Monday, June 16, 2008

Pride and coming out - Part I

Most people know that June is kind of the unofficial Pride month. (Here in DE we celebrate Pride in Sept, after the influx of summer tourists has subsided.)
In honor of this unofficial month of Pride, I'm doing like fellow blogger Java and many others and posting this photo (taken by Kelly) along with my coming out story. Why don't you do it, too? Then leave a comment on Kelly's blog so he can link your post and coming out story with the others he's collecting. I think its a super idea!

I began writing my 'coming out' story very shortly after coming out, about 15 years ago, and have been developing it into a story ever since. Its definitely too long to post in its entirety, so rather than possibly ruining the story with severe editing, I will chunk it up into a series of posts, starting today.

I hope you readers will enjoy the story and decide to post the above photo along with your coming out stories, too. And don't forget to tell Kelly!

“There’s a new guy in my congregation named Baron. He just moved here a few weeks ago. He reminds me so much of you! You’ve just GOT to meet him. I know you’ll like each other and become friends,” my friend Alice excitedly encouraged during a phone conversation in September 1987. “I invited him to join us on our annual ski weekend. I know you haven’t met him yet, and he isn’t exactly part of ‘our group’ yet, but I just KNOW you’re going to like him. He’s going to be at our ski trip planning meeting this Saturday so you can meet him then. I can’t believe how much he reminds me of you. I’m sure he’ll like you, too.” If only Alice knew just how right she was!

Every year Alice and I would plan a bargain ski weekend for a select group of friends. We began planning for it in September and shared the details with the others during a planning meeting and potluck dinner. Although there were about 20 people at this gathering and I was in charge of the planning meeting, I was determined to spend enough time with this Baron, who reminded Alice so much of me, to find out his “story”.

I found that he was the roommate of a friend of mine, Cliff, with whom I’d lost touch a few years ago. He and Baron had lived as roommates in New York, then moved back to Alice and Cliff’s hometown. I remembered the ski weekend where I had met Cliff several years before and the unexplained bond we shared, despite having just met. I felt this same mysterious bond once again meeting Baron.

After the ski planning meeting and potluck were over I volunteered to wash the dishes and Baron offered to help. Elbow deep in soapsuds we found we had much in common and were glad to have been introduced by Alice. That was the beginning of a very memorable relationship.

Baron and I began calling each other long distance several times a week, before anyone had “free long distance”, and I would receive postcards from all over the US, where his flights took him. We shared experiences related to work, caught up on people we both knew, and continued to find things we had in common. We developed a friendship that became very important to us both.

In June of 1988 we took a 3-day weekend to go to the beach. Neither of us got much of a tan because we stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking, and then slept until 11. By the time we showered, had lunch, and got to the beach it was late in the afternoon. But all that talking was good. I felt I finally had a friend I could trust and with whom I could confide. As the last of the die-hard beach goers packed their things and left us two alone on the beach, I decided to reveal to my best male friend the inner turmoil I had felt for years.

I explained to him that I thought I was in love with Kim, a young woman in my congregation, and that I was sure she was in love with me. However, I was concerned that some days I felt I wanted to make a commitment to her and get married, but other days I wanted to end the romantic relationship entirely. Although my feelings for her didn’t really change, it was my own reaction to them that seemed to run hot and cold. I just couldn’t make a decision one way or the other. Baron was very understanding and asked me questions to help draw out my feelings and their possible causes. Our similarities seemed to continue, as he told me that he was in a very similar situation with a young woman in California! Although no resolution was found, it just felt good to have someone with whom I could share these personal feelings, who understood. But I wasn’t quite ready to divulge everything, for fear this might spoil the friendship I had begun to treasure.

Later that night as we lied in our beds, talking until nearly sunrise, I decided to share with him the real reason I was having difficulties with the romance with Kim. I confessed to him that my reason for sometimes wanting to dissolve the romance entirely was because I had homosexual feelings for many years, and despite repeated prayers for God to “cure” me, I just couldn’t seem to shake the feelings. At one time I’d thought that by making a commitment to her and getting engaged, I could prove to God that I was serious about really wanting to be straight. I’d even talked to her about the possibility of getting married and she was excited about it. But after more thought on it, I felt it would be wrong to plan to marry knowing this about myself. I told Kim I felt we were moving a little too fast by talking about engagement, and that we should take a step backward for the time being. She was disappointed, but would do whatever it took.

