Thursday, June 19, 2008

Coming Out

Originally published at Homomojo, then on my old blog Imustbedreaming. Contains some graphic details–not too bad, but if you’re related to me you’ll probably want to NOT READ THIS SECTION.
Hope you learn something.
It was in junior high school that I first realized I might be gay. After gym class one day, we were all changing in the locker room, when I heard a voice on the other side of the room say jokingly, “Hey, Coach, like my sexy underwear?” Everyone else laughed. The voice belonged to the tallest, hunkiest kid in class, Sean. At 14 and already 6 feet tall, with jet black hair, ice blue eyes, and a swimmer’s build, he was adored by everyone. As I glanced around the corner of the lockers, I saw him standing there wearing only his white sox and very well-filled black bikini briefs. In one glance I took in every aspect of his body–I will remember that sight for the rest of my life. I hurried back to my locker and continued changing, and realized that part of me down below really, really liked those briefs. I got dressed quickly, hoping no one had noticed my reaction and told myself that it was only a coincidence and I should put it out of my mind. None of the other boys seemed to have noticed anything, since no one said anything about it. And since none of the other boys had the same effect on me, I thought it was nothing to worry about. Over the next couple of years or so, however, I noticed that quite a few of the better looking boys I went to school with did effect me. I would daydream about them while walking home from school or between classes, and while I dreaded gym class–I managed to NEVER take a shower at school because I scheduled gym for the last class of the day–I stole quite a few glances around the locker room checking things out and comparing myself to the older boys. I noticed that age didn’t really relate to, um, development, if you get my meaning, because I seemed to be much bigger in some respects than some of the boys older than me. Which I found confusing, to say the least. I started dating girls, like everyone else, and found that conversations with my friends, which had always been so easy for me, took on a new difficulty because the conversations more and more turned to dating, girls, and sex. I think this is when I actually realized I was gay. There was no urge in me when talking about girls, no sense of the excitement that my friends oozed effortlessly when expounding on the glories of boobs. I found that I became the quiet one in these conversations–a REAL turnaround for me. I listened with feigned interest in these vapid conversations, stealing glances at the backs of jeans of boys going to and fro in the halls, while going, “uh-huh” and offering other useless mutterances to appear involved in the conversation. I did learn, however, what were the “right” things to say to blend in, and how to cover my true feelings.
As my friends and I got older and they developed more intimate relationships with their girlfriends, I went through several “relationships” that would obviously go nowhere. I even went so far as to actually date a girl from a different school–I hear some people make this up, but I actually did it–so that I would have an excuse for a long relationship that I could embellish to the other boys. I took parts of their tales of conquest and wove them into my own, all the while trying to convince myself that I wasn’t gay, that I just needed to find the right girl, and that I was biding my time. After all, I was raised severely Catholic–my grandfather was a deacon, for Christ’s sake! There was no way I could live as a gay man. Another part, and probably one of the most essential parts, of my cover was that I can be one funny fucker. I’ve always had a knack for mimmickry and schtick, and somehow I manage to joke my way out of difficult situations. I must confess now that while in my teen years I probably said more hurtful, homophobic jokes and remarks than I would deem possible by one person, but they were an effective cover. And I hurt and separated myself from a couple of friends because of it. You see, I had never really thought that anyone else in my school was gay. (Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong in that assumption. My Gaydar seems to have developed later–but I’ll get to that.)
I was sick during homecoming my senior year, and I missed the football game. When I got back to school, my friends were all joking about how two of my other male friends–from chorus and drama (which I was heavily involved in) had kissed after a touchdown for our team. Inside, I was almost insatiably aroused by the thought, but I desperately maintained my facade, saying that it was gross and “eww” and so forth. When I saw these friends in the hall I glared at them with hate. Either they were just joking around, as everyone was saying (which pissed me off and hurt my feelings for some stupid reason), or they were really gay, which hurt even more because I realized that they had each other while I had no one–and I could have loved either of them! It took me a long time to stop being bitter, but by then I had alienated them both to the point of our mutual disgust for each other. Alex, Scott . . . it’s far too little and too late, but I apologize.
