I grew up in church-- Sunday school lessons, vacation Bible school, asking mom for a dollar to drop in the offering plate, carrying my children's NIV Bible proudly at my side, singing out loud to "Jesus Loves Me" and "Father Abraham"-- I always loved church, I love the community, I loved feeling like I belonged. The people I saw on Sundays were MY people, and I always had a strong desire to be with the community of God, and to learn my Ten Commandments, Lord's Prayer, and Apostle's Creed before anyone else in the class. I grew up knowing that Sundays weren't free-for-alls, because from 9:30 AM-12:00 PM, we were in church, as a family, worshipping.
One lesson I always clung to was knowing that I wasn't alone. Jesus was never going to leave me, and I took it literally. One day, I remember buckling the seatbelt beside me in the car and I told my mom, "Jesus is with us." It was one of those "child-like faith" moments, because it was true, I just didn't know yet about the power of the Holy Spirit.
Love has always led in my house. We're a close family, and we love radically. My parents are the greatest, most down-to-earth people, my grandparents spoiled my siblings and I rotten, and family gatherings on both sides were always so fun and filled with laughter and enjoyment. I couldn't have chosen a better childhood nor could I have had a better upbringing. Thinking about how blessed I am/was is always a humbling time, because I came from the all-American family that seemed to have it all together.
If you know my family, you know that athletics runs deep-- quarterbacks, pitchers, point guards-- you name it, our family has it. Some of my most memorable moments happened at a baseball tournament or in some other state watching some sport I truly had no interest in. But, hey, if someone in my family had something on the schedule, you best believe the other four of us were coming along to be the biggest cheerleaders and concession stand customers.
I always knew I was "different." I would opt to go shopping with my mom, aunt, and grandma as opposed to hitting baseballs and shooting hoops with my dad and brother. I never was really interested in sports, but I loved the social aspect and getting a new pair of shoes for every sport I played. I didn't really care much if my team won or lost, because of course I was going to sucker dad, who coached everything, into taking the team out for ice cream.
Middle school, AKA "The Dark Years," came quick. Everyone's bodies were changing, we went from exclusive soprano and alto sections in 6th grade to soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone in 8th grade. If anyone ever tells you middle school is a fun time, smack them. Anyway, change hits hard, and comes out of no where. This is where you have a new significant other almost every day, and if you didn't hug them in the locker banks, you could expect to be teased the next day by your friends. These three years in my life were a lot of pressure-- to conform, to be something, and to try to be "normal."
I was quite the ladies man. I was that kid that used AOL and MySpace as his personal dating site and played girls as if they were a fiddle. It was a good act, and I had a lot of people convinced (or so I thought) that I would someday be just like my brother, the guy who got any girl he wanted in high school and still managed to keep honor roll while being a three-sport athlete.
But life gets interesting and a little complicated after leaving middle school...
Brooke Weaverling and I go way back-- she's now known as my "best/worst friend" because she's that person that is always there with a hard-hitting joke, but yet has the most loving and caring spirit. Brooke was my last girlfriend I had, and after a few weeks of being in high school, I quickly realized her and I were better off friends. My excuse of course was something like, "I'm too busy to date" or "You know, it's hard dating someone in another school." If ONLY that was my greatest concern these days.
I had always been with girls. It never lasted longer than a few weeks, and I got what I wanted out of the relationships; It made my friends be quiet about not having a girlfriend or a "thing," it made me look like I was fitting in, and it kept everything at a balance. But lets back up for a second...
One night in elementary school, probably around 2nd or 3rd grade, I remember vividly being in the backseat of our family's SUV driving home from my grandparents. I was listening to some songs on my MP3 Player (ha!) and playing a Mario game on my Gameboy. All of a sudden, I started thinking about a classmate in a way I felt guilty about. I wasn't supposed to think these things about someone, especially someone of the same gender. It was wrong. Everything about it was wrong. I remember crying that night and thinking about how sinful my thoughts were, and I asked God to take them away-- this is where the road gets a bit bumpy.
The thoughts didn't stop in the following 8 years, but I did a good job of trying to suppress them while pursuing every girl that came into my sight and even acted the slightest bit interested in me. The "pray it away" road is a hard, abusive, and self-destructive road that leads to nothing but darkness, and I wish I would've known that sooner.
I got saved and truly gave my life to Christ at the age of 12. It was the end of 6th grade year, and I remember being in the midst of my grandmother's Cancer treatments and telling her bedside I had accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. We then read the Bible together softly and I remember never feeling a joy greater than that. My grandma was so proud of me, and it was the talk of the following week's Sunday firehall dinner (welcome to PA, yinz).
After a weird/rough journey of self-acceptance and depression, I rededicated my life to Christ in 8th grade alongside my best friends Garrett, Brayden, Adrian and Levi. We attended a revival and we all agreed it was time to do something more meaningful with our lives, and that a life for ourselves didn't gratify anyone. We wanted a purpose, and we were convinced that purpose and calling was to leave it all at the cross, never look back, and boldly follow.
