A Letter to My Closeted Brothers and Sisters

letter to my gay brothers and sistersHello My Dear Friends,

I hope this correspondence finds you doing well. I hope that the sun is shining on your face and the wind is always at your back, as the saying goes. First off, I wanted to congratulate you for all of the positive progress you have made so far on your coming out journey.

You may be thinking, “I haven’t made any progress yet. I’m still completely hidden inside of my closet.” To this I say, you are not giving yourself enough credit. At the very least, you are realizing that you are not happy and completely satisfied in your closet. This is a step. It may seem small, but self-awareness is no small feat. Many people live their entire lives ignoring their internal gut instincts.

Your knowing that you wish for change proves that you have a rebel and a dreamer inside of you. I bet if you let your mind wander you imagine a life for yourself where you are not closeted. Visualization is key. Performing this visualizing has the chance to create hope within you. Hope is a powerful thing, My Friend.

Please take time to congratulate yourself on working as hard as you do. It is hard work to be closeted and still function at your job, with family, and with friends. In many ways, you are working twice as hard as the others around you just to perform the same tasks and to stay calm and centered. And all the while you may be blaming yourself for being who you are and acting as you do.

Please let yourself off of the hook for any lies you may have told friends, family and co-workers to hide who you truly are. These things do not make you a bad person. You are merely surviving in the only way you can think to at the present moment. To some extent, everyone exists as two different people; the version of themselves they know to be true inside and the version of themselves which they share with everyone else. No one else ever knows who we completely are from our core to our outside.

Lies and secrets happen. One lesson I can share with you from my personal, coming out journey is that, when it is all said and done, none of that matters. Who cares? You can’t change the past. All you can control is what you are doing right at this moment. Let yourself off the hook for being so concerned with other people’s feelings. Let yourself off the hook for living your life more to please others than to please yourself. In actuality, it means you are a kind and good person. That, My Friend, is a positive thing.

If you have experienced negative responses from people who you have come out to, brush it off. In the end, pretending to be someone you are not, simply to serve the comfort level of someone narrow-minded and backwards, will never be a path to your personal happiness. Remember that these people’s reactions say more about them than they do about you. We are not meant to mesh well with everyone in this life. Don’t pressure yourself to be an exception from this reality.

I want you to give yourself credit for feeling fear. It may seem like a burden, but it has a place in this life. Fear can make us slow down, think about our moves carefully, and be an active, thoughtful driver behind the wheel of our life. Sticking with the car metaphor – remember that fear is a rear view mirror to help you consider your turns, but it is not the steering wheel by which you should actually make your moves. I will make the suggestion that Hope should be your steering wheel, or at least one of the ones that you use.

I wish I had words to better explain the moment where my internal light switch flipped for me and I suddenly cared more about my personal comfort level with my being gay than I did about everyone else’s feelings and reactions to it. I guess I shouldn’t describe it as a moment; it was really a long transition over several years and several instances of coming out to people. You will get there. One day you will look back at these internal monsters, which feel so huge and scary right now, and they will suddenly feel like tiny, non-threatening, stuffed animals.

Remember to give yourself time to become the person you are meant to be. We all start somewhere.

Remember to feel all the emotions that come with your journey: the fear, the joy, the sadness, and the satisfaction. When it is all said and done, the memories of these feelings will make you a better partner, when you find the love of your life, and simply a better person.

Remember to feel love for yourself. One day, you will see, you are doing just fine.

Chin Up. I have faith in you.

All My Love,

Adamfingers hug in support

Pushy, Pushy: Being Pushed Out of the Closet by Gay Friends

push-cliffIn honor of National Coming Out Day I offer up this post to you, Gentle Reader, in celebration of everyone’s right to be proud of who they truly are, as well as their right to share their truths with others in their own time, when they are fully ready. Here are two stories from my days of being closeted, each telling how sometimes others may prefer for us to come out in their time, rather than in our own.

In the fall of 2009 I was 27 years old and had known, without a doubt, that I was gay for about 8 years. I look back on that particular fall and try to understand why I was still so deep in my closet after all that time. Being closeted had just become such a labyrinth of internal and external obstacles for me, I suppose the more I tried to find the perfect way to accept myself and come out, the deeper I got lost in my maze.