During my junior year in high school I began my first job at a pizza store within walking distance from my school. I would walk from school to work and then get picked up or given a ride home. By the time I started this job, I was pretty sure I was gay, but was still ashamed of myself and was determined to fight it every step of the way. One of my friends, Shay, asked me one time in the back of the store if I was gay. She was dating one of my best friends, and her mother is a lesbian. I vehemently denied it, and she let the subject die. Whew! It didn’t help that my boss was a woman who only hired good looking guys, and we all changed together in the back room. It took every effort I had to keep from throwing my friend, Chad–a year younger than me–on top of the pizza boxes and taking my prize. I think he may have caught my lingering eye as he changed once or twice, but he never said anything, and he’s still my friend to this day. He’s hopelessly straight, but the memories of those high school fantasies will be with me forever.Basically, that was my M.O. for the next few years. I made my way up to manager and was told by the part-owner that I was in line to get my own store within a couple of years. Here I was, 19 years old, making 30 grand a year, living at home still, with a brand new Nissan 4×4 pickup (which I still miss to this day), facing the decision to either continue past my just-completed freshman year of college or go into business as my career. Foolishly I chose the latter. For a time it looked like I would succeed, and I got an apartment with Shay’s b/f, my best friend, Jay, where we double dated, and where I finally lost my virginity.
What a fiasco that was.
Shay and Jay went to bed in his room, and my date was sitting on the couch alone while I was in the kitchen. I hadn’t yet had a way to “confirm” my sexuality, or even to see if I could do it with a girl, and this particular girl was the one I’d “gone out with” in high school who went to a different school than I did. If I didn’t ask her now everyone would KNOW I was a big fag. So I took her by the hand and asked her to come with me. We went into my room and began kissing. I must say it was sloppy. We were fairly drunk, though, and I think that made me just a little less nervous. We undressed each other and got into bed and started trying to do it, but I just had no desire-she even said, “either you’re too drunk, or you’re just not into this-so I thought about River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves in My Own Private Idaho. That did the trick. But I knew it hadn’t been that girl, or her scent, her looks, her attributes, that had done it for me. The next morning I got the looks from people who found out, the customary straight guy-you-nailed-’er clap on the back, and the quizzical look from Shay. She knew something was wrong, but didn’t ask.
So life continued, with me no longer in college and looking forward to owning my own store soon. HA! Not only did I not end up with my own store, the part-owner who had promised me one was caught doing cocaine in one of his stores by the OTHER part-owner, who owned 51% of the business and forced my patron out in disgrace. Even though I had never participated, the other managers and I were presumed guilty by association and summarily demoted to drivers, one and all. I was forced to declare bankruptcy at age 21, relinquish my beloved pickup, and find a different job with which I could pay off my $10,000 student loan for one year of college. Thank god I lived with my parents, who were very understanding and encouraging. For now. I took a job as a waiter in a new restaurant that was a prototype for a new chain (it never really took off.) While the staff had gathered round for our orientation (appropriate word!), I noticed this cute latin-looking boy, whom I’ll call Gary, about my age who was looking back at me. This would be the first indication I’d ever had that Gaydar might be an actual phenomenon. It was also my first indication that I might not be the best judge of someone’s character. You’ll soon see why. I was taken in by his good looks and accent, his ease with himself. He came over to swim in my pool, we spent the night up on the hill looking at the stars, and I clumsily told him I was gay. He smirked a little at that, and I said (God this must have sounded stupid at the time), “Well, you are too, aren’t you?” At which he leaned over and kissed me. Now, I’d kissed girls, but never with tongue. Ewww. To this day–ewww, ewww, ewww. Never saw the attraction.
But Him . . . I don’t know if you’ve gathered this yet, but I was a 19 year old practical virgin being frenched by an Adonis and . . . I fell out of my chair. We both laughed and I walked him home and I thought I was in love. My naiveté was not long for this world. That night I dreamt naughty, vivid dreams. Every fantasy I’d ever had of my high school icons now took on a new face–Gary. Even my most secret fantasy, the one where one of the baseball players on my high school team comes to my house and ends up tied to the bedposts spread eagle (arms & legs) while I have my way with him– even this took on Gary’s form and face. Years of pent up feelings were making themselves known with a vengeance. Afte all, I was practically a virgin–I’d only been with one girl, and that, to me, didn’t count.The next day I saw my friend Shay and couldn’t conceal my excitement. I took her aside and said, “I think I’m in love!!!”
