I wrote this blog post when I was 46, having only come out a mere 9 years earlier. Since we are in the midst of Coming Out Day, I thought I’d share my coming out story entitled, “A Life Hidden … A Life Fabricated” as a reminder that it’s OK to be you. Come out, come out, wherever you are!
June is Gay Pride Month, where the sights and sounds of parades and other public events bring attention to the struggle for gay rights. For those of us that are out and visibly working toward equality for the Queer community, June is an exciting time.
This was not always the case. I too at one time was one of the millions of closeted queer folks; never thinking it possible to come out and just live my life the way I wanted to. However, I did it. Those of you who are still in the closet can do it too and be free and outwardly proud of who you are.
I want to begin this article with a quote that epitomizes the life I led while living in the closet; “the torment of human frustration, whatever its immediate cause, is the knowledge that the self is in prison, its vital force leaking away in wasteful self-conflict.” I personally relate to this quote. I was living a lie, two lives which frustrated and angered me to no end. I felt like I was in prison not due to my own doing but because of what society dictates us to be and how we should act. I was wasting my life, my inherent potential, my vital life force, on worrying about hiding myself, telling the lies and trying to remember who I told what. Wasteful self conflict is what being in the closet is all about. It is NOT what we are supposed to dwell on in life.
My early childhood years were good ones. My folks did the best they could raising my two brothers and me, instilling in us a sense of right and wrong. I was a sensitive, caring young child but deep down I was frustrated about something hidden inside myself. I could not put my fingers on it, but I knew I was different than my brothers and the other kids I was growing up with. I did not know about or understand the concepts of gay and straight and all that. I was angry with myself for being so and starting burying these feelings I had at a very, very young age.
It was not until the 5th and 6th grade that I really began to know that something was different. This is the time when young boys begin to transform and undergo the “changes.” I remember being so enthralled with the male human body at that age and being more attracted to the other boys in my class than I was to the girls. When I got to 7th grade I was very confused and concerned I was growing up “strange” not having the normal pubescent awakening about what girls were and the realization that hey, it’s time to pursue that feeling. I was pursuing a feeling but one that led me to clandestine encounters with a buddy of mine in a sexual way. We both realized there was something much different about the two of us. But due to the intense peer and societal pressures to conform, the lies and the fabrication of another life to hide the real one seriously began at this point in my life.
In college I really started to question my sexuality. But being the “Reagan Years” where we had a President that could not even say the word “AIDS” let alone speak about gay issues, I continued to fabricate the lies; the fake life. However, Ronald Reagan’s philosophy provided me a great opportunity to mold myself into something where no one would ever think I was gay. I started to act and talk like a little young conservative, espousing the views of our President and just entrenching the lies much more deeply, which created such confusion, such anger within myself, because I knew what I was saying outwardly was not what I believed inside. I hated myself for it. I would go off to walk alone and disappear for hours; crying and screaming inside myself, “why am I like this?” Those moments would pass and life would continue and I would just make myself believe in things that I really did not believe until reality and myth become intertwined so much that you just can’t tell the difference between the two anymore.
At age 27 I finally admitted to myself that I was gay after so many years of denying it. Driving back home from my parents’ house, I just yelled out in the car, “I am gay… I am gay;” repeating it over and over until I heard myself say it. I finally admitted what I was but little did I know I was to have many more years of wrenching internal conflict.
In my 30’s I was starting to become very tired of playing the games, making excuses, creating and maintaining a double life. In 1997, at age 37 I finally came out but I was worried about what people were going to think, how they were going to treat me and what would happen to me here, in little provincial Oneonta.
To my surprise, coming out was not bad at all. Most were not surprised at my news at all. At this point I began to create my own life based on my true self; a gay male. However, this created a lot more confusion, as I was beginning to cast off the secure, but false life I had been leading. I began to question my spiritual, political, and social paradigms of life. I was starting to create a whole new life paradigm based upon who I really was. My life paradigm was always based upon what others thought I should be and become.
When I turned 40, I was having severe panic attacks, really questioning my core belief system to the point where I finally sought help from a therapist to work through things I could not make sense of. Doing this helped me realize that there was nothing wrong with me; that I was here to live MY life and not someone else’s or be the person that other folks thought I should be. I was able to focus on other more important things in my life than worrying about this stupid thing called being gay.
At 46, I can honestly say I am happy. I never knew what happiness was. It was always an elusive thing for me; always reaching for it but never finding it. That was so frustrating to me because I knew deep inside myself that I deserved to be happy and could not understand why I was not or could not be.
I am now at the point in my life where I am secure with myself and have cast off that vile, fabricated thing I called a life. I have resolved to be as active as I can to unwaveringly fight for equality.
So for those of you in the closet now, still living lives of quiet desperation, I am here to give you the courage and the support you need to be yourselves and to tell you that there is hope for you; never give up your dream of being able to be who you really are because you can be everything you want to be, as an openly Queer individual.
Until then, take charge, be strong and be well!