11 April 2011

Coming Out, Part I

Growing up as a child in the 70’s, my first ten years were spent as the only white boy in a predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood in Daly City, California. This made me the easy target for most of the neighborhood bullies, and I spent a good portion of those younger days learning to run quickly, hide in trees and became quite adept at bleeding profusely. When I was in my early teens, I moved to the South Bay of California, where there was a much better balance of ethnicities, but despite not sticking out like a sore thumb, I somehow managed to maintain the stigma of the school nerd; the one to pick on and the one to beat up, and my afore mentioned skills only gained strength as time went on. Growing up as that social outcast did not make it any easier to accept my own homosexuality, something I was terrified to even contemplate as I was just not willing to add any more reasons to paint a bull’s-eye on my back.

I knew from a young age that I liked boys more than girls; and pretty much confirmed it when, at 14, I had a girl take me home and undress and offer me the keys to the kingdom, and I showed about as much interest in her as most people would feel towards an unnecessary root-canal. As I grew up, I didn’t date that much; mostly because I still had that glowing aura of the nerd, the anti-social and awkwardly shy guy in the corner that most people ignored or avoided. I found comfort in that corner, and saw no reason to break out.

I finally did meet a few girls and, after having put those pesky natural feelings towards other guys in a deep hole, somewhere in the back of my mind, along with the notion of playing sports or ever being “cool”, I finally lost my virginity. I found that I was able to perform just fine and even enjoyed it on some level, but never anything like what I had longed for with another guy. But I convinced myself this was normal; convinced myself that I was not and would not be that stereotypical gay person that the pop culture of the time defined us as. I knew I was not already, but I could never in my wildest dreams imagine that any guy I could find attractive would also be gay, let alone anyone my age; I was so naïve.

To me, a spawn of the 70’s and 80’s, that stereotype was a balding man with a huge and thick mustache, leather pants and a lisp (and depending on how long I thought on it, a pink tutu was involved as well). To all of you who still meet this vision, I salute you; but in my teen years, this was not what I was interested in. I wanted the boy next door, and I mean that quite literally. I wanted my neighbor like mad.

When the boy next door and I became friends, after hanging out for months, he told me he had something to talk about and was worried about how I would react. He said it simply, and rushed through it with eyes closed so as to get it over with, like pulling off a Band-Aid that had stayed on far too long. He told me he was gay. I told him I didn’t care, that he had nothing to worry about, and he walked away while I stood poised; when he went inside, my jaw dropped in full Roger Rabbit fashion, and I was pretty sure my eyes did the same budging out that our animated rabbit did as well. I was blown away, and didn’t know what to do. He knew I was “straight”, had met a couple of the girls I had been seeing, and I had put the concept of my own true nature so far out of my mind, that out of pure instinct, I followed the same path with him and chose to ignore it. That is, until I met his boyfriend.

I was invited over to my neighbor’s house when his parents were gone for the night, and found that his boyfriend James was there as well; and he was an absolute beauty. I sat quietly in the living room with them as we all watched a movie. I couldn’t tell you the name of the movie because I spent the whole night watching them through my peripheral vision, and was obsessed with watching as they cuddled and were physically affectionate to one another. I decided I had to go; I was conflicted between what I saw, wanting to see more and going on pure overload from it all. And then it happened, as I was about to stand up, I looked over and they kissed. For the first time in my life, I watched two guys kiss, and not just men, but guys my own age. Something in me awakened in that moment and I excused myself and left, and found out later that they were very upset that they had offended me so badly; how little they knew.

Over the next couple of months, I found out that many of my friends were gay as they had all started to come out to one another, and to me. As outlandish as it seems, we had hid this fact from one another in our own proverbial closets. I could not handle it anymore, but I was torn between wanting to join them in their festivities, and terrified by the hypocrisy of my own action by, quite literally, playing it straight. After several months of this, I finally gave in and decided I had to tell someone.

I finally outed myself to my best friend, and after beating around the bushes for a couple hours, when I finally had the courage to say the words, I felt as though the greatest weight had been lifted from me. At first, having said it aloud for the first time, I was convinced I was about to pass out from all the blood falling directly into my feet. But then the feeling of being light and free overwhelmed me. I realized who I was, and I finally accepted it 100%. But that was just the beginning…

To be continued next week.

- Shaun Taylor

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