You know what the bitch said? “What’s his name?” She could have at least have let ME do the coming out. But she was genuinely happy for me, and I’ll always love her for the support she lent me for all the years we are close friends. (She moved away and has 3 kids now, so we don’t often talk anymore.) I saw Gary at work and called him at home and behaved like I’d seen all of the giddy girls behave during my freshman year of school. After about a week of this flirtation, he invited me to a party at his apartment. A party at his apartment was a big thing for me, because that meant I’d meet his friends and be a part of his actual life!! You see, I was always my own worst enemy in my early life, a wallflower of my own making, partly because I was fighting my sexuality, partly because of my glasses and acne–and partly because my father was an intermittent alcoholic. But we’ll get to that later. The night of the party I was having a lot of fun. I met Gary’s roommates–one of whom was an ex with the nickname (unbeknownst to him) of Booger because he’d been caught picking his nose by another, malicious ex of his who’d gladly spread the rumor. We all had some drinks, played games, and danced, and Gary asked me if I’d like to stay the night. My heart beat so quickly I thought it would jump out of my chest. He lit the candles in his room and turned on some slow music–I think it was Cuban–and we danced cheek to cheek behind his now-closed bedroom door. We gradually began kissing and made our way to the bed, taking each other’s shirts off with a building frenzied passion. Laying down next to him, I was shaking like a leaf as I ventured forth my hand and undid his pants, sliding them off to find what my heart had known for years that I had wanted.
And that’s when it all went to hell.
Gary was remarkably small down there. He was aroused, no doubt about it, but he was only about the size of my pinky finger, and that’s not an exaggeration. I had no idea a penis could be so small. Perhaps I had a look on my face that showed either amazement or disappointment–I can’t be sure. But size didn’t matter to me, really. I was still eager and happy to at last be with someone, perhaps someone who could show me what I’d been missing. But he must have seen something on my face because he said, “I know. I’ve got a teeny peeny.” It was all I could do to keep from laughing. Not at him, so much, as the whole situation. Here we are, lying in bed, him naked, me with my pants still on keeping Goliath in check (the “Goliath” naming story is for another day–thank my b/f for that one)–he hasn’t even seen it yet, and he’s saying he has a teeny peeny. No, instead of laughing or letting him see that I think there’s anything funny at all, I grab the lotion, then I grab him and start “touching” him with the expertise my practical celibacy had given me. I mean, I worked it, boys and girls. I slid my left hand behind his back and kissed him while still working him with my right hand. Then, through his teeth and my tongue, I felt him cry out into my mouth, and he was finished. He kept kissing me and his hands reached into my pants, undoing the button and zipper.
And abruptly stopped.
“Whoa. You’re a big boy, aren’t you? Let’s wait a couple of minutes.”
I assumed he needed to catch his breath before he had his way with me, but I couldn’t have been more mistaken. He came down with the quickest headache I’ve ever heard of anyone getting. I should’ve called Ripley’s, but I didn’t know any better. I’d never heard the line before, except in movies, and thought that he really DID have a headache. I slept there, next to him, all night long, hoping that he’d wake up and kiss me and everything would be alright. But that only happens in fairy tales. We woke up in the morning and he had to work, so I drove home after dropping him off. He gave me a hug, not a kiss, goodbye, and was markedly colder than the night before. Looking back, I realize that Gary was most likely a total bottom and was a little scared at what might happen, but I felt completely used. He had gotten off, and I hadn’t. I had thought we were romancing each other, but I was left feeling like an appliance that was obsolete. And worst of all, I now knew with a certainty that I was 100%gay, and had to head home, to my Catholic parents, my closeted life, and loneliness that had no end in sight. The one gay man I knew had rejected me after using me, and for the only time in my life, suicide was a distinct possibility. Even after that one-night fiasco with Gary, I was sure that I was gay. The only thing I was still “questioning” was my ability to judge the character of other people–after all, I’d completely misread him. Now, when I saw him waiting tables at work, I felt bitter and spiteful, and we barely spat hellos to each other. I began to feel that life was simply not worth it; every project I poured myself into lately, from the store I had thought to own to the man I had thought to woo, was doomed to failure. I’d lost my job, my truck, my romantic interest, and any hope in my future. I considered suicide, but only very briefly. I suppose I should thank my Catholic upbringing for that–I could end my life, but never could I risk my soul. But something had to give. It was time for a change.
