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.

14 comments:

Scot said...

Well said, Chris.

It’s been a while but I remember considering the pill solution to gaiety. I’m sure most all gays do. I’m also sure there were times, early on, when I would have taken it, with gusto, and it would have been the biggest mistake of my life.

I’m glad the year has left you upbeat. I’m sure you’ll build and rebuild something wonderful, to compliment what’s clearly the wonderful still standing in your life.

Chris said...

Thanks, scot.

To my most recent anonymous poster--for several months now, I have not posted anonymous comments on this blog. If you would like what you have written to appear in the comments section, then attach your name or a blogger identity to it.

You began your post with these words: "With all due respect..." Yet you show no respect to me, to Keri, or to our children when you criticize and condescend, yet hide behind the cloak of anonymity. I'd find your "best wishes" far more sincere if you were willing to own your opinions, thoughts and advice by attaching your name to them.

mark said...

Chris, if you don't mind me asking, what church community have you started participating in? I have not yet got myself out the door on Sunday morning to check out churches in my city to find a comfortable place to be (too many years of early morning PEC meetings made the chance to sleep in and laze around on Sunday mornings way too enticing, and I'm hooked). But I want at some point soon to join a church community where I can worship and serve and grow. I'd be interested to hear about your experiences in this.


mark

KK said...

Today is September 18th. Last year on September 18th, my family and I went out to breakfast at IHOP, after a night of zero sleep for me, following Chris's revelation. We had stayed up talking for hours and actually felt very close that night, but when morning dawned, I felt like I was sleeping with a stranger. I looked around at the restaurant and thought, "Does he want to sleep with that guy? With that one? How about that one?" I struggled to keep a brave face and a sense of normalcy for my kids, and Chris was anxiously watching me for signs of the anger and hatred he felt sure were coming.

After breakfast, we had to spend the rest of the day not talking about the big elephant in the room because our kids were around and needed us. I did it for a couple of hours and then just went up to my room and lay down on my bed in a semi-catatonic state. For the first time, but sadly not the last, I considered the possibility of ending my life, thinking I had no worth if not as a wife. I didn't know what would happen to my life and the thought of ending it was not as scary as not having control of it at all. Instead of jumping out the window, I went down to the kitchen and smashed a glass to the floor. That felt good. That was a turning point, to realize that I could direct my anger outward, and not inward. Then I told Chris if I was going to make it through that night I was going to need some alcohol. I knew I needed to let go a little, and to get some sleep, and alcohol seemed rational. We actually had a pretty good time that night, after the longest day of my life, and one of the loneliest.

Today was another September 18th. I spent the day running from one place to the next, my phone never stopped ringing, I escorted three four-year-olds to school, I spent an hour talking to my pregnant sister about my two birthing experiences, half an hour getting advice from my PhD earning brother on how to get into graduate school, and an hour catching up with an old friend. To top it off, I spent the evening with my two daughters and my mother at a chocolate factory owned by some of her neighbors, eating ourselves sick and laughing at each other in health-code-required hairnets. It was a better day, to say the least. And both of these September 18ths were the result of Chris's bravery in coming out. I contrast them with each other here to show that no decisions, no matter how right, make life all easy. Yes, coming out was the right thing for Chris, as was ending our marriage. I didn't choose these things, but am I better off now? Undoubtedly. Thank you, Chris, for the lovely things you said about me in this post. I wouldn't trade this past year for any of the "normal" years we had in our ten-year marriage. In terms of emotional and spiritual development, it was priceless.

Chris said...

mark, I have been attending a church affiliated with the United Church of Christ, which is generally open and affirming of gays and lesbians--and is sometimes just downright gay, depending on the congregation.

The UCC is on the web at www.ucc.org.

Chris said...

KK, much love.

Ian Reid said...

Your blog has become one of my necessary reads. And this post is an example of why.

You and your wife tell a wonderful and hopeful story - for you and for others in similar places. It offers a way forward for those still stuck in fear and reminds me that the quality of the hearts of those in it makes a family good, not whether it conforms to the shape others demand.

Being true to yourself after struggling to be true to what others think you should be is so hard. Putting that struggle at the heart of a family relationship just seems impossible.

I've read a number of blogs lately where those in that struggle seem to view the test as not giving in to the truth of yourself. But when I read this blog and both of your comments I see how wrong that is. The test is bringing the truth of being gay into your relationship without destroying the people in it. It can't be smooth and easy but you both seem to me to be doing a wonderful job.

John said...

You both are very lucky to have each other. My wife and I are almost exactly one year behind you in "the journey." At this point, I can't see us being as happy and grounded as you are in one year, but I pray that we have the strength and love to try. Thanks for giving me hope.
(BTW-I'd take the pill...)

Chris said...

Thanks, Ian. Your comments mean a lot to me.

Chris said...

john, best of luck to you on your journey. Let us know how we can be supportive.

Timothy said...

Chris & Keri...

Congratulations on the manner in which you've travelled this past year. I love and am proud of you both.

Titus Todd said...

Wow. I visited Outer Burroughs like I do occasionally do to see if you returned. Can you imagine I was a little surprised?

What is my reaction? I really don't know. I don't know if I will know. You are just a guy I have interacted with a little on the internet so why would I care? I do but not in a "you're lost" sorta way. I've enjoyed our interactions and I know you are a caring person. You're a great guy and I don't have any reason to change that opinion.

My best to you!

Chris said...

titus todd,

Good to hear from you. Thanks for your comment and your good wishes.

BB said...

have been out of touch and just read this. love to you both.