My exciting little life

Someone recently told me I have led an exciting life. After a few moments of denial, I admitted that my life has been pretty interesting.

A few examples…

  1. Growing up in a very strict household where I couldn’t watch television, wear short sleeves, or attend my school’s basketball games
  2. Coming out to my family at twenty years of age
  3. Creating a Michael Jackson fan site that became the catalyst for a trip to Germany in 2001
  4. Getting to see Michael Jackson in concert on 9/10/01
  5. Being in New York City on 9/11/01
  6. Meeting my partner of 9 years on the internet
  7. Getting to see some of the best performers on earth live in concert
  8. Traveling to various parts of the country
  9. Becoming a business owner earlier this year
  10. Having a scan of my Michael Jackson concert ticket included in an upcoming special on National Geographic

Even though I am typically scared of my own shadow, I am glad I have been willing to put myself out there on multiple occasions. Those are typically the moments that have been the most rewarding.

10-11-12: National Coming Out Day

There is great power in being true to yourself and honest to others about your sexual orientation. I know this from personal experience. Through coming out to various people in my life – from family to coworkers – I have been able to free myself from living a life full of dishonesty, and I have been able to change the preconceived notions of others about homosexuality.

We might be slightly different from our heterosexual counterparts in some ways, but most humans long for the same basic things: freedom, comfort, and understanding. These three things cannot exist independently of one another. In order to have freedom and comfort, we must open ourselves up to allow others to understand what we are going through.

Exercise your power. Come out to your family, friends, and coworkers. Help to make the world a better place for the young men and women who will still be struggling for equality in the coming years.

A new understanding of coming out

I am currently finishing up a book titled Boys Like Us: Gay Writers Tell Their Coming Out Stories by Patrick Merla. What struck me the most while reading is how coming out as a gay person means something different to everyone. The accounts written by older gentlemen explain that “coming out” simply denoted the time and place they had their first same-sex experience. Today we worry about acceptance by others after revealing our sexuality, but back then accepting yourself as homosexual was the ultimate goal in a world where being openly gay wasn’t an option. As the book progresses into newer stories, the definition of “coming out” begins to evolve into what we understand today – revealing an often taboo secret to those around you.

Even though I am homosexual and came out to my family and friends many years ago, I found the short stories in the book offering a new perspective on what it means to be openly gay. Some men took years to overcome their fear of being ridiculed and marginalized by admitting their sexual orientation. Some grew up confused about what was happening within themselves. Some knew right away.

Perhaps I am one of the lucky ones, because I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t gay. Being straight was just never an option. From around the age of five, I can only remember being drawn to the same sex. There were a few girls that I liked during elementary and middle school, but never in a physical way. I was more interested in emulating their penmanship or mannerisms than holding their hands or kissing them, yet I understood society expected me to have a girlfriend.

I constantly had crushes on boys. If a moderately attractive guy showed me the slightest amount of attention, I was a goner. Although I was technically a virgin until the age of 20, I had made love to many different men in my head by that time. There were several instances of fooling around with the same sex throughout my childhood and teen years, but never with someone I cared about in a romantic sense until twenty. Unlike the older gay men in the book, I never viewed my first same-sex encounter as “coming out.” That was something I did when I told my sister I was gay one night over dinner. A week or so later, after my parents left for church, I placed a handwritten note on the dining room table and went to my sister’s house for a few nights.

Even though that event marked the most important and gut-wrenching coming out experience I’ve had to date, I have found coming out to be a never-ending process. I constantly find myself in situations where I am revealing my sexuality to people – necessary or not. Maybe it’s while talking with my hairstylist about her lesbian stepdaughter. Maybe it’s when a healthcare provider asks if Honey is a family member or a friend. Even though it happens frequently, I still get a mixture of feelings; anxiety that it might not be received well, and pride because I get to present myself and my relationship with complete honesty.

So, while coming out might mean different things to different people, the one common vein running through it is the ability to accept yourself. Much like the saying “You must love yourself before you can love others,” we must accept and appreciate our own uniqueness before we can expect others to understand it. Knowing that, it is easy to see why so many still choose the security and anonymity of the closet.

The short stories in the book are chock-full of details and downright confessional at times, but they express the complexity and beauty of what makes each of us human. One day I hope to write my own story without censoring myself or worrying about what others will think; a brutally honest depiction of my experiences so far, a new “coming out” story from a guy who came out almost twenty years ago.