About that same time–perhaps a few days later–my friend Shay stopped by with her boyfriend, my friend Jay. The three of us had been friends for years by now, and while Shay knew I was gay, I had not yet come out to anyone else, including Jay. We all sat on the back porch of my parents’ house and she said that they were going to be moving about 40 minutes away, where the rent was cheaper, and they wanted me to go with them. “But first, I need to talk to you, Jamie.”Shay and I went inside, leaving Jay on the porch for a couple of minutes, out of earshot. “What?” I said, semi-conscious of what was coming. “If we’re going to all move in together, you need to tell him. Because keeping this secret from him is killing me.” Oh, gee, thanks, I thought. It’s been such a pleasure trip for me keeping my sexuality hidden from my friends for 10 years, please throw some guilt on there for good measure. “What if he freaks?” I asked her out loud, keeping my voice down so my parents in the other room would remain clueless. “He won’t.” Now, Dummy that I am, I didn’t get the implication of those two words until later on. She’d already told him and made him keep his mouth shut until I was ready to tell him. If you get anything from my tale, don’t forget that lesson: it is far too easy to underestimate the people that care about you the most. But anyway . . . We went back onto the porch, I made sure the windows were shut so the ‘rents couldn’t hear, and I started talking. “Jay, I’d like to move in with you guys, but there’s something you’ve got to know, first.” Which just gets me a smirk from him–I didn’t know why, but of course NOW I know it’s because he knew what was coming. “I’m gay.”
“Uh-huh. Okay. S’that it?”
Tears. Running down my face. I start to ramble.”I didn’t know if you’d still want me to be your friend, let alone move IN with you guys. I mean, Shay’s known for a while and it’s different with her because . . .”"Yeah, her mom’s a dyke, big deal. You’re my friend, Jamie. I don’t care if you’re gay. If you were going to put the moves on me you’d have done it by now, and I’d still be your friend if you had–but we’d have had to have a little talk, if you know what I mean. Now you’d better stop crying unless you want your Mom to end up out here.”
Let me say right here and now that even though Jay and I now live half a country apart and seldom talk, I still love that man like a brother. He was, and is, the best friend I have ever had. It hurts me that I can’t talk to him every day. He didn’t judge me, completely accepted me, and was always there for me. Before I’d ever thought of coming out, this straight man who could’ve come from a John Deere commercial, held me tight and patted my head as I cried for 2 days straight when a friend of mine from college–who I had been very close to–was shot 12 times in the chest at point blank range and murdered. (Come to think of it, the crying jag may have given him a clue.) And here he was, as I was coming out to him, not only being an emotional buoy for me, but also keeping my best interests in mind as he reminded me that my parents were not far away. I wish you all one friend that special in your lifetimes. “Yeah,” I said, wiping my eyes. “Thanks.” We all get up and have a group hug, and Shay ruins the moment with her usual lack of tact: “So, have you ever wanted to sleep with my boyfriend?” RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM!! Of course, I responded with, “Ewww. No offense, Jay, but you’re too skinny and have, like, NO ASS at all.” (Seriously, I like a nice butt on a man, and Jay does actually have NO ASS to this day. We used to make jokes about the money he must save on toilet paper.) Shay and I laughed at that, and Jay smiled and said, “Fucker . . .so, you moving in with us or what?”That’s the gist of the important parts of the conversation. We went on to discuss me getting out there and dating, getting different jobs, the whole situation with Gary, which actually got Jay upset. “Want me to go beat the fucker up for you?” he asked. “Nah, he’s got to live with that needle-dick the rest of his life. That’s punishment enough.” To which we all got in a good laugh. “Let’s see what’s for rent in the paper.” We found an apartement that was in our price range–cheap, cheap, cheap. It was on the third floor of an old, Victorian house in a not-too-bad section of St. Albans, VT. I quit my job waiting tables, partly because of the longer commute, and partly because I couldn’t bare to look at Gary any more. My heart still hurt a lot. (Even for a gay man, I’ve always been oversensitive. To this day, I can’t watch shows like Touched by an Angel without tears streaming down my face at the end. They do that on purpose, those TV bastards.)Moving into the 3rd floor was a feat, to say the least. Sorting out all the crap from 3 different homes–mine, Shay’s, and Jay’s–was a task, too. But we got nicely settled in, I put up beads instead of a door (not thinking about privacy because I wasn’t dating) and Shay and I both got jobs at a local pizza place waiting tables. I was good at it, and it paid