|about this story
Like so many coming out stories, this one isn't short. There are many details and events that led up to my coming out that I feel are relevant. I suggest that if you REALLY want to read the whole story you print it out and curl up with it later. It's not online porn, however like any good gay story, it has plenty of drama.
So sit back and relax as I attempt to recall the events that led up to my coming out on 1 December 1993.
The hardest part of this story is how to say when I "realized" I was gay. I can look all the way back to my junior high school days and see things from back then that were definitely "gay" behavior, but it was many years before I actually realized and understood what it all was.
I had no concept of what it really meant to be gay because no such thing really existed out in the open in my small hometown and moderately conservative family of the 1970's and 80's. Like any other kid, I used words like "queer" and "faggot" and had no idea what they really meant. They were just standard kid insults like "jerk" and "dork".
Looking back, I can easily see how "being different" was a part of who I was. I was a nerd, too smart for my own good, obnoxious, didn't have a lot of friends, etc., etc. My interests were always with things artistic and academic, not sports and the outdoors like the rest of my family.
These sorts of things plagued me throughout my childhood and high school years, but not in a terribly bad way. That is to say, I didn't grow up mentally scarred or anything, but my differences weren't always a benefit either.
|high school - 1984 to 1988
Throughout high school I can remember having little "crushes" on the older guys I saw in school. I didn't know what to call it back then... I likened most of it to curiosity -- I was a nerd, a geek, and I certainly didn't "get the girls", so my fascination with guys was akin to an admiration of how they could do it -- how could they attract girls and be popular.
Not to mention I wasn't exactly popular in high school. I wasn't a jock at all, so I didn't fit into the sports crowd. I belonged to more clubs than I can remember, but it didn't help me very much in the friends arena. Even in band and chorus, which were activities I loved and enjoyed the most, I found myself not always fitting in, and I was more the subject of ridicule than of praise.
Gym class got more and more difficult as I progressed through high school. I found myself looking at the other guys when we were in the locker room, but I didn't understand what the attraction was. I knew I was "supposed" to like girls, and I acted as though I did, but there was just something about looking at the other guys I really liked. I'd try to sneak peeks at the guys I thought were hot. But I'd also be worried about getting caught,
and of course, the ultimate embarrassment -- popping a woody.
To this day I still remember some of the guys I was attracted to. One guy in particular was in band with me. He was very masculine, dark-haired, nice lips. At 16 he already had a chest full of hair and I always tried to get a glimpse of it when I could. He was the fuel for many fantasies of mine. Band camp in the summer was always a delight because he was one of those guys who was the first to take his shirt off.
I guess in some ways I thought I did what I did because I wanted to be like the hot guys. The only dates I ever had with girls in high school were my junior and senior proms. I wanted to be like the guys that were able to "get with" girls, and yet, I found myself somehow attracted to the guys too.
Like any kid that age I also discovered the art of self-pleasure. I found myself cutting pictures of hot guys out of magazines. I remember I had a few sheets of paper that I had taped these pictures to. I of course kept the picture papers hidden. I somehow knew that having something like that wasn't really normal, but I didn't really know why. I remember that yearbooks were always a good source of pictures -- the men's swim team was always
a mother lode of mostly naked guys. Any catalog, like JcPenney or Sears was good too. Even TV Guide was a source of pictures for me.
I was more worried about my parents finding out I knew about sex and that I was masturbating than I was worried about being thought of as a fag. It did occur to me that the whole "looking at pictures of guys" wasn't normal, after all, it's one thing for a boy to be caught with dirty pictures of girls, but it's a whole different ball game when it's pictures of guys.
Quite frankly I knew very little about sex in general, so I had no idea what was normal behavior. I had no idea what to call all of this, and the terms "gay" and "faggot" were just insults to me -- I understood them to mean someone who wasn't as masculine and sexually prolific as the normal guy.
|fall 1988 to spring 1991
Along came my college years -- and my first girlfriend. Julie and I hit it off early in my freshman year (Fall 1988), but it was January 1989 before the two of us actually became a couple. We ran in some of the same circles because we lived in the same dorm, and both of us were involved in music. I was in the music fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and Julie and many of her friends were friends with myself and other fraternity brothers.
