Questions for Reflection
Each episode we offer you a few prompts to think about how that day's conversation applies to you. Our supporters over at Buy Me a Coffee now have exclusive access to the PDF versions of all our Questions for Reflection. Join us today!
Beth Demme (00:03):
Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars podcast...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:06):
Where we have honest conversations about things that make us different.
Beth Demme (00:08):
Our mission is to talk about things you might relate to but that you don't hear being discussed in other places.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:14):
Our hope is that you're encouraged to have honest conversations with people in your own life. I'm Steph.
Beth Demme (00:18):
And I'm Beth. On today's show, we're going to have an honest conversation titled My Coming Out Story with David. Then we'll share a Slice of Life, and the show will close with Question for Reflection. Where we will invite you to reflect on the conversation in your own life.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:32):
So, welcome David.
Beth Demme (00:33):
David (Special Guest)(00:34):
Hello, thank you for having me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:36):
Yeah, so David's actually my neighbor, and he is at his house, and me and Beth are at my house. So, we are safely distanced and in the comfort of our own spaces. I want to just give a little background of how I know David. So, we've known each other since we were teenagers, I would say, right?
David (Special Guest)(00:56):
Yeah. Yeah, I think so.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:56):
So, your sister was in my Girl Scout troop. So, I was really good friends with her, and that's how I knew you. We knew each other through that time, and then when I moved back to Tallahassee, I got a house, and you were also looking for a house around that time. So, we talked to each other, and you used my same realtor, and you happened to get a house in my same neighborhood. Wow, way to copy me. It's all good. It's all good. You actually were looking at the house next to me, which would've been even cooler, but that didn't-
Beth Demme (01:26):
That would have been cool.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:27):
I know. I have really good neighbors though now, so...
Beth Demme (01:30):
I'm sure you would have been a good neighbor too though.
David (Special Guest)(01:32):
Yeah. It all worked out.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:32):
He would have been.
Beth Demme (01:32):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:32):
He would have been, yes. So, we are neighbors and friends, and you actually are a technology teacher at a local school here. You came to our podcast party a little over a year ago, so we've had you on-
Beth Demme (01:47):
More than a year ago. It was like a year and a half ago.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:49):
Yes. Oh, my goodness. Time flies. Way before COVID, so it's like-
Beth Demme (01:52):
Way before COVID.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:52):
... I can't do math that far back.
David (Special Guest)(01:54):
I got to read the book early, I think.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:57):
Beth Demme (01:58):
David (Special Guest)(01:58):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:59):
Oh, yes. You've been so supportive. I forgot about that. Yeah. There's a whole lot of other stuff we could talk to him about, but today we're going to be talking about your coming out story. What are you coming out from, David?
David (Special Guest)(02:10):
Well, I guess you have me here to share coming out as a gay man.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:15):
I'm trying to remember, it was fairly recently that you came out to me, actually. Was it within the last few years?
David (Special Guest)(02:22):
I became comfortable with it being out there, at least among the people that I am close enough to that they know me on any kind of personal level, probably about six years ago.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:36):
Was it six years ago that you realized you were gay, or when was it that you were like, "I think I'm a gay man."
David (Special Guest)(02:41):
It's hard for me to pinpoint when I knew. From a stereotypical perspective, I think I always knew that I was different, even as a young child. I wasn't into sports. My favorite singer was Celine Dion. It was a lot easier for me to befriend girls than boys. I mean, even in kindergarten I remember, my best friend was this girl that I knew all the way on through... I mean, I remember in fourth grade, it was like this group of girls and me that were friends.
David (Special Guest)(03:18):
But I hesitate to say that that was necessarily proof that I'm gay, because I really think there's a lot of confirmation bias there when we look back at kids that were different in the ways that I was different, and we say, "Oh, well of course he's turned out gay." And I think that's problematic, that we're then excluding or not giving room for a boy that is just a typical boy.
David (Special Guest)(03:45):
As far as actual, when was I realizing that I had attraction to other men, I think looking back that that definitely happened by the time I was 12, and in sixth grade, I remember... And I didn't have an awareness. I didn't think of myself as gay, and I think my religious upbringing was a part of that, and also just, I was kind of sheltered growing up, and not just from any kind of gay influence, but just in general, like anything related to sex or sexuality, like we weren't, in my family, watching movies with any of that kind of content.
