Wednesday, January 3, 2007

It's Always Best to Start at the Beginning...

Let me preface this post with the following disclosure: these are parts of a recent e-mail exchahged between various friends and myself. I have changed some things and deleted others to not only ensure their privacy, but because there were some things I wanted to share here with all you fine readers as well, but never having found the chance to type them out till just a little while ago (and some things I have shared before but this is simply in a little more detail...). So I apologize now for any abrupt text flow, but there's a reason.

A person asked me: [...] you said you wouldn't be able to remain "faithful" in a relationship because of being gay....was that really all there was to it?

No, that was pretty much it. It wasn't _____, it was me (and in this case, that isn't a line! :D) I don't know exactly what _____ has been going through (although I can make some educated guesses), but _____ has nothing to feel guilty about or otherwise guilty of... I knew in my heart of hearts that, as much as I loved _____, it wasn't going to work. Not because of what we ever did or said, but basically because of who I was. And as I had been that way for as long as I can remember, and was able to hide it (quite well, if I do say so myself; so much so that most of the time I wouldn't even admit it to myself). But the truth of a person always comes out eventually (just look at Ted Haggerty for a great example of what the future could have been!! Scary!!!! And not just because he could have used a nose job worse than Sarah Jessica Parker!!) and I knew who I was and what I was. That's pretty much it, and I didn't want to hurt _____ or anyone like that. And though I knew there would be hurt, it was better to do it then before we were married, we had kids, and all that jazz.
Someone recently asked: What turned you off toward God? I was looking through some old letters and found one from you and it completely floored me how much you've changed.
The death of ones faith in a deity is never an overnight process. It was years in the forming and making; my mom still thinks it's just because I'm gay (actually, she jokes about it and calls me "happy" LOL), but the two are not actually in any way related. It's actually quite easy for most people to justify it in scripture (too easy, actually). But after some studies and a lot of reading on varying topics and points of view about religion in general and Christianity as a whole, about four years ago I just stopped believing. It's not even about god (although most fundies will claim it's about being mad at god or some other such nonsense), it's just isn't rational or logical to me any longer. One could go into the psychosomatic claims of crutches or superstition, necessity versus niceties... I personally don't care one way or another what a person does or doesn't believe, but for me, it was more of a clinical, logical conclusion after studying it and reading about it... I know this sounds very general... It's hard to explain to someone the process of a death in faith. There were years of hurt, the pain of trying to analyze the very foundations that had been my life, the things I had taken for granted, things you had learned and been told, and how that jived not only against what one personally observes and sees, but in how others bring to the table their knowledge, experiences, and observations...

In short (I know, too late!), it wasn't something I decided one morning when I woke up drinking my Folgers... It was gradual; it was a slow build up; it was necessary for me on my personal journey through life. That's about the best way I can think to put it right now...
Someone asked: Do you have any thoughts of ever being married with a woman or will you continue the path you have chosen?
No, I will never marry a woman, as far as I know. I could beat around the bush and such, but there's no reason to do that. The path I have chosen, as you put it :), is basically all about freedom. I lived a lie. I've been there, tried to deny who I am. It took years to wade all through what I believed, what I felt, what I thought--a great deal of analyzing, tears and fights with my family, and gradually, a contentment. I would say a "happiness," as that's what most people seem to aim for in life, but happiness isn't an end, just an emotion that functions as a means and a mechanism for sharing a journey. But I have found contentment. I no longer war with myself, I no longer cry myself to sleep some nights, I no longer question things that, in the end, are in my opinion meaningless. We all have this journey to walk, this life none of us ever asked for, and I will no longer live my life based on what others think it should or shouldn't be. Am I "right" in all the decisions I have made? I don't know, honestly. But as we continue in our lives, we all must make decisions not based on what we think we know, but on what we feel is right, as a lot of times, what feels right and what we know is right are in conflict. But knowledge never brings contentment, except as perhaps another means to an end. Knowledge, like happiness, is never an end. And while knowledge, as we typically understand the term, has allowed me to greater explore the world, it has also allowed me to examine what I feel, or what I think, and conclude what could be the right thing for me. I know it doesn't work for everyone--but that's their decision to make, not mine.

