My Coming Out Story, Part 1
By Josh Beaudoin
Forward by Douglas Tilstra
“A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his step.”
When Josh first approached me to discuss the possibility of publishing his coming out story in The Collegian, I told him, “I want your story to be heard, Josh. My hope is that it will cause people of various persuasions to pause and think.”
To be sure, Josh holds a theological position that is different than mine and different than the official position of the Adventist Church and of Walla Walla University. For some, that difference might signal the end of conversation, the end of any need to listen further. I do not believe that to be the way of Jesus or the way of WWU as we seek to follow Jesus. Instead, I believe that listening with empathy and humility to the stories of others prepares us to respond to them in more Christ-like ways.
Could I invite you to hear Josh’s story with an open heart and open mind? I can imagine a variety of objections that might come to a reader’s mind. Instead of critiquing Josh or his story, could I invite you to consider how you might respond if you were hearing this story, not from Josh, but from a favorite cousin, a trusted friend, a sister, brother, daughter, son, or parent. What if the person you knew and loved were opening their heart to you and asking that you hear their story—how would you respond? Please offer that same generous response to Josh. His story is simultaneously unique and widely shared. His story may, in fact, be the story of one you know and love but have not yet heard.
Douglas Tilstra, Walla Walla University Vice President for Student Life
I never planned for my life to turn out this way. If you had asked me a couple of years ago if I’d be publishing my coming out story in a newspaper, I’d have laughed and told you I’d still be in the closet. But here we are. It appears God had other plans.
Through my story, I hope people can see how God has worked in my life. Coming out was a very painful process, and there were times God seemed absent from the picture. Yet as I look back, I see him acting through every event.
I will be releasing my coming out story over two weeks, with parts 1-3 out this week, and parts 4-6 out next week. Each part, except the last, will center around a significant event that happened, detail about what took place, what I was feeling, and how God led through it.
My story should not be generalized to make assumptions about the stories of other LGBTQ+ people. Everyone has a unique journey and set of challenges they face and, in many ways, I had it much better than a lot of other people.
I had a very happy childhood by most objective measures. I grew up on an acreage in rural Alberta, Canada—one of the most conservative provinces in Canada—and there were always forests to play in and friends to explore with.
My parents love each other, and they love me and my sister too. But my dad was and still is, a pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist church. When I started to question my sexual orientation at about the age of 10-12, it complicated things to say the least. I had never met an LGBTQ+ person, and the only thing I heard from my parents was the occasional mention that the Bible condemns homosexuality.
By age 14 I knew I wasn’t straight. I didn’t know “what” I was, but I knew my parents and God wouldn’t like it.
Over the next several years I sporadically studied the topic, looking through Ellen White and the Bible, reading articles, and asking my parents subtle questions about the Biblical view. The general attitude in my house was that gay people go to hell, and as I studied the topic for myself, I came to the same conclusion. That conclusion would live with me for years to come.
I spent hours and hours trying to pray the gay away. I told God I would serve him for the rest of my life if he took this away from me. I figured that if God made me like this, he could take it away.
Over the years I started testing the waters in small ways to see how my parents might think about it on a personal level. One way I did this was by being open about my support for the legalization of gay marriage by the Canadian and American governments*, a controversial view to take in my house.
My uncle was also a pastor. I remember being at his house and my sister turning on their TV to watch the Amazing Race. There happened to be a gay couple competing, and that fact alone was reason enough for my uncle and dad to deem the show “inappropriate” and turn it off.
It wasn’t till I was about 18 that I started seriously thinking about my sexual orientation. For most of my teenage years I had been distracted by other insecurities, but now had largely moved past them, and the time had come for me to face my biggest challenge yet. I knew I couldn’t keep it to myself forever, even if I thought I was going to hell because of it.
The first time I ever told anyone about my sexual orientation was on August 19, 2019, when I wrote in my journal about it. The more I journaled and tried to understand the feelings inside me, the more I realized how much of my identity I had been suppressing, and how harmful that had been to my mental health. The situation was not sustainable.
From there, things moved quite quickly. I was leaving for WWU near the end of September to begin my sophomore year, and about a week before leaving, I decided it was the right time to come out to my best friend, so I asked if he wanted to schedule a walk in a couple days.
Those two days leading up to our conversation were pretty scary. I had no idea what I was going to say, how I was going to say it, and how he was going to take it. I just knew I needed to say it.
So, on September 18, 2019, we went for our walk and for the first time I uttered the words, “I’m bisexual” out loud to another human being. Those were the hardest two words I have ever said, but I’m glad I said them.
I was shaking non-stop for the rest of our walk—my voice but a whisper as I explained everything to him.
I can say from experience, it was a bit like pushing yourself out of a plane, and suddenly you are free falling toward the ground. Although, compared to coming out for the first time, skydiving is a piece of cake.
Lying in bed the night after our conversation, I felt something strange. Not happiness, but more like part of a burden I didn’t know I had been carrying fell off. While it would be almost two years till I felt anything like that again, it was a foreshadowing of good things to come.
The next few months were tough on my friend and I. With the Adventist church being quite conservative regarding LGBTQ+ issues, he wasn’t sure how to process me coming out to him. He had grown up learning that being gay wasn’t OK, and his religious background had preconditioned him to think a certain way about LGBTQ+ people. While we had a strong friendship, I didn’t know if we would survive.
I didn’t know what I was feeling. I was quite emotionally immature at the time, and this was the first time I had taken the time to thoroughly work through an emotional issue on paper through journaling. Some days I felt overwhelmed by insecurity, on others I felt fearful that our friendship would never recover, and journaling helped me process those feelings.
But in the end, our friendship did recover—although it probably took six months or so before things weren’t awkward anymore—and I can happily say he’s still like a brother to me.
*By the time I started talking about it openly at home, gay marriage had been legal in Canada for almost a decade, and the issue was becoming noteworthy in the U.S. with the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized it in America.
Hello everyone, I’m Josh Beaudoin, the editor-in-chief of The Collegian. I’m from central Alberta, Canada, and first started at The Collegian in 2019 as the writer of the food column. I love to spend time outdoors and regularly hike in places like Mount Rainier National Park and Banff National Park. I also do quite a bit of reading about social and political topics.