I am a 35 year old gay man who has been out for a decade. Today is National Coming Out Day and that is something that should usually be celebrated. Coming out for a gay person means you are finally free to be who God made you. But apparently there are still many out there who think we exist to be hated, mocked, tortured, killed and be treated as lower class citizens.
Perhaps you have heard a thing or two in the news about the rash of teens killing themselves because they were gay and were being tortured every day at school because of it. Sorry to break it to you but that has been going on for decades in this country. It was just no one was talking about WHY these kids felt the need to end their own life.
Or maybe you heard about the closeted Rutgers Freshman who jumped off a bridge after his roommate secretly taped an intimate encounter he had with another man and then spread it around the dorm as a joke. Can you imagine if that happened to you when you were 18, essentially a grown child and totally closeted to your friends and family? I was that age once and quite honestly I think I would have jumped too.
Then there was the story of the men tied up and tortured in the basement of a home in New York for 3 days apparently just for committing the crime of being gay. Then there are the vile comments that were uttered by the Republican candidate for Governor in New York, one Carl Paladino. The kindest thing he could think of saying was that, “I don’t support gay bashing.” Thanks Carl. I feel safer already.
To repeat the rest of his statements would only be to give them greater power so I am not going to do that here. I will say that he used his speech to attack his opponent for bringing his daughter to a Gay Pride Parade. What a parent decides to do in order to educate their children about people who are different is their business. My parents never took me to the Macy’s Day Parade but I don’t think it was so I wouldn’t decide to become a giant floating Mickey Mouse balloon.
Fine, there may be men dancing on floats in their underwear at a Gay Pride Parade and some other guys dressed in drag. But would it matter to anyone if that same daughter grew up and went down to New Orleans at Mardi Gras and showed everyone her boobs for some beads? It probably wouldn’t even matter if she was filmed to be in a new “Girls Gone Wild” video.
What frightens me most about all of this, however, is that after Mr. Paladino said these hateful things and the audience he was speaking to gave him a standing ovation. They applauded his bigotry and hatred. He could be the Governor of one of the most powerful states in the Union!
It really made me think of how the Nazi’s came to power in Germany during an economically depressed time by demonizing certain minorities and ethnic groups. This is made all the more disturbing since he was speaking in front of a Jewish group. How quickly we forget our history, I guess.
Being Gay and Having Faith
I believe to the very core of my soul that you can still believe in God and be gay no matter what some very misguided people tell you. If a Christian, Muslim or Jew tells you that then they clearly aren’t very good practitioners of their faith as divined by their holy scriptures.
Jesus himself associated with the lowest social pariahs of his time and avoided those who deemed themselves the most righteous. Call it heresy but I believe if Jesus returned today to be one of us again he would definitely want to hang out with gays and lesbians. All are welcome in the kingdom of heaven just as long as they believe, isn’t that right?
The point is, are you comfortable believing in a deity who loves everyone and not just the people you feel comfortable spending eternity with? If you don’t agree with me that is fine but I still think you have every right to YOUR faith and I believe God loves you. So why can’t you believe that’s true for me. Which of the two concepts is more Christian?
I am okay with your hatred because you can beat me, discriminate against me, laugh at me or kill me but I know that there will be more gay people born after me. Because I don’t believe God makes mistakes. I was born this way for a reason.
Coming out is a moment when you are supposed to feel unshackled from all of the secrets that have weighed you down every moment since you became fully aware of who you really are. Being gay is not a choice. If a man who is straight tells you that, be sure to ask them if they could just choose to have sex with a man. Would that be an easy transition for them?
I work as a freelance auto journalist so I know a lot about cars and little to nothing about fashion, decorating, flower arranging or how to properly moisturize. I wear jeans and Nike shirts pretty much all of the time. I get asked why I don’t dress better or know about that stuff and the only thing I can think to say is “well, I must be part lesbian.”
You may find my next statement to be controversial but asking a gay man why he doesn’t fit that stereotype is akin to asking an African American why they don’t have fried chicken and watermelon in their refrigerator. No one in their right mind would say that.
I realize every race, sex and creed has their own societal stereotype but no one ever has to announce that they are Asian, African American, Hispanic or female to everyone that they know and love. That’s because they are born that way and it is visible externally. For gays and lesbians, we are born with no outward signs of who we really are.
A few years back I lost a job working in the service department of a Southern California Ford dealership when they learned I was gay. My boss told me that straight to my face but I was too devastated by the experience to do anything about it. I was afraid if I did anything I would be blacklisted in the industry and never work again.
I was the hardest worker in that service department, had the highest customer satisfaction scores and brought in more profit than any of my co-workers. But I am not the litigious type. It makes you look like you just want money and all I really want is to be treated like an equal and be able to prove myself in the workplace.