I will no longer pretend to be someone I am not; I will no longer value my life or my actions by someone else's rules. Some may (and do) take issue with that, but it's not their life either. I've made peace with that (even though some of them haven't), but it's not up to me to pretend to be something to make them happy. And as much as it hurts sometimes to disagree with someone you love, sometimes there isn't any room for compromise; and sometimes, people need to learn where their lives and their expectations for their life ends, and where others begins... Know what I mean?

SHIFTING GEARS TO ANOTHER CONVERSATION KIND OF IN THE MIDDLE...

I know the trepidation. [...] I was a wreck. I didn't know which way was up. But I had to start somewhere. So I started at a church geared towards gays and lesbians (go figure :D) No, this isn't when I met Rich, although it was at the same place. And as I made friends, I started getting a feel for where they were coming from, and how they related to things I had always felt but never put into words. I eventually started going out with a guy named Rob. My family still didn't know at this point. I was living in Allentown, far enough away that they just couldn't drop by, but close enough that we could call and visit.

He was great. We were together about a year when he was diagnosed with leukemia. His ex-wife came by and took the kids, said she didn't want them around degenerates, especially sick ones (he had shared custody). She was convinced he had AIDS (even though he didn't, of course). Already sick, he was even more devastated. My family knew I was going through something, but since I felt I couldn't share it with them, they could only stand by helplessly as they watched me lose weight, disappear for days as I tended to Rob as he got sicker... Perhaps some of them didn't notice, I don't know.... They were barely a blip on my radar at that point...

One day, I went to Rob's apartment after work--and he wasn't there. I panicked, of course. Was he at the hospital? Did he die? What the hell was going on?

He had actually moved. To Florida. For a chemotherapy center. He didn't tell me--he didn't want me to watch him die in case it came to that. (Enter many long days and nights...; BTW, I saw him a few years later, and after crying, then bitching him out, then crying some more, we have remained friends)

Finally my sister, Sylvia, asked me out to dinner at our old hang-out spot, Michael's Diner, in Douglassville. She was still dealing with the fact that she had ___________________, feeling like a heal, like she had done something wrong (even though she hadn't). She pretty much bared her soul that day at the diner, and I did likewise. It wasn't what I had expected, of course. It felt weird to admit it to someone in my family, of course. And I had heard the horror stories. I knew people who had been kicked out of their homes. Been called names, been close to being killed by their parents, some who hadn't spoken to anyone in their families for years, one even decades, all because of being gay. Some began to not care about their lives anymore, now that their family was gone, had told them they were worthless, basically, whether under the guise of religion or not; some had committed suicide over the anguish and heartbreak. But most grew stronger, became more sure of themselves; some decided to live. How would my family react? What road would I end up on?

And if any of you know my sister, you know word travels faster than lightening. It wasn't long before I was getting calls; Mike (my younger brother) was cryptic (and drunk) when he called at three that morning: "How come we never talk Jason?" Me: "What? It's three in the morning..." Mike: "Yeah, I mean, but, you talk to Sylvia, how come you can't talk to me?" I told him I'd call him back later and hung up. My siblings reached out.

My parents... well... my mom called: "Don't tell your father. I don't know what he'll do. Just--let me tell him when I think the time is right." I argued, but only half-heartedly. This is where a waiting game began. What will they say?

It took a few weeks, but once my father found out, all he said was, "Are you still being stupid?" BTW, those words are going to haunt me for the rest of my life. Years of anguish, pain, death, tears-- and all he can say is "Are you still being stupid?" It took a long time for me to forgive dad for those words...; "forgiving" and "forgetting" are two very different things....

And it took years longer for things to resemble normal family relations again. But it did happen; I'm a lucky one, I know. Not all have such luck. Now they can joke about it; hug Rich and tell him they love him too; joke about things again. Are there still things that seem taboo? Sometimes, but when all is said and done, we are closer for me being honest; we have more respect for one another; we are more open about our feelings about everything; we have shown that we are still a family...