the rent, but that’s about it. When the two of them wanted some alone time I’d go for a walk, and they were careful to try and include me in things to do, but even though we’d all been friends for years, I felt like the third wheel and began to feel lonely again. Which is when Shay told me to get out there and start dating. “Yeah, I know, but I don’t like bars at all. You know how my Dad used to be.” For those of you who don’t know, my father, when sober, was and is a wonderful man. He hasn’t drank in almost 15 years now. When drunk, he was my worst nightmare. I took many, many beatings as a child due to his drinking, and have never been too keen on alcohol. I’ll have a couple now and then, but it will NEVER be a problem for me. “So don’t go to the bar, then,” said Shay, referring to the local gay bar known as Pearls. “It’s just a meat market anyway.” “What then? How’m'I gonna meet a man in this redneck town?”"Try the personals.”Yeah, right, I thought. And end up with a blind date with Herman Munster. “No thanks.”"Well, you could drive down the street with your head out the window, going, ‘Blowjobs, getcha’ blowjobs here!’ ” She thinks she’s funny, you see. “Okay, I get your point. I’ll try the personals.” Remember, this was before the advent of the internet, when you had to actually do some footwork to find out info on someone. But I was tired of the five-fingered shuffle and needed to date. She was right. So I tried the personal ads. I called and listened to all the ads for people my age-M4M-and one sounded interesting, so I left a message with my name and number and that was that. When I didn’t get a return call that day I figured he wasn’t interested, oh, well.About this time, Shay found out she was pregnant. She asked me not to tell anyone, because my brother was friends with her brother and she wasn’t yet ready for her parents to find out. We talked about this for a while, and I got to thinking about how I really needed to get on with my life and stop thinking about what other people think of me. It was time to come out to my parents. Well, maybe. My father hadn’t stopped drinking so long before that I’d forgotten what a terror he could be, with that one vein popping out in his forehead. HIS dad was a deacon in the Catholic Church. I was in for a battle. So I decided to start with my mother. I went to visit my Mom, Dad, and Brother, and we had a nice dinner and a visit. Somewhere I found balls I never knew I had and said, “Mom, would you drive up to the apartment with me? There’s something I want to talk to you about.”"What is it?”"I’d rather wait, ok?”"Umm, ok. Wait here while I get my purse.”I wish there was a more dramatic way to do this, but we got in the car and hopped onto the interstate highway, driving toward my apartment. “So,” she said, “What was it you wanted to talk to me about?”Silence. Deafening silence. What would she say? Should I wait until we get there? Fuck it. “Mom. . .I’m gay.” Tension. My foot subconsciously presses harder on the gas pedal. “What? . . . Tell me you’re kidding.”"Do I SOUND like I’m kidding?!?”" . . . WHAT am I going to tell your father. He is NOT going to take this well at all.”"No shit. Why do you think I’m telling you first? I’m not ready to deal with him yet.”"Could you slow the car down, please?” she asked. I’d like to make it to St. Albans in one piece.”We got there, and sat down at the kitchen table and talked for a while. We decided that I’d tell Dad when I was ready, and Mom would keep it to herself until then. I wasn’t really thinking of how difficult that would be for her, only of my own fear of his reaction. Just then, Shay came home from wherever she’d been. I looked at Shay and said, “I told her.” “WHAT?!?” She was pissed, and it took me a second to figure out why. “I told her about ME, Shay.” She’d thought I’d told Mom about her being pregnant. “Oh. Sorry.” Then, seeing the quizzical look on my Mother’s face, she elaborated. “I guess I’ve got to tell you now, I’m pregnant. I thought he told you about that.” Mom couldn’t actually have cared less at that point, but Shay respected my mother and couldn’t have beared being condemned for being pregnant and not married–we were all Catholic, you know–so this was big for her. But Mom just said, “Oh. Okay.” and turned back to me. We talked a while more, then she drove home. It was only a couple of days later that I received a call from my mother. “WHEN are you going to tell your father, because it’s very hard for me to not say anything.” “Well, YOU tell him then. While I’m out of arms reach.” “You sure?” she asked. “Positive.” Yep, I chickened out of telling my Dad. According to Mom, he was furious. My brother, however, who’s four years younger than me, just laughed. He actually laughed. And called me right up. “Mom just told us. Why didn’t you tell ME?”"I didn’t know what you’d say or do.” “Jamie, I don’t give a shit. Dad, however, went ballistic.”"I figured.”"He said you’re not his son anymore.”Silence on my end. Disappointment, but not beyond what I’d expected. “Give him time,” my brother said.”Yeah. Talk to you