In Kindergarten, I sat across from Fritz Cornell. I liked his face. I liked it differently than I liked Heather Kelley’s. Then in first grade, I liked Andy Edgar’s face. In second, Paul Kistner’s. In fourth grade I liked Eric Foley’s face, although he was in sixth grade, so I only got to see him when we passed in the hallway. I looked forward to those times. In seventh grade, it was back to Paul. I liked his face, and…his arms. He wasn’t muscly or anything. They were just a boy arms, and I liked them.
Because I’m gay.
I want to share something with you. Something kind. Something honest. Something real.
I am one of those gay men who has received a lot of pushback on being gay. I was born in 1970. So, we didn’t talk about it.
Many of the people around me, mostly conservative religious folks, wanted me to be straight. Let’s be honest, they want EVERYONE to be straight. And I wanted to be straight too. So, I dated girls growing up, and then married one.
In all of those straight-living years, I turned a part of myself off. It was as if I ripped one very special cable from my circuit board, powering down a part of myself that weakened the whole of who I was.
I had kids. I went to work. And every decade of so, I’d come across a man and unexpectedly fall in love. For the most part, I believed I was straight. I knew about these gay feelings, but I had somehow convinced myself that they were just that…feelings. And I needed to move on from them. So, I did. Or I tried to. In all that time, I never cheated on my wife. I never acted on those feelings. I was successful for a very long time.
Not quite a year ago, my marriage ended. And through a long and arduous process of self-discovery, I owned the fact that I am a gay man.
Coming to terms with this was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.
During our separation, I was no longer in my home. I was on my own. I had been so afraid to tell my friends what had happened—what was going through my head—so instead, I isolated. I wandered the streets of Indianapolis, praying. Asking God to show me the truth about myself.
If there is a God, and I believe that there is, this was the message I received.
Show you what, exactly? What else am I supposed to show you? You already know. You’ve always known.
I got quiet. I listened real hard inside my chest. And I cried my eyes out for six weeks. Every day, I sat down in the shower of my one-bedroom apartment, and prayed. It was the very first time in my life that I didn’t pray to not be gay. I had already prayed that prayer for years. Decades.
Instead, I asked God to show me the truth. Maybe help me get that special cable plugged back into the circuit board.
The shower in that little one-bedroom apartment was a sanctuary for me. I wept in that shower. I looked at my gay hands and let my eyes pore over my gay body. It was a gay man’s body after all. These arms. These legs. I let my hands glide over them, as if to console them…as if to tell them they’d done nothing wrong. That they were exactly as they should be.
I wasn’t making peace with God. I was making peace with myself.
On lonely nights, I’d lay in my bed, eat pizza, pray for my wife and kids, go to sleep early, wake up early, get on my knees next to my bed and pray the same prayer.
God, help me today. To be honest. To be of service to others. Amen.
It’s been over a year now, and life has been pretty unpredictable. I’ve lost family members that I love. Nieces and nephews that I care about so much. In-laws that might never know how much I miss them. And I’ve disappointed so many who never thought this would happen. Who still struggle with my decision to make a change.
And here’s what I must own. I wasn’t honest. There are all kinds of reasons why…but at the end of the day, I lived a lie. My love wasn’t a lie. My kids aren’t a lie. My marriage wasn’t a lie. But the truth of who I was, that part was a lie.
If you are gay and still in the closet, you understand this. If you are straight and hoping people won’t be gay for whatever reason (religion, etc.) you might casually dismiss this by saying…
Gay is not who you are. Being heterosexual is not who I am.
I can’t help you with that kind of thinking. You’ll have to get in your own shower on that one, and wrestle with God or the universe or whatever.
It’s Gay Pride month. Last year I attended the best I knew how. The photograph at the top of this post is the moment after I walked through the gates. Maybe you looked right past it. Maybe you didn’t pay much attention to it. If you feel so inclined, give it another look.
