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Grateful That I Can Be An “Out” Gay Man

Good Morning My Confidants!

I came out as gay when I was around nineteen or twenty, but soon after, in many ways, retreated into the closet. I met a wonderful woman who loved gay men, had most of her life, and had even lived for a period of time in the Castro in San Francisco, where all of her best friends were gay.

I met this wonderful lady at the WorldCon—the science fiction convention where the Hugo Awards are given—in Chicago. We hit it off. She went back home to Kansas City and I stayed home in Chicago. But we hit it off so well, we decided to start visiting each other.

To my surprise, as our friendship grew by leaps and bounds, I found I could be intimate with her, and she had always wished for a gay man as a romantic partner. It worked. For a while. And in the time we were together, we had a beautiful daughter, who I am eternally grateful for.

But I came to see as much as I loved this woman, I wasn’t happy. I couldn’t figure out why. And then through a series of events, I came to see something. I was out as a homosexual, or bisexual. But I was not "out" as a gay man. Because you see, there is a huge, giant difference between being homosexual and being gay.

The following quote by Ethan Mordden knocked the wind out of me....

“You can be homosexual from birth, but you can’t be gay unless you voluntarily enter the gay world, a culture all its own…. Gay is a unique minority: strictly elective. If, called to the colors, you resist, no one may ever know who you really are.”

It took me awhile to truly, truly “get” what this man said. And I resisted at first. I stayed in a situation in my life because I was afraid, and I didn’t want to hurt the mother of my child, even if she had walked into it with her eyes wide open.

Then I met this older man. I was in my late twenties, and I am guessing now he was in at least his fifties, if not older. We were talking and he told me that he hadn’t come out until the last few years, and he’d been “outed” through an unfortunate event in his life, and after losing his family and job and home, decided he should finally embrace who he was. He shared that all the years of his Nazarene life and marriage, he had quietly watched from the sidelines as gay people, more and more, were coming out and fighting for their rights and openly showing their more and more he was seeing gay people openly expressing their love for each other in public, even holding hands at a busy shopping mall ... and oh, how he longed to be himself. He had come to see how deeply unhappy he was. He felt he had wasted so many years that he could have been with a male partner instead of pretending that he was something that he wasn’t—but he couldn’t see at the time how he could be anyone else. He wished he’d been brave and had not cared what the world thought of him.

I was crying by then. I sat there thinking, Do I want to wait twenty or thirty years to be me?

I mean, I thought I was being honest. My “lady” knew I was (mostly) gay and had even given me permission to be with men, but the first time I came close to it, it upset her so much, I never tried again. I just couldn’t hurt her. And we did have a kid.

But so did my new friend, this older gentleman who was telling me his story. He had two daughters. I asked him if his life was different now, and while I can’t remember exactly what he said, one of the things that really stuck me to the marrow, to the depths of my heart, was when he explained how different and blessed his life was now that he woke up in the same bed every day with a man, or woke to the smell of brewing coffee and came downstairs to a man waiting for him at the kitchen table. To kiss a man at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

To hold him, or be held by him, a man, in times of grief. Or times of celebration.

I cannot express here this morning how I felt in that moment. The pain, deep deep deep inside. The longing that I suddenly had, or had always had, but hadn’t allowed myself to acknowledge. Oh, the emotions! The storm of thoughts!

Did I want to get to the same age as my friend and wish that I had had thought courage to be myself? I didn’t want to hurt the woman I cared for, the mother of my child, but was there a point in doing what I saw a lot of men were doing (gay or straight) and waiting for their kid(s) to grow up to be who they wanted to be, to live the life they wanted to live? Dreamed of living? I know that I talked to many, many people who have said that they wished their parents hadn’t stayed together, because they saw how unhappy they were, and that made them unhappy as well. Or for those who didn’t know, how deeply it hurt them that their whole lives had been a lie (or at least they felt that way).

I read more and more and more about the history of gay people, and how throughout hundreds upon hundreds of years, gay men either hid who they were and married—and perhaps found ways to be sexual secretly, whether through brief encounters where men who wanted to be with men could find each other—or who had secret affairs. Secret from wives, and even secret from society. I read essays where it was speculated that famous people (there is a big one for Abraham Lincoln) were homosexual and unable to live a life true to themselves.

I came to see that there was a mountainous difference between being homosexual and being gay. More and more science is proving the nature over nurture theories on why people are attracted to the same sex. That we are born sexual beings and we are conceived as being whatever our sexuality is, something just a part of us as the color of our eyes or hair. We can dye or hair or wear colored contact lenses, but that doesn’t change the hair and eyes we were born with.

And we can marry the opposite sex and lead a “straight” life, but that doesn’t make a homosexual man a heterosexual man.

I came to see that I didn’t want to get to a point where I felt my life was wasted. In fact, I did have to deal with emotions of resenting the years “wasted” already, but thank God I worked through that, because the last thing I would want to do was consider what I had with that lady to be a waste.

We are who we are because of our life experiences.

However, I did think about how grateful I was for that older gay man telling me his story, and sharing it with others, so that because of his story, I was able to make the decision I made.

And I vowed to pay it forward. I came out and I told my story and—even though the 90s was not as safe to be open about being gay as today may (or may not) be—I walked around, displaying who I was through everything from T-shirts to holding the hand of the man I was dating or in a relationship with while I was in public.

