When I was growing up I felt different and I knew I was different. I played baseball and football with my friends and had the same interests as they did, but I knew something was not the same. The term gay wasn’t used back then, the term was homosexual and it was a word that caused both laughter and revulsion.
I even made believe I was interested in girls!
There weren’t many people who admitted to being homosexual, because doing so was akin to a death sentence, if not for your life, for your job, your career and your reputation. The most famous person whom most thought was gay, was Liberace. He was extremely talented and extremely flamboyant, but he never admitted he was gay. Most celebrities back then had to hide their sexuality in order to maintain their careers. They had sham marriages and sham girlfriends to fend off the gossip mongers and tabloids. But many noncelebrities did the same. I even made believe I was interested in girls!
…I was terrified and wanted no part of that life.
The only openly gay person I knew was a person who lived in my neighborhood, Norman. He was a hairdresser, who was also very flamboyant, as he was commonly seen sporting makeup pastel-colored wigs and carrying his dyed pink miniature poodle. He was constantly the subject of laughter, ridicule and harassment. I can still remember my uncle, a city cop, relating stories where he and his fellow police officers raided parties where Norman and his friends were just having fun, only to harass them. I knew I was different, but I wasn’t like Norman and I didn’t want to be. If Norman was what it was like to be a homosexual, a gay, I was terrified and wanted no part of that life.
It was still quite risky to let anyone even entertain the thought that I might be gay.
Once I went to college and away from my hometown I began to allow myself to at least explore my sexual feelings. It was still quite risky to let anyone even entertain the thought that I might be gay. When I started to think I might be gay, my mind always forced the image of Norman into my consciousness. In my thirties and having lived away from home for a number of years, I was ready to admit to those closest to me, and myself, that I was gay. I came out to my family after my father had passed away from a long bout with cancer. My siblings and my nephews took the news okay, but my mother didn’t. She constantly accused me of being a pedophile, a drug addict, an alcoholic and referred to me as a faggot with faggot friends. She was more concerned with what her friends would think about her, than she was about my welfare and happiness. She was never without her St. Jude prayer card, praying for a miracle.
I was ready to step out of the closet.
When I moved to Boston to work in a well-known hospital I found freedom, freedom to be gay. I think almost half of my department was gay and the entire hospital was generously staffed with gays in every department. I was not alone. I was ready to step out of the closet. I did not hide the fact I was gay from my staff, my coworkers and my neighbors. Did you notice that I didn’t say friends? That’s because outside of my coworkers and my neighbors I didn’t have any friends! No gay friends outside of work.
I laughed it off, even though it really hurt.
I went to gay bars and to gay functions, but I couldn’t make friends. I was in my thirties and overweight, a combination that did not sit too well with most gays I came into contact with. Even when I attended events for gays, sponsored by the medical community, where one received his education and the position you held, was more important than what kind of person you were. I could lose weight, but I couldn’t change my age or where I went to college. I was who I was. I laughed it off, even though it really hurt. I still had no real gay friends and I eventually gave up trying to find any.
“I wasn’t gay enough”.
All of my friends were straight and were either neighbors or people I worked with. They knew I didn’t have any gay friends, as I didn’t hide the fact. One of my gay coworkers told me that the reason I didn’t make friends in the gay community was because “I wasn’t gay enough”. Apparently, he had received this feedback from some of his friends he had introduced me to. According to him, “I didn’t dress gay or even talk gay” and I “always hang around with straight people at straight places”. I had always thought being gay was a matter of sexual attraction. I didn’t know there was a particular way to talk or dress, or that I could only patronize gay gyms or restaurants.
I was gay and I was going to be gay in my own way!
I have always been told, by straight friends, that I was too sloppy to be gay, as my office and desk were in constant disarray and I dressed in a way that made me feel comfortable and not in a way to impress anyone or dress the way a gay person is supposed to dress. I did try to dress in clothes from Banana Republic or A&F, like good gays are supposed to dress and I did join a gay gym. I hated every minute of being that person. That wasn’t me. I wasn’t going to change just to fit into someone else’s criteria for being gay. I was gay and I was going to be gay in my own way!
Maybe it was her dementia or maybe it was St. Jude,…
I gave up trying to fit in and accepted the fact that I probably would spend the rest of my life alone, without any gay friends. My decision eliminated a lot of stress in my life and I felt comfortable with it. At the same time my mother finally accepted the fact that I was gay and even encouraged me to find “someone”. Maybe it was her dementia or maybe it was St. Jude, but anyway I was relieved. Not long after I gave up trying to fit in I met Kevin, my now husband. I didn’t meet him here, but in Malaysia, where he was forced to live in the closet, as I once did. Before moving here to live together, he too came out to his family and friends, and has never looked back.
No more closets and no more pretending…
I am happy now and I don’t regret “coming out of the closet”, even though I didn’t get very far. I see that I didn’t have to get very far, because I only had to be myself and by doing that I was able to meet Kevin. I still have only straight friends, mainly because we are new to this small town,and there is no gay community here or gay-oriented groups, and no one really cares about sexual orientation, as was the case when I was growing up. No more closets and no more pretending for the both of us. If only all LGBTQ people could enjoy what we have. We are truly lucky and truly blessed.
Originally Posted in Medium.com