I met my friend Ray at a gay bar in September of that year. From the first moment I heard him speak, I felt comfortable around him. He is the kind of guy that immediately comes across as intelligent and funny. I thought he was so hilarious. Every sentence out of his mouth was fueled by intellectual humor. In my opinion, that is the sexiest kind of humor.

We became fast friends and, looking back, I’m really thankful that he came into my life at that particular point. Ray is brazen and proud of being gay. I needed to be around that back then. Hell, I need to be around that right now. Ray was great because he would speak his mind and if you didn’t agree with him, then too bad for you. I, on the other hand, have always leaned more towards politely bending my will to agree with others so as not to create conflict. Ray helped me view a lot of things in a different light. He was one of the first people to help me understand that I could be proud of my sexuality if I just gave myself time.

Ray and I would have gotten along almost perfectly, if I hadn’t been closeted. Ray hated the fact that I was still in my closet and he constantly tried to push me out of it through our conversations. He would say things like,

“You will be so much happier once you are out. Just do it already!”

or

“You are making a conscious decision to be miserable by staying in the closet. Why are you torturing yourself?”

On one hand I could understand what he was saying and I truly believed that I would be happier once I was out. But I just wasn’t at that place yet. This reality caused many arguments between us, all of which left me feeling stupid and cowardly. (Not things that your friends should make you feel on a regular basis.) My being closeted was one of the major things that ultimately unraveled our friendship. I know Ray mostly just wanted me to be happy, but his pressure-fueled tactics were flawed. Being nagged at does not make coming out any easier. But I still find my mind wondering to thoughts of Ray often. I smile remembering how genuinely funny he was. I miss how he made me feel when things were good and I wish him well.

coming-outJumping back seven years prior to Ray, during the fall semester of my junior year in college, I existed even deeper in my closet. At the time I had just begun meeting guys online for dates and I was only just beginning to accept that I was probably gay. In those days I was really immersed in ‘The Closeted Game”. I had a whole system worked out so that I could live two separate lives. I had two AIM screen names and two emails (one gay and one straight). When I would go on dates with guys I would sheepishly ask them to keep my identity and sexuality a secret. I nervously explained to them that no one at my college knew that I was gay. I was terrified about acting on these gay feelings and I was actively begging the guys I dated to help me stay on the down low.

I went out on one particular date with a guy named Mike. Then several months later Mike coincidentally began seriously dating an out gay man that went to the same, small liberal arts college that I did. (We will call this fellow student Neal). Well, one day Mike decided to tell Neal,

“Hey, actually, come to think of it, I went on a date once at this school with a guy named Adam.”

And he then proceeded to describe me in great detail, to the point where Neal knew exactly who I was. At first Neal must have said to him,

“Nah I know who you are talking about, he’s not gay.”

But eventually…Ding Ding Ding. A light bulb went off and Neal realized that I was closeted and that no one on campus knew about it.

Now Neal just happened to be the only out gay man on our small campus: a situation, which I am sure, was not ideal or entirely pleasant for him. Now Neal saw a unique opportunity with this newfound information and, instead of keeping this to himself or coming to privately discuss the matter with me, Neal began telling my friends and other random people on campus that I was gay and that his boyfriend had dated me once.

push badOne brisk autumn evening one of my friends called me up on my dorm room phone to tell me that Neal was spreading this rumor… I. Was. Pissed. I found Neal’s phone number in our campus directory, called him up, and made him meet me in person. I angrily confronted him, basically threatened him, and demanded to know why he would do such a thing. I screamed at him,

“How dare you! Why in the hell would you do something like this? You of all people know what it is like to be gay on such a small campus. If I do not chose to share my sexuality, which I am literally still figuring out, with everyone else then that is none of your god damned business! You have no right to out someone else! If I am gay then we should be sticking together and helping each other, not going behind each other’s backs and spreading rumors. In this small community how would we benefit from attacking each other?”

Neal cried a lot during that conversation and explained to me,

“I’m sorry. It’s hard for me being the only gay person at this school and I figured that if someone like you, who is involved in a lot of clubs and stuff and who is in a fraternity and who has lots of different kinds of friends, was gay then everyone would see that it is not such a big deal and I guess I thought it would make it easier for me.”

