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The Truth of Coming Out

Babbling Brook, Budding Tree

2-4-2002

 

            At times I find myself quite amazed at where life has arrived me. I do not by any means intend to say where I have arrived in life, by that I truly believe that we play a large role in the path of arrival. But rather I am fascinated in where the predestined portion of my life has delivered me. Recently I have found myself coming out of the closet into a new world, redefining my own being, and starting my life over but all of these are places where I have arrived in life by my own manipulation. My predestined path has dealt me the card of being a Gay man, an athlete, and extremely longing for the feminine in my own self. Reflecting on this, while often painful, I find myself giddy at the irony of the combination.

            For me the punishment of my closet was denial of my truths. First I berried any possibility that I might be gay along with the feminine in me. My final insult came when I shut off the athlete. This was an absolute. I not only stopped all competitive sports, I had become a nationally competitive biker and internationally competitive cross-country skier, But I gave up or perhaps better put shut off my love for running, hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, walking, backpacking, and being a generally and always active person.

            Try to envision this person. I first will admit that I do struggle with Bipolar disorder, but that did not change over this transition. In the beginning, before my total capitulation to my closet’s internal oppression, there was a period where I averaged ten ski races a year, ten to fifteen bike races a year, five running races a year, two to three back packing trips a year plus one in the winter, countless rock climbing and hiking weekend excursions, ten to twenty hours of training a week, a full time student schedule, a three quarter time job, a half time job and a part time job, I volunteered for a rescue squad which required roughly fifteen to twenty hours a week (but I could often do work for school or one of my jobs there, even train and the hours were not always continuous), plus I had friends but very few. The main point is, I lead a very active life. As I began to crumble under the yoke of the confines I was placing on myself in my own myth of disillusionment, hiding from the world in my closet of deceit and deception the pain changed who I was. Despite my disorder, my free energy drove me to eating and delusion and away from the exercise I loved and that was so fundamentally a part of me. Depression became a part of daily existence even when I was up or manic. The world was seen through a frosted window. At my peak of physical fitness I was one hundred seventy-five pounds. At the deepest of my depression I was two hundred eighty-five pounds.

            For me my closet had walls. As a gay youth my closet was built through naivety and society. While I grew up with a conservative, Republican family, they in their own right were very loving and supportive. Knowing what I know now, I am sure that they would have loved me then had I come out as a youth. As it was they were as much victims of society as I am. What I am left with are memories of my mother calling an innocent gay couple in San Francisco disgusting or my father proclaiming that he is uncomfortable in Provincetown. Today my parents think of a gay family friend almost as a son and I have left my closet.

            It was by no means all my family. If anything it was mostly the world in which I grew up. The messages from my friends, the television and radio, and from the news did as much to shape and harden the walls of my closet as anything. I remember the rock musician Boy George hitting the pop charts when I was in junior high. I was just starting to question my feelings toward boys and that was when I first heard the word, “GAY”. It was not a pretty word when I heard it and while the music was very popular Boy George was a, “gay fag”, “gay queer”, “gay flake” and the list went on. But the problem was I could relate. I liked what I saw in Boy George. My closet was started. As my friends made their opinions known and the media and news frequently echoed the same views, my closet grew darker. I understand where my parents gained their views. Like any teen I saw a lot of mainstream media and saw Archie Bunker bad mouth fairies or Bill Cosby comment on how some boy should not play with dolls. I will grant you that all of these shows and others have done wonderful episodes, some even on gay issues but the nocks have far outweighed the perks. And our society institutionalized the culture of gay oppression. Our society said it was okay for GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) citizens to be treated as second class. This culture, this society, built my closet.

            As I entered into high school I lived on the outskirts of what for me had become the mecca of gay life, San Francisco. Here I found the mainstream socially accepted oppression clashing with gay pride and a gay culture. Here I found gay culture slipping into mainstream society in a prideful way. Much like Boy George only with out the public outcry or public bashing. While I found this refreshing, on one hand, it was also equally misleading and painful. By having the mainstream public viewing partial images of gay life, the presumption was suddenly made that these portrayals were gay life. Now my life was known when I did not even know it. Now I was known and hated even more. Now that I was known there was a reason for acting on the theory that the Religion Right was preaching. Now there was violence, hate based crimes rose, Mathew Shepherd, laws passed, I’m scared.  My closet lost its windows. And the door locked. I began to crumble.

