In the opening scene of Forrest Gump, a woman takes a seat next to a remarkably average man on a park bench. White linen suit, blue plaid shirt, muddy shoes, socially awkward.
She begins reading a magazine, ignoring Forrest Gump. He glances her way and gives an awkward, “Helllaaooo." He talks about a box of chocolates. He comments on her shoes. She ignores him, continuing to look at her magazine. Then Forrest says, “Momma always said there’s an awful lot you can tell about a person by they’ shoes...where they going, where they been.”
The camera zooms in on Forrest, his brow wrinkles, and he ponders aloud, “I’ve worn lots of shoes...”
Hi. My name’s Brett Trapp—basic white guy, 36 y/o, living in Atlanta's historic Cabbagetown neighborhood.
I was born in Alabama, the son of a Southern Baptist preacher. My mom was a teacher, and I have two older brothers.
Also, I am gay.
I never asked to be gay, never wanted it really. The stork didn’t let me opt-in, and opting out, I discovered later, wasn’t really an option.
Most studies show that only about 3-5% of people are attracted to their own gender, so there aren’t many of us.
When you’re young, being gay can feel like some kind of weird biological accident.
They don’t give you a handbook, so you have to figure it out on your own (until you can afford counseling).
Your parents can’t help you much because they’re probably not gay.
Yeah, you make gay friends eventually, but for me that was waaaay later in life.
In the American South, homosexuality is often viewed as a spiritual issue. But for me, it's always just been a physiological one—like sneezing or sweating or laughing.
So many of us carry a story inside of us—a one-of-a-kind journey that only we have been on.
We share our stories if we can, but for some of us, that’s not possible. Fear and shame are bitter masters, and forced silence is their torture of choice. They grab us by the arm—cold fingers digging deep—and shove us through the crowds of life. They make us smile, make us ignore the hurricane just beneath our skin. Maya Angelou once said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Preach on, sister...
In 2007 I finally got up the courage to write some of my story—notes, thoughts, and observations on being same-sex attracted.
I couldn’t bear to do it before then because to write it was to validate it. It was to admit my greatest fear—being gay—was quite possibly true. It was a simple note in my phone but I was scared to death of someone finding it, so I had to think of a code name. I couldn’t name it something obvious like “Gay Thoughts!". At the time, I felt trapped, lost, not free. So I named the note UNFREEDOM, eventually shortening it to UNFR.
And for nearly a decade, something would happen, I'd get out my phone, open up my UNFR note, and quietly type...
Feeling crushed by loneliness on a Friday night.
Had an awkward conversation with a therapist where we talked about...
Does this girl like me or is she just being nice. idk.
A friend just called gays “the scourge of the earth.” :(
It was like some internal voice said, “Don’t forget this. Don’t forget these moments. Write. Down. Everything.” And so I did.
It became an emotional landfill where I dumped all my secret observations—a stinking museum to the part of me I hated most. And all those words added up—more than 25,000 of them eventually.
About a year ago, I began going back through my UNFR note, reluctantly. It was painful and surprising. I was surprised at the person I was. That was a different man in 2007, 2009, 2012.
I can barely remember that sad man. And that bothers me.
I heard a story recently about some Holocaust survivors working to preserve one of the crumbling concentration camps. Why would anyone want to preserve a place—a story—filled with so much sadness and suffering? I think I know...
So the story isn't forgotten.
So darkness is exposed. So the truth will soar above the amnesia of time and history. Humanity flourishes when this happens. It's how we advance. It’s how good stays on the move, how it stays one step ahead of evil.
And unless we write them down, our stories die with us.
Think about that: We're all dead in 100 years and forgotten in one generation. Yay! It's a morbid thought but it. is. true.
So we preserve our stories, even the hard ones. We preserve them despite the voice telling us to bury them, hide them, lock them in a basement in hopes that no one ever knows.
This is the way of shame, and it’s a lie.
This is why I’m sharing mine. That is the point of Blue Babies Pink. It's my duty to share my story…I don’t have a choice.
It is also my healing. To me, it’s more important that the story is told than it’s heard.
The freedom is simply in the speaking of it.
Blue Babies Pink is “A Southern Coming Out Story in 44 Episodes.”
It’s my story of growing up gay and Christian in the American South—one episode per day for 44 days. It’s a narrative—beginning, middle, and end—and it’s all true, to the best of my memory. I want to make a story that felt so dark, beautiful…and full of light.
It may be sad at times, but don’t give me your pity.
I’m doing okay. I’m better than I used to be. That’s why I published that Gossip Guide…as a middle finger to my old friend, Fear, who used to harass the younger me…”BE QUIET, BRETT. TELL NO ONE, BRETT. THEY’LL ALL TALK ABOUT YOU ... BWAAAHHAHAAA.”
(LOL at you now, Fear.)
So yeah…don’t feel sorry for me.
Feel sorry that closets exist...
Feel sorry that there are other kids out there, petrified, with nowhere to turn. This story is also for future little boys from Alabama, sitting in church pews—scared and confused and feeling so, so small. Maybe one day, when I am gone, they will Google something and find this. That would make me happy.
Humanity is really struggling right now...
We’re struggling with race stuff. We’re struggling with LGBT stuff. We’re struggling with gender stuff. Just look at your Facebook feed…it’s a hot mess out there. I think the path out of it is civility, listening, and big open hearts. We need civil conversations, and this is my contribution.
I’m not mad. I’m not bitter. I don’t have a political agenda. It’s okay to disagree with me. It’s okay to think this is all very weird. I think it’s weird too. It’s okay.
If you’re a Christiany person, this whole thing probably won’t be Christian enough for you.
If you’re gay, it probably won’t be gay enough for you.
But stick with it if you can, because I want you here even if we are very, very different. I’m going somewhere with this...
Our stories aren't meant to be silenced or hushed. They don't come with mute buttons, stop signs, or red lights unless we let them. We need more kind people—you and me—speaking up.
In that park bench scene, you see Forrest Gump’s shoes covered in mud, symbolizing the wild journey he’d been on. So sit down next to me, dear reader, and let me tell you about the mud on my shoes.
B.T. Harman is the creator of Blue Babies Pink, a Southern Coming Out Story in 44 Episodes.
B.T. is a consultant, writer, and speaker living in Atlanta's historic Cabbagetown neighborhood. He was previously a vice president for Booster, an Atlanta fundraising company, where he helped the organization raise $150 million for elementary schools.
B.T. is passionate about storytelling, leadership, good design, Seth Godin, SEC football, Chick-fil-A, Taylor Swift, archaeology, European Travel and CS Lewis.
To learn more about B.T., visit his personal site at btharman.com.