My relationships are important:
Finding my authenticity in my gay relationships
By: Michael Moore
Sometimes a truth shines through to you that is so shockingly simple, yet so authentically moving, that it is disorienting. A niblet of an idea that you have held in your unconscious is revealed in its full, incredible value. Recently, I discovered this profound notion that, well: my relationships, the boyfriends that I have had and will have, are… important. They are so damn important! As the reader you may be saying to yourself, “uh yeah, so what?” As a young, gay man though, I cannot fully describe how this realization is changing how I see myself, my authenticity, and my self worth; allow me to share this simple, yet profound discovery with you.
Throughout my childhood and into my late teen years, I hid my sexuality from my family, friends, and the world. Coming out was not really an option for me. Even though I discovered my sexuality relatively young, my heart knew that it was not safe for me to disclose this information to anyone, not my parents and not my friends (and retrospectively it really was not safe). For me, the closet became my sacred, albeit dark, place for self-exploration and self-understanding. I went through several crucial mental developmental stages (and even physical stages… puberty!) within the closet. Long story set-aside, after much internal turmoil and self-evolution, and the help of a compassionate, patient counselor my freshman year in college, I was able to begin to accept my gay identity and myself.
Accelerating the fast-forward button to the 2015 version of myself, I have grown so much, and so deeply, from this rough start in life. With wonderful therapists and supporters in my life, I have worked through some incredibly deep and powerfully shaping events that occurred throughout my childhood; some that I now classify as traumatic. My therapists and friends have beared witness to my experiences and have helped me become my most authentic self; with new growth and understanding everyday. With my therapist, I have been able to really process and grieve some of the most intense, traumatic events, but this past week, I noticed that I have been unconsciously holding back a part of my lived experience — my relationships.
Internalized homophobia is no laughing matter, and I believe most sexual minority individuals across the gender and sexuality spectrum (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, etc.) experience internalized prejudice to some varying degrees in their lifetimes — I know I did and do. When you grow up in a society that tells you very blatantly that gay people are disgusting, vile, morally-depleted, second-class citizens, you really start to internalize those ideas. This is crucially relevant in my discovery that my relationships, the boyfriends I have had, and will have, are actually an impactful event in my lived experience.
I have always felt relational stuff, boyfriends, girlfriends, and spouses for my friends and acquaintances as an important and valid part of their lives. I have given my undivided support and love to friends going through hard breakups, and I even remember a professor once stating in the syllabus that a breakup was a valid reason to ask for extension on a paper (which I sincerely appreciated (for others)). For me though, I believe now that I truly applied this internalized homophobia to my relationships.
In undergrad, during my junior year, I had my first relationship. My boyfriend and I were both starting to step out of our respective and emotionally complex closets. Only a few of my friends knew that I was gay. One day, in conversation, I leaked that I had a partner — a girlfriend. My boyfriend’s name at the time was gender neutral; let’s call him Jordan. It was easy to still use his name while simultaneously masking the pronouns with her, instead of his. This masquerade helped protect my identity, but in a lot of ways negated its importance. Hiding my partner’s identity, and thus mine, put internalized shame around Jordan in my mind. The constant linguistic monitoring made me want to avoid the subject of my relationship altogether, and the idea of Jordan meeting my friends was off the table completely. I still remember the day I came out to my best friend and anxiously said, “yeah you know Jordan? Jordan is a he not a she.”
Although I am proudly living outside of my closet now, it does not mean the need to hide my relationships — my identity — is not still unconsciously with me. With this newfound realization, I want to make space cognitively, emotionally, and socially for my relationships. I have been taught that my relationships are not important and should be hidden and even though I’m out, I have deeply internalized this notion. I have given my unconditional support and energy to console friends in the relational realm, and it is now time that I allow myself to receive that same support.