My partner and I read through some of our old emails the other day—ones that were written at a point in time when both of us knew what we wanted, but we didn’t think we were allowed to have it. These messages were rife with utter confusion as we acknowledged our feelings for one another… embracing them, and yet somehow rejecting them at the same time. Letters about how we longed to be with each other… and letters about how we should seek out men in our life in order to “make things right”. I was seriously horrified as I read. How could we have been so disillusioned? And I was surprised that life was difficult?! These emails, coupled with our secret relationship, thrust me into an impromptu double life. But that’s how things had to be. I had no other choice, right?
Up until this point, my life has been compartmentalized into (not so) neat little boxes. I’ve always been extremely concerned about what people thought of me… so I would try to please everyone I knew, even if it meant making myself miserable. Operating my life on a “need-to-know” basis in terms of my sexual orientation eventually became unbearable. Little by little, I began to come out to those closest to me. Many took it well. Some did not. A few friendships were lost, and some grew stronger. The friends that I lost were not lost because they viewed things differently than me. They were lost because they treated me one way face-to-face, but said cruel things about me behind my back. They were lost because I spent more than a decade trying my darnedest to make them happy, and ultimately it didn’t matter, because their love was conditional anyway. I finally decided that I desperately needed to get out. (Better late than never, right?) Ironically, those who have said the worst (and most homophobic) things about me were people who were gay themselves, just deeply closeted. You ask how I know they are closeted individuals? Well, I know in the only way that one can know something like that firsthand: We were personally involved. (It’s certainly the greatest irony I’ve ever known. The more time I spend inside the gay Christian community, I realize I’m certainly not the only one this has happened to.) I suppose I get it… a former companion outs their old flame in order to take the suspicion off of themselves. If I’m “out and proud”, then people might assume they are “guilty” by association, given the history of our long-term friendships. The only thing they know to do is publicly disapprove of gays and lesbians; if they do that, no one will suspect them. I’m not gonna lie: at times, it makes me bitter. But as angry as it makes me, I have to try to understand where they’re coming from. I remember what it was like to be so scared that someone would find out, that I would’ve done practically anything to keep it from happening. Perhaps the most hurtful thing that arose from those situations is that, when questioned about their sexuality by others, I took every stride to protect them. But as it turns out, the favor wasn’t returned. It’s a real struggle for me at times—to keep quiet about the ones who so willingly put my personal life on display. But we are all human. We all have an innate drive within us to protect ourselves above all. I have to remember that these people don’t have bad intentions; their goal isn’t to hurt me. My pain is just a byproduct of their defense mechanism.
With that life lesson learned, I’ve slowly come to the realization that I cannot control what others will say or think. There’s simply no use to try (although it’s still easier said than done). As Eleanor Roosevelt so adequately said, “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” I can no longer waste precious years and energy attempting to please people in vain. All I can do is make sure I’m living right for me, within my own good conscience. My primary concern should be living a compassionate and wholesome life, and tending to the needs of my family.
Family. Now that’s important. For two years, I’ve only told my dad as much as he needed to know at the time. Although he knew I was gay, he didn’t know I had a partner. (At least, it wasn’t something that was actively discussed.) I was scared to tell him; I didn’t know how he would react. While home for Thanksgiving, we had a talk. I told him that I had a partner of over five years that I love very much. Dad has taken his own journey over the past few years, and he’s made it a point through and through to let me know his love comes without condition. We’ve had some really amazing conversations. As it turns out, not only does my dad tolerate me: he supports me and he’s actually happy for me. (Go figure!) He even called my partner his daughter-in-law. I was beyond ecstatic. For the first time in my life, I don’t feel the burden of secrecy. I don’t have to hide anymore. My partner and I can finally begin making plans for the future, putting the bittersweet past to rest….
…along with those old emails.