Many people have coming out stories that are filled with horror to rival the best Hollywood scream fest. Others still, seem to have blissful parties surrounded by beautiful bodies waiting to take them into the fold for a life of carnal lust and endless disco dramas. Me, you ask? Well mine was simply less glorious.
From a young age I simply knew that I was different. I didn’t have a means to put my finger on it, but still it was there in the back of my mind. Like most young men, I did sneak into my father’s cleverly hidden porn stash, due to the curiosity of my young hormones. The strange part for me was that I always seem to be drawn more to the images of the men in the magazine. If was something like a Playboy, I simply was not interested. I needed to see the male flesh. I soon learned the term for that was “QUEER” or “FAGGOT.” I knew they were different and different meant you were apt to get made fun of by your peers. So, I did what every other closeted queer kid did, I hid those feelings while trying to steal furtive glances at the boys in the locker rooms
My youth was spent trying to hide what I was and pretend to follow a path I thought my parents wanted for me. I knew my father was not keen on anyone or anything that was vastly different from his way of thinking. It was hard enough being his son watching him react with my friends in boy scouts. I always felt like I was his disappointment and this didn’t help my self esteem one bit. Foolishly, I fumbled around and dated a few girls in high school and tried to be the boyfriend I heard other guys talking about in the halls before and after classes. That worked out as well as you can imagine.
It wasn’t until I went to college that I finally said that I would like my live a little more close to what I knew that I wanted. So what did I do? I joined a fraternity. There, I did meet a few guys who had same thoughts and desires as myself. It gave me a chance to experiment to see what I had been missing, all while still mostly hiding. Finally in about 1994 or 95, I was thrust out into the open and the veil I hid behind was ripped off like a Band-Aid. The guy I had been fooling around with decided he wanted more and that it would be a great idea to out me to the girl I had also been dating. I decided to preempt him and tell her first. As it turned out she too had been keeping to herself a desire for the same sex. Basically, his grand schemes fizzled out more akin to Wile E Coyote.
This didn’t abate my fears much as next I had to come out to my circle of friends. I was in terror of how that would happen. My circle of friends was small as it was and primarily focused around my fraternity. The best way, in mind, to do it was one night while we had all went out to a bar near the college we attended. After becoming drunk on apple pie shots, Jack Daniels, and tequila I broke down into tears and decided to tell everyone at the table. I told them how much I knew they were going to hate me and how much I was sorry for betraying them. They all looked at me smiled and said it was not a big deal. One even joked that maybe I could help him learn to dance a bit better. Yay for the stereotypes!! But they were accepting; all the same, more than I thought would happen.
As they say, you never stop coming out. I returned home in 95 with my newfound freedom and started going to a gay bar about 45 minutes from my house. I was living with my parents at the time, so my every weekend out was starting to draw a notice. I decided that it I would also have to come out to my mother. I went to visit her on her lunch break to have lunch with her and share my dark secret. While we were eating Campbell’s soup and sandwiches, I dropped the bomb on her. She looked me dead in the eye and said “Its about damned time you finally tell me. I have known since you were a kid dressing up in my gowns, shoes, and singing into a hair brush.” I was the one left in shock and dismay. How did she manage to know the one thing I was unsure of and hid from everyone? Her response was, “A mother knows.”
I think it was after that I dealt more with issues from people than when I came out. That could also be from growing up in a small southern town. The first time I moved in with the guy I was dating then, we moved to a small town not far from my house to rent an apartment. The complex we rented from wasn’t especially gay friendly. We inquired about a single apartment and were met with resistance because they couldn’t understand how two men only wanted one bedroom. So invariably we ended up with a two bedroom that we outfitted as both were occupied, for keeping up appearances. We kept an immaculate apartment, but upon leaving we were told we couldn’t have our security deposit back, due to the nature of the apartment’s condition.
We moved to North Carolina afterwards because that where he wanted to be. While living there I worked with Spencer Gifts as a manager, up until he died from complications due to HIV in 2000. Then I transferred back to my hometown due to not really knowing anyone in North Carolina. I transferred with Spencer’s to a store there and immediately was entrenched with coworkers who already knew I was gay and not happy about it. They made it purely inhospitable for me and told the District Manager that I was being intolerant and belligerent. It ended up I was fired based on these accusations and when I confronter the Human Resources Department about it, their response was they agreed that I was being harassed but giving me back my job would create more issues than not and since Virginia, in early 2000, had no protection status, I was left unemployed.
As I said, my coming out was more of a fizzle than a feud. I wasn’t disowned, at the time, or kicked out of the house. My friends still cared for me and do to this very day. My rough patches of being Gay has come much later in life. Losing a job due to being gay, dealing with people’s inadequacies of being able to deal with someone who is different. But nothing to the degree that many have witnessed or endured, I am fortunate in what I have experienced. I have friends with the horror stories you hear about. I have witnessed teenage kids kicked out of their house and left to their own devices to survive. You can even read the statistics of the many youth that still opt for suicide. Rest assured when I tell you that it does get better. Know yourself and be yourself, fully. Learn to love who you are and what you can contribute. Your story of survival could be the inspiration someone else needs to survive. Know you have people who will listen and help. My contact information is included in my blog, use it if you need to vent. There are people there for you.