Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Days And Years Of Being Yourself

I just had a very amusing phone call from my friend Bodhi. Bodhi likes to celebrate milestones, and today is 1,000 days since he came out of the closet. The phone call was to tell me that he had SMS'd our friend Rabbit to remind him of the milestone, and Rabbit had SMS'd back "How long before they put you back in?".

It got me to thinking about how long it is since I came out. I don't have a clear date like Bodhi does. I told my school friends first, when I was 15. About 4 years after that my sisters found out, just before I was going to tell them, because I ran into one of them in a gay bar. (She isn't gay, she was there with friends.) By that time I was shacked up with a boyfriend, who emigrated to Australia so we could be together. I don't think it was a surprise to anyone.

I can hardly remember a time when nobody knew I was gay. I can't even imagine my friends, family and workmates not knowing anymore. So I guess I came out 26 years ago, or somewhere around 9,500 days ago. 9,500 days of being myself.


Sunshine said...

Can't remember the days when some people didn't know you were gay?? - welcome to my life :S

The Other Andrew said...

It's kind of weird, and fabulous, to consider. It's sort of easy to get complacent though and think everyone has it this good, but sadly it isn't the case.

On the rare times I encounter even a mild form of homophobia, it's kind of shocking (yet my memory isn't that poor that is also isn't oddly familiar).

duane said...

I have kind of always been gay, even though much of my life, I didn't know it or admit to it, at least not until December of 2000, when i told my best friend (it all pretty much snowballed from there). So I guess I am almost five years old (as my friend likes to put it).

A good friend of mine, whom I had known since high school, told me this when she found out: "we have known all along, and we liked you this whole time. What makes you think that you telling me was going to change anything?"

That was one time, I really didn't mind being reminded that I am obviously gay; and always have been.

The Other Andrew said...

Sweet story Duane. When I told a straight friend (when I was 15) the first thing he did was give me a huge bear hug. The perfect response that said a) it's ok and b) no, I'm not weirded out by being around you. He's still my good friend all these years later.

When I was 18 I worked as a telephone counsellor on a gay phone service and I would get guys that were 20, 30 years older than me ring up to bounce the idea off someone that they might come out. I don't think it's ever too late, but I know a friend of mine came out much later than me (after trying to sublimate things in a Catholic seminary) and feels like he wasted all that time. Sad.

Bodhi said...

The exact SMS was:

Moi: "1000 Days since I first Came Out today. Yaaaaay!"
Rabbit: "How many days till they put you back in?"

Little shit. But he is, as my daughter so often likes to state, a funny bunny. Gotta love him. I cracked up when I got the message, I must admit.

And just for the record people, I have always been gay as well. For as long as I can remember, I always knew that I had an attraction to boys that was utterly different and for whole other reasons than my merely passing interest in girls.

But, as we say in recovery circles, denial is not just a river in Egypt. It took 10 years of active addiction, a marriage and child, 12-step recovery and then a challange by my Buddhist practise whilst on retreat before I could come out to the world. I might have always known I was gay but just didn't want to accept it for many years. A few years before the end, I came to accept it within myself. Finally, 1000 days ago, I faced the final hurdle of self-created and projected fear and began the initially terrifying yet wonderful process of coming out to the world.

I have never been happier than I have been these past 1000 days. Never felt more integrated and at peace with myself and the world. Being gay is just a part of who I am as a total person, but having denied and surpressed that part of myself for so long the feeling now is truly one of liberation.

I so admire those of you who had the courage to come out at an early age, like you Andrew. But I don't regret that my path was to be different: I came out at the age of 37. There was a lot of pain for me in the process, and I mean a lot. But pain is also a great Teacher, and so I think I have been taught by the best. I have learnt a hell of a lot along the way that I would not have done so if my situation was otherwise.

I regret of course that I lied to my ex wife, but I will never regret that I shared my life for 13 years with a wonderful women. I am glad too that she is now happily remarried, and that we remain friends. And of course I have my daughter, The Kid. An absolute joy and blessing in my life. I consider myself very lucky indeed.

I'm gay. Who knew that two little words could so change my life. Well, OK, maybe many of you did ;-)

Sunshine said...

Well, I'll have to enlist one of you to tell my parents. :S

Bodhi said...

Sunshine. I refrained from telling my ultra-conservative and very Catholic parents parents for some time after I initially came out. I tried to look at my reasoning for this, and although to be perfectly honest there was initially some hesitation and fear in telling them, this was not why I hesitated. The primary focus for my delay is that I wanted to spare them any of the (all be it self-created) anguish that I knew this would cause them.

I had always been close to my parents, but 10 years of active addiction on my part understandably caused them a lot of pain and anguish, and put a serious strain on our relationship. Early on in my active addiction when my own mother looked me in the eyes and said to me "I just can't find it in my heart to love you anymore", you know things are not going well. Now after more than a decade in recovery, I had built up a great adult relationship with them. And had gained both their respect and love. Did I really want to put them through more now?

In the end though, I decided to go through with it nonetheless. Partly because I was sick of living a lie to them, and partly because I increasingly felt that no matter what their reaction might be, they deserved to know who their son was. They live 400km north, so rather than ring them and get overwhelmed by emotions, I decided to write them a letter so I could say all those things I felt I needed to say with as much pre-considered thought and clarity as I could muster.

I subsequently wrote and sent the letter. I did not go well, in a very brief and painful phone call they told me they wanted nothing to do with me, and did not want me visiting. My dad later sent me a heartbreaking letter that backed up this sentiment. I realised they they were being reactive, and needed time to digest and come to terms with my announcement.

We didn't speak for months. I then contacted them to try and re-establish dialogue but it was extremely difficult. I still loved them, even if they felt it difficult to love me back. Very, very slowly, they have thawed a little in attitude over time. There has been limited written and phone contact. But as of tommorow, I have not physically seen them in 18 months now. By far and away the longest period I have ever been without them. I still feel that loss of them in my life most days, but still love them unconditionally. After all it took me a long time to come to terms with my sexuality, so I cannot expect too much from them. All I can do is to continue to reach out to them in small ways whenever I can. I make sure that my 15 year old daughter still calls them on a regular basis (they have not seen her for 18 months either).

As difficult as it has been for me (every story is different), I don't for one second regret telling my parents that I was gay. I need to live my truth, and they needed to know that truth. I am proud to be a gay man, and if they can't or won't deal with that then its their issue, not mine. When it comes to my parents, I am reminded of the words, "I would rather be hated for who I am, then be loved for who I am not".

Interestingly enough, my parents were the only people who took my coming out in a negative way. Everyone else, without exception, have been overwhelming supportive and accepting. The coming out experience for me, my parents aside, has therefore been an extremely positive one. One of the very best decisions I have ever made in my life.

I wish you well on your journey Sunshine, not matter what you personally decide to do. If you ever want someone to talk to or bounce things off, I am happy for you to email me (or even call me if you want). I don't have any magic answers dude, I don't think that any of us do, but am happy to share of my experience and listen.


Sunshine said...

*hugz* Thanks for sharing that, Bohdi. My parents kind of know - my ex-best friend outed me but I don't think they would accept it until they hear it from me. I think my mum thinks I'm straying from the "path of righteousness" while my dad thinks I'm just going thru a phase. I think they're still waiting for the day when I tell them I've got a girlfriend. I'm just buying time atm. *sigh*