later.” And then I hung up the phone and cried. Over the next six months I saw little of my family. My mother would drive up to see me, sometimes with my brother in tow. My father refused to even talk to me. One time my mother had him drive her up to my workplace so she could drop off a book to me that she’d bought for me by Anne Rice. My father just sat there in the driver’s seat staring forward pretending I didn’t exist. Eventually, my mother was the one who put her foot down. As she has since told me, she told him, “I’m tired of not seeing Jamie very much. Either you get over it and accept him or I’m leaving.” Now, my mother, over the years, put up with a lot of shit, and not ONCE had she ever threatened to leave my father. I got a call from him that very day. “Jamie.”"Hi, Dad.” Tears in my eyes already. “I want you to know that you’re still my son, and I love you, but I just can’t accept this.” Now I’m holding back the choking tears as he talks, but they’re running down my face anyway. I can hear the fear in his voice. Not anger. FEAR. That I’m ruining my life. “I didn’t raise you to be this way.”Slowing of my tears. Did he honestly think I CHOSE to be DIFFERENT? Did he think my life hadn’t been hard enough being a four-eyed, buck toothed kid with an alcoholic and abusive father? That I WANTED more ostracization from society, my friends, and my family?”I DIDN’T CHOOSE TO BE LIKE THIS!!” I shouted into the phone at him. “I TRIED TO BE STRAIGHT. FOR TEN YEARS I’VE KNOWN THAT I LIKE GUYS, NOT GIRLS, AND I’VE TRIED, BELIEVE ME I’VE TRIED BUT GOD MADE ME THIS WAY AND NOTHING YOU OR I DO OR SAY IS EVER GOING TO CHANGE IT. I’M TIRED OF LIVING A LIE. DO YOU THINK I WANT TO BE DIFFERENT? DO YOU THINK I DON’T KNOW WHAT PEOPLE WILL SAY? DO YOU THINK I DON’T KNOW THAT YOU HATE ME!!!” Now HE’s crying. My father never cries. The only time in my LIFE I’ve ever seen or heard my father cry is when my brother and I got into a car accident years ago and my brother went through the windshield and Dad saw him wheeled in on a stretcher. And now he was crying hard. (I’m tearing up just remembering this.) “Jamie, I don’t hate you, I love you (something ELSE he rarely said). I just don’t understand. I don’t want you to get sick and die or be alone and what about kids don’t you want kids? Are you sure it isn’t just a phase?” Yep, he really said it. “IF IT WAS A PHASE IT WOULD HAVE ENDED WITHIN THE PAST TEN YEARS, DAD, DON’CHA THINK!!? IS THIS WHAT YOU CALLED FOR? YOU’VE ALREADY DISOWNED ME. NOW YOU JUST WANT TO MAKE ME FEEL LIKE SHIT, IS THAT IT?” And I’m crying again. “I haven’t disowned you. I’ve just been stupid and angry. Come to the house this weekend and we’ll all have lunch together. It’ll be okay, I promise.”And it was. Well, it wasn’t perfect, I mean, he still thought for months that I was going to find “the cure.” It took time, but he’s come around. Now his biggest concern is why the hell can’t I put Norm on my health insurance. What if something happens to one of us? Granted, he voted for Bush in 2000, but he didn’t in ‘04. He’s growing, I’m growing, and I love my Dad. We are closer NOW than we ever have been before in my life. We go golfing sometimes, we play poker with the boys, he makes jokes about me being gay, like my redneck friends do, but they’re the friendly kind of jokes, like, “there’s your next boyfriend!” when a fat guy comes on TV, stuff like that. When Norm and I first got together we needed a place to stay, and we were welcome to move into my parents basement for a while, which we did. Dad learned quickly to knock on the door before coming down, however. We had a privacy curtain up, but he heard sounds one day that he never wanted to hear again. Hee hee. Oh, who’s Norm? Norm is my boyfriend/partner/ we’re-not-married-so-I-don’t-know-what-the-hell-to-call-him. Remember that personal ad I left a message for? He ended up calling back. We ended up talking on the phone for a week before we decided to go out on a real date. Don’t believe people when they say the personals never work. My second gay date in my life–the only one after that debacle with Gary–ended up being with Norm, the love of my life. We’ve been together for 11 years now, and we’re so interwoven into each other’s families you’d think we were inbred. And perhaps the most amazing thing of all is how protective my father is of Norm. What a turnaround that was. I’ve got to tell you: I saw Gary a month or so ago. After 12 years, he’s still waiting tables, but now he looks like hell. But my acne is gone, my life has turned around, and I’m about to buy a house with a good man that I love who loves me. Who says there’s no such thing as karma? And that’s it, folks. That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it. Coming out isn’t easy. It’s hard. It’s gradual. It’s often an arduous process that you have to work at with those around you. Sure, I lost some friends to bigotry. I lost the ones I thought wouldn’t care, and kept some that I thought would freak. I almost lost my family. But I found myself.

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