Since today is National Coming Out Day, I wanted to share my coming out story. Some of you already know the fine details of this event, but there are others out there who might find the story enlightening and there’s even a chance that my story might find the ear of someone who could possibly benefit from it.
You see, I knew I was gay from a very early age. (Doesn’t that always seem to be the case?) Even before I actually knew what being gay was. I didn’t know what my attraction to those of my same gender meant. I only knew it made me different from my friends who lusted over Farrah Fawcett on “Charlie’s Angels” or Lynda Carter from “Wonder Woman.” I liked Farrah and Lynda too, but for different reasons. Farrah’s hair was awesome, and I secretly wanted to make her feathered locks my own. I also thought Lynda looked stunning in that star-spangled bathing suit. Secretly, I wanted to wear it, along with the red thigh-high hooker boots, tiara, bracelets, and that darned lasso that made everyone tell the truth.
But I just knew it was wrong. Why? Everyone around me told me so!
At school, there was nothing worse than being called a “sissy” or “fag,” and I did my best to dodge those labels like a dodge ball at gym class. But they followed me no matter where I went. After all, I hung out with girls and had tons of girl friends but no girlfriends. I tried to get girlfriends, so I could be like the other boys, and I even managed to snag a few. (Go me!) It just never felt right. Still, I hoped that if I found the perfect girl, she could make it all go away.
My family tried to butch me up. Whenever I acted too much like a girl (singing Olivia Newton-John songs, watching musicals, and hating sports), they told me to stop acting like a “sissy.” Hearing those words from your family is harsh. It made me feel defective as if there was something intrinsically wrong with me.
I know they didn’t mean to hurt me; they were trying to make me stronger, trying to make me fit a mold that society had already pre-set for boys. I needed to be strong, have thick skin, and relish in all things rough-and-tumble. And since I wasn’t living up to that ideal, they believed it was their job to try to cram me into it. This was the 1970’s after all (God, I’m old!). Life was a bit different in terms of accepting diversity than it is today.
I hold no grudge against my family. In fact, I love them with all my heart. Raising a child isn’t easy, and as we all know, no instruction manual on child rearing really exists. They did the best they could at the time and worked with the information they had.
They have evolved a lot since those days and so have I.
Back then, I waited for the girl who would make me straight, and I eventually thought I found her. Four years after meeting her, we were married.
She was, and still is, a wonderful human being. She has been far better to me than I have any reason to hope, but the love I felt for her couldn’t stop the secret from gnawing away at me from the inside. For years, it slowly consumed me from within until I turned into someone I didn’t even recognize.
When I looked in the mirror and saw who looked back at me, I didn’t recognize him because he wasn’t the real me. The real me existed somewhere deep within, and I had never even met him. The realization caused me to spiral downward and it also coincided with the arrival of my daughter into my life.
I questioned my ability to be a good father, to teach her to love and respect herself when I loathed and hated the very breath I exhaled.
So to be true to me and to be a better father to my daughter, I revealed the truth to my wife, to my family, and to my friends. Imagine Hiroshima after the Anola Gay fly over and you will understand a bit about what ensued.
Naturally, the news devastated my wife and ended our marriage. That part of the coming out was the most difficult because I broke the heart of someone very dear to me. To have the person you devoted your life to suddenly admit he’s not the person you thought he was isn’t easy. In righting my world and taking the necessary steps to be the person I needed to be, I also destroyed hers. I will forever live with that guilt, for I truly had no intention of hurting her. However, if I didn’t accept the truth, if I didn’t acknowledge the secret, I doubt I would be typing this blog right now.
Today, though, my ex-wife and I are better parents and friends for both of us accepting the truth and moving on.
Telling my mother was its own momentous event. When I finally worked up the nerve to tell her, through tears, that I was gay. She said, “Is that it? I thought you were going to tell me you had cancer or were dying? I don’t care if you’re gay. I love you.”
Those words meant the world to me. As a single parent, my mother was my entire world for much of my life. To have her turn her back on me would have been devastating. When she didn’t, when she proved to be the woman I knew in my heart she was, I was free to finally be the man I was meant to be.
After my wife and mother knew, the rest was a piece of cake.
My family, while stunned at the revelation, didn’t care. In the immortal words of my grandfather “blood is blood.” What more was there to say on the subject? It was closed.
For my friends, a lot of them were shocked. Some knew it all along.
At the end of the day, I realized it was no big deal. This big, awful monster that I had made my sexuality out to be turned out to be nothing more than a bump in the road. As my therapist at the time told me, “sometimes the things we fear the most turn out to be nothing to fear.” When she first uttered those words, I thought she was crazy. Now, I see the wisdom.
Fear kept me from being me all those years! Nothing else. Once the fear was removed, everything else fell into place.
I have a daughter who loves me (and whom I adore more than life itself). She doesn’t care that I’m gay. All she cares about is that I’m her Dad, that I help her with homework, drive her to school and dance class, and spoil her rotten!
I found a husband who is a wonderful man and who loves me despite my warts (and there are many!) I also have two great step children, who could care less about having two gay dads. It’s a non-issue for them.
My family loves me, my friends accept me, and my colleagues (who were stunned at first) don’t even bat an eye about it now.
So for anyone out there still struggling with coming out, know that life does get better. I know coming out stories are not always like mine, but they can be. Even if yours isn’t, being true to yourself is the best thing you can do for you.
After all, when you look in the mirror, you have to be happy with who you see staring back at you. For the past almost ten years years, I’ve never been happier. That’s worth any price.