A Hidden Life [home page]
  • home
  • the outing
  • interviews
  • site map
  • discussion
  • watch online

ryan oelrich

photo of oelrich

A month after The Spokesman-Review began reporting on Mayor Jim West, Oelrich announced he had resigned from Spokane's Human Rights Commission the year before because he believed Mayor West had appointed him for romantic reasons. The two had chatted on Gay.com, but Oerlich says that initially he didn't realize he was talking to the mayor. Here, Oelrich talks about his dealings with West and his opinion of the mayor's double life. He also talks about his own struggling with his sexual identity, hiding it from friends, family and his church. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted Nov. 12, 2005.

Why did you start Quest [Youth Group]?

That's a long story, but as I came to terms with my sexuality as a gay man, I looked for support resources, ... and I wasn't really sure where to go. I wasn't into the bar scene, and I looked into some of the other resources, and they just didn't fit me. I did connect with some friends, and I talked with them, and they felt the same way. They weren't into the party scene; they just wanted to build friendships, to find a group of people that supported them, that inspired them and promoted positive behavior.

Also, all of us really yearned to find role models. We had these dreams and these career plans and things we wanted to do. ... We wanted to believe that we could be normal individuals, gay as a part of who we are, but definitely not all of who we are. We decided that we need opportunities to see these individuals, to meet with these individuals and talk with them. ...

I decided I want to do my part to show society, to show my friends and family that we're not freaks; we're not monsters; we're individuals just like everybody else. We have our strengths and our weaknesses, but we're genuine people who care about our community, who have a lot to give back to our communities. The other aspect of Quest is that we volunteer, and we're very much a community service organization that pours back into our communities. ...

Do you work with people who are in the closet?

Definitely. You know, coming out isn't for everybody. I believe that individuals are happier and healthier if they're true to themselves and able to be themselves with their friends and with their family. We encourage our guys to figure out who they are first and foremost, and then once they really feel they have a good grasp on who they are as a person, then we encourage them to share with their family and with their friends.

It's been so exciting to see guys who have been hiding that part of themselves for so long and as a result just feel this incredible loneliness because they've been keeping everybody at distance, [and then to] finally let that wall down and share that part of their life with their family and with their friends. Sometimes there are negative experiences, but as a whole, most of our guys have had just incredible experiences. Their families have been supportive, and it's just brought them that much closer.

Tell me about your experiences growing up.

I've had a great family. I've been very, very blessed. My father was in the Air Force. My mother was a teacher. My parents were amazing individuals. My mother home-schooled me for several years. We traveled around the country to different Air Force bases, and because of that I got to see a lot of the U.S. -- myself and my little brother and my little sister. It was great.

I also grew up in the church. My faith has always been something my parents have worked to instill in me, and that's something that's still very much a part of my life. ...

What kind of a church did you go to?

A lot of people grow up in one church, ... but my parents kind of moved around. We went to a Lutheran church, Methodist churches. I remember going to an African-American Baptist church one time that was just phenomenal. So we definitely moved around. But finally we went to Montana; we settled. We went to a Foursquare Church for a while, and then we joined an Assembly of God Church.

“[T]hat was the first time that I realized that who I was was something that some people would not tolerate.”

It was when I attended the Assembly of God Church that I really became very passionate about living out my faith. That's when I got very involved in the church. At that time I really wanted to be a pastor, so I became an intern at the church and took courses through Berean Bible College to become a pastor. I became very, very involved at the church, and for a while I was basically living at the church, working there day in and day out and working with different ministries and working with at-risk youth and working with children and homeless.

For the most part up until then, I'd hidden my sexuality for so long, and I knew I was different. ... As I grew older, I became scared that I was freakishly different, that there was nobody else like me. I started to realize that I was attracted romantically to other guys, that I just felt this connection. I kept hoping that well, if I grow a little older, maybe that attraction for girls will work. So I dated a couple girls and tried that, but it didn't change.