All these years later, thinking back on Neal, I can’t help but to feel a little bad for him. He was scared too. But he really pissed me off. Gay or not, he was sneaky and I can’t respect that. As you can imagine, the whole experience scared me and, in some ways, pushed me even deeper into my closet and my paranoia. Still, to my knowledge, he never spread any further rumors about me, and I was once again free to uncomfortably hide in my closet for many years more.

So what is the purpose of me droning on about these two less than perfect stories on a day that is supposed to be about hope and freedom? The moral is, no matter what, we all come out when we are ready. No sooner and no later, and that is the way it should be. Those of us who are out and proud need to be supportive of our closeted brothers and sisters. Show them we love them while not being pushy. We all arrive at these milestones exactly when we should; when we know in our gut that it is time. There may still be fear and apprehension, but eventually we know the time has come.

So in further honor of National Coming Out Day, I think I will be brave and display a link to this post on my personal Facebook account. I feel ready to now… and I got here completely in my own time…

cliff_jump_suit_xlarge

After You Say, “I’m Gay”: Dealing with Others’ Reactions

????????????????????????????????????????For gay men and women, coming out can be a liberating and validating experience. One that can cause much welcomed relief after years of hiding their true self behind a heterosexual façade. Of course the actual act of telling someone you are gay, even if that someone is very open-minded, progressive and supportive, can be riddled with stress and apprehension. Saying the words, “I am gay” can be the frightening first hurdle in a race that we all eventually hope to win.

While we all come from different backgrounds and living situations, thus making each individual’s coming out uniquely hard or easy in its own ways, the general hope is that ultimately coming out offers increased happiness in our lives. In a recent interview with BuzzFeed Brews openly gay actor Ian McKellen spoke of coming out as saying, “…I’ve never met a gay person who came out and who regretted it.” Coming out is about self-acceptance. And self-love can be a beautiful thing.

But in our coming out process, we can only be responsible for the things that we say and the things that we do. After we are out to someone, in a sense, we place the ball in his or her court. At this point, we have no control over how they will react to the personal truth we just shared. For me, learning how to react to what others chose to do with “the ball” I had handed them became the next hurdle in my coming out process.

Let’s explore reactions and resulting quotes that stand out the most for me on my coming out journey. These were what people said and did after I said, “I am gay.”

One of my straight female friends:

“Well Duh. Okay. So are we gonna watch the movie now?”

A straight male friend of mine from the gym:

“Ummm…congratulations? I’m not sure what to say. I don’t care. Just don’t touch my dick when we are doing pull-ups” (and he smiled)

One of my childhood male straight friends:

“Wait… so all those times we talked about hot girls… did you not think they were hot? You sure you aren’t bi?”

My best male friend from college:

I was very nervous to finally admit it to him and I guess I looked very serious beforehand. I told him that I had something to tell him and it took me over a minute to just say it.

He looked relieved. He took a deep breath and exclaimed,

“I thought something was really wrong. Like you were gonna tell me your cancer was back or something. Dude, who cares if you’re gay.”

My Mother:

Her face became cautious and guarded instantly. The news turned out to be hard for her. After I told her, every word out of her mouth was serious. She looked like I had just punched her in her gut. She voiced,

“Adam, I don’t even know any gay people. I know nothing about this. I’m not sure what to say exactly, and when I’m not sure what to say about something then I usually say nothing.”

She went to bed that night without giving me a hug and while avoiding me with her eyes. She barely spoke to me for the next 7 days. If we rode in a car together she stared straight ahead and hardly spoke. I kept thinking that she was mad at me, because that was how she was coming across. Today, she respectfully talks about me being gay and frequently asks me questions. While she is still learning, she constantly expresses that she wants me to be happy.

My Father:

I told my parents separately. With my dad, right after I said the words, “I’m gay.” I started to cry. (It was an emotional day for me.)

His immediate response was to stand up and hug me. After that he said,

“You’re my son and I love you. None of this other stuff matters. We will figure this out. Now…can I ask you a few questions?”