David (Special Guest)(04:24):
So, I didn't have the language to label myself, but looking back, I know, I never had... I remember one time, I was at a bowling alley with... It was like the youth group from church, and there was a Shania Twain music video on the TV, and I was watching it. The youth minister came over, and it was like he gave me this knowing look of like, oh, this is his moment to talk one-on-one with one of the boys in the youth group about, "Yes, that's a pretty woman on the TV, but let's not be lusting after her, or whatever." And I remember being like, "He's totally misreading the situation." Everything he just assumed I was staring at this TV for, is 100% not. It didn't even occur to me that I should be interested in a Shania Twain music video because she is so attractive. I was really into her music.
David (Special Guest)(05:26):
Things like that, that I know that I was not having attraction to women when other boys my age were, and then there also were times that... In the checkout line at the grocery store, there's a fitness magazine or something, and I know that the men on those magazines were catching my eye, or whatever.
David (Special Guest)(05:48):
I don't really remember being attracted to other kids when I was a kid. I didn't really have that experience, but I know that even all the way back in middle school, that I definitely was having attraction to men, and not to women.
David (Special Guest)(06:02):
There was another time, in Sunday school class, when I was in high school, and we were working through the Boundaries in Dating book series that was very popular at the time, and it was all about, similar to what that youth minister was trying to talk to me about with that music video.
David (Special Guest)(06:22):
They had split us up into boys and girls, and they were talking to the guys, and they were like, "Think about and share about a time that there's been a girl that you had probably an inappropriate feeling in your heart toward this girl, and we want to be protecting against that, and we want to be setting boundaries and treating these women with respect.
David (Special Guest)(06:43):
And I remember sitting there hearing these other guys sharing, and feeling very self-righteous, like, "I don't have this problem that these boys have, that they're lusting after these girls, and they need to do better." It was so easy for me, that day, to be like, "I'm good." But then it's like, I know that I knew I wasstruggling with attraction to men, but I had not come out to myself. I had not labeled myself like, "I'm gay, or this is..."
David (Special Guest)(07:22):
And even when we were sitting in that Sunday school class having this conversation, I wasn't sitting there thinking, "Well, I don't struggle with that with girls, but I do struggle with this with guys," because that wasn't the language that was used. The whole conversation was men and... Like, "Lust is between a man and a woman." Homosexuality is this whole different animal, and certainly there were sermons I sat through where that was being preached as just the most horrible thing, but I wasn't... I don't know, I didn't really see it as, "This is an innate part of who I am," and I think a lot of that was just because of the paradigm that had been taught.
David (Special Guest)(08:04):
So, it wasn't until I got to college, and I actually dated a girl for like a year, almost. Nothing physical about the relationship at all. It was really just like we hung out a lot, and I saw how that was not... I can't offer her what she 100% deserves, because I'm not attracted to her, and it's not her, it's that I'm not attracted to women. That experience, I think, made it clear to me, you know, "This is my situation. I am attracted to men and not to women, and we call that gay, and that's the way I am." Not giving myself the freedom to act on that, at all, to go out and date, to find a partner. So, it really wasn't until I was 26 that I embraced that I was gay, and that it was okay to date men.