Then also my faith has always been very important to me, and as I started to realize that I was attracted to guys, I knew what the Bible said, and I knew what my pastors had said, and Bible study leaders. ...

What did they say?

I remember a sermon given at an Assembly of God Church where the pastor got up, and he talked about first how homosexuals had brought about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; that they had destroyed the entire city. He talked about how homosexuals were responsible for AIDS and the millions of deaths that had come as a result of HIV and AIDS. ...

He talked about how homosexuality was this horrible sin; that it was a perversion and it would not be tolerated. He got up there with the female and male ends of PVC pipe, and he stuck those together and said, "This works; these fit together." Then he took the male end of the PVC pipe and another male end of the PVC pipe and tried sticking those together and said: "They just don't fit. This is deplorable; it's evil. It's sinful, and it cannot be tolerated, and we as a church cannot tolerate it."

For me hearing that, I just knew that I could not be that way. ... I was working so hard to change. I had these basic feelings, and I read the Bible, and the Bible tells me that if I pray and if I turn it over to God that God will heal me, God will change me; that if I fast, if I deprive myself of food and water, that supposedly that will change me, this fasting process. I did all that, and I read books, and I studied, and I had pastors pray for me, and still those feelings wouldn't change. ...

So I thought for a while, well, I don't want it to hurt my parents -- how much of an embarrassment would this be for them, who are so active in the church. For a while I seriously thought the best thing for me to do, the most noble thing for me to do, would be to end my life, because if I have done everything that they said that's supposed to change me, and it's still not changing me, it's still not taking away these basic feelings, then I'd better take more drastic steps.

How old were you then?

This would have been 15 and 16.

Eventually you told a pastor that you were gay. How?

... My youth pastor at the time, I went to him in his office and just broke down and sobbed and told him that I was struggling with these feelings, that I was attracted to guys. I told him that I'd prayed and I'd fasted, and it still was there; what could I do to change?

The look of disgust that swept across his face is something that I will never forget. Whether he meant it or not, ... that was the first time that I realized that who I was was something that some people would not tolerate. ...

I was hoping that he would tell me, "Well, it's a sin, sure, but there are other sins, and we'll pray through this. It's OK; we can get past this," and provide some encouragement. But he sat there quietly for a long time, just with this frustrated look on his face, and finally told me, "Well, there's lots of work to be done, and you're going to have to work dang hard." He wrote down a list of things he wanted me to do. He gave me that list and said, "You need to get started." And we never talked about it again. ...

What was on the list?

Just a variety of different things, either organizing things for Sunday's church service, cleaning up the gymnasium for a church event -- just a long list of chores.

Like punishing you.

It felt like a punishment. And for me, this was a last resort for me. I was hoping that he would have some answers for me, some encouragement, tell me what I needed to do to change, that he would have some answer. And he didn't. ...

So at that time in my life, I felt like, well, who I am is so despicable that I'm not even at the level of everybody else. I'm going to have to take the position of a slave or a servant, and I'm going to have to work for the church, and that's the only way I'm going to have any hope of getting into heaven or being even tolerated by these Christian individuals. ...

Did you talk to your parents about this?

No. I think sometimes there are ways that I tried to hint to them, because my parents were good people. ... [But] I could never let them into this private area of my life where this secret struggle was taking place.

Because of that, I felt like I was always alone. I felt like no matter how close people got, if I couldn't show them that, then they could never get in; that they would never truly know me. There's definitely a real feeling of loneliness. ...

[How did you feel about being gay?]

I hated it. I mean, this was a part of myself that I didn't want to be there. I did not want to have these feelings, so I hated it. And because they were there, I started to hate those feelings; then I hated being gay. ...

When did things change?

