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  • Writer's picturecliff carbone

My Story, My Shame. (A year later.)

*On July 8 of this year I shared on FB what my year has looked like since I made the decision to "come out" a year earlier. Here is that post.

Tuesday, July 8, 2020

It has been a year since I made the difficult decision to exchange 39 years of hurt and shame for freedom. In the year that followed I have been on an emotional roller coaster: relief, joy, sadness, and most recently- anger.

Currently stalled in anger.


I want to share an aspect of my “coming out” story that I did not share before.

On Thursday, July 4, 2019, after I came out to some of my closest friends and family, I had planned to come out publicly the next day via FaceBook. I scheduled a meeting with two members of my church leadership for Friday morning to inform them of my decision. Though both men showed nothing but love and compassion, I knew going into the meeting that there would be a mutual decision that it would no longer be appropriate for me to play piano for church services. I was at peace with this decision.

It’s the meeting that followed that frustrates, troubles and angers me today.

As you can imagine getting sleep Thursday night proved difficult as I lay there in bed, pondering the pros and cons of what I had intended to do the next day.

At about 3 o’clock in the morning my mind began to ponder:

“Can I get fired for this?”

I then grabbed my phone off the nightstand and found myself Googling:

“Can I be fired in the state of Texas for being gay?”

I assumed that it would be clear that I could NOT be fired for being gay - but if sleep were to ever find me I needed to see it in writing. I knew same-sex marriage had been legalized but was honestly not sure about other LGBTQ protections - including job security.

During my search I was shocked to discover that TX was one of 17 states that did NOT legislatively offer employment protections for members of the LGBTQ community.

I found myself thinking: “But surely this can’t apply to teachers working for a public school district!” ???

It wasn’t too long after that thought that I scrolled upon an article that caught my eye. An article that contained the words TEACHER, GAY, FIRED.....MANSFIELD ISD.

For those unaware, though I teach in Midlothian ISD I live in Mansfield, TX which is just about a 15-minute drive up the road. Mansfield is a larger, more diverse community and district and here I was reading an article about a Mansfield, TX teacher who was removed from her teaching position because, in showing students family vacation pics (something many teachers do with their students in an effort to convince students that they have a life outside of the school) made it known that she was gay.

I then saw that this case was pending legal action in a higher federal court and that the incident happened just 2 years prior in 2017.

Not the 50’s.

Not the 90’s.

Not even 2015 when same-sex marriage became legal.


Just 2 years prior to my plan to publicly come out in a district in a more conservative town, right down the road, that I had taught for 16 years.

Sleep did not find me.

[On Friday, July 5, at 7:00 in the morning, on the brink of tears, with a choked voice I made a desperate call to one of our district’s assistant Superintendents and asked her if I could meet with her that morning after my meeting with my church pastors.

She didn’t ask me very many questions and even though she had the day off she could tell by my trembling voice that I needed to hear her say "Yes...I will meet with you." She kindly agreed to meet with me at our administration building after I met with my church pastors.

I knew going into my meeting with my church pastors that I would no longer be playing for worship services - and like I said, I was at peace with that decision but I was scared to death of what this meeting with my employer would amount to. Even so - my plan was NOT to ask permission to "come out" publicly. Instead, my plan was to inform them that I WOULD be coming out publicly and would simply ask if I needed to begin looking for a job elsewhere - perhaps in a different state.

To say the meeting went well is an understatement. I would absolutely love to publicly give her name but not sure how Kosher that is so let’s just say she was ABUNDANTLY compassionate, loving and understanding.

She assured me: “Cliff - this is NOT a fireable offense.”

Still, she said that she needed to have one or 2 back-channel conversations with other district administrators just to make sure there was nothing on the books that she was unaware of and then we both agreed that it would be best to hold off “coming out” publicly until we had a chance to meet with my building principal which would not be able to happen until Monday morning, July 8.

Indeed, when I logged-in to FB to post my story i was sitting in my car in the school parking lot having just finished up my meeting with the assistant superintendent and my principal.]

So why the anger?

Look between the brackets above. THIS should have NEVER had to happen. I had taught for Midlothian ISD for 16 years and had proven myself to be a successful part of the district. Yet - there I was afraid that I might be fired for being who I was born to be. There I was - having to have a couple of meetings to assure me that I would not be fired.

To be clear, my anger is not AT ALL with the district or its administrators. They were and have been COMPLETELY supportive.

The anger is that we live in a society where everything between the brackets above had to happen in order for me to find peace and assurances that pertained to my livelihood. Marriage equality is one thing. The ability to make money and support myself financially is another.

I should mention that

a) the Mansfield teacher won her lawsuit and as a result of the court’s decision, Mansfield ISD has had to legally incorporate trainings for it’s staff on matters of diversity

B) in case you haven’t heard, just a few weeks ago, against the current president’s wishes, along with the wishes of those who share in the conservative platform, the United States Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision among a conservative court, found it unconstitutional for an employer to fire an employee for being gay.

