The You-Turn

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA…But is it in your conscience that you’re after
another glimpse of the madman across the water?

– Elton John

The way I see it, we have two choices in life:

1) We keep ourselves under wraps, we counterfeit (to borrow a term from a fellow blogger) our feelings, we censor our identities. And we live a half-life at best.

–or–

2) We come out of the shadows and we takes our lumps. And we set ourselves free to be who we are. We live authentically.

But disaster looms. Coming out of the closet–any closet–promises to reach into one’s life and unravel it, thread by delicate thread. It is bridge burning taken to new levels, and it is arson by one’s own hand. We wonder if the precarious structure we call identity will be able to withstand the ensuant tremors as we begin to plumb the fault lines of our existence. And we hesitate, one foot off the precipice, one foot on, hugging the edge for all we’re worth.

These are the moments in which purpose is forged. Not in any teleological sense: no one can see into infinity. Farragut had no assurances of victory when he uttered his famous words at Mobile Bay. But he knew he would accomplish nothing by simply remaining where he was, and he knew better than to think he could go back and maintain any shred of self-respect. So he damned the torpedoes–as we all must do at some point–and leapt into the fray.

Purpose is simply this: movement. Movement that reflects who you are. Movement that honors who you want to be. We cannot know what is out there, but we can set out to meet it. On our own terms. In our own way.

But movement is, by definition, away from something, and toward something else. It implies leaving things behind: the static things, the things we can’t carry. In some cases, the people or the places. The safe. The certain. The comfortable.

It may mean cutting ties. There are relationships in this world that lift you up, and relationships that hold you back. You will know them by their deeds. The ones that lift you up also let you go, give you your head. Reluctantly, possibly, at first, but faithfully throughout. They let you explore, become, grow. They let you Be.

The ones that hold you back will strangle the life out of you, if you let them. On a deeper level, they are not real relationships in the first place, because you are not really part of them. Not really. Only the part the other allows you to reveal, just a shadow, an outline. Hollow; shallow; false.

But they feel real. And it hurts when they fall away. Which is why it is so hard to leave them behind. They are the training wheels to our bicycles, the nets to our tightropes. But these things only blight our vision. Their sole purpose is to obviate our need for wings. They anchor us to the ground; they mock our dreams of flight. They whisper to us, cajole us–this is as far as you can go, so stay. Here in the darkness, where it is safe.

Which will it be: the shadow, or the light?

 

Coming Out

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I have decided that it’s time for me to come out of the closet. I have been living in denial, dissimulation, and doubt for far too long, and I’m done. It’s time to be honest, with myself and with you. It’s time to embrace who I am and where I’m going, instead of letting others define me for me. It’s time I stood up and stated openly my real identity, without shame, without compromise, without guilt, without fear. It’s time for me to lay my cards on the table and be myself.

I am straight. Mom, Dad, I’m sorry, but I just can’t fight it any longer. I’m straight. All those years in the theater notwithstanding, I am straight. I apologize sincerely to all those I may shock with this revelation, but I have to stand up for who I am. I am a heterosexual. I love women. Well, woman, anyway. My wife. I tried to overcome this attraction, I tried to swallow the urge to marry a person of the opposite sex, but in the end, I had to be who I am. I am a straight, straight man.

There! I said it! It’s done.

And it’s ridiculous.

The idea that anyone should have to “confess” their sexual orientation to the world, as if asking permission to be who they are, is always ridiculous, no matter who the person, no matter what that orientation. If you found my version even slightly superfluous, possibly a bit redundant even, then the same should apply across the board, to all people, everywhere. We are who we are, and the only way that becomes perverted is when we’re forced (or force others) to pretend that we’re not. As Gay Activists Alliance leader Marty Robinson wrote in 1971, “the closet is built in fear, not shame.” And we shove people into it every day.

But (for those of you who panicked when you read the first paragraph of this post), here’s my real “confession”: I love gay men. I also love lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered. I am both amused and horrified by those who suggest that I have a choice in the matter. (Or, for that matter, that they do.) I love the fact that I have never met a homosexual who has tried to persuade me that I won’t be truly happy until I become one, too. I have a dear friend who, with his partner (his husband, actually, although they’re not legally entitled to use the term where they live), is preparing to adopt a child, and I love the fact that a man faced with such social revulsion is still capable of giving that much love. I love that they love, and I love that they love in spite of all the people trying to tell them that love is good…except for theirs.

So I’m out, I’m proud, and I refuse to be forced back in.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin,” you tell me. Don’t worry. I do. It’s just not the “sin” you’re thinking of…