I finally decided -- I was about to turn 18 and leave for college to go to Whitworth [College in Spokane] -- I decided that, you know what? I've been punishing myself for so long, and I've been doing it because I've been told that the Bible says that these feelings were a sin, and I believed that that's what the Bible said. And I thought, well, I really need to know for myself. I really need to dig into the Bible, and I need to really know what it says about this issue so that I can know once and for all that either I need to take more drastic steps to change myself, or maybe I'll find something that [shows] there's some hope there. ...

I spent that year at Whitworth studying, but also talking to professors. I remember I talked to one professor, and ... I said, "Well, there's this verse, and it says, 'Man shall not lie with man as he would a woman.' That is obviously denouncing homosexuality." And he said: "Well, I don't believe homosexuality is a healthy lifestyle, but no, no, no, you can't use that verse. Look at how it was used, and let's dig a little deeper." Even though it was never his intention, he made me realize that sometimes there are other ways of seeing things and that the Bible most certainly isn't black and white.

Just after the course of this year, what I came to believe was that God created me in his image and that this is the way I was supposed to be for a reason, and that by me trying to change who I'm supposed to be, [that] would be incredibly detrimental. When I realized that, it was incredibly empowering. It was like this weight that I'd been carrying around for so many years had finally been lifted off my shoulders, because I started to think, well, wait a minute -- if this is the way I'm supposed to be, what if being gay is OK? That idea had never crossed my mind before, so when it finally did, it was amazing how much I blossomed as a person and how much I grew as a person intellectually, spiritually, emotionally. It was an amazing experience.

[How did you start coming out to people?]

... It was the hardest decision I had ever made, but I decided that being true to myself was more important than all of that. ... So I came out, and I started letting close friends know that, "Hey, I'm gay; I'm attracted to guys." ... And they were accepting. They said: "Oh, OK. Well, it comes as a shock, but that's cool." That was the most powerful thing in my life, because my first experience telling someone was so hurtful and so scary for me that finally to be able to tell someone and have them say, "That's OK; we still love you; it's not a big deal," was incredibly powerful.

Then I told my sister, and that was interesting, because I said, "Becky, I'm gay." And she looked at me, and she smiled and said, "Oh, I know." That came as a huge shock, because I thought I'd been closely guarding the secret for so long. I didn't think how she could possibly know, but she knew. ... She knew me probably better than I knew myself. ...

And your parents?

When I went to Whitworth, I became very close with a friend of mine and began a dating relationship, and I still hadn't told them yet that I was gay. They suspected, and finally I was confronted, and they asked me, "Are you gay?" ... At that point I hadn't spent all this time researching and hadn't come to terms with it and was just terrified that they had guessed my secret. ... I said, "Well, it's something I'm struggling with, but I'm getting over it, and it's OK; I can change." I wish I would have had the courage at that point to just tell them, "Yes, I'm gay."

What was their reaction?

[My mother] said, "Well, what can we do?" She started looking into resources. They looked into Exodus Ministries and different things. They really loved me and wanted what was best for me, so they also suggested I go see a counselor, and I did do that. I went and saw a counselor.

What is Exodus Ministries?

I guess it's change therapy, changing who you are, helping you get over being gay, which I don't believe you can do. It's a Christian change organization.

Did you try it?

No, I read their books, and they had a phone therapy where you call and talk to a counselor a couple times a week. I did that for a while. But at that time I had gone through this research process, and I just didn't believe it. I did it for my parents, hoping to appease them, hoping that we could just drop it and it wouldn't be an issue, but I didn't find it helpful in the least.

What did they say to you?

You need to pray; you need a strict regimen of Bible study and prayer and fasting -- basically what I'd already been through with the church that hadn't worked. ...

So tell me about the letter you wrote to your parents, where you officially came out as gay.

I think I packed a lot into that letter. ... I told them first and foremost, yes, I'm gay; secondly, I have a boyfriend; thirdly, I'm not going to be a pastor, which is what they had thought up until that point; fourthly, I'm actually thinking about starting a nonprofit to work with gay youth. So it was a whole lot to deal with as a parent. I wish I could have told them in person, but I licked the envelope, put the stamp on it. That's probably one of the scariest things I've ever done, put it in the mail.