I had a particular crush on one of my fraternity pledge brothers. His name was Christopher (yes, another Chris). He was tall, dark-skinned, dark-haired, and had a nicely furry chest that he kept very trimmed. I would have given anything just to kiss him, touch him, or sleep next to him. I was constantly conflicted when I was around him. I really enjoyed hanging out with him, but my secret feelings were always there, and I was often terrified
they would manifest themselves a little too much. Christopher was quite a womanizer, and I often found myself getting jealous whenever he dated or got close to a girl. I wanted to be the one he was paying attention to.
Christopher was one of the first guys that I ever became really obsessed with. He was a bit of a social dope, in that while he was very book smart, he was often clumsy as far as friendships and just being around other people. He and I were both in the marching band and the fraternity. That fall, the marching band took a trip to Dayton University. Christopher and I had a decent friendship, but he was often forgetful, and too many times I felt I was
taking the initiative to do things. During our trip to Dayton I had a particular blow up with him about being a shitty friend towards me, and how much I didn't approve of his constant girl-chasing. I went in many circles with him about our friendship that fall.
Looking back, I can see how the situation with Christopher was a foreshadowing of friendships and troubles to come. More than once throughout my college career I would make friends with a guy I found attractive, I would hang out with him and try to do a lot of things with him, and then I would get upset and frustrated when the friendship didn't go the way I wanted, or if I felt like I was making all the effort to sustain the friendship. I would get jealous
and obsessive. I always told myself (and others) that I pursued things in the name of good friendship and trying to make it work, when deep down inside, it was my sexual attraction that drove me.
It was in January of 1989 that Julie and I got to be much closer. Julie pledged my fraternity's "little sister" organization and she chose me as her big brother. After that, we began to hang out a lot more together, and started to date.
I struggled with the idea of being in a relationship with her -- I chalked it up to wanting to be careful and not rush into anything. My conservative upbringing of course frowned upon sex before marriage. Heck, it was almost a month of going out before we kissed and made out!
However before, during, and of course, after my relationship with Julie I was beginning to recognize that I had feelings for guys. Not just fascination, but real sexual fantasies.
Julie and I broke up in the fall of my sophomore year (Fall '89). We never had sex or anything (whew!) and the whole relationship proved to be a flop. Not because I couldn't get in to it with her, but mostly because of my inability to treat her well. I took it too "for granted" that she was my girlfriend. I acted like a schmuck, and I certainly didn't give her the respect and treatment she deserved. And not because I really WAS a
schmuck, but more because I myself couldn't decide what I wanted. I thought I wanted a relationship, I mean, guys are supposed to have relationships with girls right? But there was always that little nagging piece deep down inside of me that had other ideas.
So after Julie I went back to my "bachelor ways". I didn't actively seek out a girlfriend, but I didn't discount the notion of having one when I was around my friends. Friends of mine tried to hook me up once in a while, and I did have dates to dances and fraternity events, but nothing in terms of dating and a relationship with someone ever really panned out. I just acted like a typical straight guy who just didn't have very good luck with women,
and who didn't really worry about it that much either. I pictured myself as Henry Higgins from My Fair Lady... "a confirmed old bachelor and likely to remain so".
However the real truth was that I continued to struggle with who I was was sexually.
More and more I could feel my attraction to men. I began to download porn pictures and stories from BBS's (remember, this was in the days before the Internet and high-speed access... remember 2400 baud modems??). I would go through phases of getting all kinds of sexual material -- stories, pictures -- then I'd feel incredibly guilty and dirty about it, and I'd erase everything. I'd pray to God to forgive me, and I'd promise not to do it again, and that
I wanted to be normal.
But of course it wouldn't take long before I'd start right back up again after somehow convincing myself it wasn't all that bad. For every time that I tried to bury my feelings and attitudes, they would always come back, and be more destructive than the last time.
In summer of 1991, I made my first tentative steps into contacting other gay people. I started reading echo-mail in a gay conference on a local BBS back home. There weren't any messages from local people, but there were messages from all over the U.S.
I also found the number to a gay BBS in Rhode Island. I started to dial-in there often to read the e-mail and get files. I remember starting a bit of correspondence with a guy from Penn State main campus.
