After spending nearly 10 years of my life working at camps, I am considered a master of the game Two Truths and a Lie. The rules are pretty simple–each member of a group takes a turn sharing three things about themselves, and the rest of the group has to decipher which two are true and which is false.
I’m good at this game not only because I’ve played it a million times, but also because for a long time, I thought it was necessary to hide the truth about who I was. I grew up in a loving family whose beliefs instructed me that being queer was sinful. I quickly learned about the shame and pain that come along with trying to hold onto beliefs that go against who you know you really are. I didn’t know how to deal with this or to reconcile my beliefs, so for a long time, I kept quiet. This is my story, in two truths and a lie, of my journey to becoming myself.
There were 854 days between the two biggest truths I’ve ever told. The first came in the form of an email I sent to my family on May 4, 2014:
I know I don’t normally send many e-mails, but this seemed like the best method for communicating with you all at once. My heart is very full and I have some things I’ve been wanting to share with you for awhile now–but have been waiting for what seemed like the right time.
To be honest, this is probably a conversation I would have preferred to have had with you face to face long ago. Given the distance and improbability of getting you all in the same room, I’m starting with this for now. I am both excited and terrified to share with you a truer version of myself. You have all helped to shape me into the person I am today and have made me feel loved, safe, and welcome. And it is for those very reasons that I need to be more open, honest, and trusting of you.
I have known for a long time now that I am gay. The first several years of this awareness were marked by self-hatred, denial, and a constant inner battle with my identity. As time progressed, it became more and more of a challenge to hide, or in other senses, to not fully accept myself. Today I know without a doubt that it is who God made me to be and that it is unhealthy for me to try to be anything else.
I am scared to tell you because I don’t know what you’ll think—and what you think really matters to me. I love and respect all of you more than you know and am scared of losing the amazing relationships I have with each of you. I know that there are several things we don’t agree on, and that we’ve hurt each other in the past as a result. I apologize for things I may have said or done that did not demonstrate the true extent of my love and respect for each of you. I recognize that we are all unique individuals with varying opinions and I also appreciate that we share so many of the same values. You are my family, and I need you very much.
I know that it is likely very hurtful to learn that I have not been open with you, and for that I am deeply sorry. I would like to ask for your forgiveness and understanding. I’ve had to wait until I was ready, until I grew in confidence, and until I took the time to bring this before God. I know that there are so many varying views and opinions about this topic, and I fully anticipate that this will take time for you all to process.
I am excited to tell you because this means that I will be able to simply be myself and I won’t have to worry about hiding or hurting anyone any longer. I am so grateful to say that this is no longer a battle between me and God. I have spent so much time seeking after Him and feel confident that He is calling me to be an advocate and support to those who might be in a similar situation. A Master’s degree in counseling probably makes a lot more sense now, eh?
Please know that I want to share with you. Ask me questions. I am committing to telling you everything.
The piece of the puzzle that I am excited to share is that I am in a healthy and happy relationship. I feel more like myself than I ever have before. Everything just feels right. I would love for you to all have the chance to meet her if you’re interested.
I know that this is a lot, but it feels good to share. I would like to talk to each of you individually if/when you are ready. I know it might take some time, so I wanted to share with you this way so that you could connect with each other if that would be helpful and can reach out to me when you’re interested.
I love you all,
The second truth came in the form of a question a couple of weeks ago. My partner and I hosted a party for 30 or so of our closest friends and family members under the guise of celebrating my 30th birthday. Little did they know that we actually intended to propose to each other in front of them during the party! We had each written out and memorized what we wanted to say, so when the time felt right, we gathered them all together to ask each other. Rosie went first, and then, when it was my turn, I shared the following with her and our guests:
Rosie, about four years ago, during our first summer working together at Camp, I wrote you what I like to consider our very first love letter. It went something like this:
I have a gigantic friend crush on you. Do you want to hang out?
Check ‘Yes’ or ‘No’
At first, I couldn’t understand why this letter seemed to both aggravate you and break your heart. Furthermore, I was devastated that you never checked a box. So, I decided to get my Masters in Counseling so I could figure it all out. Now, as a fully trained and licensed therapist, I think I understand.
I wrote this letter because I am a five with a six wing on the Enneagram. For those of you not familiar with the enneagram, it is a system describing nine distinct personality types and how people tend to behave in phases of health and unhealth.
As a five with a six wing, I am called both an investigator and a loyal skeptic. My primary drive is to perceive things–to fully understand concepts and others. I am perceived as analytical, trustworthy, and wise. Yet, I am anxious when I don’t have the information I feel I need. So when I was immediately drawn to you, I knew I had to act, but play it safe; I labeled you ‘friend.’
As a seven on the enneagram, you opted for a far less subtle approach. Your personality type is called the enthusiast or campaigner. You are optimistic, bold, pain-avoidant, and passionate. You always see the good and are not daunted by challenges. You replied to my letter in true seven style by making me a mix-tape which you entitled “For my girl.” So, that was pretty clear.
At first, it seemed that being together would be impossible. I was terrified about what being with you would mean for me. I most certainly did not have all the information I needed. You were terrified as you realized that growing our relationship would involve a lot of challenges that confronted your typical optimism and enthusiasm. Somehow, we learned to trust and risk it all on each other.
Rosie, you are the compass to my curiosity, the steadiness to my skepticism, and the woman behind the wisdom. In loving you, I have learned to love myself. As I stand before you today, I have never been more sure–of you, of us, and of the fact that I want to be yours forever.
This is for real, and we are for always.
Rosie, will you marry me? Check yes or no.
The lie comes in the form of a belief. You see, many of us believe that we can’t or shouldn’t be who we are. I believed this lie for 27 years of my life. If I’m honest, there are difficult days when I’m still tempted to believe it. As a therapist, I know the extent of the damage this lie can do. So I am inviting you to become a truth-teller. Tell yourself the truth. Tell others the truth. Do it because the truth matters and the truth endures.
Ashleigh is a Psychotherapist in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The foundation of Ashleigh’s approach to counseling is the idea that you will never be good at being anyone other than yourself. She focuses on who you are, where you’ve been, and who you are becoming in relation to yourself and others. Ashleigh specializes in working with LGBTQIA+ individuals, women, and young adults. Maintaining a safe, collaborative, and judgment-free space where ALL are welcome is her top priority. When she’s not working, you can find her watching the Great British Baking Show with her wife, playing guitar, doting over her cat Oatmeal Stout, and drinking Manhattans. Follow her on Twitter @theraqueer