And what happened?

They called me a couple days later, yeah. I still remember when I got the call. ... It was my dad on the phone. He said, "Well, how are you?" I said: "OK. I'm good, I'm good. What's going on?" "Well, we got your letter." "OK," [I said.] He said, "Well, we still love you." And I pulled the phone back a few inches and just cried, because that's what I had hoped to hear, but I just wasn't sure.

My mom got on the phone and told me that she knew, she'd suspected, and she cried. She said she'd been crying for days and that she loved me so much, and that what she was worried about was not me being gay -- that she would love me regardless, no matter what -- but that she just said she wanted the best for me. And she said, "I've known gay people, and there's some good people, but sometimes they go through hell, and I'm not sure the world is ready for you, Ryan, and I don't want you to go through that hell. ... But I'm here for you, and we'll do whatever we can."

Have they grown more comfortable with you being gay?

Definitely. For the first time in my life, I've been able to share absolutely all of who I am with them, and it's definitely been a process. ... There was definitely this period of testing the waters on both sides. But now my parents read books from both sides and have really researched the process and have looked into what being gay is. ...

[My mom and I] have these dialogues about books that she's read and things that she's found out, and I in turn have also shared what I've been doing. They've come to Spokane, and my father has met some of our Quest guys. I remember after he met them for the first time, he said: "Those aren't what I thought gay guys would be like. They all seemed just like normal people." I said: "Yeah, Dad. We're just normal people." So it was great. ...

Do they understand it wasn't a choice?

My mother said to me she doesn't believe it was a choice. She thinks that there are other factors that could be involved, but she doesn't believe that I in any way chose to be this way.

She still believes you could change?

I don't know. She's still working through it.

So what is Gay.com, and how did you get involved with it?

Gay.com seems to be the Web site that every gay guy finds when they're first looking for answers, looking to connect, looking to find information, because it's the easiest to find. ... You find this Web site that has stories and pictures and profiles of thousands of other people that also are just like you, so it can be incredibly, just encouraging, because you realize, "Wow, I'm not alone." There are these hundreds of thousands of other gay men all across the world who have little bits of information about themselves on this Web site. It has helpful links, information, and also the chat service, where you can actually talk to the other gay guys just like you using Instant Messenger.

[Tell me about how your first encountered the mayor on Gay.com.]

When I was a student at Gonzaga, I would chat on Gay.com. I think it was the end of my junior year. I first started talking to this individual who I believe at that time was TheRightBi-Guy. ... It's also a little scary, because obviously they're just words on the screen. You don't know who is behind the computer that's typing those words. Sometimes you can see a picture of that person, but you learn very quickly that you have to be very, very careful. ...

Occasionally you talk with somebody new, and this person had messaged me, and I remember for a while I would say a few words, and that was it. But this person seemed very, very intelligent. They were a fan of the Zags as well, so we talked about the basketball team. So there was a connection of interest just over that. We both loved the Zags. That's how the conversations started.

What else did you talk about?

This individual was always very private. They would drop hints about what they did, but it was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. ...

We talked about local politics; we talked about my education, what I was doing. This person was very interested in the nonprofit I was working to start, very interested in that.

Did it seem that he knew who you were?

Later on in the conversations, after I graduated from Gonzaga, I was running a small business, doing different things around town, working with different organizations, so I became a little more widely known in the community through the artwork that I produced. ...

He commented several times that he'd seen me either in the newspaper or on TV, so he knew who I was. That also added this air of intrigue, because he knew who I was, and I felt it only fair that I know who he was.

[Did he explain why he wouldn't tell you his name?]

Well, he told me that he wasn't out. He didn't tell me what position he was in, but that he didn't think he ever would have been able to attain the position he was in if he had been out or if people knew that he was gay. He did talk about how he had served as a policeman, and he talked about how he used to work with the Boy Scouts, and I began to think this is a person who's accomplished a lot. In many respects I thought, well, it's too bad this person isn't out. This is a person who has definitely a lot to be proud of. ...