After this first conversation, my father has collectively asked far less questions about me being gay than my mother has. His reaction was love first, silence later. Nowadays he seems to avoid talking about me being gay. I think it makes him uncomfortable, but he is as loving and caring towards me as he always was.

One additional question he asked me on that day does stand out though. He asked,

“As your father, did I do something, or not do something, that caused you to be gay? Do you think I did something wrong?”

Since we are discussing other people’s quotes related to my being gay, I wanted to also share two quotes my parents reiterate to me every so often. I want to preface these by saying how much I truly love my parents. They are wonderful, loving people. While they are getting better at learning about me being gay, they will still say things they do not realize are hurtful. I share these two quotes merely to highlight that sometimes even the people who love us, say things that hurt us due to their ignorance and lack of knowledge about what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. Proof that this is all a journey, until it is a destination.

One of my mother’s favorite things to say to me is,

“I just keep hoping that one day you will walk through the front door and say, ‘Mom, I’ve met the perfect woman. I’m so happy and we are going to get married.’ I just think you haven’t met the right girl yet.”

The topic comes up every so often about how my dad will handle conversations with our conservative extended family members who still do not know that I am gay. He likes to explain,

“It’s no one’s business. I don’t feel the need to just go around and tell people. If they find out and say anything to me I will just tell them, ‘Look, yes Adam is gay. It’s not something that I’m proud of or that I would chose for him, but what are you gonna do? It’s his life and I love him.’”

Bottom line, Gentle Reader: take everyone else’s words with a grain of salt. After all, people’s comments say more about themselves than they do about you being gay. Focus on the words coming out of your own mouth. Since, in the end, those are the only ones you have any control over.

Finding My Voice

taped-mouthBeing closeted can feel like having no voice. It is difficult to ask for help, if you have no voice.

The first person I ever came out to was my friend Stacey. It’s easy to understand why I chose to tell her first. Stacey has the kindest demeanor about her. Everything from her laughter to her body language expresses acceptance. To this day, I am hard pressed to think of anyone with a more benevolent tone to their voice than Stacey. She smiles a lot, and she always has this unique expression on her face that seems to say, “Go ahead, whatever it is you want to say, I won’t judge you at all”.

I met Stacey in college and the night I decided to tell her that I was gay happened to be during our junior year. I had been anticipating it all night. I remember we had been hanging out, ate a bunch of junk food, and watched a movie. After the movie we were just sitting in her room talking when I finally leaned towards her and said, “So, I want to tell you something.  It’s kind of a big deal…” Now, I said it with a nervous enough tone to my voice that she immediately lowered her voice, trained her eyes on me with concern, and replied, “Okay…”

I remember taking a deep breathe and jumping out of my chair because I was so nervous. I remember a lot of walking around the room, darting in circles. I remember a lot of flailing my arms around as I repeatedly yelled about how scared I was. I also did a lot of nervously clenching my hands into fists and avoiding eye contact with her. I kept saying things like, “I’m sorry I just can’t say it” and “Oh man, oh man, oh man” and “Jesus, Stacey, this makes me so freakin’ nervous”.

Considering that she had no idea what I was getting at, Stacey was supportive in every way she knew how to be. She was patient as I freaked out. She tried to calm me down. She tried to get me to just say it. I remember that it took me an hour to finally tell her. And I remember it feeling like 8 hours. It was hard to just say it. Saying nothing had begun to feel safe to me. Staying silent was the price I paid to feel safe.

Now, she would be the first person I said this out loud to. What terrified me the most about that was after I told her; there would be no going back. You cannot unsay something like that. I kept thinking about how big of a deal that was. How I was changing my life forever. Once I said it, then it would be real. My declaration would make it true.

Yet, even with all of these worries and apprehensions, this need to tell her still burned inside of me. It’s amazing, I was so afraid of the truth, so afraid of my life changing forever, but I could still feel this need underneath all of that. At last, the need to speak the truth far out weighted the fear.  I think all closeted men and women eventually reach this breaking of the equilibrium, and that’s when we finally say it out loud. There comes a point where saying nothing just doesn’t feel safe anymore. When we reach that point, we not only find our voice, but we start learning how to scream.

man_wordsThat night, Stacey helped me speak. I remember her finally getting worried and taking control. She got slightly stern with me and said, “Adam. Seriously. You are starting to scare me. Just tell me what you are trying to say.”