There were messages and a couple phone calls, but nothing real spectacular. He had a boyfriend, and even though he didn't live too far away (relatively speaking), we had completely different work schedules, and neither of us could afford to take a lot of time off just to meet. He was going to school and working at a fancy restaurant that I vaguely remember having a long name that started with a "T".
Somewhere along the line, we lost contact with each other. I don't remember much about the whole experience for a couple of reasons. One reason is that I never wrote about it in my diary. It would be many years before I would finally acknowledge my gay feelings in my own diary. Another reason was that at one point, in what would become one of my "routine" purgings, I erased all of the e-mail that I had exchanged with him in the hopes that
by wiping out all of the gay stuff that I had on my computer I would be able to quash my gay feelings. Sadly, I don't even remember his name and I have no records to help me.
Whoever he was, he was the first gay guy I ever talked to about the issues I was having with my sexuality. I only wish I had some way to thank him.
My main struggle with the whole "gay" concept was that I understood it to be wrong, not natural, and against the teachings of my Lutheran upbringing. I began to think of myself as "bisexual" in a sense -- that I could have lustful feelings for men, but if I really wanted to be happy in my life, I would have to get married to a woman and have a family with her.
In the early fall of my senior year in college, one of my fellow fraternity brothers came out. I was shocked to say the least, but now I actually "knew" someone who was gay, and maybe I could begin to sort out my feelings by talking to him.
A few weeks after he came out, I had a talk with him and basically told him about myself. I debated every step of the way what I would say to him. How would I approach the subject? How could I talk to him about this without being seen or heard? How would he react?
I remember how incredibly nervous I was as I sat there in his room in the fraternity house talking about it -- deathly afraid that someone might hear us talking. I danced around the subject for the longest time, and tried to hint at what I was trying to say, but I finally had to just come out and say what I had to say -- I thought I might be gay.
David was very cool about my revelation that nite and promised not to tell anyone. But in the days that followed, he treated me very coldly -- almost ignoring me to a point. I was very confused, and it was at least a week before I was able to talk to him one on one again. Basically, he said he thought I needed some space at first. He had been terrified when he first came out to someone on campus, and at first he wanted some space. I explained
to him I really needed some support, since I had no idea what I was doing.
As the weeks went on, I began to meet some of the other gays on campus, and began to learn more about what they were about. David did respect my privacy at first. He told the gay support group that "someone" had come out to him, but didn't reveal it was me.
A few weeks later I came out to the "ringleader" of the gay support group, Tim. He was active in the chapel programs like myself, so I knew of him, but didn't know much about him. Eventually I came out to him also, and began talking to him about stuff.
Having met David and Tim, I decided to come out to a few more members of the gay group, but I told them all I did NOT want to be out to the general public.
As the weeks went on, I had conversations here and there with my new "confidants", but every time, I was scared of being found out and having some sort of "guilt by association". I didn't want to be seen talking to them or hanging out with them.
At some point that fall, I made my first trip to a gay bar in one of the suburbs of Chicago. One of the gays I had met was going out there with a friend of his one nite, and I joined them. I don't remember what the club was called, but I remember almost every detail of how it looked on the inside and I remember it was in some sort of plaza.
It was both scary and exciting to go to that club. I think I was more scared than anything -- I was afraid of being touched, hit on, being looked at, etc. I must have stood out like a sore thumb, and I'm sure I didn't look comfortable. Heck, I was so nervous I didn't even want to drink -- I didn't want to take the chance of getting a bit schnockered and letting people take advantage of me. Call me paranoid, but I just didn't know what to expect,
and I didn't want anything bad to happen.
It was an o.k. experience. At first I just hung out at our table. I eventually went out on the dance floor for a while. Nothing bad happened that nite, but the whole experience didn't make me feel that much more a part of the gay culture.
As I look back, I can see that the first gay guys I knew were quite the queens, and I can remember sitting in on various conversations of theirs, and being totally shocked at what I heard. I hadn't ever experienced anything like it in my small-town upbringing. They talked about gay sex openly, and virtually no topic was taboo. I barely knew about what went on during heterosexual sex, let alone the mechanics of gay sex.
