I never intended for my life to be a statement. I never wished for the relationship I care most about to be a controversy or something I'd have to build up the courage and strength just to seem like I'm referencing casually. I didn't grow up hoping one day I'd be called fag on the internet for sharing an anecdote about the man I married.

Who would?

There was a time, really not all that long ago, that I actually believed my life would have to end up a tragedy. It didn't seem to me there was any possible way for me to ever find happiness or peace. The agony would just continue to grow, as it always had.

A constant quiet desperation. A lonely one. A secret one. Becoming more overwhelming with each passing year.

I'd eventually die at the height of my sadness. That was inevitable. That's the math. If the struggle would only get worse and worse, no matter when or how my life ended, it would be at my lowest point.

I spent years—decades—begging the creator I'd been taught to seek for some answer—some way to find peace like so many of my friends who really didn't seem to struggle to find peace as they followed the path their religious leaders taught. They followed that path with a pat on the back.

The path they wanted to follow anyway.

I begged myself to believe there was some way for me to find that peace. It was unbearable to live without the hope that hope might someday come.

Some days I could almost persuade myself to at least wonder if things would get better. Then some thoughtless person would commandeer a pulpit to remind me there was no path for me. They'd commandeer a pulpit to decry people like me who couldn't live in agony anymore and sought a life worth living. They'd commandeer a pulpit to urge the others—the ones who didn't have trouble finding peace by following the back-patting path—to join the tyranny of the majority in shaming people like me.

In shaming the people living in quiet desperation.

They'd claim to "love," as if uttering that word excuses the rest.

They'd acknowledge that life for people like me is "difficult" or a "struggle," as if that was an adequate substitute for a plan.

They'd shake their head at those who didn't follow the commandments They themselves would never have followed if they were like me.

For a time I thought coming out and leaving my faith would be cowardly. A forfeiture. A failure on my part.

Of course that wasn't true. Coming out and claiming my peace, taking my place, and standing up to the They took more courage than hiding ever did.

Once I finally became brave, I learned what it meant to love and be loved.

Once I finally became brave, I discovered that life isn't meant to be lived in quiet desperation.

Once I finally became brave, I found that the best version of myself was never going to survive in a closet or under the hands of the Thoughtless They.

And so now I live. I share with you and anyone who will listen the life for so long I never thought I could ever have or deserve. The life I believed would be wrong for me to want.

I share it, and I hope in doing so I'll help someone who might be like I was. I hope the sharing may help them see what is theirs for the taking if they can just summon the courage to say no to agony and anyone who is pushing them toward it.

Life is beautiful out of the closet, and you deserve beauty.

So, call me slurs. Roll your eyes. Send me sermons.

None of it matters.

None of it will ever make me unknow the peace I've found.

None of it will ever stop me from defending those who deserve to love and be loved.

~It Just Gets Stranger