Monday, October 16, 2006

Leaving the past, moving forward

I had great plans for a burst of blogging activity last week - intending for this beautiful coming-out post on my post-seminary-life blog for National Coming Out Day. And as part of this, I wanted to come out personally to three people who knew me from my old lives, including my former wife.

Unfortunately, the big "outing" post never got written last week. The work-world tanked early on in the week, and I got my 40 hours in by about noon Wednesday. Between that and doctor visits for myself and my sister, I got done with work about 7 PM Wednesday, and fell into bed at 8. My thoughts were, "It's waited for three decades - a few more days won't kill anyone." But before most of the raw-sewage broke loose in the work world, I did manage to send my coming-out email to my former spouse.

It was not well received, to put it mildly. I wasn't surprised, and yet I was. On the one hand, our life had been characterized by lies - about money, about my drinking, about illegal activity I'd been a part of. So coming out to her nearly 16 years later just added one more level of lying and betrayal, and ripped open wounds that I'd hoped would have been better healed after a decade and a half.

And, after all, she was at least partly right. What she, and several others in my life, will never understand is not that I was living a lie back then, but that I was desperately trying to be something that I was afraid I couldn't be. I had to believe in my heart of hearts that I could somehow "get past" my same-sex desires and be normal. Until I encountered the GLBT community in Hyde Park, and my "homo-mentors" Tom and Michael, I just couldn't get there.

I still remember, sitting Tom's living room, and saying the words, "Well, I can either be an overweight, under-endowed, greying, middle-aged gay man, and put myself in line for bashing and abuse, or I can be an overweight, under-endowed, greying, middle-aged straight man, and skip all the trouble. Either way, I'm going home alone." And Tom said, in his gentle but forceful way, that sexual orientation isn't about who you're sleeping with - it's about who you are. And it's about honesty. And that's when I "hit bottom" about my orientation.

Strangely enough, so many of the people I've come out to have basically said, "Yeah, well...duh, Steve...no kidding..." So far, only my former wife and my former pastor from Kansas were in any way taken aback. For which I give thanks...

But there is good news, too.

As part of a couple of postings on GayChristian.net, I've been in contact with gay Christians in the Toledo area, and we now have November 11th as a tentative date to get together. The very loose plans are to see the new Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavillion and then to meet up with a few more folks for dinner.

I'm excited about that.

The other cool thing was getting to my first GLBT AA meeting, the Sunday night "Live and Let Live" group downtown. Unfortunately, as was the case in Chicago, the GLBT meetings are either near-downtown or on the north-side of Toledo. But the 16-mile drive in Toledo only took 25 minutes, and it was a breeze at 7:30 on a Sunday evening.

I actually brought the topic up - coming back to old haunts and old meetings (where I've been visiting, on and off, for 15 years) and talking about how and whether to "come out" in those situations. After all, I have no parter or boyfriend, so the pressures to be "out" are largely in my mind at this stage of the game. Folks shared some great experience - although I had to envy the fact that many who spoke were "out" before they got sober. But, as with so much of AA, there were definitely the folks with whom I identified completely, and almost everyone that I identified with in some way.

The other cool thing was that after the meeting, I was invited to go with the group up to Sylvania, to J&G's Pizza. Now, this was a little unusual, since the meeting was downtown, and Sylvania is the far northwest corner of the world. But "Toledo miles" just aren't the same as "Chicago miles," and it seemed perfectly acceptable to do this. Unfortunately, I'd left a whole mess of unpacking strewn all over my room in order to get to the meeting, so I begged off this week - but with a definite raincheck for next week.

It's a blast from the past - J&G's Pizza is kind of a hole-in-the-wall tradition in the Toledo area - we even had our high-school musical cast-parties there (well, they started there, anyway) back in the 70's. So it will be a fun gathering, and it seems like a fun group.

That's it for now - the work-day sirens are sounding...

2 comments:

  1. Steve

    I think you are right that many more folks don't care one way or the other when you come out to them. I think there are many who would have already guessed it, and they are just waiting for you to cop to it...they say "duh" as you describe. These folks already knew it or suspected it. I think there is also the second group, the folks like me, who for whatever reason never had any opinion on it one way or the other. I was very surprised when I learned, since even I tend to be at least mildly influenced -against my object mental desires, but yet still conditioned by years of taking in what society was dishing out- by cultural stereotypes of what a gay man "looks like." Clearly you are no fashion maven....I've never heard you sing barbara...your wrists seem as firm as the next guy's....I have not known you long enough to say you have gone for years w/o a woman in your life, ect.....you know, the more I think of the stereotypical "telltale signs" in relation to the gay men I know, the more I can't help laugh at how foolish they are...as are most outward "signs" of any group member...

    At any rate, steve...I am sure there will be those you encounter along the way as you out yourself who will NOT be tolerant, accepting or kind. Some will feel an anger or resentment that may or may not be tied directly to you, thier vision of you or their vision of what should be you....or thier sense of being "hoodwinked" by not seeing the real you....who knows?

    All I know for sure, just based on what I understand about human nature, is that a certain percentage will not get it, will not accept you and will not give you the approval you hope for. I encourage you strongly to take a "live and let live, what will be will be, fuck'em if they can't take a joke" approach. I know how much we want approval from all those in our circle...in our case, of all those who came within 100 miles of crossing our path. Yet simple math tells you there is a certain percentage that won't give it. I struggle with this same dynamic around an entirely different issue, so I am talking as much to myself as you....

    Where the rubber meets the road is how we handle it...how we take it into our hearts....and/or keep it out of our hearts, heads, ect. Not let it eat at us and fuel our already low self -esteem..."If only I were X (or not X) then everyone would like me and I really would be a worthwhile person....


    So that's it...But you know all of that already.....I'm glad to see you making friends and fitting in out there....The one thing I would say, and I have said it before, is to leave out the "I'm a fat man with a samll dick" bullshit. Maybe you are, maybe you aren't. Maybe the world should not care, but we know that's asking too much. But there is no reason to put yourself down. I know it's self-effacing humor, that it's just a joke, that its "see, I'm so non-egotistical, so down to earth that I go all the way to the other side just to show you I'm not falsely arrogant." But it is still conveying a self-insult and put down. Tongue in cheek perhaps. But didn't the man say "half the truth is spoken in jest?" You are a good man with a lot going for you. Please take me seriously when I say to try to stop that shit. It feeds the bad side of your identity that you want to overcome. I know you are a great sponsor, and a computer whiz. Why dont you go out of your way to tell that to stangers?

    Anyway, dont want to preach ...it does ryme with screech, doesn't it? But I am entitled cause I already called mike to ask for that book, So you can't say "doctor heal theyself!" I am taking your advice already! LOL...

    Anyway, big man.....great to see ya out there...

    E hugs....

    pete

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  2. Steve,
    Yeah, I'm glad we've finally got a date nailed down for the GCN Toledo get together, too. It'll be good to meet you face-to-face.

    I laughed about what you said about Toledo miles not being the same as Chicago miles... definitely true! Little to no rush hour back ups, a nice loop freeway that actually seems to work to get you from here to there... I didn't grow up here, but I definitely appreciate it. I'm just now getting used to popping downtown for things after 17 years here (the first 5 sans car, though).

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