him was of acceptance. What I later found, however, was that he was not ok with my sexual orientation.  

I had become depressed and was struggling with being gay and Christian. That fall, Hope’s chaplain invited an ex-gay minister to campus.  To counter that, the student organizations brought in a gay minister, Mel White. The two clashed at the same time and the campus was bitterly divided. It got nasty. This was not something that I could handle and I became extremely depressed. To the point of attempting suicide. My roommate situation wasn’t helping at all. I was eventually moved into a room set aside for roommate emergencies.

In the midst of my move, I felt that I needed to explain to my friends why I was moving, and I needed their support. I came out to them one by one over the course of a week. Their reactions were loving and supportive. I certainly shed a few tears that week. In fact, they all mentioned that they kind of already knew I was gay.  

With my friends behind me, I decided to come out to my parents.  Over the phone. I was terrified they’d stop supporting me financially. I told them separately (my parents were divorced). Their reactions were not what I expected. They both told me that they suspected already that I was gay. This was becoming a theme. Why did it seem like I was always the last to know?
My Dad actually handled it the best. I was still his son and he loved me no matter what. My Mom, on the other hand, was having a
difficult time.  We grew up in a conservative Lutheran church (WELS), and she, like me, was having a difficult time reconciling the two. At one point she told me, “I guess I can toss out my wedding dress that I was saving for you to make your daughter’s christening gown out of.” Ouch. That was harsh. Throw in a few “This isn’t what God wants for you” statements and you get the idea.  

Eventually my Mom came around, and now she’s a tremendous
supporter. Not that I ever expect to see her marching with PFLAG in the Pride Parade, but she’s still my number one ally. I’ve even come out to my entire family and have their unflinching support. Ok, well
maybe not so much from my Ann Coulter-wannabe cousin, but she still loves me anyway.

There have been a few bumps and bruises along the way, but it has made me the person I am today. I would not change one thing.