Did it get romantic online?

Definitely. ... [T]here were definitely times that he would be very flirtatious, and as time progressed, ... there were times that he would tell me that I was attractive. He'd suggest we go on a date. I'd ask him who he was, and he would tell me, "I'm not going to tell you who I am." Yet then in the next conversation he'd say, "Well, let's meet at Arnie's," and I'd tell him: "Well, I'm not about to meet you. I'm not interested." I knew how old he was, and I knew a little bit about him, and I just didn't see any romantic connection there at all. ...

Did you get the sense he was lonely?

Definitely. ... He would talk about how he could never be out and that nobody knows, and he has to be very, very careful. I just got the feeling that, well, this is a person who has this whole other life. ... I knew how lonely that could feel for him.

Do you think that's why he was eager to connect with you?

I think so. I mean, we had some great conversations. There were definitely great conversations. He was very intelligent and was very helpful sometimes. I was in the process of working on my organization becoming a nonprofit, and he sent me to some great Web sites and provided very helpful information. I really, really appreciated that. ...

Tell me about how you got a call to be a human rights commissioner. What happened?

I had a good friend and a close colleague who had called me -- I knew he knew the mayor, and I knew some of that history -- and he called me and told me that he'd been talking with the mayor, and the mayor said, "Hey, I have a space on the Human Rights Commission." The mayor had mentioned my name, and they talked about maybe I could fill that position. ...

I went in and met with the mayor in person, and I handed my application to him, and he put it on his desk and told me that he would love to appoint me to the commission. ...

Were you flattered?

Definitely. Human rights is something I'm very passionate about and something I care very deeply about. And I love Spokane, so this seemed like a great opportunity for me to get involved with other community leaders. ...

Then what happened?

I think it was about just a couple weeks, maybe a month after I had been appointed to the commission, my friend and colleague approached me and said, "Listen, there's something I've been very concerned about, and there's been something I haven't told you about this whole process that I need to fill you in on."

Then he told me that the mayor was the person I had been talking to on Gay.com all this time, and that the mayor knew of me and that he believed the mayor was also romantically interested in me and that that really bothered him and that he questioned the mayor's motives for appointing me to the position to begin with. He felt I should just be aware of that.

How did he know this?

He said that the mayor talked about me and that he'd confided in my friend that he'd been talking to me.

So the mayor was out to your friend.

Yeah.

Were you shocked?

I was shocked because I had been talking to this person for quite a long time, and we'd had all these conversations, and I had wondered who he was. Then to find out that it's the mayor, and I'd even met him in person now and he pretends like he doesn't know me, it was just bizarre. It just felt really, really bizarre.

Were you angry?

I wasn't angry; I was confused. ... What would people think if they did find out that I was appointed to the commission, not because of my skills or my qualifications, but because the mayor was romantically interested in me? That bothered me. ...

I confronted him online, and I said, "Hey, I think I know who you are." ... He told me -- his exact words, I still remember: "I didn't believe that I would ever have the opportunity to meet a person like you and that you would ever meet a guy like me. That's why I appointed you to the commission."

I just thought about that, and it bothered me at the time. But ... it's not a paid position; it's not like he's just given me a job. But then when he online became more and more sexually inappropriate, ... that's when I realized that I was in a sticky situation.

So what did you do?

I decided in November [2004] to resign from the commission. Again, the mayor had become increasingly inappropriate. I respected the things he did for Spokane, and I respected the position he was in. ... I would love to have an openly gay mayor, and part of me wondered if maybe someday he could be that. But then that sympathy quickly waned when I felt I was treated very disrespectfully many times. ...