My ex’s mother said to me, “Should you be doing this? What about the children?”

My response was something to the effect of, “That’s one of the HUGE reasons I am doing this. So, children will see. And maybe there will be a young boy or man struggling to understand and accept themselves and they will see these two adult men displaying their love for each other, and we will give them hope.”

And the thing is, at least once I caught the eye of a young man, fourteen maybe, and those eyes, they were filled with wonder. And he gave me the tiniest smile, the tiniest nod. No more, because I saw he was with his family. But I hope today—he would be somewhere in his forties probably—that he is an out and proud gay man, and that his family accepted him.

When people say, “But why must you be so public? We don’t walk around with Straight Pride shirts and march in straight pride parades!”

The very fact that he asked such a ridiculous question was WHY we—LGBTQ+ people—wear our shirts and hold hands in public. Because we need to. We have to show our love. For some reason, the world reduces GLBTQ+ people to out sexuality, what we do in bed, that is how they focus on us, wondering what we do in bed, instead of seeing what we are. People who love the same gender, or who can love both.

And how often do you see straight people displaying their love for each other in public?

The Answer: ALL THE TIME!

Harvey Milk pleaded with gay and lesbian people to be out, to show the “straight” world that they had nothing to fear, and that if we were ever going to be accepted, that is the only way it was going to happen.

That is what I dedicated my entire life to doing. And I believe that one of the major reasons we—me and my gay and lesbian and bisexual siblings have come so far in the past 30+ years is because we stood out and proud, because we showed our true colors. I think that is why the bisexual and transgender communities have come so far, by joining our parade (and yes, I know about the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, where dozens of trans people, drag queens and gay men fought the police, where once again trans people paved the way three years before the Stone Wall Riots).

Ethan Morden’s entire quote is: “You can be homosexual from birth, but you can’t be gay unless you voluntarily enter the gay world, a culture all its own. Gays understand straights; but straights don’t understand gays any more than whites understand blacks or Christians understand Jews, however good their intentions. Gay is a unique minority: strictly elective. If, called to the colors, you resist, no one may ever know who you really are.”

In my coming out process, those words were perhaps the most life changing I had ever heard.

Gay truly is strictly elective.

Gay is that so-called label I take on myself to say I am PROUD that I am a man who loves men.

I was called to the colors, and I stopped resisting, not only so that others would know who I really am, but so that I would know.

And I am so happy!

Armistead Maupin wrapped it up beautifully in his Tales of the City novel thusly: “Being gay has taught me tolerance, compassion and humility. It has shown me the limitless possibilities of living. It has given me people whose passion and kindness and sensitivity have provided a constant source of strength. It has brought me into the family of man ... and I like it here. I like it.”

Today I am so grateful that I am an open gay man. It has brought me a life unlike any I could have had otherwise. It has given me “people whose passion and kindness and sensitivity have provided a constant source of strength,” both gay and straight (and everything in-between). It has given me love I could never have imagined. It has caused me to ask questions that I might never have considered asking if I was living a life tailor made for me by a white-Anglo-Saxon-straight-protestant society. I had to find out how I fit into this world instead of just clicking my puzzle piece into the larger puzzle. I got to decide which puzzle I wanted to click into!

These questions led me to countless other questions that, again, I would never HAVE considered or thought about if I was a male white Anglo-Saxon middle-class protestant. I would have very likely been one of those people who asked ignorant questions like, “But why must you be so public? We don’t walk around with Straight Pride shirts and march in straight pride parades!”

Some of the best friends I have ever had in my life have asked me these questions. Because while they are supportive...straights don’t understand gays any more than whites understand blacks or Christians understand Jews, however good their intentions. I have seen in their eyes that they truly think I would be so much happier if I was with women instead of men. That the problems I have had in gay relationships is because I was with a man instead of a woman. And I sit there, observing their relationships, and I often know that mine is far better off than theirs. And if not "better," not any less difficult or easy.

But what is really sad to me is when my GLBTQ+ friends ask me the same questions. And it is because they are afraid and perhaps even ashamed. There is some inner part of them that thinks there is something wrong with them.

Being gay allowed me to question my spirituality and whether the religion I was raised with was the right one for me.

It allowed me to ask questions, to question others, and learn more because my mind had been opened in a way it might not have been opened under different circumstances.

Because I am an out and proud gay man and it is the magick of my life. “It has brought me into the family of man ... and I like it here. I like it.”

Today I am so grateful that the Universe CHOOSE me to be gay. I am so glad I have this privilege. I am so grateful to be part of the “family of [gay] man,” I am so grateful that not fitting in allowed me to question and find such a beautiful life. It made me an example. It made me more loving and understanding. It opened me up to become “woke” (which I am also infinitely grateful for!). It’s the reason I have the amazing and loving and supportive loving partners that I have.

And today my hope and prayers that you, who are reading this, are grateful that you are who you area as well.

Thank you, Universe!


BG “Gentle Ben” Thomas

January 30, 2024, Entry #029

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3 kommentarer

So true! While I have been an Ally for decades, I am not and never will be gay not understand completely what it is like to be gay. I can offer love and compassion but only a gay person can offer the experience of being gay.


Will Jones
Will Jones
30 jan.

Many people tend to assume straightness in those they meet. This is why we must be open about who we are. It can be immensely helpful, and maybe healing, to a scared, marginalized kid to know they aren't alone in how they feel.


Beautifully said

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