Beth Demme (08:59):
What's so interesting to me, what you say about confirmation bias, how once we know something, we can look back and go, "Oh, yeah, there, there, there, I can see it." But how that's not the same as having an awareness and an understanding, and the paradigm and the language for it in the moment; looking back is different. Steph, I'm curious, when David shared with you that he understood who he was, were you surprised?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:25):
I had always thought you were gay. It just was like a fact. It was like, "Oh, yeah, he's gay. I don't think he's out, but that's fine." I don't know specifically if it was when you were a teenager, but as we were getting older, I just remember like, "Oh, yeah, he's gay."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:43):
And when you moved into the neighborhood, I remember knowing that at the time, but also not wanting to acknowledge it, because I didn't know if it was a common knowledge, like if you knew, if other people knew, if you were fighting it, if you were...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:55):
Because I knew you grew up in a Christian home, pretty sheltered, very similar to me. I knew that, so I wasn't sure. So, I never really brought it up. So, when you did tell me, I was really proud of you, that you said it. And also, it's a strange thing where gay people have to tell us-
Beth Demme (10:18):
It is strange.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:18):
... but straight people don't have to say, "Mom, Dad, I'm straight." And I feel like it's an unfair thing that you have to have this thing that you have to come out with. So, for me it was like, "Yeah, I've known, I don't care, still love David the same amount." Nothing changed for me. But yeah, I was really proud to have that conversation for you, because it was being able to finally say the things I wanted to say, but knowing that I could say it in a safe way. I didn't want to say it before, like, "Hey, David, do you know you're gay? Because I'm pretty sure you are." That would have, I felt like, wouldn't have been appropriate.
Beth Demme (10:56):
And it's probably hard too, because you don't want to make assumptions based on some of the stereotypes-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:01):
Beth Demme (11:01):
... that you mentioned, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:01):
Beth Demme (11:02):
Like loving Celine Dion, or appreciating Shania Twain, or whatever.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:05):
Beth Demme (11:05):
You don't want to be stereotypical about it. So, it's never someone else's place to identify you that way.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:15):
I didn't even know you liked Celine Dion. That's so stereotypical, I didn't know that. But I don't even know what it was, because there wasn't a lot of stereotypical thing... It was just like a feeling. It was just like I knew. I don't know what it was specifically.
David (Special Guest)(11:26):
Right, because we didn't know each other very well.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:34):
David (Special Guest)(11:35):
Because I was just your friend's cool brother.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:38):
David (Special Guest)(11:39):
So, yeah, I knew you were into Apple, and you had a whole room decked out in Coke memorabilia.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:46):
David (Special Guest)(11:46):
So, we knew tidbits, I guess, of each other's lives, but until we moved into the neighborhood...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:52):
David (Special Guest)(11:53):
So, you would say you had an awareness and understanding that I was gay based on probably only meeting me-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:59):
David (Special Guest)(12:00):
... two or three times.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:01):
David (Special Guest)(12:01):
But yeah, so that is interesting, because one thing that surprised me as I came out to more people, is that the people that are aware of the fact that some people are gay, and that's a real thing, those people, like you said, just might have just known.
David (Special Guest)(12:22):
There are other people who did not have a paradigm for gay people, other than just this very promiscuous behavior, or what you might think of when you think of a gay pride parade. If you don't present like that, there are people that would never in a million years have thought that I was gay, and sometimes they'll say... I mean, even within the past year, I have had people say to me like, "Oh, we got to find David a nice girl to set him up with," and I'm like, "Are you..."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:53):
So, yeah, you saying all that, actually, David, when I thought you were gay... Or, it wasn't even a thought, it was just like, "Yeah, he's gay." But my thought was that you were gay, and you were either not aware of it, or you were trying to not be gay, and I just felt for you, because I knew your upbringing, and I knew you worked in the church, and things like that, and I just felt for you because I was just like, "If he's not out and proud, if he's trying to suppress it, that's got to be so tough to go through." So, all I wanted to do was be a friend, and just know... That was what I tried to do. I wasn't going to try to bring it up.
Beth Demme (13:33):
So, when you did officially come out, in whatever ways that happened, did you lose anyone close to you? And I just wonder if that happened, and how that felt for you.
David (Special Guest)(13:44):
Really, before I get into who I lost, or who my relationships were strained with as a result of coming, I really want to talk first about people I thought I might lose, that I did not lose. That is what really shocked me, in a positive way, which, I was involved with a youth group. I mean, that was my whole identity. I was volunteering with the youth group in all of my spare time, and investing in these kids. But I knew that in the church community I was in, that being a gay person dating other men was not really going to be compatible with what they were teaching in their youth group, and all. And I didn't want to deal with all of that.
