I Am Gay: Live Your Truth

live-your-truth

For so many reasons recently, I have been thinking about living my truth and how I got to this point.  First of all, my spiritual force, Oprah, has been talking a lot about living your truth.  Secondly, I just recently got married to *gasp* a man, my truth.  Thirdly, the motion picture Love, Simon was released nationwide last weekend.  Lastly, but I don’t promise to go in this order (the English teacher in me is disappointed but I need to just write) the new Queer Eye on Netflix has me crying like a baby each episode.  So for all of these reasons, I have just been thinking about my truth and my coming out and my years spent in the closet and how all of it might have been different if the media coverage today of gay men and women was out in the 90s or if the messages in movies and tv were what they are now.  Back in the 90s, a lot of my coming out would have been different, and much sooner, than the age of 26, that I know for sure.

IMG_1057

Let us begin with Mother Oprah, my force, my leader, my guide.  I love her.  The above quote is from her Golden Globes speech back in January 2018.  “What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we have.”  Wow-yes it definitely is and recently I have been having conversations with some of my students about speaking their truth and because of those conversations I have given some long thought about my truth and how it came to be and why it came to be the way it did.  I also heard on a podcast today Oprah say, “Every person who comes to Earth has a responsibility to seek the truest, highest expression.  And the keyword is true…the responsibility is how do you not just speak the truth but how are you the truth?  The responsibility is to show up in that which is the most authentic truthful version of yourself.”  Wowza that is a lot, right? My teenage self wouldn’t have been able to digest that, but my 41-year-old self say hell yes and what I do with that is take on the responsibility to show up as the most authentic version of myself and share my story and live my truth.

MY CLOSET

Let’s be truthful here, I love clothes and I love shoes and my closet is full of both.  Now THAT is a great closet.  But you know what isn’t a great closet?  The gay closet that I and so many people live or lived in for years.  People ask me when I knew I was gay and I always say that I knew I was different around 3rd Grade.  That was the first time I can place a feeling I had about a boy I knew.  It was a feeling of excitement in my tummy when I spent the night at his house, in his bedroom.  THIRD GRADE y’all!  Then in 6th Grade when I knew much more about what was going on with girls and boys, I knew that changing for PE meant getting down to our underwear to put on our shorts and t-shirt and I didn’t hate it.  Hahahah I didn’t hate it because it meant I got to see boys.  Now what I did with that information was suppress it down to the deepest place in my subconscious because I didn’t know what to do with that information.  There just weren’t examples for me to look up to or strive to be like or just to know that it is ok.  There was also a lot of hate.  In 7th Grade, minding my own business walking to class, someone for the first time in my life called me a faggot.  I can still see his face, clear as day, in my mind.  That reprehensible word has so much negativity and hate and for me, fear attached to it.  Now people were starting to notice I was different and they were calling me out and now I have to suppress my sexual orientation even more.  That was fear and not understanding and not knowing who or if I had anyone I could talk to about my feelings.  I remember telling my dad about that incident and he asked, “Where you walking really fast?”  Obviously he had some stereotypes in his head too, but he tried to help me make sense of it.

