Tuesday, October 11, 2016

My Coming Out Story

Today is National Coming Out day, I have shared my coming out story on this blog before but it seemed appropriate to share it again on this special day.

Growing up I knew I liked boys more then girls but being a kid, boys often like boys and hate girls, so this felt "normal".

My first memory of actually liking a boy was when I was in the fourth grade. I can remember falling for this Spanish boy who use to call me his "little Bambino". I really didn't think anything of it as I was still of the age on not liking girls. I was raised in a world where a man married a woman. I had known only one gay man from my childhood who worked at a local liquor store. But I really didn't know or understand what "being gay" really meant. I remember one day a friend of mine told me that this man liked other men and looking back I think I always knew that and it might be the reason why I spent so much time there with him.

In the sixth grade I found myself playing on the gymnastic bars with the girls more then playing football with the boys. Also in sixth grade I had my first crush on a teacher... Mr. Anderson (he was my first male teacher). By the time I entered Junior High School I knew I was different, but I didn't allow myself to feel those feelings or at least express them. I remember looking a bit to long at the other guys in the changing room during P.E.

I was raised in the 70's and 80's and what I saw of "being gay" was very negative stereotypes, promiscuous, feminine, flamboyant and dying from AIDS. So I pushed my feelings deep down and got on with my life, hoping to forget about them... but of course I would never truly forget. I pretended to like girls and went on a few dates in high school but those girls always put me in the "friendzone" and I was fine with that. I remember people often asking me about a "girlfriend" and when I was going to get one, but my standard reply to that was "I'm focusing on schooling right now, but if someone came along..." I used that excuse all through high school and collage.

I fought with depression as most kids do during their teenage years, but mine had this extra layer of loneliness and confusion. I never considered suicide, or hurting myself. From the outside you would think I was just an extremely shy and socially awkward kid (and I was). I had very few friends and even among them I always felt like I was an outsider.

From age 16 on, all I've ever wanted was to be married and with kids. My goal then was to be married by 20 and have my first child by 25 and second by 27 and possibly a third by 30. I remember every year I would tell myself.. this is the year that I will find a girlfriend, I will fall in love and she will be the one. And every year I was disappointed with myself for not finding "the one". But the next year I would make the same goal.. to find the perfect woman for me and again I would fail. This was hard on me, I didn't know what was wrong with me, why I wasn't able to find that "perfect one". I would fall into some really deep depressions of loneliness. Of course I would put on a brave face for the public and my family but inside I was devastated and lost. I remember crying at night, praying to whatever god there was that I would find some one to love, to care for and to be with for the rest of my life.

My early 20's were tough, I was embarrassed by the fact that I had never had a girlfriend or been with a woman. I would lie or not bring up the topic when I was asked. I convinced myself that I was bi-sexual, I watched "straight" porn in my later teens and early 20's and enjoyed both sexes. But deep down I didn't know if I was pretending to like girls, because liking women is what I was suppose to be doing, that was "normal". It was a very confusing time.

By my mid 20's I was tired of hiding who I really was, honestly I was tired a long time ago but I finally was brave enough to admit it to myself. At 25 I graduated collage and was working in Hollywood in the Entertainment Industry. The entertainment industry tends to draw a large gay community so I was working with and being friends with several gay people, this was the first time I was interacting with other gay people since the gentleman at the liquor store when I was very young. I was starting to get very comfortable with the idea of being gay. But everyday was a struggle, do I finally come out and accept who I am but in turn live a life that will expose me to hatred and prejudices or stay in the closet and be what society sees as "normal"?

My life changed forever at age 27. I spent two years working in Hollywood I was on the verge of finally coming out but what really pushed me over the edge... well there are two things. First I saw the movie In and Out with Kevin Kline and it really hit home for me. If you've never seen it, it's about a man in his 40's so deep in the closet and he's about to get married until another man comes into his life and helps him understand who he really is. That was going to be, I knew that if I didn't come out that I would probably marry a woman and have kids, then later in life realize how unhappy I was and either divorce or cheat on my wife with a man. I didn't want that to happen.

