Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Humiliation of Coming Out as Gay

I first realized that I was attracted to other boys when I was 12.

In the months that followed I made excuses for my thoughts and tried to deny that I might be gay.

But denial didn't change the facts. Instead it ramped up the pressure I put on myself.

Ultimately, the pressure became overwhelming.

Fifteen months after The Realization I had a huge emotional breakdown and accepted myself as gay. I was 13.

I immediately felt better.

But self-acceptance was only one piece of the puzzle. I had no idea what to do next. Specifically, should I tell anyone?

There are kids today who come out as young as 12 or 13, but I can assure you that absolutely no one came out at 13 in 1980. So, although I accepted myself as gay I decided to keep it a secret - for as long as necessary.

At 15 I took my first tentative step out of the closet. Actually, I hadn't intended to step out at all. I sent an anonymous note to a crush but the note turned out to be much more revealing than I had planned. The fact that I blew my own cover was infuriating but the anger was nothing compared to the fear I felt. What if I was discovered?!!! I didn't feel at all ready to come out.

My worst fears were realized about two weeks later.

In very large block letters, someone wrote the word "FAG" across my locker, in fake Halloween blood.

That small incident was one of the biggest traumas of my life.

There was something about the surprise of seeing the word, the way it was written, and the fact that fake blood was used - somehow it touched the most vulnerable part of me. All of that together created a huge tidal wave of self-hatred that quickly overwhelmed me. I fell into a very deep depression.

The depression became a life and death struggle. I was only able to break free when I realized that I didn't have the courage to kill myself.

It's turned out that my cowardice at 15 has given me a lifetime of inner peace. When I decided I had no choice but to live, I also decided that holding on to negative ideas about homosexuality was pointless. I experienced an all-or-nothing crisis of self-acceptance and emerged completely at ease with myself.

In the three decades since, my relaxed attitude about homosexuality has expanded. I'm now at ease with all expressions of it, from the most macho S & M leather dudes to the most effeminate girlie 'girls'. Homosexuality doesn't bother me. And why should it? It's part of who I am.

Now I'm wondering if I'm too comfortable with my sexuality. Here's why:

About six weeks ago my wife and I had the most detailed conversation yet about our future. I found it quite revealing, a little stunning, and an important lesson for myself and other married men who contemplate coming out.

What prompted our long conversation was my improved physique. (Yes, this is me.)

She's been really, really pissed that I've been putting a lot more effort into looking good. She says it's a clear signal that I am about to toss her aside.

As we got into my motivations, she suddenly erupted, "I just wish you'd move to San Francisco! I see what's happening to you. I've seen this before, I know what happens!"

What she was referring to was one of her good friends from college who came out in his mid-thirties. After coming out, his personality dramatically changed. He's not quite Nathan Lane in the "Birdcage" yet, but he's close.

She continued, "I don't know how you could think of doing this to the kids. Oh my God! The humiliation! EVERYONE will talk about us. ALL the kids' friends. The kids will never be the same!"

At the time, I told her she was being ridiculous. I had no intention of doing anything to embarrass or humiliate anyone. I found her reaction to be shocking and over the top. I dismissed her fears as being grossly exaggerated.

But the next day I started to think more about what she said. Maybe her fears are extreme, but maybe she's not entirely wrong either.

Yes, in many ways the world has caught up to my views about homosexuality - that it's no big deal. But just because I'm very comfortable in my own skin and just because I live in a very liberal place, that doesn't mean I should disregard my wife's fears.

Fear is a very powerful emotion and even when it's irrational, it's something that should be taken seriously.

What I'm thinking is that even if my wife is completely paranoid, I would be smart to pay attention to her worries. Ignoring her or dismissing her could come back to bite me in the ass, in a few different ways. I'm thinking that if (or when) I come out, it's something that we should plan together. Yes, this is my coming out but it dramatically affects her and the kids and how they feel about themselves. Abstract homosexuality may be no big deal but when it's your husband or your father, maybe it is.