When I stopped talking there was a pause that seemed to last forever. Then somewhat to my surprise, but not really, Baron shared that he also had homosexual feelings for years and that was why he’d moved from California to New York; to distance himself from that woman in California!

I was elated to find that I wasn’t alone as the only Jehovah's Witness who had gay feelings. Baron told me that we were definitely not alone, but that our friend Cliff was also battling the same feelings. Now the “mysterious bond” I’d felt with Cliff and then with Baron was a lot less mysterious. Baron also told me about several other JW men whom he knew or suspected shared our difficult situation. Once again, although no resolution was found, I was comforted in having finally said it to someone I could trust; someone who knew what it was like.

Our common bond caused Baron and I to want to spend all available time together, even though we lived about 75 miles apart. I would spend weekends at his place, and he would spend some weeknights at my place, since I lived closer to the airport. Soon we had the same circle of friends and I’d spend my leisure time at work anticipating all the fun we’d planned. We were best friends.

Then in January of 1989 the movie “Beaches” came out and Baron and I were absolutely convinced the writers had used excerpts from our friendship on which to base that movie! Occasionally we called each other CeeCee and Hilary. We talked for hours, we laughed, we sang, we cried, we commiserated about our shared plight. We knew we had fallen in love with each other, but both of us wanted to be true to God and our religion’s prohibition of homosexuality. We decided we would have to be extra careful that we never became physically involved, but that “normal friendship activities” would certainly be safe.

We planned a vacation together in March of 1989, to see the beautiful coastal landscapes along Scenic Highway 1 in California. Baron greeted me at the airport in Los Angeles, and I can remember what felt like electricity in the air that night. After grabbing a bite to eat, we checked into a motel and I soon fell asleep due to the jet lag.

The second night of our trip we slept in the same bed, and held each other, feeling pure love, but also gaining strength from each other to face another day of knowing we could never experience physical love and fulfillment because of our religion.

The third night of the trip we weren’t as strong, and finally engaged in a little bit of "fooling around". This is what the JW religion would call “loose conduct”, although it was extremely mild by most other standards. We didn’t tell anyone of it at first. We decided to plead for God’s forgiveness in prayer. We also decided to stop having contact with each other for a trial period of 6 months, in order to prove to God that we were really sorry.

Our synchronicity came into play once again. In April of 1989, during the first month of our self-imposed separation, unknown to each other we were both making cassette tapes for each other, containing songs that meant a lot to us. Not surprising, both tapes contained several of the same songs; many from the “Beaches” soundtrack, and the tapes crossed each other in the mail. I'd mailed him my tape the day before leaving on a business trip. He knew where I was going and sent his tape for me to my hotel. The next day I listened to the cassette over and over again and cried the entire 3 hour drive home. To this day the song “The Secret Marriage Vow” by Sting brings tears to my eyes.

Those six months were the worst of my life; at least it felt that way then. Everyone noticed a change in my mood and personality, but I couldn’t tell them what was really causing my distress. I told them I was tired, or I was feeling ‘under the weather’. I remember being so depressed that I stayed home from a social function, which was totally unlike me, just so I could tell them I wasn’t feeling well. Although my family and friends (all of whom were JWs) were right there where they had always been, I felt so terribly lonely and isolated.

I began experiencing periods of real depression again; similar to those I had before I’d met Baron. At its worst, I remember wishing I would simply not wake up again, because surely death would be preferable to the pain of this life.

Crush du Jour: Matthew Cameron


Anonymous said...

This is such a sad story so far; it makes me want to hug you.


Unknown said...

First... thanks for posting the picture and spreading the word and second... thanks for telling your story and I sooooo look forward to hearing the rest... thank you!

Java said...

I remember (now) that you grew up JW. But I haven't read any of your story before now. I'm hooked. Can't wait for the next installment.

Glad you're displaying your pride!

cb said...

Two things-- First, please tell me that love (and sex) won out over your JH training and you shagged each other rotten!

And second-- something tells me you were the Hillary and he was CeeCee.

Just a guess! :-)

Rick said...

Just like this furry creature beautiful! It is bringing back memories of my own issues and all I can say is how much I'm admiring your devotion to your faith at this point.
I'm waiting till this evening to read part 2.
Thanks for sharing.