I’m From Dixie, WA.

by Joshua Tad Rutan

Satellite overhead image of Washington State from Google Earth 2022

My story begins at the age of 13. It was at that age that I knew, without a doubt, that I was gay. So my internal struggle wasn’t “Am I? or Am I not?,” but became, “who do I tell and when?” Coming from a very large, conservative, rural (redneck) kind of background…I knew by coming out that there was HUGE potential to lose a very large chunk of my mom’s side of the family; the family that I had grown up and been raised with. The family where my mother was the 2nd oldest child of 12 and where I was the 2nd oldest cousin of about 36! I mean my youngest uncle was only 5 years my senior! That was tough, especially for a 13-year-old brain and emotional state of mind.

I happen to have been living with my newly divorced mother (her 2nd failed marriage) when all of this came about and sufficed to say, I knew, at that particular moment in time, it was not the best time for me to come out to that side of my family so, instead, I came out to my friends and their parents. I was welcomed and accepted with open arms by both my friends and their families. It was great! Looking back, in hindsight, I realize that what I was really doing was seeking out non-familial individuals who would potentially take over familial roles that I thought I was more than likely going to lose.

Fast forward, two years later, I’m now living with my Dad and his 2nd wife and my younger sister, Carly. It was during this year, I’m 15 now, that I start testing the familial waters, and come out to my younger sister, who embraced me and my homosexuality as easily as the breeze that cools your sweaty neck. So it was, with her help, that I decided to come out to my step-mother and my father, as they were going through a divorce (that would be my 3rd divorce that I was going through as a child). But they both were very supportive and thoroughly accepting of my declaration of my now burgeoning identity. Oh and did I happen to mention that I was raised from one small rural town in Oregon and/or Washington state to another! When I came out to my dad, younger sibling and step mom, I was living in a TINY town in southeast Washington state called, Dixie, population 280. Oh yeah! When I say rural…I mean RURAL!

Three months later, with the encouragement and support of my dad’s side of the family during Christmas/Winter break from high school, I decide that I’m going to come out to my Mom and her side of the family while I’m back in Oregon visiting them. My plan was to spend the first week with them, to show them that I was still the same Josh that they all knew and loved me to be and then come out during the 2nd week. That was my plan. A plan, by the way, that only existed in my head! No one knew that I had made this decision nor even how I came to this decision! I didn’t share with anybody that I basically came to the conclusion that even though I KNEW there was this 90% chance that by being honest with my mom and her side of the family that the consequences of my coming out would mean that I would lose a HUGE part of my family that I was so close to and emotionally dependent of. But, at 15 years old, I also knew that it boiled down to one of two paths, in my life, that I was going to have to take. It boiled down to simply this…”What’s more important to me? Living a lie, in order to make sure that I don’t lose my family’s love and acceptance of me OR being happy, without them or their involvement in my life but living a life of truth and happiness on my own terms?” I chose the latter.

Now my “plan” completely fell to shit cause I ended up coming out to my Mom and my oldest sister, Nikki, when I was was half asleep, in the back seat of my mom’s car the same day she picked me up and was driving me back to her place for Christmas break. Had it not been for Nikki’s quick thinking, all three of us would’ve ended up in the gutter of the freeway that my mom was driving on. For lack of better words, my mother did NOT take the news of her only son and youngest child being gay very well! We fought for the next 2 years, constantly!

It was a media fight and the US postal service ended up being our enabler. I would send her news links and media clippings showing that homosexuality was a biological disposition and she would send me pamphlets of these (what I lovingly refer to as Christian Concentration Camps) programs that could, allegedly, make me straight. Not a fun time in either of our lives.

It was only because of the unknowing ”campaign” that all of my siblings and especially my younger cousins did on my behalf, with their parents, that ultimately lead to the full acceptance, of my mom and my mom’s side of the family that they all now view my homosexuality as a moot issue. It took a handful of years on my part, as well as their’s to get to this point but the fact remains that where I once believed, with all of my heart and soul, that I was going to lose my familial love and respect…the end result is the farthest from that truth.

And I am grateful and blessed to have myself proven wrong in this particular case.

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