It’s funny though. The car mechanics at that car dealership were the most accepting group of guys I have ever worked with. It was only when management found out that there was a problem. Because of that whole experience I eventually switched career trajectories but I won’t lie to you and say it is any easier for me now.
I am still out to most of the people, publishing outlets and car companies I work with now but I have had some bad experiences even now that still fill me with fear. As a freelance auto journalist your name and reputation are all you really have to get yourself more work. I am taking a chance even writing this article. When I publish this I will be out to anyone who has an internet connection. But if I don’t stand up for myself, who will?
My Coming Out
When I came out my friends and family were all very supportive. I wasn’t disowned. No one said they hated me because of it but because of the realities of the world we live in I was forced to prepare myself for that possibility. I had to be ready for every person that I loved and cherished to essentially tell me that they didn’t love me because of who I was. I know it is hard to understand the enormity of that but it happens to gays and lesbians each and every day.
I finally realized that I could no longer live my life as a closeted gay man one day when I was driving in my red Alfa Romeo Spider (admittedly a car that appeals to gay men) over Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles. I was 23 and I thought about what kind of husband I would be to a woman that I did love very much.
Everyone just assumed we were dating because we spent so much time together and I let them believe it because I wasn’t interested in sleeping with women. If I had been straight I would probably be married to her today and my life would have been much simpler. But I knew in the end I would only hurt her more if I kept up my charade. I decided I was not going to be one of those guys who gets married, has kids and sneaks around behind his wife’s back to sleep with men.
I have met more “straight” men like that in my life than you would probably ever believe. I have also never crossed any sexual line with a married guy because I believe what they are doing is wrong. I would never do that to a person that I was married to. You see, some gay men have strong moral character, integrity and a belief in the sanctity of marriage. Kind of like how some heterosexual men do. We are actually more alike than you think.
For straight people there is a whole societal map laid out in front of them that guides them through life. Gay people don’t have that because we are denied access to any of the institutions that instill that feeling of belonging. When we try to form committed relationships you deny us that right and when we try to adopt kids in need of a home you deny us that right too.
Some people tell me I act gay, others tell me I can “pass for straight.” I do sometimes talk with my hands and move my head a certain way to accentuate a point in conversation but it is hard to pinpoint what makes people think you are gay. In High School, I was never bullied for being gay. I was never bullied once.
But I do remember the word “faggot” being freely thrown around as a general insult without really knowing what it meant. And a favorite way of saying you didn’t like something was to say, “that’s so gay.” But I was aware enough to realize that this was how people talked about gay people. I felt, often times, like a spy behind enemy lines. I would worry what they would say about me if they ever found out.
In later years I met people who never had the luxury of “passing for straight.” These people are 100 times braver than I will ever be. I had the love of my life, a man named Michael, kill himself this past January. He couldn’t pass for straight if he tried and it upset me when people would stare and point at us when we would be out in public talking and laughing.
You see, I rarely get looked at like that but Michael lived with that his entire life. As an example, he was in a convenience store one day getting coffee and a complete stranger called him a “fucking faggot.” In broad daylight this man felt it was somehow acceptable and appropriate to say that.
This being Michael he then chased the man out of the store and threw his hot coffee through the guy’s window right in his lap. The coward sped away but Michael could easily have been beaten up if he wasn’t 6 foot 3. Right after that I got a phone call from him in tears so don’t for a second think that this type of bullying goes away when you get older. Or that it feels any better when it happens to you.
I loved Michael because he was larger than life, creative, forgiving, giving, open hearted, brilliantly witty, loud, funny and he filled an empty place in my heart. And he was taken away because he couldn’t handle living in a world that was so cruel to gay people. Sometimes I wonder if my life ended with his. So yeah, I think life is a lot easier for straight people.
A gay person can build up as thick a skin as is humanly possible but one day it will all come pouring over the walls they create around their heart. Today I became overwhelmed despite years of pushing it all back, holding it all in and pretending it doesn’t bother me. I am not sure it will even matter that I am writing this but if it at least means one other gay person knows they aren’t alone then I accomplished something tremendous.
I will finish with this for my gay brothers-there is nothing wrong with you, God loves you, intimacy with another man is a beautiful thing especially when you love the other person, you should have a marriage and a family, follow your dreams and if you excel at your chosen profession you should not be forced to pretend you are someone you are not just to get ahead. Never lie about who you are. It is what makes you beautiful even if the world doesn’t say so.
If you ever feel alone, bullied, hated, fearful or sad because you are gay here is my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you leave a phone number I will call you back and I usually check my email every day. But if you don’t get an immediate reply I promise I will call or email you. Just put (Associated Content Article) in the subject line of the email. Remember you are not alone.