David (Special Guest)(14:26):
I thought about it. I thought, "I could try to be a change agent here in the church," but I didn't have the bandwidth for that right then, and I didn't want to disrupt the kids' lives in that way. I just disconnected from that church completely, and I also knew that I couldn't grow in the way that I needed to grow, if I was spending a bulk of my week every week in a place that explicitly preached that what I was doing was wrong. That wasn't going to be healthy for me.
David (Special Guest)(14:58):
I had to come out to the youth minister. When I started to come out, I assumed that I would essentially lose the close relationship that I had with the youth minister and his family, at my church here. And then we worked closely with a church in another city, they were like a sister church, and their youth minister was younger, and I was close friends with him too.
David (Special Guest)(15:19):
From a practical perspective, how could they continue to be close friends with me, when my life was going to be going in such a different direction than everything that they did with these kids?
David (Special Guest)(15:31):
So, it shocked me how positively both of them reacted. When I came out to the youth minister here and his wife, they said, "This is a big loss for us, but we understand you need to do what's best for your development right now, so that's okay. We'll figure it out within the youth group." But they had a son that was a teenager, and in the youth group himself. And they said, "We'll figure it out with the youth group. That's our job. We'll figure it out. But as parents, with our son, you are one of the most important mentors in his life. So, if you're not going to be seeing him at church, if you are willing to continue to invest in him, we would like to find another way that you can continue to be around." So, they started having me over for dinner-
Beth Demme (16:18):
David (Special Guest)(16:19):
... twice a month, about. With the explicitly stated purpose that I would continue to teach their son how to... I mean, mentor him. This baffled me, because I thought... He's a totally straight young... I'm like, "You want the gay guy to keep mentoring your son?" But they knew me, and they knew my character, and they were like, "We want your influence in his life. Doesn't matter if you're gay or straight... You are who you are, but you're still a good person, investing in him." It's like I had more in common with some of these people than maybe a gay person that was not raised with a religious background, and I think that there's a lot of value in people coming out within the community that they're in.
David (Special Guest)(17:04):
I mean, it's the same thing with when a gay athlete comes out. We don't see a whole lot of that, and it's so important that we validate that, because it expands people's mindset of what a gay person is.
David (Special Guest)(17:17):
I had a couple of people that came over to my house... And see, this is hard for me to describe, because I think people on both sides don't understand when I try to describe this, but I had a couple of people come over and tell me basically, with their Bibles open and ready to go, "You're making some decisions that are going to be to the detriment of your soul, and we're really concerned."
David (Special Guest)(17:48):
And the thing is, I know that they were coming from a genuine place of concern. When I try to explain this to other gay people that don't come from a religious background, they're like, "It's the most bigoted thing," and, "How could you be understanding, that they would come at you like that?"
David (Special Guest)(18:10):
But, I don't know, in the moment it wasn't contentious. I tried to explain, "I'm not making decisions to the degree that you think I'm making decisions." They don't understand, and they probably won't ever understand, because they can't put themselves in the shoes of somebody that's gay, and there's not animosity there. Even those people who had already moved away, and I wasn't seeing them often anyway, I think they made a special trip up to Tallahassee just to have this conversation with me. But one of them still her Christmas card every year. The other one, I know I could send her a message if I ever wanted to. It wasn't like-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:50):
Yeah, shunning you.
David (Special Guest)(18:51):
... "Oh, you're involved in so much evil, we are blocking you on everything." So, I didn't really have that negative of an experience.
Beth Demme (19:02):
I think that actually speaks to your character, that you were able to appreciate their intention, even if they were misguided, and even if... I mean, what they said could have potentially been hurtful, but you were able to say, "They're really coming from a place of caring. So, I can receive it in that way, and that they just really don't understand." Rather than treating them as bigots, which is a pretty negative way to look at it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:33):
Well, and how do you change bigotry? How do you make those changes? How does that not continue? It's from people like David being willing to share his story-
Beth Demme (19:44):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:44):
... and to not just shun... And you could have easily shunned them from your life for what they did to you, because that wasn't okay. But, I mean, that's how people... And like you said, the other church leader, that said, "Oh, if you're gay, that completely changes my perspective," that's how change happens. That's how people come to understand what it means to be gay, and that it's not this stereotype that TV may have portrayed for years to us, and that you're just people.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:18):
Just like me people, you're people, and it doesn't mean that you're some kind of foreign thing that none of us can understand. And I think the more that we talk about these things, the more that it just is. It's not, "Oh, he's gay. Oh..." We talk about it in hushed tones. It's like, "No, he's gay. Okay, cool. How's his boyfriend?" Just like it's normal, and I feel... Do you feel like being gay is becoming more normalized? Is that something that I feel, or as a gay man, do you feel like it's not really as big a issue as it once was?
