Editor’s Note: We first published Jake’s story in July 2020. It is now a year later, we felt (and Jake agreed) that the timing was right to share his story again. Jake is one year into having “fired” his homophobic side and if you’ve followed him on Social Media, you know just how amazing his life has become. If you’re new to his story, have a read and then check him out. It’s a beautiful journey.
I’m coming off a high. I just fired someone, and it was one of the crowning achievements of my adult life. I made sure to make a scene of it too by gathering everyone into the conference room, laying out a long list of offenses, and walking him out of the room and building to never return. It was awesome!
Nine months earlier I came out as gay to my wife of 13 years. I married her with the best of intentions, desiring to do all that was expected of me as a man in the Mormon Church. From the time I was a child, I wanted nothing more than to please my God by doing the things I was taught to do; including choosing the right, following the prophet, abstaining from coffee, tea, and alcohol, serving a mission marrying in the temple. From there it was a simple matter of re-populating the earth and enduring until the end. If I kept my end of the promises made at baptism and in the temple I would be rewarded with eternal life which meant my wife, kids, and I could live with God forever.
Being a closeted gay man married to an unsuspecting straight woman had its challenges. We brought four beautiful children into the world and did our best to provide a happy home for them. The good and great times were sprinkled with some terribly painful and difficult times. I made many excuses for my "poor performance" and the excuses I used were many and varied based on the context of the fight: stress, fatigue, back pain, low libido, headaches, medication, etc. I would reaffirm my love and promise to try or do better. After a few months of smooth sailing, the storms would blow in once more.
I hated the fact that I was gay. I hated keeping that secret. It was the source of so much pain on both our parts. Without the admission of being gay I would, with honesty and conviction, say “if I could fix myself I would” or “if there was a switch I’d flip it”. I was tested for low testosterone and was prescribed supplements, thinking it would fix my libido and make me straight. It didn't.
Eleven years into our marriage I came to the conclusion that my faith system did not work for me any longer. I no longer found truth and light in the Mormon faith. Not enough to sustain me anyway.
Two years later we had had enough and we agreed to divorce. Through sobs of defeat, as my marriage was ending, I finally broke down and confessed “I am gay”. It was the first time I was completely honest with her. She showed love and compassion that I am still in awe of.
Over the next several months we prepared for divorce and I sought help and guidance from many sources. In early February 2020, I attended a small conference in Phoenix whose focus was self-help for individuals with a Mormon heritage. One of the keynote speakers, Elena Thurston, a lesbian, told her story of self-acceptance and coming out to others. My notes from her session include “if someone has a problem with you coming out it is not your fault or your problem. They have a bigot sitting at their table. A bigot in their boardroom. Give them time to get the bigot out of there.”
My divorce was finalized in May and I found myself still hating myself for being gay. Months had gone by and there were opportunities to experiment and explore though I held back; I could not bring myself to embrace my recently proclaimed identity. I was still very ashamed, embarrassed, angry, and not wanting to be gay. I kept myself bridled with excuses such as “I am waiting for the divorce to be finalized”, “I need to see my doctor first”, and the current catch-all “we’re in the middle of a global pandemic!” I had been out eight months by now and was no closer to embracing my sexuality than when I came out. I realized there was a bigot at MY table and he was keeping me from going any further than the closet door jamb.
The bigot’s voice in my head echoed the rhetoric I had been taught and read for much of my life. I sincerely had no problem with “him” being gay or “her” being gay – “I” could not be gay though. I envied others while restricting myself. I eventually learned of internalized homophobia – the belief that the unkind stereotypes and hurtful teaching regarding homosexuals applied to me. My internalized homophobia was telling me I was disgusting. To act on my feelings would be sinful. My homosexuality was immoral. It was time to address the bigot in me.
In a dreamlike meditative state, I called a meeting and invited everyone to attend and have a seat at the table. Happy Jake, Sad Jake, Funny Jake, Angry Jake, Joyful Jake, Scared Jake, Kind Jake, Ashamed Jake, Loving Jake, Awkward Jake, Sexual Jake, Emotional Jake, ALL the Jake’s gathered in a large conference room in my mind and we sat around a table together. Of course, this included Homophobic Jake, the reason the meeting was called in the first place.
Once everyone was there I called the meeting together and addressed some of the issues holding me back. I told Funny Jake that he needs to take a step back and let others have a voice – specifically Emotional Jake. Funny Jake tends to ‘crack jokes’ or ‘make light’ of a situation to avoid allowing Emotional Jake to express himself. I went around the room and put the different Jake’s in their places and set new expectations for us all going forward.
The time came to address Homophobic Jake. I ripped into him. For far too long Homophobic Jake had me and the others around the table convinced we were vile and disgusting. He used hurtful, derogatory, bigoted terms and rhetoric to manipulate others around the table. He was loud, obnoxious, and dominated most conversations. He stalled progress and growth, limiting potential and diminishing self-esteem. He had to go. As everyone looked on in excited anticipation I fired Homophobic Jake in an expletive riddled declaration of independence from him and his stronghold over me. I walked him out of the conference room and to the exit and threw him out on his face to never return again.
A friend, who was physically present – not in the dreamlike state – and coaching me through listened on as I laid into Homophobic Jake and he protested “don’t talk about yourself like that” to which I responded “I am not! Homophobic Jake is not me! I am me and he is him. He is no longer welcome here!” I am sure I sounded crazy but at that moment all parts of me were separate individuals with whom I spoke and interacted.
The friend asked that I extend out my hand and he took it in his. My eyes remained closed and for the first time, I was touched by and could touch a man without Homophobic Jake’s voice screaming in my head. As he held my hand, he never did more than simply squeeze or rub it as it laid essentially lifeless in his hands. I absorbed the sense of touch and appreciated the calm silence I was now hearing in my head. Homophobic Jake was nowhere to be seen or heard. This continued for more than ten minutes before I could reciprocate by squeezing his hand in return.
After more than 20 years, Homophobic Jake was gone. Fired. Never to return. I stood and looked in the mirror and took in myself. My eyes were wide as I studied my face and smiled. It was beautiful. I was happy. I loved myself for the first time in a very long time. I eventually woke up and it was a new morning. A beginning.
Jake (he/him) is a father of four and resides in Northern Utah. He was raised Mormon and served a mission and was sealed in the Mesa, AZ temple to his then-wife in 2006. Jake came out as gay in 2019 and divorced in 2020. You can find him at @Jake_92919 on Instagram.