The second factor was that I met someone online. Back in the day the internet was just starting up and I use to frequent yahoo chat rooms. They had a Star Trek one that I would visit often. I started up a conversation with this guy named Mat. We hit off, we would chat for hours and soon our online chats moved to phone chats. A few months into our friendship he came out to me and told me he was gay. By this time I already knew this and felt a very strong connection with him. I in turn told him that I was bi and really liked him. He asked if he could come down and visit me, he lived in Canada. I was overjoyed, this was the one, the person I have been waiting for all my entire life. There was just one problem.. I was still deep in the closet. Mat was coming down in a few weeks and was going to be staying with me for a few weeks. This was the time I had to come out, this finally pushed me to the point of no return.

I remember the fear that was building up. All I kept asking myself is what would my friends and family say. Would they accept me or reject me. What would my life be like if I lived the life of a gay man. So many questions but one thing was for certain, the door to my closet was starting to open.

One night talking to Mat I blurted out that I was gay. It was the first time I had ever said it out loud and to someone. Of course he was thrilled which actually gave me a boost of confidence. That was it, one person down.. the ball was rolling. The next day I was talking to my best girl friend at the time Renee, we were making plans to see a movie later that night. I remember telling her that I had some big news but I wanted to tell her in person. I remember getting off the phone and the panic setting in.. this was it.. there was no turning back now. I picked her up and the car ride to the theater was quiet, we chit chatted but I was slowly building up the nerve to tell her. We parked and were walking to the theater when she asked, "So what's this big news" we stopped and for an agonizing few seconds I looked up at her and took a deep breath and said "I'm gay".

It's only two little words but man what an impact they have. She stared at me for a moment and then a huge smile came across her face and she embraced me. I can't describe what I was feeling.. it was a combination of relief, panic, nausea, joy, love and acceptance all rolled into one. She said she was so happy for me. I told her about Mat and how I was in love and showed her a picture of him.

It hard to describe how I felt after coming out, it was a huge weight lifted off my chest. For the first time in my life I felt like I was me. So at the age of 27 on the verge of 28 I was finally out and ready to start living my life... btw the Mat thing didn't work out but I will always be very thankful for his part in my coming out story.

The next big hurdle was telling my family. That didn't happen until I was 31. I was out now for three years and been in several relationships. But of course now that I was out and living the gay lifestyle my family never asked me how my love life was going or if I meet any nice girls like they did for so many years. I couldn't take that next step and just tell them. I didn't want to come out close to a holiday because if things went bad I didn't want that holiday to be associated with it. Finally one day I was going to have lunch with my mom and like with Renee, I told her over the phone that I had some big news to tell her.

Again like with Renee, we didn't talk much in the car when I picked her up. We got to the restaurant, ordered food and sat down when my mom asked "So what is this big news?" By this time I had been out for years and have had several boyfriends so it wasn't as hard saying the words but in a way it was harder as this was my family. I chose my mom to come out to first as I figured she'd be the one that would be okay with it the most. So I said those "oh so hard to say two words" .. "I'm Gay". She asked if I was sure and that it's not a phase, she then went on saying it must be her fault as she babied me to much. I assured her that it wasn't a phase and that nurturing had nothing to do with it... I was born this way.

She asked if she could tell other family members like her sisters (my aunts) and mom (grand mother) and I told her she could but not to tell dad, that I wanted to tell dad personally. My brother already kind of knew so I didn't see the need to tell him personally. I remember getting a call from my brother not to long after I told my mom and he said.. "so you're gay... cool". And that was about it from him.. he treats me no differently. I told my mom I was going to tell dad the next weekend and my mom said something like.. "oh I don't know how he is going to take it". This actually scared me from telling him for another nine months.

Finally while visiting him one Sunday we were in the kitchen washing and drying dishes and I was agonizing over telling him for months now and it just came out. "Dad I'm Gay". I held my breath and waited for a sharp reply but nothing happened. He looked at me and said "Okay". I said "Okay?" He said "You're still my son and I love you no matter what." I was shocked and surprised. I had built up this fear of what would happen when I told him and he actually took it better then anyone else that I had told.

So at age 32 I was out of the closet to everyone and having fun. I have had some bad experience and prejudices but living in Southern California and in the Los Angeles area is probably one of the best places to live and be a gay man. It hasn't always been easy but I can honestly say, at age 46 I have never been as happy as I am now. The past 18 years have had there ups and down but I'm living the life that I was meant to live and loving every minute of it. 
 
So if your struggling with coming out... take it from me. It's the best decision you'll ever make.

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