David (Special Guest)(20:49):
Within the LGBTQ+ community, there are a lot of different identities, a lot of different behaviors, a lot of different orientations. It might have gotten a lot easier for a gay white man, which is what I am, versus somebody who is a trans black homeless person, which is a significant part of the LGBTQ+ community, because the homeless rates among LGBTQ+ people are higher, and that's a totally different experience. The community that that person might be in... I do think that I was very privileged to come out at the time that I did, and already, even in my own conservative community I grew up in, people's attitudes were changing.
David (Special Guest)(21:35):
Some of the people I came out to when I was 26, if I had come out to them when I was 18, I think their reaction would have been totally, totally different. They already, just in that space of time, their attitudes had changed. But I just lucked out, I think, to be in the community where the change happened at the time that was convenient for me.
David (Special Guest)(21:56):
So, I don't think that we have made enough program for all of the people who, like you were saying, are just... We're normal people. We're just people, and I think it's important that we're finding some balance, and not only amplifying the voices of the gay white males, because I think that we do see that amplified more than some of the other people.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:22):
Do you feel like a... I mean, I think it's pretty clear that white men are very privileged in our country. Do you feel like a privileged white man, or do you feel less privileged because you're gay?
David (Special Guest)(22:33):
I do feel like I have a lot of privilege. Let's say I go into a job interview. There's a good likelihood that the person interviewing me might suspect that I'm gay, if they're cool with that. There's also a good likelihood that they won't suspect that I'm gay if they're not, because I won't fit their paradigm of what these heathen gays look like and sound like.
David (Special Guest)(22:57):
But I have all the privilege of a white person, of a man, in that job interview, and that's... A job interview, a really cliché example of privilege, but that pervades just about everything. And even in the LGBTQ+ community, I think there's privilege for white people... This was something that fascinated me, and not in a good way. When I talk to just friends of mine that are gay, about our experience on Tinder, for example, because that's the dating app, probably, that I use the most, because it's more about dating, and not hooking up-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:38):
In the gay community, it's more about dating.
David (Special Guest)(23:40):
Yeah. My experience on Tinder, like when I would compare how... And if I went to a new city with a friend of mine who's black or Indian, and we both got on an app like that... I mean, I'm talking to people that I feel are more attractive than me, okay? They don't get matches. It's harder even for them just to date, because there's this racism within a community of people that are already... I feel like I learned a lot about just the minority experience, just from being gay.
David (Special Guest)(24:18):
I mean, until I realized I'm gay, and this has implications for how people are going to think of me, I didn't have a way to understand and empathize at all with somebody who's of a minority race.
David (Special Guest)(24:33):
And it's not to say that it's the same experience, but if you've experienced any sort of discrimination, then I think it does help you understand, "Oh, okay, this is what discrimination is, and this group of people experiences it to a greater magnitude, and how horrible is that?"
David (Special Guest)(24:49):
But when I found out the way that this compounds, that if you are not white, then on top of it being hard enough to date because you're gay, and you can't just walk into a coffee shop and exchange numbers with the barista without offending them because you've just called them gay and they're not, and they find that offensive. On top of that, you also have to face the discrimination of, people won't even swipe right on you, because they think...
David (Special Guest)(25:17):
I could not even believe this, I have a friend, he was one of the first three people I came out to. He was my roommate in college, and when I was visiting him one time, he basically set me up on a date with a friend of his.
David (Special Guest)(25:32):
We went out on a date, but then I went back home, and that was it. But we stayed in touch, and later, this guy messages me, and he says, "Hey, I matched on..." Not even matched. He said, "I saw somebody that you know," because I think at this time on Tinder, you could see Facebook mutual friends.