And we did-- youth group, Bible studies, late-night theology talks-- everything that "on fire for the Lord" teens did, we were there (even if it was just for the social aspect some evenings). I began to pursue God with everything in me. I loved Jesus, I loved his church, and I wanted nothing more than for people to see a greater reason to my happiness than just my own being. I couldn't get enough of the Bible, going deeper, and getting my hands on anything that would answer life's greatest questions. My joy was found in nothing apart from Jesus and his Word. I wanted to be bold, and I wanted people to hear my voice.
In 9th grade, I began leading worship. It was what I lived for. I couldn't get enough of worship, and I didn't want anything more than to sit and weep and sing out to my God, the One that gave it all so I could have it all. I didn't always understand my circumstances, and some days I couldn't find a reason to worship except knowing that I loved Jesus, and I wanted nothing more than his divine wisdom and power in my life. I wanted more of Jesus-- I craved it.
At the beginning of this school year, I knew it would be a tough year. My two greatest friends were moving away, and I now had to rebuild my tight-knit group of friends. But I never knew what would happen in the following months would change who I was forever.
Fast forward to Christmas break; a time when family comes together, you get to stuff your face with more food than you thought humanly possible, and you get to give and receive some cool stuff. Well, for the first part of Christmas break, that all did happen, but after December 25th, I knew something big was about to happen, and I had to get ready.
I stopped eating, sleeping, and doing all the things I loved. I would have rather stayed in bed and watched House of Cards than talk and hangout with friends or even talk to my family. I put myself in a dark hole, and I wasn't going to be brought out the same way I entered. I remember weeping one night from 12 AM to roughly 5:30 AM-- this was the darkest time I had ever experienced, and I had never felt more alone, scared, and wanting to give it all up to not have to face the truth. I picked myself up from the floor, walked to my bathroom, and stared at myself for a while. And then I said what I had been attempting to pray away for years...
And then the crying started again. And then it turned to bawling, and then I found comfort weeping into the carpet again. It was surely a rough night, and I bet I wasn't the most pleasant barista the next day.
The following weeks were weird, and I felt like everyone knew something, yet I literally hadn't told even my closest friends-- heck, the Holy Spirit didn't even know (KIDDING).
On January 26th, I couldn't do it any longer. I picked up my phone and sent one of the longest texts I've ever punched-out to my best friend, Megan Foster. It was heartfelt-- I bawled typing it, I bawled when she read it, and I bawled when the three little dots in the corner of the screen indicated that she was responding. But within Megan's loving words of encouragement and love, she said something that I would soon get used to, "I've known since the day I met you, and I'm so proud of you for being who you really are."
That night, as well, ended up being a late one and I pretended to be sick the next day so I could at least get a few hours of sleep and watch Ellen (sorry mom).
The next night I got a random wave of courage and sent a similar text to my brother-- three-sport athlete, buff, conservative Christian, straight as a rail-- brother. He read it, and it took a while for him to respond, which I knew it probably would. But of course, he said he loved and supported me, that it didn't change anything, and that he would beat-up the first person to say something to me (and if you know Ty, you know he's not kidding-- he's my protector).
But the next person I came out to wouldn't be easy, and Kleenex should have sponsored me during this particular night.
We got an early-dismissal from school, and I told myself all the way home, "Today's the day you're going to tell mom."
I texted her, "Come up to my room when you get home," to which she responded, "Aren't you going to come out? Lol!" She would soon realize that that text was actually spot on, and I was doing more than just coming out of my bedroom!
She came up, I handed her tissues, and I started telling her. The history, the heartache, how my faith was still intact and how I would still be the son she always wanted. My mom; the angel, prayer warrior, fighter, and most-caring woman ever responded with nothing but love and acceptance, saying that it didn't change her love for me and that I was always going to be her son, but that we should pray a little more and see what God's plan was.
I was on Cloud 9.
I felt free.
The emotions I felt that day were unreal.
In the following months the list grew, but it was always followed with "... but don't tell anyone!" And, to my surprise, everyone let this be my thing to tell others. They responded with nothing but love and acceptance, the "we've known" line, etc.. My closest Christian friends and spiritual-guides were nothing but voices of positivity and truth. Life was finally shaping, but I still vowed NEVER to come out in high school. The horror stories haunted me, and I knew I wasn't as brave as some of my closest friends that had come out in their areas.
Within this time, my mom sat down with my dad and told him. I left the house to watch the most recent episode of Scandal to try and control my nerves. My mom and I's texts looked something like this:
Me- "Did you tell him yet?"
Mom- "No. Your sister is in the room."
*30 minutes later*
Me- "How'd it go?"
Mom- "Still didn't get to tell him."
*30 minutes later*
Mom- "Just told him. He loves you and is so awesome!"
I then jumped in my car and came home. Everyone was asleep except my dad and I, and he came up to my room, bear-hugged me, and said, "We'll talk more tomorrow, but I. LOVE. YOU."
It was quite possibly one of the greatest moments in my life. I then proceeded to cry for a few minutes thinking how blessed I was.
Both my parents now agreed that this attraction wasn't going anywhere, and no prayer was going to take away an attraction I was born with.
The following night Megan and I told Kellie Pyle, the third and most fun piece of the trio, and she said, "I've been suspicious for a few months, but I didn't want to say anything! I love you!" And if you know Kellie, that response meant the world.
April had come and gone, and life was finally slowing down a little bit. A few things had happened, but my life was finally "boring" again. Until Monday, May 11th, 2015.
This day will forever be one of the most exhausting, yet fulfilling days.
I came out publicly. I broke my silence. I wanted people to know who I really was. I was sick of hiding, because this isn't something to hide behind. I needed to live my life for who I really was, and not be scared of being put on a few church's "Prayer Healing" lists or be the talk of the town. I was ready, and I wanted others to know that your normal doesn't have to be others'.
It took Monday afternoon in my high school to have word breakout. It wasn't negative or hateful chatter, but more-so, "OMG, is this true?!" or "Did you hear about Corey?!"
But Monday night, the support messages started flooding my inboxes. Everywhere, everyone in my school was making sure I knew that I was loved and that nothing had changed. It was overwhelming to know that the support I had within the walls I spent most of my time in and where I had once had horror stories of being bullied in, were now deemed "safe." My classmates and teachers made sure that I knew that I was respected and that nothing would happen to me while there.
The relief that rushed over me on Monday, May 11th, 2015, is something indescribable, and it's a feeling I know I will never feel again. I was finally ME. There were no more walls. There were no more fears. There were no more tears. I went from January- vowing never to speak of "coming out" to May- becoming transparent about who I really was.
The reason I came out in high school wasn't to get attention. It wasn't to gain popularity. It wasn't to be the "next big thing" or to fulfill every girl's dream of having a "gay best friend" (a term which I hate, by the way). I came out to show that you have to be you. Life wasn't meant to be lived in a skin or a shell that is placed on you by society. We are all individuals. We are all unique, and we all have a story. I came out in high school for the sole-purpose of people knowing that God loves us all equally, and you don't have to hide. I wanted my story to be heard, and I wanted people to know that yes, in fact, you CAN be a Christian and homosexual. Just as you can be a Christian and heterosexual. I have never felt the love of God like I have after coming out. I didn't "lose my salvation" in some "sexual tendency" or "not praying earnestly enough" for this attraction to be taken away.
I don't want to be anyone but me. I don't want you to be anyone but you.
I'm Corey Black, and I'm gay. I'm proud to belong to the LGBT community, which holds some of the most courageous members and freedom-fighters.
I'm Corey Black, and I'm a Christian. I'm proud to belong to a body of believers that seeks the Lord above all-else, and wants to see his manifested presence and love in others' lives.
I'm Corey Black, and I'm a friend. Let me help you. Let me love on you. Let me show you what true companionship looks like.
I'm Corey Black, and I'm a lover. Sleepless nights don't have to be done alone. I'm always an encouraging text or phone call away. Let me help you, and remind you that you don't do this life alone.
I'm Corey Black, and I'm coffee-obsessed. I probably could out-drink a truck driver in terms of a caffeinated beverage.
I'm Corey Black, and I love the stage. Singing, acting, public speaking-- you name it, I don't mind it. What most people find fearful, I love. I was made for the spotlight and to perform. There's nothing like bringing a smile or belly-laugh to any audience.
I'm Corey Black, and I'm here to just LIVE. I don't want to be defined by one label. I'm more than my beliefs. I'm more than my sexual orientation. I'm more than what society wants to say about me. I'm here to live my life, and to give glory to my Creator. I'm here to stop hate that happens on all fronts. I'm here to stand for what's right, and I'm here to be the man God as called me to be. I'm here to help anyone struggling, doubting who they are or who loves them. I'm here to end the stigmas that the church and many institutions have put on individuals, because we've began treating people as the amount on their tithe envelope instead of what they can bring to the body of Christ, and what the body can do for them.
The comments of this may be flooded with "Praying for you!" "God is able" or "Rot in Hell!" or an array of verses that may try and change what I've just stated. But, unfortunately, I've heard them all already. If the best way you can think of to show love to me is by spewing hate, I think you've mistaken the Gospel's whole preface for existing. I'm a saved Christian, boldly created to do the work of my Lord, and to carry out his will and plans for my life.
To those who have been with me on this journey: thank you. I'm humbled by your love and support. You stood by me when I felt so broken and like I couldn't find love. You always expressed your sympathy and deepest affection for me. I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for my biggest fans and encouragers. I could go on for hours, but all I can say is THANK YOU.
I'm ready for this new life, this new journey, and for the people I'll meet along the way.
I'm Corey Black, and this is my normal.
If you're reading this, and you're struggling with your own coming out story or would like to share your personal experience, please email me at email@example.com, I'd love to chat!
If you're a Christian and questioning how this all works, I encourage you to watch "For The Bible Tells Me So" on Netflix-- it's an excellent resource that discusses homosexuality and Christianity!