Sunday, June 15, 2008

 
I got notice of Kelly Stern’s coming out story project via Lewis, the lovely guy from Portland, Oregon we had the chance to host last fall. Kelly asks his readers to post this picture he took, and tell their coming out stories. Here’s mine:


I knew I was attracted to men as early as age five, an experience I’ve learned isn’t uncommon for gay men. His name was Dave Powers, father of one of my playmates, New York City cop, a tall curly-haired blond. My apartment building entrance and his were on opposite sides of a small courtyard. I was looking out the window one afternoon when I saw him standing on the stoop in a short-sleeved shirt with two or three buttons unbuttoned, a rich mat of golden hair curling up his chest to the base of his neck. I was mesmerized and quickly developed a hollow yearning sensation in the pit of my abdomen that many years later I would recognize as sexual attraction. It had begun.

My parents were from families that were Catholic and, especially on my mother’s side, extremely sexually repressed. I was sent to strict Catholic schools so that the message both at home and in class was that not only was homosex the worst possible sin, but that heterosex wasn’t a great deal better, especially if you enjoyed it or indulged in it for any reason other than making babies strictly in the context of marriage. By the time I left for college, barely 17 years old, I was seriously screwed up.

As luck would have it, in my freshman year at Boston University I fell in with a first year music major, also raised strictly Catholic, who was good to study with. Rebellion and hormones being what they are, we began fooling around—nothing too heavy at first, but progressively more exploratory. We finally built up the courage to try something anal. We were both totally green and knew nothing of lube, etc. It was a major failure followed by massive guilt and revulsion.

Time passed. I spoke candidly with gay friends in grad school and during my early career, but always deeply ingrained was the idea that all this guilt and pain would go away with the love of the right woman. There was a marriage, not to the right woman--and not just sexually--as things turned out. There was a divorce. At age thirty-five I finally had a complete sexual experience with another man. Whenever I’ve been asked what it felt like, I’ve said it was like watching the sky clear after a storm, a realization that this was how it should be.

It was the age of AIDS. I had to be very careful on the one hand but knew I also had to get out and experience gay life fully on the other. A major reason for the caution was that I had two daughters adopted from Korea and had huge responsibilities to them. On the other hand, it was raising them as a single parent that led me to a realization of who I really was. So I did get out and about, did meet guys, have sex and break through various inhibitions to a point where I had large gay and straight circles within which I traveled--and that were mutually exclusive.

It was meeting Fritz that changed everything. I knew very soon in the relationship that this was it, a man worth changing my life for, a love more important than any fear. I knew I had to include him fully in my life and come out to my daughters, colleagues, and friends. I would start with the girls and move outward from them. I didn’t want to do it via email or over the phone--the right time would be a family wedding in Pittsburgh, where we’d all be together, a rare event with us scattered among various colleges and cities.

At the end, it was almost farcical. There were no moments all weekend where we had any alone time as a family within the greater family. It became obvious that the only time we would be alone together would be the time when we were among the greatest number of people—at the airport as we were waiting to go off in several directions on Sunday afternoon.

So that’s where it happened, a Southwest Airlines gate lounge. I got hugged and told they didn’t care just so long as I was happy and that they couldn’t wait to meet the man I was so in love with.

They also said they already knew and were just waiting to be told. In fact, just about everybody else I came out to said the same thing, to the point were I began to think, “Hey, this is a big step for me—couldn’t you at least fake a little surprise?”

I came out way too late, and I’m not happy about that but I’ve stopped beating myself up about it. I came out when I could, when
I’d finally gotten all the indoctrination, all the crap that society had imposed and that I had absorbed because I was so busy being the good little boy my parents informed me I was going to be-or else. The moral of the story is probably: rebel early and often.

*******

The refrigerator saga continues. When the repairman finally did arrive on Thursday, he said that the timer controlling the defrost cycle was broken, stuck in a position that would shut the compressor down. He replaced the control, turned the fridge on and left. I was practically euphoric.

Except that seven hours later, the refrigerator cabinet wasn’t one degree colder than before he came. I called Sears and told them that I needed someone to come ASAP and actually repair the refrigerator. The customer service rep said he’d set up an emergency service call for Friday and that I should call the dispatch office just after eight in the morning, to find out whether the repair would be in the morning or afternoon.

So I called the next morning but dispatch had no record of any service call for me. I came as close to blowing up as I get these days--not at the guy who was on the Sears end of the line because he had nothing to do with all the previous screw ups. But I made it very clear that they had to have someone come to the house and actually repair my refrigerator ASAP. He immediately set me up with a genuine emergency service call for Saturday and guaranteed a repair technician would arrive.

He arrived at almost six o’clock in the evening but he arrived and quickly established that the problem was a corroded sealed system that holds the refrigerant-all of which was gone. He canceled any parts and labor charged to me from Thursday morning's failed repair, and ordered the parts. It’ll be at least ten days before the actual parts installation happens but at least it’s going to happen and it’s going to be the correct repair. We’ll get by on a borrowed under-counter fridge in the meanwhile.

*******

The Wit and Wisdom of George W. Bush

One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures.

Comments:
Excuse me, would you please...I'm stuck back on the "rich mat of golden hair....". Gah! And I'm ever so thankful you hosted me! There's nothing like good friends. I feel like I came out way too late as well..but,hey, on we go!
 
I like reading growing up/coming out stories. they have common themes and elements. they assure me we are not alone and we are more in common than not.

About the quote - i could add not only they have fantastic pictures you can colour them too.
 
Thanks for sharing your coming out story with us. I read a few of your other posts and you seem like such an interesting man.

Your new home is amazing!

BTW...I found your blog through Splenda in the grass (Jess's blog).
 
You learn something new every day. I ought to post my own coming out story. Though, mine lends itself more to comedy.

I remember being about 5 and having a crush on one of my dad's co-workers. Big handsome guy with a tattoo.

Hmmmm... maybe that's why I always wanted a tattoo.
 
I also love reading coming out stories, thanks for sharing yours. Late, well I'm just doing it now so I totally understand how you felt.
 
Lewis--thanks. We're hoping some day it will work out that we can have the two of you visit during one of your, ah, layovers in Boston.

spo--I also find coming out stories reaffirm the wonderful richness and diversity of gay experience.

Matt--welcome! I hope you'll stop back again--and again. And you couldn't have better blog buddies than Jess and Marc. I've read through your blog, like it and will be visiting again myself.

Tony--a tattoo--A tattoo? You've got a lot of really gorgeous ink.

Steve--as I said, we do it when we can and when it's right. I've really loved seeing how beautifully you've negotiated it.
 
wow, you took a set of formative circumstances that should've stunted your development in all kinds of ways, and ultimately didn't let it mess you up--how the hell did you pull that off?

i'm currently blogging my way through my tortured adolescence up to my own eventual coming-out story--and while you and i came out at almost the same age, that's about the only similarity i see.

be thankful for that, btw ;)
 
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