I think when the typical married closeted man reaches the point where he's ready to publicly come out, he just want to get it over with. Or, he at least wants control over how it happens. When you're married and a parent you undoubtedly ask yourself how can you minimize the impact of your announcement on your family. But do most guys let their wife and kids decide when and how to come out? Probably not.

Some of you may think I'm crazy for considering giving my wife a major say in how my potential coming out is handled. To that I'd say, don't worry, I'm not giving her carte blanche authority. I should also point out that I'm so blase' about my sexuality that it doesn't make much difference to me if or how I come out anyway. Since I don't care that much and she cares a lot, why not try to do as she asks?

It seems to be that, ultimately, it doesn't matter much who you tell or what you tell them or who you tell first. If people like you and they don't like something they've heard, they'll give you the chance to clear your name. If people don't like you or are ambivalent, why knock yourself out worrying about their opinion of you?

I know that I'll be fine no matter what happens. I'm very confident about the kids too. So, if my wife wants me to be the flaming asshole bad guy, why shouldn't I let her have her way?



  1. Your wife is trying to lay a major guilt trip on you. Don't fall for it.

    In all likelihood, the kids will be just fine. Just because you tell them that you are gay, it doesn't mean that anything else about you (or them) will change. It's not like you will go parading up you street in a glittery jockstrap and feather boa the next day.

    My kids couldn't have cared less that I was gay... they just are happier living in two happier households rather one that was full of tension and anger. Check out my post tomorrow (Friday) morning: I wrote about a new blogger who came out to his three sons and four years later, they couldn't be closer or happier.

    By the way... your torso looks magnificent! Congratulations for putting in all that hard work and discipline. Super hot!!

  2. First of all, I'm totally with Buddy Bear: your torso looks great!

    Also, I think it's very respectable that you want to come out to your kids with your wife by your side. I don't know, though, that this is something she is going to ever be up for. Or, at least she certainly isn't now. Her fears are getting in the way.

    The one thing you have to remember is that these are her fears, not yours. I strongly disagree that you are too comfortable with your sexuality. I don't think that's something you can be too much of. I think that comfort is a healthy thing.

    At some point, you're just going to have to say, "Gabbie, I'm telling the kids." And, go for it. I think they'll be much better with it than your wife is. If not at first, they'll eventually warm up to it. You're the only dad they have, after all.

  3. Cameron,
    Hey man. I just stumbled on your blog. Very nice. I wanted to comment b/c of my experiences. Knew i was gay all along but I got married at 25, I'm still not sure what I was thinking. Had a handful of gay experiences in college and early 20's and that scared me to death, or at least marriage. Got married and had two kids, boy and girl. Then after about 10 years, that gay in me needed to come out and boy did it. I started messing around while traveling on business and damn if i didn't meet my current partner back in 1999. She knew something was up, but for sure didn't think it was another man.

    So we had a decision to make, or rather I did. I knew I was not going to be able to keep the gay inside me...not that that's what she was asking/demanding/wanting. So we decided to split and we ended up telling our kids that I was gay at the same time we told them we were splitting up. They were 7 and 9 at the time.

    We shared custody of the kids, with them spending about 40% of the time with me and my partner until they went off to college. I still relive how beautifully my son introduced my partner to his 9 year old friend my dad's "friend" (quotes are used b/c that was what he said, not b/c it's some kind of coded word). Now I am sure that life for them not as easy or comfortable as it would have been to have parents like 95% of the friends around them. Nonetheless I don't think they turned out less than they would have otherwise. They are now 19 and 21 heading into their sophomore and senior years at college, leading very productive fun lives.

    If you have some questions, hit me up...


  4. Cameron

    I get the same trip - not about being gay destroying the kids, but divorce destroying them. It is just that a guilt trip. In my case having a father who is withdrawn, depressed and disengaged because he suppresses being gay to remain married is far worse than a divorce done right could ever be.