Even though I had now come out to a few gay people on campus, I was no where NEAR "ready for prime time", nor was I 100% sure that I was doing the right thing. I felt like the more I found out about these guys, the more I didn't like the idea of being gay. Nor was I a big fan of how these guys talked and acted. It all seemed so.... so GAY. Was I really going to be like them if I came out?
When the spring semester started in January, I began to backtrack on my initial "coming out". I decided that I wanted to make myself normal again. Once again I stopped calling BBS's and downloading gay stories and pictures. I stopped talking to the gays I knew on campus (not that I had talked to them that much anyways). I stopped making any mention of gay issues in my diary.
I began to try to portray myself as just a regular guy who was interested in girls. I made a point of flirting with girls and being more interested in them.
I did most of this because I began to suspect that there were rumors about me. In some ways I still knew I was gay, but I didn't want anyone to know I was struggling with it. Mostly because I was so uncertain myself. I didn't want to be thought of as "gay" if I wasn't going to end up that way after all.
My biggest problem was that while I knew and recognized all along that I had strong sexual feelings for men, I still felt that in order to be normal and to be happy for the rest of my life, I would have to get married to a woman and have kids. I constantly told myself that was what I ultimately wanted, and that I'd somehow have to learn how to deal with my feelings towards men.
Hence my apprehension at any hint of the idea of being thought of as "gay". I already had a hard enough time trying to get dates with women, and being called "gay" wouldn't help that one bit. How could I ever end up with a woman if people thought I was gay at one time?
But the chasm in my personality only continued to widen. Publicly I tried to portray myself as stable and heterosexual, but privately, I was a mess and longed to know more about homosexuality. Publicly I showed interest in girls, and tried to make people believe that is what I wanted, but privately, I wanted to be close to a man. And maybe not for the long term, but I just wanted to try it and find out if it really was what I wanted.
Along came the summer of 1992, and I decided once and for all to make a real effort to find out who I was -- was I or was I not gay?
Two different people played major "roles" in my gay explorations that summer -- John and Frank. For the sake of clarity, I'll discuss each of them separately and how they affected me that summer, even though I was interacting with both of them during that time.
As part of my BBS'ing activities, I began to use something called "echo mail", a forerunner to Internet e-mail and newsgroups. Through a gay-oriented echo-mail group, I met a guy named John, who lived not too far from me.
After exchanging echo-mail for a while, John and I decided to meet. I met him at a McDonald's in the mall in Erie. I can remember being so nervous. What would happen? Would he turn out to be a freak? Would people see me with him and think I'm gay? Would I see someone I knew and have to explain why I was there? Would he try and do something to me?
I recognized John the minute he walked in. This was long before scanners and trading pictures via e-mail were common. I recognized him not only from the description of what he looked like and what he said he would be wearing, but I could just "tell" that he was gay. I don't know how or why he "looked gay" to me, but I just knew it was him when he walked in.
John and I hung out at McD's for a while, and then went to see the movie "Cool World". Afterwards we drove around a little bit and looked at some cars (John was a big car buff). Overall, it was an O.K. experience. John proved not to be a freak, but I was still very nervous.
John and I met a second time a few weeks later. This time, we rented "My Own Private Idaho" and watched it at his house. We watched it on the VCR in his room. I can remember watching it as both of us lay on his bed (fully clothed mind you), and once again, I was totally nervous --- the idea that John might make a move on me or something while we were there kinda freaked me out. Then again, a part of me hoped he would. I still needed
to know if I was in to the physical part of being with a guy. Not to mention I wondered constantly what his mother might think of the two of us watching a movie in his room, or how I'd explain to my parents where I'd been. Not that they really cared where I went and what I did, but being the responsible son I was, I always felt the need to tell mom where I was.
The whole experience went fine, but I was still terrified of being found out. I returned to school that fall, and continued to e-mail John once in a while. My school got connected to the Internet that year, so John and I were able to use "real" e-mail to stay in touch.
Truth be told, I didn't make any great effort to stay in touch with John. Once I was back in school in my pseudo-conservative Lutheran environment, I began to shy away from anything gay.
Earlier in the spring, I began an e-mail friendship with a guy from NJ. We "met" on a BBS based out of NJ. I had responded to a personal ad he had written, and we began to send e-mail back and forth, and call each other.
