Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Celebrate National Coming Out Day
Today is October 11th, National Coming Out Day, and while it is no big surprise to my readers, but let me say it, I am Gay.
I have lived in and out of the closet, out is a much more pleasant way to live. I realized that I was attracted to men, in middle school, soon after puberty, and I was absolutely terrified. I had no role models, no knowledge to help me understand what I was feeling, a feeling that is a fundamental part of who I am. So I went into deep denial, then hiding. I tied to fit in. I tried to be the person others thought I should be, instead of the person I am. I was miserable.
I got married - the ultimate closet for closeted gay men. I ate to much, I drank to much, I worked insane hours. At the same time I was looking at gay porn and hiding deeper and deeper in the closet. I even voted for Republican candidates that said vile things about gay men, reinforcing my self hatred. At a near crisis point I took control of my eating and drinking and became a self described gym rat, and then it happened - I was in the best shape of my life and other men started to notice me. And I liked it. I stumbled across an LGBT group at Rollins College and went to their gatherings. I started to accept myself as who I am. And I became happier - saner. The marriage had long been two people living parallel lives. I was jealous, she had a boyfriend and I didn't and we split - as I described it neither of us was happy, and we both deserved happiness.
I started dating men, and still being honest about who I am was not easy. I never had the big coming out scene with friends and family. Within a year I met J, we fell in love, he moved in - at my urging. I never told my parents "I am gay," I simply brought the same man home for the holidays 2 or 3 years in a row and figured they would figure it out - and they did - there was never a big moment or ugly scene. It was funny, when my sister told my middle brother that she was coming to Virginia for our wedding last fall, he said "you mean David is gay?" Well yea duh, they have lived together for 23 years.
Some of the early years were not easy. I was outed by a coworker to a boss and fired from a good job (I forgive you Fred, I'd still like to talk with Bill about it.) I straddled the partly in and partly out of the closet world for a few years. When we first moved to Lexington we had two phone numbers at the house for a couple of years. Eventually I decided no employer would ever fire me for being gay again, so I make it clear up front in the interview that I am gay. I don't know if doing so slammed any doors for me, I do know it made it much easier for me to work and be happy. I was entirely out in Law School, including forming an LGBT law student group. I have had the pleasure of speaking on LBGT aging issues at the Lavender Law Conference three or four times and published two (now out of date) book chapters on legal challenges for same sex couples. LGBT issues are not the focus of my professional work, but I am kind of the staff expert for some reason.
Life in the closet is life in denial. I know how close I came to eating, drinking and working myself to death. I would not wish the closet on anyone. With coming out, I dropped from my life people who never really liked the true me, it is hard to be rejected, but they never really liked me to start with - they liked the fake that I tried to be. Some of them I suspect, couldn't accept me because they struggle with self acceptance issues.
National Coming Out Day is an opportunity to share our stories and offer hope and support to others who may be struggling with denial, self acceptance or coming out. There is hope, happiness and love out of the closet in the big bold adventure I call life.