Sunday, June 2, 2013

Me - The 'Gay' Me

Today is the second day of Gay Pride Month and it is my birthday. So I decided to write about me - the 'Gay' me. Saying that feels really weird because I actually feel 'normal' compared with everyone else on earth. It is just the fact that I am attracted to men that makes me different. Now here is my story.

This is my 52nd birthday and things from my youth still play a prominent role in my everyday life. For the past few weeks I have been thinking about a lot of things and why I can't get them out of my head. It amazes me how when something happens now my head will fill with memories from my childhood and totally devastate me. I have tried counseling and it helps for a while but my subconscious still gets the best of me at times. Reality tells me that the things I am thinking really aren't true but my entire being embraces it as true. Let's go back in time and reminisce.

I was born in Lafayette, Louisiana in 1961, I was raised Catholic, and my family really didn't 'talk about certain things. Some things I remember about my early childhood are my Dad making comments about 'Queers' on TV and one of my Aunts (who happens to be a lesbian) calling me sissy. There was also no encouragement for anything that I liked doing. I loved to draw and I loved music (I can't sing but I did play a couple of instruments), I also loved reading and school.
What I remember about these things is being told my grades weren't good enough (even though I usually made A's & B's), I had no rhythm and when I played my instruments I was just making noise, and that drawing was a waste of time. As I grew older I just felt that I couldn't do anything right because no matter what I did my Dad seemed to find the flaws. This lead me to critique everything I did. The critique was always picking out the errors and then trying to fix them (literally I tried to make everything exactly perfect).
Unfortunately no matter what I did the flaws were still found and pointed out to me. I remember crying myself to sleep trying to figure out why I was so stupid and incompetent. I was still pretty young at this time so I didn't have feelings about men or being gay. Except for one. My Dad had a friend (I think his name was Richard and he worked for the phone company) who would visit and I do remember that I liked being around him. Nothing ever happened and I know I wasn't having any sexual feelings about him but I now realize this was probably one of the first clues that I was gay.

As I got older and really noticed that the other boys were talking about girls I realized I could care less about any of that.
Finally my brain synapses connected and I put two and two together. I was more interested in boys and that made me one of those 'Queers' that my Dad made jokes about. All of this totally freaked me out, what if people knew I had these feelings (and I suspected that some did since my Aunt was already calling me sissy). I then went into trying to fix the flaws so that no one would know and that made things worse. Getting involved with sports was a disaster and pretending to like girls just felt awkward. Life went on and my thoughts and emotions were at constant battle. So I kept pretending and failing and worrying. In high school I really tried to hide my sexuality but I was only fooling myself. This fact was confirmed by the constant name calling and being beat up in the locker room after PE or after tennis practice. To this day I don't know what I did that upset the guys so much that they felt belittling me was necessary. I can honestly tell you that I never tried anything with any guy during this time - I never even looked at any of the other guys so that they wouldn't think I was checking them out. Most of the time I wouldn't even take a shower, I would just change and try to get out of the locker room to avoid any of the unpleasant name calling or beatings. I am sure that lots of people thought I was the most disgusting smelly person in school.
Being raised in southern Louisiana contributed to my fear of being gay and it affected lots of young men the same way. I graduated high school with about 350 people in my class. There was always talk that this guy or that guy was gay but I never connected with any of them and it really wasn't anything that was ever proved - it was all just gossip. After high school (years later) people did start coming out but living in Lafayette still didn't allow me to be my true self.

After two years of college and not doing well I quit and just worked. This didn't sit well with me - I really wanted a degree and a career. One year after I quit school I made an appointment with a career counselor at USL (University of Southwestern Louisiana) in Lafayette - it is now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. I took some different test and then did some volunteer work at a local clinic. Eventually I found what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a Physical Therapist. I went back to school and took my prerequisites and started applying to different PT schools in the south. I was accepted by Texas Womans University in Denton, Texas and made a quick decision to go there. I now know that I wanted out of Lafayette so I could try and be myself. Again the encouragement was minimal - the first thing my family said was "Why do you have to move so far away?" instead of congratulations that I was going back to college. Things in Texas got a little better and I didn't perseverate about being gay like I did in high school but I still felt awkward. I was attending a woman's university and men were the minority, so people knew who we were - we stuck out like sore thumbs. So I played it cool (or so I thought) and eventually got my degree. During all this time I never connected with anyone (male or female) for a long term relationship - that could have been because I was really focused on school.

Then it happened, during my last internship I met someone and the majority of my fears dissipated. I had no doubts that this was the person I was supposed to be with - and it was a man. I met Thomas through my clinical instructor (she was Thomas' Mom) at the beginning of my internship. We spent as much time as we could while I was finishing school and somehow we made the decision that we wanted to try and make a relationship out of this. My internship was done in mid December, I then returned to Houston to finalize things at school and then went to Denton to graduate (this was December 1989). For Christmas I returned to Lafayette to spend the holidays with my family and to prepare to move to New Mexico. I didn't even mention Thomas to my family I just told them I was moving to Santa Fe for a job. Again, no encouragement but that didn't stop me. I knew I had to be true to myself and see if this relationship would work.
On December 30, 1989 I arrived in Santa Fe on a snowy evening to begin what has become a 23 year marriage that has really changed my life. Family and friends have been accepting of the relationship (except for one who told me that since we wouldn't be together in heaven we couldn't be friends here on earth) and that has helped and things have gotten better with accepting my sexuality and knowing this is who I really am. Thomas is also a very supportive and encouraging man. He always supports me in whatever I want to do. Unfortunately the demons from my childhood still surface and I have to fight hard to control them - sometimes I win and sometimes the demons win. But I still try and Thomas' love gives me the strength to keep trying to make it all work. I am so glad I took the chance and moved to New Mexico, being gay has its challenges but things are getting better and the amazing changes we are experiencing are encouraging that maybe our gay youth won't have it so hard.

Happy Pride everyone and it really does get better!



Regina said...

I am so proud of the man you have become and I am happy and blessed to call you friend! Happy Birthday!! xoxo

Mark said...

Thanks Regina - that means a lot.