The Post Formally Known As Brunch and other surprising revelations.
THIS ONE’S FOR the “perhaps I find myself far more interesting than anyone else does” file:
I realized today that The Post Formally Known as Brunch was, in fact, my “Coming Out” post.
A couple of categories of post-post internal reaction led me to the realization.
One occurred when a dear friend wrote to me privately, asking if I was aware how insensitive my latest Facebook update was to specific-family-members-who-shall-remain-nameless. After the initial jolt of surprise (kind of but also not really, because there was something in my pre-click-the-post-button moment that anticipated some pushback) and shock (again, kind-of, for the same reason), I wrote this reply:
“Actually, my honest answer is ‘not really’. And it’s not a glib answer. I guess I’ve reached a point with [specific-family-members-who-shall-remain-nameless (SFMWSRN)] where it seems I’ve done all the heavy lifting, in terms of accepting how they feel, empathizing, being kind (overtly and in tangible ways), being patient, and never actually asking for any of that back. Not expecting it, actually. (Though, to be fair, there are occasional kindnesses back — but far more acrimony and judgment.) And I’ll continue extending all of that to them forever, and continue not to expect understanding/empathy etc. back from them.
“But I also choose to embrace myself for all that I am (including the bad and the ugly), and try hard to be exactly that (‘all that I am’). And I’m not afraid to show the world who I am, just as I’d encourage everyone else to do the same.
“Of course I’ll be judged. But judgments of others’ characters always say much more about the judge him/herself, and — in this vein — I try not to judge even the most judgmental. Even so, some (many?) of the judgments made of me will be true, because I do have bad and ugly along with my good. But, as I’m trying to say: I’m okay with that.
“So. What I posted is ‘me’. If [SFMWSRN] want a relationship with me, it’s with that guy who posted. If they have issues with that guy, they can end the relationship, or invest something in making it better by reaching out to me, as you did. I’ll always listen, and empathize where I can, and also maintain my right to express myself truthfully. They can choose to interpret anything I say about being gay or happy as having something to do with them, and take it personally, or they can realize that their happiness/wellbeing/self respect isn’t undermined by me being myself and being happy.”
(There was more, including thanking the friend for a) communicating directly and authentically with me, and b) looking out for the people who may be impacted by my actions. But the above stuff is the point.)
In reflecting on the message after I sent it, I recognized a couple of truths that contradicted my message: the first is that I am, or have been, afraid to show the world who I am. I’ve posted about events that have included male partners, and a whole lot about my wedding with Thomas. So of course I haven’t hidden the fact that I’m gay. But at the same time I’ve never posted something as simple, and “normal”, as “I’m gay”. Somehow there’s a vast difference, to me anyway. I can recognize, even now, the vestigial shame — that I tried to ignore in hitting the “post” button on the Facebook update itself — that I felt in acknowledging it as baldly as that. The second truth is that the glib-sounding “I’m okay with that” is far too glib. It would have been more accurate for me to have said, “I’m working to learn to be okay with that”.
The second category of reaction is around the number of people who posted replies in the vein of “I/we … wondered/knew … instantly/a long time ago…”. It brought me back to that first moment of “coming out”, almost three years ago—in fact, the moment before that first moment, in which I felt, as a 45-year-old man with a wife and adult son, that I had been, and would be perceived as, weak, dishonest, reprehensible, for having denied/hidden/whatever my “real” sexuality for so long. I’m fascinated at how, even now, those comments triggered similar emotions: do these people think I was dishonest? Weak? Fake? Ridiculous? To be clear, there wasn’t the slightest hint of recrimination or judgment in one of them. Nothing evident, in fact, other than pure good will. Which doesn’t change those kneejerk self-uncertainties I experienced.
But back to the Big Realization: I officially Came Out yesterday. Or, perhaps more accurately, since I was never consciously In The Closet, I officially Claimed My True Self.
I had paused before uploading the post, because at a level that was almost, if not entirely, subconscious I knew that I was changing the conversation I have with my friends in a very public arena. Because I feared some kind of reaction, which indeed I received; those reactions being as bad as I’d imagined, and yet far more wonderful, in the liberation afforded by dealing with them, than I ever could have imagined. Because I still had deeply buried shame for being who I am: a gay man. Because I still find it easy to take responsibility for how my being gay affects my family, even though those effects offer them richness in the same way my gut-responses to my friends’ comments offered me richness.
But I pushed through. It’s done. I think I’m free.