Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It Gets Better

Every year my elementary school put the fourth and fifth grade boys in one room and the fourth and fifth grade girls in another and showed them their respective halves of the puberty video. It was during this screening, where the voice was telling us that we would soon start to have feelings for girls, when I was in fourth grade that I couldn’t take my eyes off a fifth grade boy. I didn’t initially realize what was going on. I just knew that looking at him gave me some sort of pleasure. I wasn’t disturbed by these feelings at all. Not until I realized what was going on.

To this day I remember in extreme detail standing in front of my dresser, at the age of 9, and speaking aloud one simple, yet so complicated, phrase: “I’m gay.” The hardest part of this memory is what followed: I tried to cry. My parents had never mentioned homosexuality, but I had learned from somewhere (the media? Sunday school?) that being gay was a terrible thing. But there was one problem with my attempt to cry: I wasn’t sad.

Being gay is just part of who I am. I cannot do anything about it and I don’t want to. I don’t want to make this post about the difficulties I faced growing up. Hell, I still face difficulties as an adult who would like to get married someday. But that isn’t what matters. All that matters is that this is who I am. It’s also just a part of who I am. I don’t introduce myself by saying “Hi, I’m Mike and I’m gay,” because my brother doesn’t say “Hi, I’m Chris and I’m straight.”

Still, it is very important that I do acknowledge the struggles of being different in this world, whatever different might mean for you. There are parts of life that suck.

But there are also parts that rock. Parts like having a best friend who cherishes you for being who you are rather than tolerating it.

Being gay is not the only thing that people are oppressed for, not by far, but I’m speaking to gay people now because it is National Coming Out Day. I know the fear that goes along with coming out and there is something that I have learned in 15 years of coming out: the people who really love you, the ones that you should keep around, will accept you for who you are no matter what.

I consciously acknowledged, aloud, that I am gay 15 years ago. I came out to my parents 12 years ago. I came out to my grandparents one year ago. My grandmother goes to church every day. She is a very committed Catholic. My grandfather has his own strong feelings about homosexuality that I have seen expressed. I felt like I was twelve years-old again when I sat on my grandparents’ couch to come out to them. Family is immensely important to me and I felt like they could shatter my soul with a negative response.

So what happened? Well, my grandparents don’t understand me being gay. They have a hard time accepting it. But that’s not all. I got up off that couch and trembled my way to the door, simply glad they had not disowned me. I felt a rush of fear when I heard my grandfather rise from his chair. That fear intensified when I felt him grab my arm. Is he going to hit me?

Of course not.

“We still love you,” said my grandfather. And then he hugged me for probably the first time in 10 years.

I should also be clear that a "mediocre" response isn't the best you can hope for either. My parents' resolve to love me never faltered when I came out to them in seventh grade. There too the only words that were spoken were "We still love you." And today on my Facebook wall my mother said, in response to a National Coming Out Day post, "You're gay and I love you and am very proud you are my son."

The people who matter will deal with their feelings. They will continue to love you and they won’t see you any differently.

And the other people? They don’t matter. It may be hard to accept that if someone close to you rejects you, but that is their choice. Like I told my grandparents when I came out to them, "I am the same person that you've known and loved for the last twenty-three years." You are not changing. You're the same person that you've always been. You are simply sharing part of yourself that you didn't previously.

No matter how tough today is, it is not a representation of the rest of your life. Life is always changing. You too will find yourself. You too will find a best friend who you will cherish and who will cherish you in return regardless of who you share your bed and your heart with.

Kayla Kugel means the absolute world to me. And she is just one example of the fact that it gets better.

11 comments:

  1. I've known you since before you came out, and I've seen how you've become more comfortable with yourself, and with sharing yourself with the world. I am super duper proud of you, and for what it's worth I think you are FABULOUS.

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  2. It is my most sincere wish that my grandkids will find your worries simply unimaginable ... as alien as the thought that women aren't smart enough to become doctors.

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  3. I'm right there with you, Betty!

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  4. Oh my word sobbing. You're the best.

    ♥ Jessica

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  5. I love this blog. What you and Kayla stand for in these two most recent posts make it even better for me. I celebrate you two.

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  6. <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 et al.

    You already know I love you :)

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  7. This post just gave me a huge grin. :-D I often say that there isn't much I believe in anymore, but the one things I've always believed, and continue to believe in, is the power of unconditional love. :-)

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  8. OMG I already adored this blog and have been reading ti from the beginning this evening. Now I love you even MORE!

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  9. Now THAT is how you get on my good side. ;) We love you too!

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