IMG_1056

In the new Queer Eye on Netflix in episode 4 a closeted gay man gets made over and comes out to his stepmom.  I sobbed like a baby, on the plane, over that moment.  But what one of the cast members said stuck with me when he talked about his coming out and having to climb over “the wall” of three words — I AM GAY.  Those three words were the hardest three words I have ever had to say.  It still gives me a feeling in my stomach thinking about the night I told my parents.  What I know now is that they love me no matter what and their reaction, staring at the wall, was out of fear; fear that my life would be harder and subject to discrimination and childless and partnerless and lonely.  None of that is true.  Maybe childless, but I chose that, and maybe I experienced a little discrimination or hate over the years, yes, but really, none of those fears came true.  But they all shadowed my life and why I kept things in the closet for so long.  One other thing I want to say here, about that night in 2002, is that I didn’t understand that sharing this piece of me wasn’t just about me.  Parents have to go on their own journey too because mostly out of fear, but also out of the need for a moment to digest things.  Wilson Cruz of My So Called Life fame recently said in a podcast, “They [parents] are really amazing now.  They had to go on their own journey and I needed to support them in that.  When we come out to people it’s not just about us, right?  Yes it’s our experience and we’re sharing our lives with people but I think we need to be generous in that moment, as well, to the people we’re coming out to and give them a minute to adjust and digest and then give them permission to show up for you.  But it’s not necessarily going to happen right away, and that’s ok.”  I wish I had handled my parents a little more gently.  I mean, I was surprised they were surprised considering all of my childhood interests, but they were nonetheless.  I started shoving it down their throats bringing up how hot Brad Pitt was and always wanting to talk about celebrity men, just to see their reaction.  Calm down and give them a minute, is what I wish I had done.  Regardless now of where I am or how I got here or how long I took to stay in the closet, I’m here now and I’m living my truth for the past 16 years.

 

One more thing about growing up in the 90s and living in the closet.  I loved season three of The Real World San Fransisco.  Pedro Zamora was my first introduction to a mainstream gay person on television.  I watched the show religiously each week and each week I watched this gay man live his truth, with AIDS.  This was an extremely admirable thing that Pedro did and a gift that he gave to all of us.  Yet, as a 15-year-old, closeted gay boy in small town Michigan, it was also incredibly fear inducing.  HIV?  AIDS?  The only thing I knew about those letters was that it meant you were gay and it meant you were going to die.  Pedro did die.  I didn’t want to die.  I didn’t want to get HIV.  And there you have a huge reason why I suppressed my feelings and my true self for so many years.  I was uneducated and as much work as Pedro did on the show TO educate me, fear won out in my head for far too long.  Part of it was just the way of life back in the 90s and I think, what if I was a teenager now, would I still be scared?  Sure, I am positive there would still be fear, but all of the information and media coverage that we have now about HIV, it is a very different time.  So thank god for Pedro and for his education of us all, but with it came a cost, a fear for me.

Love, Simon

Now here we are in 2018 and there is a major motion picture out in theatres called Love, Simon.

“No matter what, announcing who you are to the world is

pretty terrifying, ’cause, what if the world doesn’t like you?”

***

“P.S. It doesn’t seem fair that only gay people

have to come out.  Why is straight the default?”

 

59de56d04dfe8

What would it have meant to my 15-year-old self had this movie been out in the 90s?  What would it have meant to my parents at the time?  How would my life be different now?  I’m positive my life would be slightly different but not that much.  I’m here and I’m queer and I have a wonderful life.  I might have come out a lot younger.  My parents might have had a different experience the night I climbed over the “WALL” — I AM GAY.  But we all get to our truth when we are supposed to get to our truth.  We all, I hope, will eventually live our truth.  I hope that each person out there, gay teens, straight teens, people of all kinds, find the power in speaking their truth.

p2037

Whether you’re lucky enough to be gay or not —

Find Your Truth.

Speak Your Truth.

Live Your Truth.     

 

 

Celebrating 40: Dancing, Friendship, and Tea Bags

It’s here. The time has finally arrived. In a few months I will celebrate the 40 year mark in life and oh what a life it has been. Just last weekend this idea for a blog came to my mind. Of course my blog is about life and not letting it pass you by and it’s about celebrating the great things that come our way whether big or small. So I didn’t win the Powerball billions, but I sure feel like I have won in many other ways and parts of my life. “Celebrating 40” is going to be sort of like my version of Oprah’s “What I Know For Sure” at least what I think I know, kind of, at the age of 40.  What I do know for sure is that I’m glad I’m not 23, friendship is awesome, and I have a life Well Traveled.