David (Special Guest)(25:51):
He said, "I saw somebody you know on Tinder," and I said, "Oh, okay, did you swipe right on him?" or whatever. And he said, "No, I'm not really into black guys," and I said, "Yeah, but he's not black, he's Indian," and he said, "Oh, I'll have to go back and look," because his pictures, I guess they were dark enough that he looked black.
David (Special Guest)(26:13):
So, this guy didn't swipe right on him, but when he found out that he's... He's already seen the guy. It's like, if you're not attracted to him, then you're not attracted to him, I guess, whatever. But it was important to him to know the race. If he's black, even though he's attractive, I'm not attracted to him, because he's black.
Beth Demme (26:36):
David (Special Guest)(26:36):
"Oh, he's not black? Okay, then maybe I'm interested in him." This baffled me, because the friend that connected us is one of the most open-minded, progressive people that I know. He's not at all racist, and I assumed, I guess, that they had similar values, and he set us up, he was like, "Yeah, this guy has solid character." I texted my friend, I was like, "Dude, he's a racist."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:59):
[crosstalk 00:26:59] yeah.
David (Special Guest)(27:01):
So, anyway, that's a-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:04):
One of the things I thought when I realized you were gay was, how did your parents respond? So, I know that's a big question when someone comes out. So, if you're willing, I would love to hear that.
David (Special Guest)(27:16):
My relationship with my parents was really the most challenging surrounding my coming out, because I cared so much about that relationship. But it was difficult with my parents. One thing that made a difference, I think, is that an ideological shift happened within our church community right before I came out to them.
David (Special Guest)(27:43):
There's a woman who is a lesbian, and she is a professor at a Christian university that's within the non-denominational community that we were a part of. So, she wrote a book about her... It was a memoir about her experience, but she really pushed the paradigm forward, and she was able to get the attention, I guess, of everybody in the church, because she was living a celibate lifestyle at that time. So, people were like, "Okay, well, technical you're not doing anything sinful." So, it's like they gave her a moment to talk, and then, lo and behold, they found out that she was saying, "This is who I am. This is not something I'm choosing to be."
David (Special Guest)(28:29):
So, my parents had read this book, and were in a place of understanding, "Okay, you are gay, that's okay..." Because they knew. I mean, we hadn't talked about it, but they knew. It was like, especially for my dad, it was like this epiphany, for him, and he said, "Oh, your timing is impeccable," when I first came out, "because I just read this book, and I get it. It's okay. You're gay, but you don't have to act on it, and [inaudible 00:28:56] just like this woman in this book, and so there's no problem."
David (Special Guest)(29:02):
But see, that's not where I was. That's where I had been five years prior, when they were still in a place of understanding of, you choose to be gay, or you just choose not to... So, it was strained, because the thing is, I was coming out because I wanted to start exploring, dating, and it was like my parents and I were not on the same page.
David (Special Guest)(29:25):
I knew, and they basically told me when I came out to them, the idea of me dating other men was going to violate their convictions in this area. And at first, my brother was kind of the mediator.
David (Special Guest)(29:40):
I would call him, and I would pour my heart out to him, all these things. One time, I went on my first date ever, and I was having emotions like you have in high school, but I was 26, 27 years old, having all these emotions, and I wanted to call my mom and share with her, because that's what you would do in high school. Hopefully you have a relationship with your parents where you get to share these big moments with them, and I couldn't do that, because I was like, "She's going to feel like I'm bringing her in on some sinful behavior, if I try to share this with her."
David (Special Guest)(30:22):
So, I call my brother, I tell him all of this, and they were calling him, and they were telling him their perspective, and... Because it was strained. It was really strained. Eventually, we started to communicate more directly, and finally I just said to my mom, "I'm doing this. This is me. This is me living authentically. So, I want everybody to be together, and if you cannot be around me if I'm with a partner, then you're choosing not to be around me," and my mom said to me, "David, you're always a part of this family, and whatever you have going on is a part of this family."