Here’s what I see in those eyes. A man on the cusp. On the precipice of a lie and the truth. There’s hesitancy in those eyes. And hope in that smile. But this is not a man announcing to the world…
I’m here. I’m queer. Get used to it.
It’s much more a prayer than a pronouncement. More of an…
I’m here. I’m queer. I’m not used to it.
If I could go back in time, just a year, and hold his hand. I’d look him deep in the eyes and say…
You are going to be okay. You’re gay. That’s all. Same as you were before. It’s just now you know. And you can handle knowing. Now…let’s go dance!
Last year, I stood around at Gay Pride. But I wasn’t proud. I was afraid. I felt like everyone knew I was gay. (I get the irony.) I walked around, a gay virgin man, watching other people swim, while I dog paddled. Some were dressed like Cher. Some like truckers. Some like business men on vacation. I wore a tank top and nice shorts. I wanted to blend in. I didn’t want to be seen by nobody but God.
I want to take a moment to address two groups of people:
First, if you share this essay on behalf of Gay Pride, or to your Facebook timeline and have a friend who you might not realize is hiding their sexuality, and they read it—this is my address to them.
Don’t wait any longer. You know what you know. You might not be sure at thirteen (although I was)…but when you know…sweet friend…you just know. Don’t let your pastor talk you out of it. Or your parents. Or a well-meaning friend or a counselor. You’re going to struggle and be sad and lonely. But you’ll also have a greater sense of self. It’s an exchange of the momentary “keeping of the peace”…for owning all the beauty that you are. And that exchange is well worth it. You can be proud of yourself…even if others aren’t.
Also, this isn’t going away. Your “homosexual tendencies”…they aren’t tendencies. They are a part of you. You might also have hazel eyes. It’s kind of like that. You have hazel eyes and like men. Or like woman. Or like both. Or are female, while physically male. And there’s something really beautiful about you. Don’t hide it. Stop wishing it away, because it isn’t going anywhere.
You might think you’re the miracle who will overcome it. I thought I was too. The truth? I could have lived straight my whole life. I was doing it. But why? If you’ve been told that it’s because God asks you to, then you’ve been fed bad information about God. More on that HERE.
There are those who will desire to understand your sexuality and those who won’t. It’s very important that you know the difference. Because those who aren’t interested in really listening and considering your story can hurt you very badly. And you might not recover. So get away from them as quickly as possible.
I’ll tell you like my friend Laura told me: “When you stand fully in your truth, the relationships in your life get distilled. Some evaporate and the ones that remain are stronger. Some people fall away, and that is okay—because if they cannot love you for who you are, they aren’t bad people, but they aren’t YOUR people.”
So live your life. A good one. Don’t sleep around like crazy. Find love. There are many ways to be gay, just like there are many ways to be straight. For me…call me old-fashioned, but I want one partner. And I want to be with him until I die. Because I understand the beauty of longevity.
And lastly, stop saying those bedtime prayers, hoping God will change you. Why would God ever do that? He created something so beautiful. God is the artist. And he will not compromise his work because you’re not happy with it. Get happy with it, friend. Try and see the gorgeous curves of your sexual identity…the strong profile of your gayness…the beautifully purposed shading of your oh so gay soul.
You’re a work of art. Tears in my eyes. You are gorgeous.
And now to another group:
One last word to those who stay behind the scenes. Straight people who are privately wishing me well in text messages, private Facebook messages, email, etc., but who won’t speak up publicly. I know you mean well…but you are perpetuating the problem. You are hurting us. I’m asking you to find the courage. Speak up—speak OUT to what you believe, knowing that people will come against you. Remember, there is power in numbers, and all of us gays NEED you.
I promise you, if you speak up, we’ll have your back. Count on it.
Okay…so I will be attending my second Gay Pride this weekend. I’m not wearing a tank top and nice shorts. I’m not blending in. And I am NOT…not dancing.
I’m here. I’m queer. I’m not used to it. But by God, I’m getting there.
I hope you are too.