I imagined the worst, of course. We had grown up very religious, very stringent. My grandfather was a Baptist preacher, for crying out loud! Our lives revolved around church every waking day; we prayed together; we had watched as my great-grandfather had kicked an uncle out for being gay; we were very god-centric... I had every reason to believe that I would be one of the unlucky ones... But I wasn't.

Families can surprise you. Friends, too. The ones I thought would be the most tolerant and loving turned out to be some of the least; and some I didn't even consider friends, just acquaintances, turned out to be some of my best friends today. All the decisions we make, all the paths we chose--honesty about life shows true colors in all walks of life--in the truth teller and in the truth listener.

And though I have some mental and emotional scars--they are also some of my best memories... I wouldn't trade my path for the world, for on my path, I met my true family, my true friends, and my true love. No conditions, no precepts, no barriers--love. That doesn't mean we always agree, but it does always mean we will respect each other, and support each other, and be there for one another.

Coming out was the best thing I ever did. I couldn't even imagine still being there today--but I know that also isn't for everyone. It's scary--terrifying, actually, in more ways than anyone else can imagine. But it is also liberating. I came out knowing I could have been banished from my home, my family--and my gamble paid off. Not everyone's does.

[...] I thought I knew the conditions of my families love--I thought I knew what the rules would end up being--they disappointed, but in a good way!

Hmm, that was a little less choppy then I thought...

3 comments:

DaBich said...

I'm glad you have no regrets. It's been quite a road for you, as any ready can tell, but it's had a good ending...or middle, depending on how you look at it. Keep on movin on, and don't look back!
Happy New Year, Jason!

Sylvia said...

Hey Ja
I'm also glad you have no regrets. Reading this post, well, it was a little emotional for me. I remember when you first "came out". I remember sitting at Michael's Restaraunt, smoking like I don't know - a million cigarettes that evening. LOL
But, did Daddy really say that to you??? I can't belive it (even though I do). Daddy was never really good at sharing his thoughts...and when he finally does come out of that shell, sometimes it's some of the worst things that could come out of a person's mouth.
We all have our memories of what Daddy has said in times of tribulation and/or confusion. I'll never forget what he said to me one time. It was right before I had Samuel. I coulnd't bend down to tie my shoes, and he looked at me...right in the eyes, and said, "You know you I wouldn't have to do this for you if you never got yourself in this situation." I WAS SO HURT!
So, even though I never travelled down your path, I have walked mine, and it wasn't always peaches and cream. I love you so much Jason.
I really do. You mean the world to me...I can't believe how lucky I am to have such an awesome, loving, sensitive (at times lol), and truly wonderful brother. I have a brother who has REALLY been there for me...and he's with this truly great guy, whom I love as well.
Don't ever ever ever ever look back and regret anything you've ever done. No matter who the nay sayers are, I'll always be there for you!
~Sylvia~

Sylvia said...

Hey Ja
I'm also glad you have no regrets. Reading this post, well, it was a little emotional for me. I remember when you first "came out". I remember sitting at Michael's Restaraunt, smoking like I don't know - a million cigarettes that evening. LOL
But, did Daddy really say that to you??? I can't belive it (even though I do). Daddy was never really good at sharing his thoughts...and when he finally does come out of that shell, sometimes it's some of the worst things that could come out of a person's mouth.
We all have our memories of what Daddy has said in times of tribulation and/or confusion. I'll never forget what he said to me one time. It was right before I had Samuel. I coulnd't bend down to tie my shoes, and he looked at me...right in the eyes, and said, "You know you I wouldn't have to do this for you if you never got yourself in this situation." I WAS SO HURT!
So, even though I never travelled down your path, I have walked mine, and it wasn't always peaches and cream. I love you so much Jason.
I really do. You mean the world to me...I can't believe how lucky I am to have such an awesome, loving, sensitive (at times lol), and truly wonderful brother. I have a brother who has REALLY been there for me...and he's with this truly great guy, whom I love as well.
Don't ever ever ever ever look back and regret anything you've ever done. No matter who the nay sayers are, I'll always be there for you!
~Sylvia~