Greater NW Pride: Coming Out Pilgrimage


Coming Out Pilgrimage

"Seventeen years ago I awoke early one morning and began my coming out pilgrimage. Though I had long imagined what it would be like coming out, the very act of coming out of my closet brought both unbridled joy and literally scared me to death. It was these polar opposite feelings that effectively stopped me from leaving the closet’s narrow, loathsome confines. I was paralyzed emotionally, wanting to embrace the emotional, relational, intellectual, spiritual, and physical attraction to men, yet could not accept being gay because I believed society’s and my church’s hateful condemnations against the “homosexual lifestyle.” To keep my mind from dwelling on being gay, I busied myself with the academy where I worked, the denomination I served, and the family I loved, to fend off any rumors that I could be gay. But one morning, after a year of counseling and months of strategizing, I simply left the house I shared with my wife and kids, and moved to a small studio apartment, never to return. Even though I was consumed with fear that I would lose my place in the institution of higher education where I worked, be defrocked as a minister, and lose my family, I nonetheless could no longer live the lie I was trying to live. I wanted and needed to live life as fully “me”: a dad, professor, writer, pastor, partner, and pilgrim who happened to be gay. As pilgrimage starts with a step forward, so does coming out. And nothing is ever the same."

I wrote this paragraph in 2012, in an article, "Coming Out Pilgrimage," in Huffington Post. A link to the article is below. I compared my experience of going on my first pilgrimage in 1999 with the experience of coming out, which I had started slowly in 1995. As I wrote in a blog last week, the first person you come out to is yourself, and that process began in 1995, when the strict confines of the closet and the reality of God's liberating love became unbearable.

In light of the blog posting that I wrote last week on death in the closet, and the experience of Easter resurrection out of the closet, I thought it would be time to share what it was like for me to struggle out of the closet, in which, materially, I had much to lose, and psychologically, relationally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually, had much to gain. Some things have changed since I wrote this article. I'm now in a new partnered relationship. Weddings of same sex couples are now the law of the land. I left the faculty position where I taught ethics and world religion and English composition at NC Central University, and moved back to Oregon (one of my many "home" states). I began Community of Pilgrims Presbyterian Fellowship in Portland, and, of course, my position with the OR-ID United Methodist Church Conference gives me the joy of advocating on behalf of and with other marvelous LGBTQ+ people in the OR-ID UMC and beyond.  And I am now a grandfather, or "Pops." 

Here you go: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-coming-out-pilgrimage_b_1859061

And happy Easter, to my friends and colleagues who are out of their LGBTQ+ closet, those who have one foot in and one foot out, and those who are still imprisoned in the closet.  Prayers for one and all.



Brett Webb-Mitchell
Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell is an openly gay Presbyterian pastor in the Portland area serving as the part-time LGBTQ+ advocacy coordinator for The Oregon-Idaho Conference of the UMC. He can be reached at brett@umoi.org. Become a subscriber to the Greater NW Pride blog to get Greater NW Pride in your email box!