d99db789af7c05add063cc0a97dd008e

Last weekend a couple friends and I jumped in the car and drove to Bloomington, Indiana, because, why not? Two of us had never been there and we had the time and freedom to do it, so why not? A couple of “What I Know For Sure” moments happened very organically which made me want to write this bog.  At the end of the night, we found ourselves at the local Bloomington club/gay bar filled with early 20 somethings dancing and it was definitely the place to dance.  We walked in to Beyonce, which transitioned to “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” which transitioned to other 80s and 90s pop.  None of us even made a move to the bar for a cocktail, we had had enough. All we wanted to do was dance, and dance we did, for 2 hours until 2 a.m. What is so incredible to me is that at first I thought, “these kids weren’t even blips on the reproductive radar when Cyndi was singing ‘Oh daddy dear you know you’re still number one, and girls they want to have fu-uuun, Oh girls just want to have fun,'” but they were out there dancing and so were we. Patrick danced so much it was like he had just walked out of the lake in his clothes. I just kept looking around thinking how fun it was to be dancing, first of all, and then not giving a care in the world what these kids were probably thinking, like, “who are these old people dancing their fool heads off?” #sorrynotsorry #dontcare #im39 #respect I always have been a dancer at a bar with good music, but what is different now is that I don’t have this sense of looking around and wondering what others are thinking(but have I ever really?-Probably not). I was having fun, so it did not matter. Years ago that wouldn’t have been the case. So with age does come some confidence, some assurance, and a sense of not really caring what others think. It was just so much fun. I often do think, more recently, “Thank god I’m not 22.”  I had so much fun back then and I’m sure these kids were having fun too, but man, almost 40 is kind of awesome, I must say.

Earlier in the evening I had the great pleasure of spending time with some of my friend Sarah’s friends from her time at Indiana University. What I know for sure is that, if you have really good, unique, cool, interesting, well traveled, experienced friends, they also have really cool friends who they introduce you to and within minutes you’re having deep, philosophical conversations. Well, that might be because one of the friends is a college professor, regardless, there is an ease to really wonderful conversation. There is something really nice about drinking great wine, eating delicious food and connecting with people you have never met before. I guess I don’t really have anything profound to say, more just reflecting that I’ve spent a great many years meeting and spending time with some pretty cool, fascinating, crazy(in all the good ways), and crazy(in all the bad ways)people who have introduced me to cool, fascinating, crazy and crazy other people. So with time I can for sure say, I’m glad I’m not 23 again because I’ve had 16 amazing years meeting all these crazy cool people.

IMG_7365

Ok, and then there are those moments when you just bust out laughing and you pee in your pants a little because something is so funny.  My mom would say, “That struck me funny.” On Sunday it is safe to say we all needed a few Advil. Whether it was for a headache due to drinking too much or aching muscles due to dancing all night, that doesn’t matter, we had a 4 hour drive ahead of us. When we stopped on the road I got a Starbucks jasmine mint tea. It was delicious. I always use my tea bags twice.  Maybe it is a secret single behavior or I’m living in the depression, regardless, you can get two good uses out of tea bags(all you dirty minded people stop right there!). As we were cleaning out the car I said, “I’ll keep this.” It was my cup with my tea bags. Patrick and Sarah questioned. I said, “I like to use them twice and this was particularly delicious.” Without hesitation Sarah says, “Well Patrick and I can chip in to get you a box of tea bags girl!” We laughed and laughed and laughed in the middle of the street.  Well girl, I’m not poor, so I don’t need you to buy me tea bags, but what I do need you to do is keep being my friend.

29534aee9065a22a4e46e4b16705912f

What I know for sure as I Celebrate 40 is that friendships have been the single greatest part of my life. Friendships have gotten me through so many tough times and have made the fun times even better. Good lord who would ever want to be in middle school again? Not me, but having friends made it bearable. Having friends who served you Blue Maui and pineapple juice cocktails freshman year of college, yeah you’re right, that isn’t a friend. I’m lucky that I have friends from as far back as age 4 to new ones as of last weekend who are really incredible, cool people. They make my life experience that much better.

 

I don’t know where this journey will end
Cause the world keeps calling me
At home people embrace me as a friend
And I’m loving all the energy