    By the way - it is NOT cowardice not to kill yourself. It is a most brave thing in the face of a world that can despise you for who you are. I had much the same experience of poking my head out of the closet and realizing it was not safe.

    Great pic - trying to do the same myself. With less success!! :-)

  5. I think she does have some valid points. If iy is "announced" to everyone that you are gay, and divorce is impending, then you will be the talk of the neighborhood, at least for a while. Depends what kind of neighborhood I guess.

    Next question: do you care?

    Some people do really care what other people think. Some don't care at all.

    I think that since the kids seem to be closer to you, and probably view you as the more stable parent, they probably won't care if you're gay.

  6. Thanks for your words and checking out my blog. You have my personality absolutely right, I definitely go with the flow. Your advice is spot on and I know in my heart it's right but things are a lot easier said than done, so it'll take me a bit more time. In the meantime, I am sworn off craigslist so don't worry about that hahah.

    Anyway you've got an interesting story and I'll be looking forward to your posts. And nice work with your body! get it haha

  7. I found your blog and read some of your posts. It is refreshing to find someone who is trying to be honest. So many of the blogs I read are by and about people being blatantly dishonest with others and themselves.

    The NY Times had a great article about open marriages.

    It sounds like your wife is afraid and is reacting angrily out of fear. Some of her fears are probably about being alone. She has a family and security now, and any changes are scary. If you can work with her to calm her fears, you might be able to pull your marriage out.

    If I were to write the next chapter to your story, it would be that you are able to rebuild the trust and respect in your marriage while including sex with other people. I haven't always been an advocate of open marriage (I have encountered too many people who crashed and burned while fucking around) but if two people are really well connected, they may make it work. And keeping the family functioning has added benefits for your children.

    People always say that kids will recover from divorce. I don't know. I have met so many people who grew up in divorced households and divorced parents of kids where the kids can't seem to get started in life. Some kids do seem to be okay, but it is clear that some kids don't get over divorce for a long time, like into their 30's.

    I wish the best of luck to you.

  8. AKJ, I also question the idea that kids recover from divorce. Well, they recover, but they are marked by it. I think it's a lot bigger deal for them than many of us are willing to admit.

    Cameron, very impressive torso and ... love the treasure trail!

    I wish I had your sense of self, honesty, and empathetic concern for others. Going from distraught over homosexuality to acceptance as you did just amazes me.


  9. I saw this article in my tweet stream and thought it might be interesting.

    When I got divorced, I read a lot of books and what came through loud and clear was that adults said the kids were doing okay and the kids, when they grew up, said "I was not okay".

    Any marriage which has been stripped of mutual trust and respect because of the actions of one or both parties may not be recoverable. One of the problems of divorce is that issues that caused the marriage to fail don't go away. You just need to deal with them while you are not living in the same house. There are times when you have a fight and make up sex; won't do that after divorce.

  10. Cameron
    You have come a very long way, pushed a lot of course by your wife's actions, to the point that now the issue is how, not if, to tell the kids. They already know the marriage is not great, so separation of some kind may not be unexpected. But how the factor of your being gay adds to the impact, or actually helps explain it better, is for you to know. You have always been more tuned into your 3 kids than her - I say you should decide how and when you would feel comfortable doing this. You have the remaining months of summer before going back to school and all their focus on that ritual of socializations takes over.

    Each kid will take it differently. Just talked to my own brother who announced he and his wife were separating to the two daughters. This was not about his being gay...his wife was starting to blatantly mess around and had been very much like your wife for a while. Ending a tense bad marriage and reducing daily stress turns out to be a good thing for the kids even though we know they will have some residual issues around the whole way you have to share them. But I think your being gay and coming out to them will be a much smaller issue than you and your wife ultimately separating.

    Good luck - nice torso shot - funny that my wife and several of her friends have also noted my own sleeker torso as like you, I started a gym and swim regimen over a year ago and it seems to have made some visible changes. But we men have lots of good reasons to stay in shape and feel good about our bodies besides being just finding hunks!! But a toned bod does help!!