So I stopped pacing, sat down next to her, looked at the ground because my eyes were too afraid to look up, and I said, “I’m gay.” It felt like someone just ripped a band aide off my arm. I barely got the words out and I followed them up with, “Oh my god, I said it. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. I’m sorry that took so long. Please don’t hate me. If you hate me, don’t tell me cause I can’t handle that right now.” I felt sick to my stomach. I continued looking down at the ground.

And Stacy replied, “Adam. It is fine. It is totally fine.” She put her hand on my arm. I managed to look at her. She smiled at me. I sheepishly smiled back. And as always, her face said, “I’m not judging you at all”.

And just like that, someone else knew I was gay. But most importantly, they knew because I had told them. I had summoned up the strength to tell her from my own lips. I had taken the first step.

And looking back on that very scary and very arduous first step, words alone cannot express how proud I am of myself.

The pride I feel today far outweighs the fear I felt then.

I found my voice. I found my words. And you are reading them…

Your Coming Out & Other People’s Feelings

closet_rainbow

Photo from lifehacker.com via Adam Dachis

When you really think about it, coming out to someone should be painless and stress free. All you are doing is sitting in front of someone and saying, “This is who I am. This is part of my truth. Here is something important about me.” Why is that so monumental? Why is that such a big deal? Why should we be rejected and persecuted for telling someone who we are?

People respond negatively to our news for a wide spectrum of reasons including, but not limited to, religious beliefs, learned hate, bigotry, lack of knowledge on the subject, fear and just plain confusion. The terror of these negative responses is one of the reasons closeted individuals are so filled with anxiety and trepidation about coming out. The possibility of these negative responses keeps many of us in the closet for years upon years. Fear of rejection is a very real and tangible thing.

I would argue that one of the main reasons coming out is so difficult, has to do with our forced focus on the person we are coming out to. The focus becomes, ‘how is he/she going to react? How does this make them feel?’ The person receiving the news becomes the vulnerable one. I ask you, are they the vulnerable one? Are they the one who is scared to death?

Call me crazy, but it seems like the focus should be on the terrified LGBT individual experiencing all of this internal fear and turmoil. But the world can be an irrational place. On top of their own feelings, a person who is coming out, is forced to consider the feelings of the other person who they are coming out to.

I remember reading articles that reminded me to be patient with the person I was telling. Consider how this news is making them feel. One article said that the gay person has been sitting with and dealing with the news that they are gay for some time now, but it will be a sudden shock to the person they are telling, so remember to be sympathetic towards them and prepare to comfort them if needed. Comfort them?!?!

comfort

Photo from elephantjournal.com via Wendy Strgar

Please do not misinterpret me as heartless. I agree that when it comes to telling our loved ones we are gay, we should be kind and loving towards them as we share this news. But when did it become all about the other person? Who is considering the feelings of the person sharing their gigantic news? Who is going to comfort them? Well, hopefully the person who they are telling will comfort them.

The whole situation is set up to feel like the teller is in the wrong and is hoping for forgiveness from the person being told. This current reality is flawed and unfair.

Perhaps, the stress of coming out is magnified by the fact that it is still viewed as such an oddity and a huge ordeal by many sections of society. Is being gay really that big of a deal? Does who I sleep with really affect the lives of the straight couple living next door to me? Does who they sleep with affect my life? No, it doesn’t!

Still, I argue that some of the added stress with coming out is putting so much emphasis on the other person. Perhaps we need a societal shift for the focus to be on the sharer and not the shareé. It is entirely possible that as our society becomes more educated, and being gay becomes less taboo and alien, coming out will become more focused on and supportive of the gay person.

I am very curious as to other people’s thoughts about this. Am I being too one sided? Do I sound too harsh?