            Sure, I tried to loose weight. I did the diet thing and healthy eating, but I was denying such fundamental portions of my natural being by hiding in this alter ego I had created around my true self, that nothing I did ever seamed to make a true fundamental difference. From the day I found myself sitting at my heaviest weight to the day I reached two hundred forty pounds, almost a fifty pound weight loss, was a year of hard work. After that point, I was unable to get past that invisible barrier.

            As I confronted my weight, I was forced to confront what was causing the weight gain. I started to realize that I no longer hiked, biked, walked, ran, or skied. One day I tried to run and could not so I walked. I started to walk a lot. My wife, yes I was married, and I had a dog that was finally getting the exercise that it deserved. It walked and I walked. Soon we ran. We hiked. When summer came, I biked. My distances were not great. My energy and self-image were low. But I was out there again and my weight was two hundred and thirty pounds. As I was out exercising I had more time to myself and more time to think. I began asking some very hard question. “Why was I so unhappy?” Why was my marriage so dysfunctional?” The questions kept coming. One day an old question came back to me, “Am I gay?” I brought this question to my therapist and the journey took a new sense of urgency. I became stuck on this question, as it appeared to answer all of the other questions floating in my mind.

            On day, I was haplessly listening to the radio, not even thinking about this question when I announced to myself, “I am gay.” The truth and fact behind this simple statement overcame my entire being and essence. I new as I uttered the words that it was true and I also knew that it was the key to unlock my closet door and answer all of the other puzzles in my mind. I was gay and all of the things confusing me in my life were stemming from the simple fact that I had been living a life full of deception to myself and those around me. To that point, the sole purpose of my life had been to hide the simple fact of my gay essence from the world around me and from my own conscience. I now knew the truth and would not go back into the dark. My eyes were open and I liked the rainbow. When I made that realization and statement I was two hundred thirty pounds. Ten months later I have reached one hundred eighty and am actively preparing for a full season of bike races and the Boston Marathon.

But the coming out process was long and painful. There were days I thought I would never have a friend again and that I would be alone for ever. Shortly after I realized I was gay I felt like I was time warped back to my early teens. I forgot how to relate with normal humans. I still was depressed much of the time but I now had this loose uncontrolled energy to manage. At work I was a loose cannon. I told everyone there what was happening. I also lost my job. They had an excuse; they were in financial trouble and I was an expensive employee. But the facts of the moment are painfully clear even with hindsight.

The five months I spent unemployed served me well. They provided a safe environment for me to grow and reflect. They also provided time for me to explore my new self in a restricted way. Limited to books, periodicals, and the Internet with limitations; I journaled, prayed, and meditated. I was using the book and method book, “What Color is Your Parachute” to help me look for a job. I found that this also helped me to learn a lot about me as a person as well. It helped me learn a lot about me as a gay man. It was in these months that I made the decision to leave my wife as soon as I was financially able. I knew that it would be the best for both of us in the long run. At the end of the five months I returned to work in the best job position I have ever held. I grew up a lot that summer. I almost made it out of my teens.

I am now trying to peace my way through life. Each day is a new journey out of the closet. Each day I step out to meet a new face, mine. I strive to meet new people and to make them friends. I have learned a very painful lesson over the past several years; I have few friends. The few that I have I am working desperately to rekindle and keep. I am also finding a new best friend in my own self. I have found that I am a neat multi faceted person. I mentioned that I long for the feminine. I have found that I also posses the feminine in a strong and safe way. I relish in it and find happiness there. I find there is a girl in me. It is my inner child, a young girl. My inner child is a girl, not a boy. My adult is a very effeminate man. The depths of this frighten me at times.

So now I am free of the shackles of my closet. Its door forever swinging for me to pass through every day with every encounter and every circumstance that I come upon for the rest of my life. The bright lavender that lies before me is both my blessing and my responsibility. I know that it is my choice to learn about and embrace the nation of gay communities and people to which I belong or to pigeon hole myself once again. I recognize that it is my choice to contribute to the gay community in which I live or to isolate and drain from those other beautiful people that may be needing my smile.

I have had a long journey to the place I am now in. I can follow my journey with my truths and weight and plot my future by holding true to those truths. My closet was built by the early misnomers and mainstream prejudice on our society. My parents and I both bought in to this industrialization of oppression and helped to build my closet walls until my closet door was shut. Under the weight of the burden I now placed on my own self, I refused to accept any of my fundamental truths of who I am, a gay man, an athlete and an individual with a very strong connection to the feminine. When I did come out it was both glorious and painful. I was not prepared for the whirlwind that would sweep my life. Now that I am catching my breath, I see my responsibility to the gay community around me and to the gay nation to which I belong. This is a never-ending process. But I am glad to have met my acquaintance.