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

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’.

Procrastination & Wanting to be Liked

procrastinate-now-and-panic-later

If I may speak frankly, I hate the word Procrastination. The act of procrastinating, putting off work that is necessary for me to complete, has filled me with anxiety and fear throughout my life. Lost in thought a few days ago I began wondering, like all tasks that are uncomfortable, did I procrastinate on coming out? Did mere avoidance play a part in not coming out until I was 29 years old? This lead me to further examine my relationship with procrastination and to unearth some old wounds.

In college, I was afraid of not being as good a student as my peers. I was afraid that I was not studying the correct major and that this was the reason I always felt so out of place. I was afraid that I was on the wrong path and that I would never find the right one. I was afraid that I had a concentration problem and that I would never be able to focus on my studies. I was afraid of being a bad student. I was afraid of letting myself down. I was afraid of letting my professors down. I was afraid that my friends would view me as weak and too fragile. I spent a lot of time feeling unsettled, like I was about to fail at every moment. I feared deadlines, papers, tests, and of course, finals.

Looking back on it, these feelings of dread have stayed with me even ten years after college has ended. I’ve never really let myself off the hook for having these feelings in college. I still have not let Adam, age 18 to 22, off the hook for being scared. God, I’ve been so mad at him because he was so scared.

Procrastination became a way to avoid these intense feelings of fear, inadequacy and sadness. I would avoid work by spending time hanging out with friends, talking, laughing, visiting stores to pass time, attending parties and simply walking around campus. Alone I would watch TV and movies, chat online, endlessly Google more entertaining topics and masturbate.

My sophomore year I started seeing a counselor to talk about, what at the time we labeled as, my anxiety caused by my procrastination. On top of everything else I was feeling I began to feel guilt for procrastinating. Obviously procrastinating was something I was doing which was leading me to have trouble in my classes and feel anxious.

Part of the real bitch of procrastination was the wedge it created between me and myself. All of the classes I missed, and all of the work I didn’t complete, became attacks I was personally performing against myself. I became an enemy to me. I was an obstacle between myself and happiness. What a horrible way to feel about yourself. How do you move forward with yourself if you think you are the enemy?

scary ticking clocksTime also became my enemy. Ticking clocks and passing hours brought me closer to failure. There never seemed to be enough time left in the day to finish a task, so why bother even starting it?

 Looking back, I was trying so hard in college. I just wanted people to like me. It felt so important that people like me. I just wanted to be interesting, funny and worth their time. Perhaps school work and classes played second fiddle to this need to be liked. But, in all honesty, does this really make me any different from every other college student in the world?

Now, I wish I could go back and give myself a hug. Tell myself that it will all be ok and let myself know that when it is all said and done college will be a bundle of happy memories. Tell myself that procrastination, and all the fear it covers up, will not define me. And that at the end of it all, what is most important is that I forgive myself for being afraid and being flawed and for deep down just wanting to be liked.

Moving forward, I try to remind myself to not give the word procrastination so much weight. It is, after all, just a word. Remember that it is possible to still be successful and accomplished with occasional procrastination. Give yourself permission to keep going and complete tasks at your pace in your own time. And remember to give yourself credit for the tasks you do complete, they are successes. And it is important to remind myself that everyone procrastinates, and the act of procrastination does not make us bad people or any less worthy of love.

In the end, Gentle Reader, it is important to not procrastinate on loving yourself. Give yourself as much time as it takes. That ticking clock is not judging us.

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Some related articles on Procrastination you may find interesting
Mind Tools: Overcoming Procrastination
Smithsonian.com: Why Procrastination is Good for You

Me and the Perfect Male Physique

david williams rugby

The Beautiful David Williams

In this post, I would like to explore my obsession with the perfect male physique and the internal conflict that this obsession creates with how I view myself.

