My concept of being gay and dating was all this dark secret stuff that ended in pain. And this was so bright and light and wonderful.
My name’s Daniel Holland. I’m from Clear Lake, Texas.
It was in 1998. It was, like, butt cut season at Clear Lake High School. I was in my shell necklace, my cargo pants and we’d been called into the auditorium for a special session, and this was a group of people called The Power Team. And they were these extremely muscly, I guess, wrestlers or bodybuilders, and they were there to tell us about the evils of drugs and alcohol. And they were going to do that by lifting cars with their brute strength and busting out of tires. And I remember bemoaning going there and then them telling us that they would also have another program later that they were going to talk about all the things they couldn’t talk about in public school, and that we should meet them at this church later. And I remember thinking, “Wow, I’m definitely not going to be there.”
And the only highlight to coming to this event was the fact that I would get to see my best friend. We did everything together. We could tell each other anything. We had this motto called “Bluntness always,” which means always speak your mind, always say your truth. The highlight of my week was picking him up from soccer practice in my minivan, going to the mall and then sleeping in the same bed. Naked.
At this point, I had no idea what gay was. I had no idea that word even existed. I had no idea that what was going on was anything other than a perfect friendship. And then he sat down at this rally, and I realized he had something to tell me, but I remember as he was talking, all I could hear was my secret which was so loud and it was, “All I want to do is kiss you.”
When I finally could tune in back into what he was telling me, he told me that he met a girl, and I knew that it felt different. And sure enough, she was a member of this church and wanted him to come meet her that night and be baptized. And he said it was really important… “It’s really important to me that you go.”
And at this church was the power team again with their special presentation where they were lifting cars and breaking tires, and they were baptizing all these high schoolers, one by one. And I remember seeing him get dunked and meeting this girl and just knowing that things will never be the same between us, and sure enough, he stopped spending time with me. Our friendship started to drift a little bit.
Luckily enough, I met this other friend and we’ll call him Will. Will sat next to me in band, and so… you know, we connected over music and musical theater, and he was the first person that I said that “I might be… I think I might be gay.” And he is like, “I think I might be gay, too.” He would write me letters and put them in my locker. Will had a very lewd writing style. And at this point in time, this was at the height of our sexuality and our hormones, so there was some stuff in this letter that was really sensitive.
Nevertheless, my mom found this letter and she woke me up early on a Saturday morning, and, you know, she was completely blind-desided by this. I mean, she had no idea this was going on.
Despite my dad being more supportive, they had decided that it was not a good idea for me to see my friend Will anymore, so I turned back to my best friend, right? My original best friend. I said, “Hey, I need to talk to you. I have a secret to tell you.”
So he said, “Okay, you know, tell me. What do you have to say?”
And I said, “Well, you know, I… I think I’m gay.”
And he’s like, “Well, I’m glad you told me. You’re still my friend. I need to process this information.”
Well, the next day he called me and he goes, “Well, I talked to my pastor and my… my father, and they’re saying that God doesn’t really like what you are doing and the direction your life is going, he’s not a big fan of that lifestyle.”
And I tried to go to church with my best friend. He tried to drag me back there. I could never wrap my mind around the megachurch. But I did in my efforts to become straight, find a really nice community with a different church that was a lot more low-key, and it seemed like this church was a lot more about just building relationships with people, just finding community.
You know, one of the things that happened at this church was they would have a musical for the youth, and it was a big deal every year and it was called Godspell. And I knew nothing about it, but it was a musical about the life of Jesus Christ, really the book of Matthew, but it was told through funky songs. It was really a product of the ’70s.
So I auditioned for this and I got the role. I got this lead role as Jesus in the musical Godspell. Every day, part of my costume, there was a heart painted on my forehead, and this guy in the cast would take the time and he would paint this heart on my forehead and he would say, “You’re going to do great tonight. Good luck, you’re going to be wonderful.”
I remember one time we would start to flirt, and there was a flirty dynamic going on. And I remember once after I was crucified, being carried off the stage and my ass was grabbed. That led to some sushi dates. We went to sushi and talked and he said, just like a normal person, “I really like you and I want to go on a date with you.”
He would come, he would pick me up. We’d wear our little leather jackets, and he would pick me up in his dad’s Mazda and we would drive to plays, and I went to my first opera. He took me to Whole Foods for the first time. At that point, I just thought it was stuff that you would see in the movies, and to me, my concept of being gay and dating was all this dark secret stuff that ended in pain. And this was so bright and light and wonderful.
And I realized too, as I was getting closer and closer to this role that I was praying less and less about being straight and praying more and more about understanding what it would, like, what it would be like to sacrifice your life, or what it would be like to have so much integrity that you’re going to speak up for your beliefs no matter what. And so that became the focus of all my thoughts and prayers.
Being in that show and meeting him and seeing him throughout the summer and going out on dates and… that gave me the roadmap that I would use later to come out in college. And eventually I was able to come back and talk to my parents, and they said, “We love you. We support you. We just needed some time.” And after that great conversation with my parents where they were finally accepting of me, I really had really important and great relationships in my life, and it also helped me find my direction. And so I went to grad school, I did social work. I got my Therapy Licensure and was practicing for a while, and working for different nonprofits that served the queer community.
And it took me a while to get there, but I did. A coming out story is not necessarily just about sex. It’s also about love and connection and intimacy, and I hope that’s what people see when they see my story.