Anonymity: Friend or Foe?

facelessI originally started this blog as a closeted gay man. It’s initial purpose was to talk about being closeted in the hopes that the self-reflection would eventually help me come out, and also that I might be fortunate enough to meet other gay men who would help me in my journey. At the time, I did not share my blog’s URL, or its existence, with any of my friends and family. This anonymity allowed me to speak my truth free from self-censorship. If I knew that people in my life were reading my intimate gay thoughts, if they were reading about things I am ashamed of and learning about my fears and insecurities, then I would be afraid of their judgment and their disapproval. So I directed my voice towards people who knew nothing about me and who were getting to know me for the first time through my posts. I suppose that sometimes opening up to complete strangers is easier than opening up to those who know us best.

Three and a half years later, not much has changed. To date, I have only given my blog’s URL to two of my friends. And I have very briefly discussed it with my parents. In fact, yesterday I let my mother see my blog for the first time. I let her read my post ‘My Love Affair with Peter Parker’ because she knows how much I love Spiderman and she has recently been very interested in my writing. So, otherwise, my blog is still mostly invisible to everyone in my daily life.

Today, my blog exists as much to help others who are coming to terms with being gay as it does for my internal processing and self-reflection. But in order for me to help people with my blog, they have to know that my blog exists. So I must draw traffic to my blog. Enter social media and… Facebook.

For some time now I have struggled with presenting my blog on my personal Facebook profile. This would immediately expose a wider audience to my message and thoughts. But although I do not hide the fact that I am gay from anyone, not hiding is very different from posting in-depth articles about the fact that I am gay for everyone in my life to see.

Internally, I am back and forth with this issue. “To Facebook Post, or Not To Facebook Post…” one could say. Part of me does not feel that my over 700 Facebook friends deserve to know the intimate details of my life. They don’t deserve a front row seat to an analysis of my soul. Even the ones I’m close to don’t deserve to know me in that way. What does that say about me? What does that say about my friends?

AnonymityIn our blogs where we write about personal feelings, desires and experiences, are we more comfortable remaining a faceless, anonymous voice meant only for strangers? Are our blogs meant only to provide people we have never met with our deeper truths, and not our friends and family? Do blogs that begin in anonymity due to fear and self-preservation eventually need to pull back the curtain due to increased pride and the inevitable need for courageous self-declaration? Is my message in any way diminished if my Aunt Ethel finally finds out that I sleep with other boys instead of pretty girls? Or is it just fear, once again, holding us back from evolving into all that we can truly become? Am I keeping my blog about ‘coming out’ in the closet?

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This fascinating conundrum was recently brought to the forefront of my mind by a truly honest post on a new friend’s blog. Check him out some time at Aaron In Wanderlust. And if you are curious about his post that got me thinking, it was titled ‘The Self-Censored Blogger’.

No More Playing Games

game_nightIn my coming out process I have been very lucky. I’ve been met with mostly acceptance, love and support. We all deserve these reactions when we tell the truth about our sexuality. But I’m here to tell you first hand, Gentle Reader, that sometimes the world is less fuzzy.

One of my best friends is a girl I went to my high school senior prom with. To describe her a little, Crystal is a loving mother, a devoted wife and a god fearing Christian. She’s been my friend for 16 years. When I told her I was gay she told me that she loved me and that was that. She’s always been a great friend and I am thankful for her. Yet, she was one of the last people who I told I was gay. Why?

One of the reasons my friendship with Crystal has always been so rewarding is because there are several other friends I have made through her. Over the years I have become friends with almost her entire family. Her parents, her siblings and her husband have always treated me as an honorary member of their family. And this inclusion always felt wonderful. Myself, Crystal, the siblings and some extended friends developed a fun tradition years ago. We call them game nights. Nights of friends playing board games, eating food, drinking beer, listening to music, joking around and just simply having fun.

This sense of inclusion in this extended family filled me with a lot of joy. But as the years passed and I became more comfortable in my reality as a gay man, this sense of inclusion was masked by a sense of worry. Worry about telling them that I was gay. Crystal’s reaction to my news was not the only hurdle to overcome here. Telling her meant telling her 3 siblings, each of their spouses, her parents, extended friends and more.

It is one thing to worry about a single person’s reaction to you being gay. It is a very different thing to worry about a large group’s reaction. That is a lot of individual reactions to worry about. To make matters a bit trickier, this family is mostly conservative Christians. I was literally going to be the only gay friend that any of them have had, so I was extra worried about rejection from at least one of them, and possibly from several of them.