At one point we even exchanged pictures via snail-mail (again, these were the days before scanners and such). I can remember being so nervous and excited when I got that envelope with Frank's pictures. I had no idea what to expect.
The pictures weren't great quality, but I carried them around with me for the next few days just because I was so excited to get them. Here was someone else who was gay, who I was starting to like, and who seemed to be very interested in me.
My "friendship" with Frank continued through the summer. As with anything gay-related in my life at that point, I kept it secret. I made sure all my calls to the BBS and to Frank were on my calling card, rather than have the charges show up on my parents' bill.
It became a bit more difficult to conceal what I was doing when I was forced to move in with my grandparents due to a fire at my home in the middle of the summer. Grandparents always have a tendency to be a bit more nosey when it comes to stuff, and Grandma would often wonder who I was talking to so late at nite. I remember that many times I couldn't wait to get home from work because I wanted to see if Frank had e-mailed me.
In August of that summer, Frank was finally able to visit me. Since I didn't have a place for him to stay (nor would I have wanted him to stay with me), he got a hotel room. He got a room with two beds, and I stayed with him both nights in the other bed. I don't remember what excuse or story I made up to explain why I was gone those two nites. I am sure that whatever it was, I was probably believed. After all, I was the good son/grandson.
The responsible son. The honest one. Who would have challenged my integrity?
It was a short couple of days and I was so scared that my parents or relatives would be suspect of this person that was visiting me. I wasn't sure how to explain how I knew Frank. I wasn't sure if Frank came off as gay. I wasn't sure what people were thinking about me hanging out with this guy. I don't even remember what story I told people about how we knew each other. I am sure the story involved BBS's (everyone knew I played on computers
a lot), making friends, and maybe even McDonald's.
Further complicating Frank's visit was that I hadn't been able to get any time off from work. I really couldn't afford to. So Frank had to hang out at the hotel while I was at work. He did come by McDonald's while I was working. I took a break while he was there and ate with him. I again was nervous that my co-workers would wonder who Frank was, and how I knew him. Did Frank look gay to them? Were they suspecting anything weird
about me? How did I explain who the heck he was, and why he would come all the way from NJ just to visit me?
I even went so far as to take Frank down to the Lake and show him where my parents were living that summer (remember, there was a fire at our house so none of us were living there) and introduce him to my mother. God. What the hell was I doing? I didn't want to be found out and yet here I was introducing my mother to this gay guy? Was I on crack or something??
Frank's first visit was very short, so I convinced him to come back a couple weeks later so that he could accompany me on a trip back to Indiana for a wedding of one of my good friends, and then to Wisconsin for the DCI World Championships. I told Frank it would all be a lot of fun, and it would be great time to get to know each other.
To make a long story short, the trip was a disaster. Frank's shallowness really started to show -- he didn't have a good time, did nothing but whine about the distance we had to travel, didn't want to meet my friends (he stayed at the hotel while I went to the wedding), was picky about what he ate, complained about missing out on his workout routine, etc., etc.
I met up with my parents at the DCI show in Madison, WI. We had four tickets, and I brought Frank along. He wasn't familiar with DCI (Drum Corps International) and I thought he might like the show. Again, here I was, bringing along this gay guy to hang out with me and my parents. What the heck was I doing?
Frank did not have a good time at the DCI show. He actually went back to the car and slept while I watched the end of the show. It made me feel all the more uncomfortable to know that Frank wasn't having a good time, and now we were going to have to be in the car together all the way home. At this point, it was going to be at least a 12-hour drive home back to PA, and then Frank would have another 8 hours to drive to NJ.
That trip I also had tried to convince Frank to "fool around" with me since I hadn't ever done anything with a guy before, but he mostly refused, saying that he didn't want to ruin our friendship. I tried to tell him about what I thought would be really cool for my first time with a guy. If I remember correctly, it was some sort of fantasy about being taken advantage of and being a bit caught off guard by someone I knew and liked. Frank listened.
He did take the first move and we made out for a bit one nite, but we really didn't do anything sexual. Heck, we didn't even cuddle and fall asleep.
