If you haven’t read chapters 1-4, you’ll want to find those first. Just head to levipierpont.com/[C for Chapter][chapter number].

The next summer was especially difficult. My older brother got married the winter before, and my older sister was getting married the autumn after—both opposite-sex marriages. I was deeply jealous, which I knew was wrong. But it wasn’t about them having significant relationships before I could. It was the fact that I was expected to refrain from this for the rest of my life. I was expected to be a celibate (Protestant) monk, dedicated to my cause, while siblings and friends got married and had children. And if I ever tried to have a companion myself, and/or adopt children, I knew none of them would support me. I’d be ostracized from the community of friends that said they loved me the most.

One summer Sunday night, I was especially depressed. A good friend and mentor—“Kim,” for the purposes of this story—asked me how I was doing at church. When she got a glimpse of the darkness and pain I carried with me, she began to worry for me. We parted ways, but she texted me later that night, concerned. Finally, she decided to come over to the house, and we walked around my block over and over again, as I cried about my family, and shared my frequent suicidal thoughts. I haven’t wanted to kill myself in a while, but this was an extremely difficult season. I felt like there was no purpose for living. When everyone else around you is looking forward to or planning their beautiful families, a life of singleness starts to feel bleak. She walked me through it, had me make a short list of people I could call in the darkest moments, and convinced me to tell my family what was going on.

I’ll pause to mention that, the more open I have become to a relationship in the future, the less suicidal I have become. And it is hard for me to see this as a bad thing. It’s also hard for me not to see it as a gift of light from God, pulling me out of the darkness and depression. Over the years, He opened my eyes to see how wrong my upbringing was about me, and later, I could see His love for me, comforting me when people who claimed to love me—and Him—pushed me away.

Kim also introduced me to another non-affirming gay person—“Ben”—who was about ten years older than me. The three of us met for coffee the morning after my long conversation and walk with her. Talking with him encouraged me in many ways—I never recalled understanding someone as much as I could understand him. We were both lonely, moderately depressed, but trying to please God the best way we had been told to—by remaining celibate forever. He didn’t have much in the way of advice, but he encouraged me immeasurably. Our conversations went from long emails back and forth which were CCed to Kim (you never know what the gays are up to), to Instagram DMs (somehow I felt as though these were acceptable before texts were), then texts about my school drama, my family, and his life in a big city. And, the course of our friendship (which continues, to this day, mostly over the Internet) saw both of us, independent from each other, go from totally non-affirming, to being more open to God’s vibrant, accepting love. I’m still deeply thankful for Ben, and all the ways he has been a friend to me and continues to be today.

Just days after that meeting with Ben and Kim, I left to go to summer camp. Every time I went to a new place, with new people, I’d try being straight, doing things I thought were especially hetero to offset my queer aura that seemed to always give me away. I’d try to keep my mouth shut, talk without using my hands, pretend to be slightly awkward around girls and more comfortable with guys, and hold myself in that annoying straight pose. But sooner or later, I would find seven different girls to be absolute BFFs with, and my cover would be blown. Then, the rumors would start, and there was no sense trying to catch up with them.

My counsellor that year was kind, but he didn’t know quite what to say or how to help. It’s hard to be the first gay person someone knows, but I was willing to be the experiment for much of my high school years. I’d often say “yes, my parents know, no, I don’t really believe it’s okay to be gay, like, to have a relationship, and ask any questions you like, I don’t care/I won’t be offended.” Usually, I was more comfortable with people asking me a lot about it, because this way, I had a better idea of what they were thinking. And except for the occasional classic, “when did you choose to be gay?” I was never particularly offended by the questions people had. Anyway, back to the counsellor—we talked about it a good deal one night, staring up at the stars. But his big comparison of choice was, (basically) “well, you see, when I was your age, I was into porn, and I had to have an accountability partner and work through that, and now, I’m doing great. So I think you need to have an accountability partner, and, who knows, you may turn straight.”

This post was written in August of 2018 and originally published in February of 2019.