The truth is, I spent a significant chunk of my teenage years, and later my adult life, obsessed with the idea of the perfect male body, and thus the role it played in making a man a man. In further truth, I am still battling with this masculine image in my mind today. I have always associated muscles, athleticism, and confidence with being a man. But of course, there must be more to what makes a man than his physical body. I know I am missing other important pieces. But this constant fear of my body being inadequate, weak and not sexy always haunted me. I will admit, this fear has gotten better with age, maturity and life experience. But I still struggle with my body not being good enough, and thus fearing I am failing in my role as a man.

Even scarier, what if it is my fault that my body is not more masculine or muscular? If I wasn’t so scared of the intensity of sports, competition, and masculine roughness than maybe I could have been more athletic and come across as more calm and collected. Maybe then I would have looked and acted more like a man. 

In what felt like a side effect to all of this, the images I never felt I was living up to, the ones in my mind that were the most different from me, became the things I lusted for and desired. Football players with their silent intensity, and perfectly developed chests because erotic. I began playing ‘Where’s Waldo?’ games out in public, peeling my eyes for glimpses of the strong masculine back leading up to a pair of ripped arms extending from a sleeveless shirt, or a perfect ass reflected in cargo shorts leading down to strong muscular calves. Sweaty muscles, bulging biceps, and washboard abs became things that I would never have, but which would fill me with endless envy and obsession.  

sheridan towel man

The Sheridan Towel Man

Straight men will never understand how torturous simply going to the gym can be for a gay man. I do not mean to over dramatize, but I’ve always been nervous about staring too much. If someone noticed me staring at them I could get my ass kicked or at the very least be shunned as not ‘one of the guys’ and in fact queer. All gay men have done it, as they rest between sets, they try not to make it obvious that their eyes are longingly gazing at the sexy bodies all around them pushing their bulging muscles to their limits. And what about changing in the locker room? The anxiety mixed with excitement of catching a god like body as it undresses, or exits the shower drying off and wrapping a towel around his waist…it is exhausting just thinking about it. While viewing these male bodies is fun, it always made me feel separate from something I wished that I was. These bodies where not mine. I was never sure if I saw this same raw masculine power and sexuality in myself.

This brings us to a confusion I began to struggle with my freshman year of college. At what point does longing to be this masculine, perfect male body, turn into wanting to have sex with this masculine, perfect male body? There was a point where I honestly convinced myself that I wasn’t gay. I convinced myself that I was misinterpreting my not feeling masculine enough, my longing to physically be manlier, for an attraction to men. Maybe I was confusing this ‘something missing’, for a sexual attraction towards those I envied and wanted to be. Where is the line between these two things? Where does one begin and the other end? Or do they overlap? Does this confusion make sense? Can anyone out there relate to what I am saying?

Do I want to become the perfect male specimen or do I want to sleep with him? I am really gay right?

So where do I fit in? Where am I at with all of this today?

I wish there was a simple answer to that question. I can tell you that writing this blog, thinking these thoughts out thoroughly, helps. This post has a lot to do with my past and who I was before I came out, but, if I am being honest, the fears and questions I included here are still a smaller part of Adam in the present. It helps to bring this all out into the light.

I can tell you that coming out has made me more confident in who I am as a man. I have been in a steady workout routine for almost two years now, so though my body is far from perfect, I feel stronger and more attuned with it than I ever have. These are all positive things. I am who I am, and at the end of the day, I can tell you that I am sincerely proud of the type of man I have become and that I am continuing to become. And I can tell you that none of us should allow ourselves to be haunted and tormented by an invisible, self-constructed ideal of what it means to be anything.

So, now I realize that I am attracted to certain types of male, physical masculinity. But I am also attracted to viewing myself in a similar physically masculine body, and that is okay. I can want these things for myself and for my partner at the same time. I am still working out all of the details, but I think as long as I try to be realistic in my expectations for myself and a significant other, then this will all turn out okay. After all, any type of unobtainable and unrealistic ideal placed too high on a pedestal can be unhealthy.