Deja vu

Coming out is a never ending process. Exiting the proverbial closet is just the first step in a lifetime of disclosures about one’s sexual orientation, and I find myself constantly coming out to complete strangers – usually more out of necessity than anything else.

I recently decided to face my inevitable mortality and purchase life insurance – something that I’ve avoided even thinking about up until the past few months. During a telephone conversation yesterday with an insurance salesman, I explained that I wanted my partner to be the beneficiary on my policy. “Business partner or personal partner?” the salesman asked, providing me with yet another opportunity to out myself. He seemed unfazed by my answer, which is usually the case.

We are in the process of getting central heating and air conditioning installed in our home, which has resulted in several strangers having access to the house while we aren’t there. Although we haven’t had to verbally confirm our relationship, I am sure our lifestyle is quite evident. I noticed last night that I had a book laying on the desk in our office titled Love Makes A Family: Portraits of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Parents and Their Families. We also have photos scattered around the house of ourselves as a couple.

Up next, hiring a lawyer and setting up a will – one of the many legal precautions I have to take as a gay man to ensure that my partner isn’t left homeless in the event of my passing. Almost fifteen years after first summoning the courage to tell another human being the truth, I’ll get another chance to do it all over again.

Letter from my father

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When I made the decision to come out to my parents several years ago, I feared that my father would take it the hardest. I was even somewhat fearful of his reaction, but it turned out that I had judged him completely wrong. A few days later, he gave me a handwritten note on a folded up piece of paper that had “To Brian, From Dad” on the outside. This is what he wrote:

Honesty
Integrity
Courage
Intelligence
Sensitivity
Love for children
Love for animals
Love for nature & its beauty
Lack of prejudice
Talent for singing
Talent for making people laugh
Sense of humor
Love of giving things
Ability to see through phony issues
Willingness to work

Brian,
This is a list of a few things that make me proud to tell people that you are my boy. It took about 5 min to think of these.
Dad

Living life openly

Good morning, queer! Hello, flamer. Howyadoin’, homo?

These are common greetings that I hear almost every morning at work. They are the unexpected result of coming out to family, friends and coworkers. After all these years, I wish I could say I have a thick skin, but, alas, those words can still feel like daggers.

Sure, I could go to the superiors to complain and have these guys reprimanded, but what would that accomplish? This is the way that most of them deal with an uncomfortable situation – they joke about it. Considering that I’m the only openly gay person that most of these guys know, I’d say they’ve handled it pretty well. I haven’t experienced any real problems, and the majority of them have been somewhat accepting. I even took my partner to the company Christmas party in 2005 and everyone was very polite and courteous.

Coming out was probably the hardest thing that I’ve ever done, but I don’t regret it. There have been times when I have wondered if it would have been more convenient to stay in the closet, but I believe the necessary deception and lies would have eventually driven me over the edge.

Even though the people around me know that I’m gay, there are times when I don’t “shout it from the rooftops.” Those moments may come when I’m in a restaurant, attending a rock concert, or simply getting medical care. Just because I choose to inform people that I know personally of this aspect of my life, that doesn’t mean that the whole world deserves to know all the intimate details of who I love. Self-preservation can also play a role, as there are times when it would literally be unsafe to announce my sexuality to complete strangers.

There are many examples over the last few years of being open and honest about my sexuality, too. We started attending church as a couple, we live together, we shop together, etc. We definitely do not make any attempt to hide it on a regular basis, only when we feel it’s necessary.

I suppose one of the things that bothers me most about this whole process is that once people attach the word “gay” to you, that’s all they see from that point on. The other facets of your life and personality are all overshadowed by your sexuality. You become the “homo,” the “queer,” the “flamer” instead of a person who simply loves someone of the same gender.

I have so much respect for the crusaders of our day – Rosie O’Donnell, Elton John, kd lang, Melissa Etheridge, Ellen – but there are a few huge differences between them and most of the homosexuals in the rest of the country and beyond. They have celebrity, wealth and personal security; those are things that most of us can only dream of. I still believe that they are on the frontlines in terms of changing the way that society views homosexuality. They define and redefine what it means to be famous and open, unwilling to compromise, regardless of the consequences.

Perhaps, I can also have some impact on the perceptions of people around me. Maybe, with time, they will see that loving someone isn’t just something to joke about or make light of – it’s an admirable, honorable state of being.

Love is everything it’s cracked up to be… It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for.

– Erica Jong