David (Special Guest)(31:04):
So, that was it. From then on, it was like we were good, and we don't talk about... I know that there's still a disconnect, and I think there are a lot of gay people that would take a lot of offense to that, you know, "How could you have a relationship with somebody..." There are people that would probably label it bigoted, "Oh, they have a gay son and they still hold a belief that there's something wrong with that you're doing?"
David (Special Guest)(31:33):
But that's like cutting your parents off because they voted for the person you didn't vote for. I think what they had to do is, they had to get to a place where they had to say, they're living their lives the way they think they need to live their lives, but the way I'm living my life, and the way all my siblings are living their... We're living our lives. Are they going to agree with everything we do? No. But does that need to be a contentious problem every time? No.
David (Special Guest)(32:03):
But I do feel very fortunate... I mean, even that is a privilege thing, because there are a lot of gay people that, on one side or the other, it's not going to happen, there's just a huge disconnect, and then they don't have that support system.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:19):
Since you've come out, I've been on the journey with you of the different guys you've dated, and you've not dated a crazy amount. I don't want to sound like he's like a different guy every day. You're very intentional when you're dating. But I am curious if you are currently dating anyone, and how that's going.
David (Special Guest)(32:45):
But anyway, yes, I am dating somebody. We have been together for two years, just about, two years. And it's going well, and I'm, I think, very fortunate to have really all of the serious relationships that I have had, which, I've had two very serious relationships, and one or two others that were pretty serious, have been very good experiences for me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:13):
I'm not going to say like, "Are you getting married any time soon?" because that's... But are you excited one day to be married? Is that something that is a goal for you in life?
David (Special Guest)(33:25):
Lately, it's not something I think about as much. I think, pretty content with where things are right now, which is ironic, because I think I did... I mean, that was something that was important to me for a while. I think some of it might just be circumstantial. I mean, because I started dating so much later, I really was 27 before I really started dating. So, I was very established in my life, and when I first started dating, I thought, "Okay, I should go find a husband."
David (Special Guest)(33:55):
But now I have... I do, I think, like having my space a little bit. I think it would be a big adjustment even just to be living with a person that I'm dating. I think it would take a lot for me to get accustomed to sharing a bed with somebody every night. I mean, I've lived my whole life not doing that, so having my bed to myself at night. So, it's those kinds of things that, when I really start to think about it, that I think that would be an adjustment.
Beth Demme (34:31):
So, you talked about how you grew up in church. Where are you with church now? Where are you with God now? What does that part of your life look like?
David (Special Guest)(34:39):
So, my two best friends in college, one of them had the same religious background that I did. Very conservative, but also very checkboxes, like, "This is okay, this is not okay." Then, my other best friend in college had a Lutheran background. His background's totally different. It wasn't about your deeds. I think it was actually more about faith, but steeped in a little more tradition.
David (Special Guest)(35:11):
They're both still very religious. The three of us are still friends. They're both still very religious. The one that grew up with the same background as me, has completely left the type of Christianity that we grew up in, and moved to a type that's much more about loving other people, just wherever they're at.
David (Special Guest)(35:35):
So, they both have tried to share with me, they know, and the one that grew up Lutheran, when he was in Tallahassee, he went to church with us, so he knows what we came from. And they've both tried to talk me through, what I was exposed to was one type of Christianity, and it's not the whole thing.
David (Special Guest)(35:58):
And even my parents changed to a different congregation that, my mom's comment was that their approach is a lot different. So, even though they profess the same beliefs, I don't think that they're as judgy as the congregation that we came from.
David (Special Guest)(36:14):
But after I came out, and took a very needed step back from the church, it's like I had this sense of freedom, and it was very ironic to me, because we... I mean, the whole message was freedom in Christ. Bring your broken self to church, and you will find the freedom from that sinful life, and you will be made whole, and all of these things.
David (Special Guest)(36:50):
I don't feel traumatized from my time in the church. I know there are plenty of people who do. I don't feel that way. I can go to a church and not be triggered into some kind of PTSD. I don't have that level of emotional attachment to it.
