Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Coming out - Part III

I called my father asked him to come over. I told him I had to talk to him about a private matter and requested he not bring my mother. I was very nervous, but at least this wasn’t the first time I’d had to do this.

I decided to tell him first about having gay feelings and not acting on them for many years. He was very interested and had lots of questions. He wanted to know how long I’d had these feelings, what I thought was the cause of them, and had he not spent enough time with me as a boy, etc. I was surprised at how calmly I was able to answer them. I told him I remembered in my early teens having feelings of being ‘different’ at first, not identifying the feelings as ‘gay’ right away. I told him that the feelings changed from feeling ‘different’ to feeling ‘normal’ to me. I told him that despite what the JWs teach about homosexuality being a learned behavior, I was absolutely sure that I was born that way. It wasn’t his or my mother’s fault; it was just a fact of life, like being born left-handed instead of right-handed, or growing up with red hair instead of brown hair. I explained to him that for many years I didn’t know anyone who was gay, yet I knew that I was gay, so how could the JW teaching of homosexuality being a learned behavior be correct? Who did I learn it from? I tried to explain it as logically and calmly as possible, without an inappropriate level of emotion, as I knew this to be a ‘style’ my father could relate to, and he really seemed to understand. My nervousness seemed to lessen after we’d gotten started, and I felt much closer to him once my lifelong secret was out in the open.

But then came the hard part: telling him I’d been privately reproved. I explained that for nearly 30 years I’d been repressing the feelings, praying to be cured, and trying hard to do the right thing – but that I’d slipped twice. He was much more comforting to me than the Elders to whom I’d originally confessed. He reminded me that we are all imperfect and fall short of God’s righteous requirements everyday. Although some sins are more serious than others, he reminded me that God’s heart is large and he wants to forgive. I started to get choked up and I could feel hot tears begin to crawl down my cheeks. This was the comfort I should have gotten the first time! Unfortunately, it was not to last.

With Baron’s move to California and then on to London, and my previous Elders’ request that I break off all ties with him, our feelings slowly began to fade. Love is like a flower: with attention it blossoms, with neglect it wilts. I missed Baron so much and wanted more than ever to be with him. I really needed someone to talk to who could understand.

For a while I kept the condition of not seeing him, but later we arranged some secret visits. But these visits became fewer and farther in between. I tried to discuss it with him a few times but he always had reasons why he had to go elsewhere on his days and weeks off of work, and I always accepted them. Looking back now I can see that he was subconsciously distancing himself from me because he didn’t want to have to speak with the Elders again if we became physically involved again. We continued to write letters and call. He would always assure me I was the most important person in his life, and that he still loved me very much. But those words seemed to lose their meaning when I counted only 3 times he had visited me in 1992, for only 2 or 3 days at a time. Maybe it was his fault. Maybe I had developed so much emotionally that I couldn’t be satisfied by his occasional, brief visits. Maybe it was simply time for both of us to move on.

I was contacted in the fall of 1992 by an old friend from high school named Patrick. We had tried to keep in touch over the years since school had ended, but months and years sometimes passed before we saw each other. Patrick had told me he was gay while we were still in high school, so when I was trying to be a good JW I would purposely avoid him. But when he called me this time, I had news for him.

I told Patrick that I was gay, which was no surprise to him, and then about Baron. He sympathized and shared with me that he’d recently ended a relationship that wasn’t going anywhere. We sort of delighted in the fact that both of us were ‘in the same place’. Well, not exactly. I reminded him I was still a JW and that although I was gay, I was putting my faith in God and trying not to act on my feelings.

He told me “You’ll go insane if you keep this up. Its not healthy. You’ve got to be who you are.” I tried to explain my religious beliefs that made this behavior necessary, but as I spoke them to him it felt as if I were repeating a memorized speech. I realized that I didn’t even believe what I was telling him.

Patrick shared with me that he had been seeing a therapist for depression. One of the things his therapist had recommended to help him combat isolation was to get out into the community regularly and make friends. Patrick said he wanted to go to a gay dance club and bar in Washington DC, and asked me to go with him because he was too anxious to go alone. I knew as a JW I should not go with him, even if it were for his mental health!

I told Patrick I would go but that I was afraid, so we put it off for a while. Instead we both started attending some social events with the local gay and lesbian social group. This seemed ‘safer’ since the events all took place in people's homes.

Once again I allowed myself to fantasize about stepping out of my JW life and imagined life as an ‘out’ gay man. I remembered those happy couples at the diner who live in their smartly decorated California ranch style houses with the red Spanish tile roof, who host dinner parties and serve cocktails and play Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, and who roll their eyes at the other who is searching for a coupon while grocery shopping together, and who will end their evening cuddled up on their sofa watching TV together. I wanted all that, more than ever.

I believe it was at that point that I finally decided to take control of my own life, instead of letting the JW religion control it. Thanks to the advice Patrick shared from his therapy sessions, I identified the root causes of my own unhappiness and depression and decided to do something about them. So now came the formidable challenge of undoing years of JW training. I knew that I did not choose to be gay, that I was born that way, and that there’s nothing wrong with that. That alone was a huge step!

Next it was time to seriously change my eating habits. I was about 40 pounds overweight and had developed the bad habit of eating out frequently. Depression can be complicated by bad nutrition and inadequate exercise. Patrick told me about a book called “Fit for Life” that promotes better health and weight loss through proper food combining. I read the book and began trying the correct food combinations. Debbie, Patrick and I began bicycling together. By May of 1993 I had lost those extra 40 pounds. None of my clothes fit so I had fun buying new ones. Everyone noticed the weight loss and how healthy I looked and acted.

During this time I began to disengage from the idea that I would stay in the JW religion despite being gay. Although I still attended most of the services (3 times a week), I no longer prepared for them at home and slowly participated less at the services. But my energy level and optimism in life was so high they were impossible not to notice. How convenient that I could attribute my new attitude to my diet.

Next I got a stylish haircut; one my JW parents didn’t like. My mother, who was still unaware of my coming out to my father, suggested the haircut was “too trendy”, and that “someone might mistake you for being gay”. I didn’t tell her that if that happened, it wouldn’t be a mistake! Instead I got different, less “trendy” haircut. After all, I was still a ‘work in progress’.

I still thought about Baron from time to time, but it wasn’t like before when I would ache to hear from him or spend the entire drive home from work anticipating opening my mailbox for a postcard. With the time difference between the US and London, it was very difficult for us to talk on the phone. When I got home from work in the evening he was going to bed, or he was on a layover in another country in Europe or Asia even farther ahead of me in time. It had been several months since he’d been in touch, and I felt I had all but lost him.

But at the same time all the changes in me were exciting. I had my new physique, new clothes, and a new attitude! Now I was getting curious about what a gay bar would be like, so I phoned Patrick and told him I felt like I was ready to go out with him now.

Crush du Jour: Greg Vaughn


Java said...

Such exciting changes as you begin to come out! I'm loving this story.

David Dust said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Dust said...

Mark -

As always, your writing is engaging, informative, and entertaining. You do this type of multi-chapter personal story better than ANYONE. I mean that.

I eagerly await the next installment.



PS - I think you're right - it MUST be the goatee


EMikeGarcia said...

I am really enjoying your writing.

I would tell my own coming out story, but, people would think I stole a script from a telenovela.

Mica said...

i love reading your posts. keep them up!


Victor said...

I'd guess that your father reacted so calmly and better than the Elders did because he suspected the truth all along.

cb said...

God, what a mindfuck job the JW's did on you! Making you feel guilty enough to 'confess' your indiscretions?


Anonymous said...

I am liking where your own self-discoveries are beginning to take you through this process.