Overall, it was a horrible trip, and once we returned to my hometown, I made up my mind I didn't really want to see him again.
Based on how the whole experience with Frank went, I decided being gay was not for me. I figured if most gay people were like Frank, or any of the other people I knew from college, then I didn't want anything to do with them. It did not want to turn into what he was, nor did I want to turn into what some of the gays on campus were. I was very turned off by the whole experience with Frank, and figured that I had arrived at the answer I had been seeking.
I was not meant to be gay.
So I chalked the whole thing up to life experience and continued on.
I returned to college that fall convinced that I didn't want to be gay, that I didn't like gay people, and I wanted nothing to do with the whole situation. I felt that if I had to choose between the church and being gay (which I felt I HAD to), that the church would win, hands down. I had felt that most of the summer I had ignored God, and I didn't like that idea one bit.
But even so, I still wanted to talk with the gays on campus. I wanted to talk to them about my experiences from the previous summer. However, I was met with a lot of attitude from them. They didn't seem very interested in what I'd been through. As I tried to talk and joke with them, I felt as though they didn't like me.
Their lack of support made me further resolve that I didn't want to be gay.
Then along came Dave (not the same as the previous David)..... and the beginning of one of the most torturous chapters in my life.
Dave was a freshman at Valparaiso that fall ('92) while I was a 5th-year senior. I still remember seeing him for the first time at a rush function at my fraternity house. I had an IMMEDIATE crush on him and made a concerted effort to get to know him. Since the event was a rush function, it was easy to be friendly and ask a lot of questions. To this day I can remember how cute he was in his t-shirt and shorts, with his goofy grin and sparkly blue
eyes. He was tall, dark-haired, furry legs, and a very friendly attitude.
We quickly became friends. Being a fifth-year senior, I had lost most of my friends after graduation the previous May (1992). I didn't have as many friends around anymore. Dave seemed to like me and I liked him, so we started to hang out -- A LOT. It was easy to be good friends quickly. Dave was interested in the fraternity, and I, as one of the "old guys" knew all the ins and outs of joining and pledging.
On the surface, I acted as though I wanted to be friends with Dave because he was such a cool guy. We had a fair number of things in common, and being a fifth-year senior, I felt like Dave's mentor. But DEEP down (and I mean DEEP, because I lied to myself for the longest time), I knew I wanted him in the worst way. What I wanted him for I don't think I really knew, but I longed to be close to him, to see him, to be around him, and maybe even touch him.
And thus began one of the darkest periods in my history. As time went on I became obsessed with Dave. I constantly wanted to hang out with him, wanted to do stuff with him, wanted him to pay attention to me, wanted to win his approval. I always had to know where he was.
About the second month into our friendship, I told Dave about my previous "gay" experiences and feelings. I told him that after what had happened that summer, I wanted nothing to do with being gay. I confided in Dave because I thought he could help me. I told him that he was a good influence on me. Dave was a pre-seminary student, and I felt that by being around someone like him, I could work on being more Christian, rather than dealing
with my gay feelings. I thought that by following his example, I would be able to rid myself of my gay feelings and become the person that I thought I had to be.
In my further "rebellion" towards the gay lifestyle, I became this "macho" thing -- I flirted with girls incessantly and avoided anything remotely gay. I rebelled against the gays on campus that I talked to the previous year. I didn't associate with them, and I didn't share with them anything that was going on. I even started to bad-mouth them in an attempt to shift focus from myself when around my friends.
One nite, sometime in October I believe, David pulled me in to his room while Dave and Jonathan (another freshman friend of mine) were over hanging out in my room. Actually, they were sleeping over, since freshmen weren't allowed to be out of the dorms after a certain time, and they were already late at that point.
There were a large number of my fraternity brothers living on my wing that year, and earlier that evening, there had been a lot of antics and fun. Including a few gay jokes directed at David, who also lived on my floor just a few doors away. I remember laughing at the jokes openly, but I didn't really add anything to what was already said.
So David knocks on my door at a pretty late hour, and asks me to come down to his room and talk. Dave and Jonathan were in my room, and I don't recall what excuse I made up to why David would want to see me for a bit (Dave new about my experiences at this point, but Jonathan did not).