C)*** just in case I did not make this clear, my district has been nothing but supportive. Any anger I have is not directed at all towards them.*** Just want to make that clear!

But there is one more aspect that I want to mention and I want to keep this short but clear.

It took me 39 years to be able to publicly utter the words: “I am gay. I was born gay.”

But it would take 40 years for me to utter something that has been equally difficult to come to terms with based on my Christian Faith.

That is….

“Being gay is not a sin.”

As a Christian I don’t offer this sentence lightly. Coming to terms with it has challenged my entire outlook on my faith as it relates to Scripture and I know MANY will not agree with this mindset - and perhaps - PASSIONATELY not agree.

And I am ready and willing to have that conversation with anyone.

But please note that, as far as I’m concerned, if you are going to passionately use Scripture of Antiquity to defend your belief that the act of homosexuality is indeed a sin, then I’m going to need you to first recognize:

1) That the Bible that you use to defend that claim is the same Bible that was used for centuries, even up until the mid 20th’s century, to promote, defend, and justify slavery, segregation and racism

2) That same Bible was used, for centuries, to oppress women.

And second:

3. Explain why you can’t use the same grace, context and open-mindedness that is now so freely given to the Biblical contradictions of a society that no longer finds slavery, racism, segregation, and sexism morally acceptable.

The truth of the matter is - it is not my desire to talk ANYBODY out of their faith - even as it pertains to the Bible. Quite the contrary. I still feel the Bible is useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” and that, when considered personally can enrich one’s faith and offer insight into God’s character.

But when the use of Scripture bears the kind of fruits not in concert with the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) then that is simply using Scripture to justify hatred.

The church’s reaction to homosexuality has certainly changed over the centuries. What was once punishable by death soon evolved to the more compassionate penalty of a life sentence. Soon the secular punishment of a life-sentence was dropped but the psychological stones of shame were still cast within the walls of the church.

By the mid-90’s, it was my observation that the church’s stance of homosexuality was something akin to:

“A person is not born gay. It is a choice that they make. It is an abomination. It is a sin. We aren’t going to kill you for it, nor throw you in prison, but there will be plenty of hateful and judgmental rhetoric and much shame.”

But even as early as my college years in the early 2000’s I began to notice another shift.

“A person might be born gay but they shouldn’t act on it….and we are going to continue with the hateful and judgmental rhetoric and shame.”

It is only recently that I am noticing another shift...something like:

“A person might be born gay. They shouldn’t act on it because the Bible says it’s a sin. I know it’s not fair that God Created you gay but due to Adam and Eve this is just another symptom of the darkness and destruction that entered the world. BUT - we are going to treat and look upon you with love and compassion as we would any other sinner.”

Well - this is obviously a vast improvement and a part of me was even willing to accept it. But another part of me, the “angry” part of me could not help but to feel like this isn’t enough.

To those of you who share this new mindset, as well intentioned as this new loving and compassionate mindset is, please know that to somebody who is born gay, to call homosexuality a sin and to conveniently explain it away as a symptom of darkness and destruction due to Adam and Eve eating fruit is a big enough psychological and spiritual STONE to do plenty of damage - especially to young kids and impressionable teenagers.

*I will continue to be a voice for these kids - even at the expense of friendships - FACEBOOK and otherwise.

For someone who is born gay this argument is no better than the argument that was used for centuries that went something like this:

“I know you were born with dark-colored skin and that it was not a choice but God says your race is inferior to mine and that He ordained you to be a slave - and here are all of the Scriptures to prove it.”


“I know, woman, that you did not get to choose your gender but God says you are less than man - and in fact - it is not pleasing to God for you to speak in church or vote. Here...look right are the Scripture references to prove it!”

I know some might think I’m being flippant and borderline blasphemous in saying this, and yet, conversations and JUSTIFICATIONS like these took place in our history for centuries.

So no. As well intentioned as it is I will not even accept this new mindset.

I wish that we could go ahead and just fast-forward a hundred years from now when society and the church will view homosexuality in the same light as it now views slavery, segregation, racism, sexism - and unBiblically sound divorce which runs rampant in both our society and the church.

The next time you are willing to declare that homosexuality is a sin, regardless of a filter of “love” and “compassion,” just know that you are still casting a stone.

Furthermore - remember - you are casting that stone on someone that not only was born with what you so easily call “sin” BUT, and perhaps more importantly, their “sin” has no direct impact on you or anyone else. It is not harmful to you. It is not harmful to them. Period.

So why am I angry?

Because it’s not just the event explained in the brackets above that should not have had to happen.

I shouldn’t have to feel the need to share this very post - nor the original one.

But no worries.

Though I may be angry today, I see Love and Joy coming quickly up around the bend.

I knew you before you were formed within your mother’s womb; before you were born I sanctified you and appointed you as my spokesman to the world. Jeremiah 1:5

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