I'd worked so hard in my life. I'd hidden this part of myself for so long and finally had come out and was trying to live my life with integrity and be a person that was respected and a person that could be a role model. Then being treated like I was simply a piece of meat by him on several occasions, that I was just somebody who he hoped to have sex with, really, really bothered me. It frustrated and angered me. ...

Then I had one individual come to me and ... told me that he'd been offered an internship . ... He told me that he'd been talking with this individual online and that his name was Jim and that he'd been offered this internship in City Hall, and that just struck me like a slap in the face, because up until that point I was naive in thinking that I'm the only one. Sure, he's being disrespectful to me, but me I can tolerate. But then when I talked to this young man, I realized that this isn't an isolated incident. ...

What did you do?

I consulted with a few close friends, and I felt that it was important that the truth did come out. There wasn't any bone in my body that wanted to go and be a part of this, but I also wanted to be wise and responsible, and I knew that the story is going to come out, and I can either take control of it and share what I know firsthand, ... or I could let them come to me and come ask, "Well, why didn't you come forward sooner?" ... A friend of mine and I took the information we had and gave it to KXLY here in Spokane.

Did you know about the mayor's policy on gay issues?

I did know a little bit. I just remember one conversation we had where I asked him: "Think about the role model that you could be, the example you could set if you were out. Don't you think you'd be happier? You're hiding this big part of yourself, and nobody knows about it. How lonely is that? And you're spending all these hours, every day, online, chatting." I would get on, and it just seemed like in evenings he was always there. He was always there, and I just thought: "This is the mayor, and he should be out doing socializing with all these people that he knows, and here he is spending all this time online. How lonely that must be."

We talked about that, and wouldn't it just be so much easier if you could stop living this lie and be out? And he just said: "Well, I can't do that. I have this image to uphold, and everybody sees me as a tough guy. I have to keep that image; I have to hold that image. And I have other aspirations. I want to continue my political career, and there's no way I can continue that political career if people knew I was gay." ...

What do you think about his outing?

I feel horrible that he had to be outed in this way. This is an intimate part of your life and part of who you are; it shouldn't be anybody's business. It's that part of your life you should be able to keep private if you abide by the laws of the land and that society has set forth. But in this case, unfortunately the mayor made mistakes, and because of his mistakes, I believe that his outing is a consequence of his actions. ...

[Do you believe that the effort to recall Jim West is about his mistakes and not about his sexuality?]

No. I think for some people that's still the issue, and I think that's sad. That's not at all the issue for me, obviously. I was worried about going forward in the first place because I thought people are going to try to make this a gay issue, and I was very, very much worried about that. And I didn't want to be responsible for outing a gay man, not in any way.

But I think [for] some people it still is an issue. I remember reading one headline that says, "Gay Sex Scandal Rocks Spokane." It's not a gay sex scandal. That's not the case. And I've run across other individuals since this has come forward. I was in Wal-Mart one day picking up film, and a man and his son were behind me, and I turned around, and the man spit right in my face. I was wearing a T-shirt that said, "Don't assume I'm straight, don't assume I'm not." He said, "I assume you're a fag," and spit right in my face, right in front of his son. So there are definitely people that [feel] it's still a gay issue. That's all they can see. ...

What about the big middle of Spokane? How do they feel about homosexuality?

I think most of Spokane is the big middle. There's a lot of "live and let live" philosophy here in Spokane and a lot of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. ...

Because of that, these rumors and these stereotypes are able to blossom and grow. They whisper with one another: "Well, I heard that homosexuals prey on children and that homosexuals are sinful, and they're all alcoholics, and they use a lot of drugs, and they're incredibly slutty, and they sleep around, and they're incredibly promiscuous." These stereotypes are able to continue to grow simply because they've never really met someone who is gay in person. It's easy for these groups to continue to let those rumors and those stereotypes cultivate.

Tell me about your decision to go to the Foursquare Church here in Spokane.

My father used to be a children's pastor at a Foursquare Church in Helena, Mont., so I went and checked out the Foursquare Church here and really just fell in love with the energy the church has, the compassion the congregation had. There's some really, really good people there.

