Are you a friend or foe? For years, there have always been people for or against LGBTQ rights. Even when one decides to share their news from the mountaintop, there are foes and friends listening.

I am grateful for the friends and allies I encounter on my journey of self-sharing.

Not only do we need allies in our personal corner, but we also need a community of Saints sharing their support with unconditional love. These communities of Saints are the many churches who publicly profess their support as Reconciling Congregations. We need more open and accepting faith communities that speak a language of acceptance and love. To those that do, Merci!

I can personally count on my two hands those individuals who have been my allies in my journey of self-discovery and acceptance. These include four ordained United Methodist clergy colleagues, two family friends of my childhood, a gay friend in Chicago, a close college buddy, and the supportive brothers of my men’s group, the ManKind Project (MKP).

Integrating my sexual orientation into my authentic personhood has been a lengthy process. It did not happen in one big event – it has happened over years.

The foes on my journey were those shouting degrading names about me throughout the hallways of Frankfort High School. Nobody at any age should be subjected to other people’s hatred. Other foes were people who said I should stop living in the “closet” and just come out as gay. Why can’t people accept another person’s truth when they have the courage to share it privately or publicly from the mountaintop?

The allies on my journey allowed me to share my story without judgment, or their trying to “peg” me into a straight or gay orientation. It’s not black or white for me. It’s grey – a little bit of both.

I believe one cannot publicly profess something until they are able to first embrace it privately. After I could speak my truth internally, I could then speak it externally. I first publicly shared my sexual orientation with the members of my small men’s group from MKP. MKP is a worldwide organize that creates a network of men who support each other in their life goals. The process starts with a weekend-long retreat. There I met other men who are also on their journey of self-discovery. We learned how to better communicate our feelings and thoughts, plus the value of supporting each other. Our group continued to meet frequently after the initial weekend retreat.

In one of the beginning group meetings, we were asked to make a statement to the group that we wished to share in a safe place – something that we were not able to previously share. Men shared things such as having affairs, being molested, and other deep secrets.

In that meeting, I spoke those powerful words to the men. “I am bisexual.” Some of the men in the group raised their hands in solidarity by saying, “me too.” For the first time in my life, I truly felt supported and accepted. Merci!

Another small group of people who supported me were the ordained United Methodist clergy who authentically live their ordination vows by sharing God’s love, grace, and acceptance to all. Some of these clergy were previous ordination mentors, clergy who had served congregations of which I had served, or clergy within my own ordination class. I am very thankful for their support. Merci!

The following are other individuals who have played a vital role in my journey: Eric, Jenny, Loren, Keith, Aaron, and Janet.

Eric is an openly gay man with a Mormon background. He came out much earlier in life. He was more comfortable with his orientation and thus gave me self-permission to be comfortable with mine. There was no judgment from him or pushy advice. Eric just listened and offered unconditional love. Merci et je t’aime!

Jenny is a high-school classmate with whom I reconnected after moving to California. She became a healing salve for my high school memories of bullies and teasing. She lives her life to love, support, and encourage others. Everyone needs a Jenny in their life. Merci et je t’aime!

Loren is my “brother from another mother.” We met each other in college while sharing a mutual interest in the French language, attending different universities in France, and living the adventure of travels to foreign lands. When Loren heard my newfound news, he said, “It doesn’t matter to me Kevin; I still love you and call you my brother.” Merci et je t’aime!

Keith and Aaron are other men who understand the importance and value of supporting others. They live that call. Both Keith and Aaron walked authentically beside me in their support, not only because of their huge capacity to love, but both have also walked a similar path. Keith and Aaron had each been married to their college sweethearts and had children. They later discovered their different paths, which aligned more with their authentic selves. Merci et je vous aime!

Janet and her family were childhood neighbors. Janet knew me from an early age and often babysat the Raidy kids. She became a great confidant and supporter, even when my direct bloodline found it difficult to embrace and accept my Mountaintop news. Janet has stepped up, even when others were unable. Merci bien, et je t’aime!

So you might ask what’s the big deal to mention my allies along my journey. Everyone needs people in their “corner” to support and love them. Those people and the shared memories will last a lifetime.

Being a hospice chaplain, I hear many of life’s narratives and it is always the people in one’s life that matter and how we have mattered to others. When all is said and done and you are on your deathbed, do you want to be remembered as someone who built walls or burned bridges? Or do you want to be known as someone who loved, supported, and offered compassion and grace on a person’s life journey? Be the person who others mention and say, “They made a difference in my life.”

The choice is yours. Start today by telling someone who made a difference in your life, “Merci…et je t’aime.”

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