Sure enough, when it was all said and done, one of Crystal’s brother-in-laws deemed me a sinner and has not spoken to me or acknowledged my existence since he found out I was gay. We will call this man Richard. (It should be noted here that every single other member of this group accepted me and expressed love towards me when they found out I was gay.) I’ve been in a room with Richard once since he found out and several times that night he literally ignored me and walked around me to get to other people. He believes that I am going straight to hell and has even asked his wife to not associate with me until I seek help. He collected bible verses to support why God is against homosexuality. He went as far as to say that he does not care if I am gay, but I must repent, pray for God’s forgiveness and never engage in any homosexual activity ever, for it is the acting upon these hellish urges that is the sin.

At our game nights, whenever a game is played that requires groups, we would always split up into teams of boys vs. girls. With Richard now refusing to speak to me or acknowledge my presence, these teams suddenly threatened to be very awkward. So, Crystal and I came up with a plan to alternate game nights. Richard could have one, then I would have the next, and so on. This negotiation was to take place at the first of these game nights where Richard would attend and I would be absent. A discussion was to be had that would include all regular game night attendees. I spoke with another of the involved peoples beforehand and anxiously awaited the verdict of what was sure to be an interesting conversation that night.

sorryBut no conversation or compromise was ever made. In fact a second game night came and went with Richard in attendance and still no me. I guess life got in the way, which is understandable. But what seemed important to me, a conversation about my sexuality not being a valid reason to exclude me from game nights with my friends, didn’t seem as important a conversation to have for the others.

Dealing with the reality that sometimes people we love turn out to be homosexual, would result in an uncomfortable conversation amongst these individuals. Difference of opinions among them on this issue would inevitably lead to arguments and some drama. I don’t think anyone really wanted to create that awkwardness in the family unit for someone who is not really a family member. After all, they must all co-exist at holidays and birthday parties, so it would be easier to just avoid any ugliness. Especially when there is only one gay person in this social circle to need to deal with. (God forbid any of their children turn out to be gay)

I know that Crystal truly wants me at game nights and at other events like her children’s birthday parties (which I will also not attend since Richard is always there). And I understand her predicament; she is close to her sister and doesn’t want to exclude her from events due to her brother-in-law’s beliefs. And Crystal has since apologized to me for this situation and the results. Still, it has suddenly become blazingly clear that, although I have always been included as such in the past, I am not actually a genuine part of this family.

Ultimately, no awkward conversation was necessary because I decided that I would no longer take part in the game nights. I felt that any further negotiations would have created resentment in me towards these people who have all meant a lot to me throughout my life. So instead, I walked away.

walk awayNow I don’t want to sound too overly dramatic. Crystal and I are still fantastic friends and I still plan on being involved in her life, her husband’s and especially her two children’s. Their kids call me Uncle Adam and I love them both very much. I see many wonderful years ahead of me being a positive adult influence in their lives. Though I can’t help but to wonder about what will be said to them once they are old enough to understand that I am gay. I worry that it may be handled in a way, though unintentionally, which may teach them that being gay is different and not a good thing.

One of the lessons here, Gentle Reader, is to not allow such situations to cause us to become bitter. Also we must be careful to not villainize my friends too easily. Sometimes people have a hard time getting used to things that are outside of their comfort zone. And sometimes people do not stand up and fight battles if the battles do not directly affect their own personal well-being. All we can do is be there to offer them information and love should they seek it.  It is all of our jobs to work together to invoke positive change in this world which we call home.

But just because love and understanding are main lessons here does not mean that our comfort levels and our right to feel respected are any less important or less deserved. We do not need to put ourselves in any situation where we end up feeling like a second-class citizen. Those who exclude us would stand for no such thing in their own lives. Strength and determination on our part is also vital for positive change.

Friends are allowed to disappoint us some times, and that disappointment does not necessarily negate all of the good they have done. But for those who outwardly reject us simply for being who we truly are, well concerning them, my suggestion to you is to make your stance known, and then simply walk away. After all, negotiating with our happiness and our feeling accepted is not a game that any of us should be playing anyway.