But also that same part of me, I guess I thought to myself, if they can get to know me firsthand, if they can get to know me as a person and I can get to know them, and I can love on them and they can love on me, and then I can tell them, ... "Now that you know me, there's something I want to tell you; I'm gay," I hope that there would be some growth there and some very positive thinking, because I just continue to see this growing rift on both sides. I continue to see these great people, good people who are in the church and these good people who are gay, just continuing to grow apart because Christians stay in their churches and gay people stay in their circles and they don't intermix.

But what about your church's position on homosexuality?

Yeah. I picked up some brochures and talked to several individuals about the church's standpoint. ... They "love the sinner but hate the sin." They believe that homosexuality is a sinful lifestyle, that it is an abomination to God, but that God still loves me as a person.

Why put yourself in that environment?

Again, the Bible has some really wise things in it. It says, "If you know the truth, the truth will set you free." ... I want them to get to know me first and then know that I'm gay, because I'm hoping in some small way, I can challenge what I believe is incorrect thinking. I want them to see that I'm gay, but that I'm a Christian, that I believe I'm loved by God, that I do my best to live my life with integrity. So I want them to see me. ...

Have you told anybody at your church?

I didn't have to, actually. A lady came up to me; I've talked to her several times, and she works as an usher, and she sat by me a couple Sundays ago. We had a long conversation over coffee, and at the end of the conversation she said, "I know who you are." And I said, "You do?" And she said, "Yeah, I know who you are, and I'm going to pray for you, but you're a remarkable young man, and I really respect your courage." And she gave me a hug. We didn't talk about specifics, but that was incredibly, just affirming for me.

But there was another young man I met through the college group, and we were talking and making plans to get coffee. I told him what I did, that I worked for the Gay Youth Association. I didn't tell him I was gay, but he put two and two together, and he said: "Oh, actually I had something come up. I'm not going to be able to go to coffee." So I guess you win some and you lose some.

Do you still struggle with sexuality?

Honestly, not very often. ... I think to myself, maybe it would have been easier if I wasn't gay. Definitely it would have been much easier. But life isn't easy, and I wouldn't change it for anything. I know who I am, and I believe this is the way God made me. I know my strengths, and I know my weaknesses, and I'm very, very proud of that. ...

Do you know if your parents are still struggling with your homosexuality?

We definitely talked over the last few years that I have come out, and we've touched base, and I know that my mother especially has been doing research and reading books and trying to figure out things on both sides and talking to people. That just really, really impresses me. It shows me how much she really does want to understand, how much she loves me, but they told me that they still can't completely accept it. Their faith is still very important to them. They're still not sure.

My mother told me just a couple weeks ago that she'd -- I guess the jury is still out -- she'd always love me, that she wanted what's best for me, and that she believed that this definitely wasn't something that I chose, but that she still worries about it being the absolute best thing for me and [she] wants the best thing for their kids.

She still hopes you'll change?

I guess I really couldn't answer that. I mean, I am very happy with who I am. This is the first time in my life that I can be just who I am and can funnel all my energy toward endeavors and toward my work and not have to use it to hide a part of myself. So really, I'm incredibly happy. I've been really, really blessed the last few years. I hope that my parents can see that, and I hope my parents will be able to see that me being true to myself has made me so much happier than trying to make myself into somebody that I'm not and that this is who I'm supposed to be. This is who I believe God has made me. ...

home | introduction | watch online | the outing | spokane's view | interviews | producer's notebook
join the discussion | producer's chat | readings & links | teacher's guide | dvds & transcript
site map | press reaction | credits | privacy policy | journalistic guidelines
FRONTLINE series home | wgbh | pbs

posted nov. 14, 2006

FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of wgbh educational foundation.
photo copyright © Holly Pickett/The Spokesman-Review
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

NEXT ON FRONTLINE

The Rise of ISISOctober 28th

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS