Sunday, September 17, 2006
One year later
September 17 is my outiversary. One year ago, I came out to Keri. I told her after 10 years of marriage and several months of quiet agony for us both that I am gay.
In so many ways, it seems like that day was a very long time ago—much longer than a year. It feels like I have lived a lifetime since then. I didn’t know what was going to happen after that moment of truth. Though I trusted that I knew Keri well, I imagined the worst possible reactions to my revelation: rejection, bitterness, anger. I was ashamed, so full of guilt and self loathing when I finally told Keri the truth. I couldn’t imagine that I would ever feel comfortable with myself as an openly gay man and I certainly didn’t think I’d feel that way in just a year’s time. But today, one year after I began the process of coming out, I am openly and comfortably gay.
It is ironic that Keri has been my indispensable guide on the journey to self acceptance. Ironic, of course, because her unconditional love and support ultimately hastened the end of our marriage. My emotions one year later are mixed. I feel loss and sadness, and I miss much about the life I had until a year ago. But I also feel freedom and relief, optimistic that my life as a gay man will be better than I ever imagined it could be, and better than what my life had become before I came out. Keri can share in my optimism (and she does) and feel happiness for me as her closest friend (and she does), but I think today is a day when her own loss feels particularly sharp and her burden particularly heavy. I'm grateful, though, that her sacrifice—one she didn’t want to make—has deepened and broadened our friendship, something that will ultimately serve us well as we work together in the coming years to raise our beautiful daughters. Keri has proven true the old adage, “if you love something, set it free.” I am grateful for her love, her bravery, her continued friendship, and her willingness to let me be the cheetah God made me.
Many of my fears about coming out have not come to pass. I have found love and support and acceptance not just from Keri, but from my young children, my extended family, and many of my friends. My loss of faith in the LDS Church has been tempered by the discovery of a new spirituality and the embrace of an open and affirming church community. My loss of proximity to my children has been tempered by the certain faith I have in their mother and her extended family to keep me close and engaged with them. I speak to my girls every day. We do homework over the phone. We’ve planned several trips to see each other already. And Keri works hard every day to make sure my girls feel my presence and know that I am still intimately involved in the details of their lives. I feared losing my family. I fear that no more.
Many of my hopes for the future have begun to be realized as well. I have found a new community and network of friends, gay and straight, and many of my new gay friends have become outstanding role models for me. I have found acceptance and love from my colleagues at work. I have found the love and affection of another man—and offered it in return. I have found wonderful normalcy.
Closets are dark, confining places that damage psyches and relationships. I have learned that there is no substitute for transparency and openness in relationships, even about some of the most difficult and sensitive issues we face in our personal and family lives. Dogma is seductive for the easy answers it provides but dangerous for the very same reasons and the corrosive effect in can have on relationships and our ability to love others and empathize with them as they navigate their way through life. Love—being willing to walk in another’s shoes—is always the better way.
I have over the past year considered from time to time whether I would change myself if I were presented with a “cure” for my homosexuality, if for no other reason than to save my marriage. I’m glad I don’t have to make that choice, but I am more certain than ever that were it a real choice, I would decline it. Sacrificing my homosexuality would require me to sacrifice something essentially me. I know that more than ever. I am normal. I am complete. My sense of self is increasingly whole and integrated. I am a father, a friend, a brother, a son, a companion, a boyfriend, a professional. And I am gay.
Rebuilding is never easy work. A year after Katrina, the storm that I adopted as a metaphor for the turmoil of my own life, New Orleans is still a city in crisis. And one year after my personal crisis came to its climax, there is still much work to do for me too—as a father, as a former husband, as a friend, as a gay man. But life marches on, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let it pass me by.