David (Special Guest)(37:04):
But it's difficult for me to see past a lot of the things that I think are problematic, because they do come to the forefront of my mind any time I'm engaging in anything religious, at this point. So, it's difficult for me to get past that, and develop any kind of more personal faith, but we'll see.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:25):
So, David, I want to ask you some yes or no questions. I'm going to rapid-fire ask you some questions. I didn't give you the list ahead of time. I'm just going to come up with them right, and you have to say-
David (Special Guest)(37:38):
I'm not good at yes or no-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:39):
David (Special Guest)(37:39):
... but we can try it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:39):
I know. So, I'm going to just ask you yes or no, the first thing that comes to mind. And if you say no to them, then I might have to dig in farther, but are you ready?
David (Special Guest)(37:45):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:48):
You couldn't even say yes or no to that.
David (Special Guest)(37:50):
Yes. I'm ready.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:54):
Okay. Were you born gay?
David (Special Guest)(37:58):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:59):
Did God create you gay?
David (Special Guest)(38:02):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:03):
Do you believe God loves you?
David (Special Guest)(38:05):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:12):
Well, David, thank you so much for being on the podcast. You were actually supposed to be our first male guest, but then that pesky little COVID thing happened. I don't know if I have permission to say this, but you had COVID over the summer.
David (Special Guest)(38:25):
Way to violate HIPAA.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:26):
Oh, my gosh, hold on. No, I asked ahead of time.
David (Special Guest)(38:30):
No, you can say it. I had it. It's a real thing that happened.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:33):
So, it's real.
David (Special Guest)(38:34):
I posted about it Facebook.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:34):
So, being gay is real, and COVID is real. Two big things.
David (Special Guest)(38:38):
They're both real.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:40):
And it can happen to gay people, can get COVID. There is so much that we are learning today. But you're doing well now from COVID, right? You're like six months out-
David (Special Guest)(38:50):
I am completely recovered from... Because I had it in July, so we're recording this in December, so it's been a long time. If anything, my antibodies are probably starting to wane.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:01):
David (Special Guest)(39:02):
So, I will get the vaccine when it's available to me. It wasn't fun. I didn't have a horrible case. My parents had it, and it was bad for them.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:11):
Separately from you. They had it in March, right?
David (Special Guest)(39:12):
They had it several months before me, yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:15):
So, I don't know what's in your genetics that you guys catch it easily, but I'm glad... Although your brothers and sister haven't had it.
David (Special Guest)(39:24):
No, and they're the ones that work with COVID patients. So, I don't know, this is a weird thing. We don't understand it. One lesson we can learn from COVID is that there's a lot out there-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:34):
That we don't understand.
David (Special Guest)(39:34):
... that we don't understand.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:35):
Yeah, so wear your freaking mask.
David (Special Guest)(39:38):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:39):
David (Special Guest)(39:39):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:39):
So, David, something we like to ask at the end of each episode is, what is your favorite TV show, podcast or book right now?
David (Special Guest)(39:48):
So, right now, I am binge-watching The West Wing, which I missed completely when it was... I mean, I didn't really consume media when I was a kid. So, I had never seen it, or anything. And I've been very interested in some of the... I mean, this is a series that was developed in the late '90s, early 2000s. As I have gotten more engaged politically, and learned about some issues I had no awareness of, that were very new to me, over the past year or two, it's been shocking to me that this show addresses so many of them, 20 years ago.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:30):
Yeah, and it's still an issue today.
David (Special Guest)(40:31):
So, I've been enjoying that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:35):
At the end of each episode, we end with Questions for Reflection. These are questions based on today's show, that Beth will read and leave a little pause between. And you can find a PDF of them on our Buy Me a Coffee page.
Beth Demme (40:47):
Number one. Are you or someone close to LGBTQ+? How did people react to you when you came out, or how did you react when your friend or loved one came out to you?
Beth Demme (40:59):
Number two. Do you feel you have been or are on a journey of self-acceptance? What does living authentically mean to you?
Beth Demme (41:09):
Number three. Do you struggle with understanding how you can either fit in or be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community? Why?
Beth Demme (41:19):
And number four. How do you separate organized religion from your personal relationship with God? Are they one and the same to you, or do you see them as two different things?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:29):
This has been the Discovering Our Scars podcast. Thank you for joining us.