The older I get, the more I can envision walking off into my ‘happily ever after sunset’ within whatever body I have and with whatever vision of masculinity I project or lay next to at night. If I really think about it, my body’s outline, beside someone I love, would look fantastic in front of a beautiful sunset, just as it is, in whatever form it happens to take. And perhaps, Gentle Reader, complete self-acceptance is the real ideal we should all be striving for.

men walking into sunset

My Triumphant Return & Day 1 of Zero to Hero

Time is out of reachTime is truly an amazing thing. It passes so quickly. It slips through our fingers like water from a faucet.

In my short time as a blogger, blogging has helped to reinforce how easily time can get away from me. Take this particular blog for instance. I remember when I decided to start it, I remember developing the concept and the hopes I had for it. I remember my first post (which took me forever to write, then edit and then publish). I remember all of this like it was yesterday. This was January 2011. A few blinks, breaths, a quick turn around and here I am three years in the future; my best intentions for this blog seem to have failed and only three posts smile back at me with sad eyes begging, “Are you coming back yet? We are lonely. Finish what you started please!”

Of course the story of the abandoned blog is in no way a rare or singular tale. To be fair to myself, I have accomplished a lot in the last three years and I remember it all. But it’s still a little creepy isn’t it? When I reflect on the beginning of this blog, when I stare at its underdeveloped body of work, I can’t help but to be freaked out by the fleetingness of time and my ability to lose focus of my goals so easily and so completely.

I’ve been meaning to get back here for quite some time. I was drawn to WordPress today to try to refocus and I happened to stumble upon this ‘Zero to Hero’ blogging challenge/tool. And though I initially gave birth to my blog three years ago, I feel very comfortable with using these provided assignments to help breathe live back into my neglected but well-intentioned baby. So, I thank this team of WordPress blogging experts very much, and I move forward, keeping my head held high and letting go of any negative disappointment I feel towards myself for these last three years of neglect.

The first ‘Zero to Hero’ assignment is to create a ‘who I am and why I am here post’. For me, this answer is a two-parter:

First, when I started the ‘In Search of Adam’ blog I WAS a 28-year-old closeted gay man. I was terrified; floating alone in a boat, in a huge endless ocean of confusion and worry, with no sail or paddles to help me steer. This may sound majorly dramatic, but I know from experience that this analogy is quite accurate. I created this blog to help me focus my thoughts and alleviate my fears so that I could eventually ‘come out’. I was also attempting to let other closeted people know that they were not alone. And I was hoping that by explaining my fears of ‘coming out’, in great detail, someone would magically give me advice that would suddenly make it easy to accept being gay.

Secondly, TODAY I am an ‘Out’ Gay 31 year old man. It is difficult to express in words how wonderful it feels to be able to type ‘out gay man’. There are many details I could, and many that I will, explain. But the long and short of it is that I am free of my closet and can finally breathe when it comes to my sexuality. I found my boat’s sail and now strongly grasp my oars. Though the waters can still be rough and scary, I finally feel like I am starting to steer my own life.

Keep Moving Forward

So, moving forward, I hope to accomplish a few things with this blog.

  1. Continue to discuss what being closeted felt like, mostly because I still have a few posts that I wrote 3 years ago but never published.
  2. Discuss my personal ‘coming out’ process; the ups, downs and lessons I learned.
  3. I would like to write about, and hopefully educate others and myself on, gay history. It’s important to understand the struggles of days past.
  4. I would like to discuss current gay events and happenings in the world.
  5. I would also like to discuss films. I really enjoy writing movie reviews.
  6. Plus, I will probably talk about my daily personal life (like my new years resolutions) if anyone cares to listen.
  7. Perhaps most importantly, I hope to connect with some of you reading these words and maybe make some new friends.

I should warn the reader that I expect this blog to have a very gay voice, which I find to be refreshing and honest (after so many years in the closet) and I hope you do too. I thank you for taking the time to read this long post.

Moving into 2014 I hope that I can stick with this blog more long term and that it can help me grow as a person. I once again find myself in a period of personal reinvention. I’m job searching again, looking to relocate to a new place and hoping to actually start dating this year. I hope that this blog can be a tool to help others and hopefully me. I wish us all the best, Gentle Reader.