I walked in to David's room, and Tim (the leader of the gay group) was also there. David and Tim had decided they had had enough of my behavior that semester, and that if I didn't stop how I was acting, they were going to out me. They didn't like me making or laughing at gay jokes, or using any gay slang. In their words, "you can't talk like a fag until you put a cock in your mouth."
To me, that was the last straw, and I told them both in no uncertain terms to leave me alone and that I wanted nothing to do with them. In my mind I blamed them for my rebellion against being gay. I felt they had never been supportive of me, and I certainly didn't care for how they acted and talked. I was surprised at my own behavior, only in that I actually stood up for myself. I told David and Tim that my business wasn't any of their business
any more, and that I wanted them to leave me alone. I was uncharacteristically harsh to them. But I felt the need to be definite about the fact that I didn't want to be gay any more.
I was shaking a bit when I got back to my room, and I probably made up some BS to tell Jonathan and Dave about what had happened.
During a trip home for Thanksgiving that Fall, I ran into John in the mall while I was out with some high school friends. We were going to see "Aladdin" and had stopped in a music store to pick up the soundtrack. I spotted John in the store and I tried to avoid him, but he saw me. I was so nervous I just acted really cold towards him when he came up to talk to me. I don't remember what sort of excuse I gave to my friends about how I knew
John -- most likely something about the both of us working for McDonald's. I was afraid that by being seen talking to John, I'd be pegged as gay.
After that encounter, I figured I had basically blown any sort of friendship with John.
Things with Dave weren't going very well either. The more I tried to hold on to him as a friend, the more he tried to drift away, which in turn would frustrate me more, which would cause me to try to hold on to him more, and the cycle would continue. Every time Dave would start to date a girl, I'd get insanely jealous, and I'd be suspect of anything Dave did with any of his girls. I'd try to tell him it was a good idea to take things slow with a girl.
I couldn't stand the thought of Dave kissing or getting intimate with a girl. I would tell him and myself that it was in the name of being a good Christian, that whole "no sex before marriage" thing. I didn't even want to be around Dave when he was with one of his girlfriends, and if he brought someone along to hang out, I was usually cold towards whoever he had brought.
I claimed that my behavior was all in the name of being friends. I just wanted Dave to hold up his end of our friendship. I wanted him to take some initiative and show he cared about our friendship, rather than me always taking the lead. In retrospect, I can see my behavior was for other reasons.
Not to mention that other people were becoming suspect of my behavior towards Dave. I talked about him all the time. I was constantly complaining or fretting about some aspect of our friendship. I would ask friends for advice and/or ask them to talk to Dave on my behalf. I would always try to play it off in the name of being good friends and trying to work out a friendship, but it was obvious to everyone but me that I was obsessed, and not for the
reasons that I was telling people.
Further complicating matters overall was that some people resented the fact that I was at Valpo for another year. To some people I had worn out my welcome, and they viewed me as a leech who should have graduated and left the previous May. I remember distinctly one night overhearing the two brothers who lived in the room next to me. I was toying with the idea of going to graduate school at Valpo, and I had shared that with a couple people. They were
complaining that it was bad enough I was around for a fifth year, let alone the fact that I might be around for a couple more years. I became even more self-conscious about my behavior and what people were thinking about me.
More rumors began to circulate about me, no thanks to the very gays who once tried to help me. Since I wasn't on good terms with them, they didn't have a problem dropping rumors now and then. It was their revenge for me not "joining their club". I have always felt that even though they claimed they were going to be supportive of me, and that they didn't care if I came out or not, in reality, they wanted me to come out and become as militant
on campus as they were. Since I did not fall in line with their plans, I immediately became an enemy, someone they would have to get back at.
I felt like I had very few friends on campus. The gays hated me. Brothers, fellow music majors, and friends didn't want me around. Friends were tired of hearing me complain about Dave. I was more lonely and isolated than ever.
It all became a vicious circle of feelings and actions. The more I tried to bury my gay feelings, the more my feelings manifested themselves in other ways. The more I tried to act straight out in the open, the more I went online and sought out gay things. The more I tried not to think about Dave and how much I wanted him, the more I wanted him. The more I tried to control my corner of the world, the more I felt like I was losing control and headed
no where fast.
I don't want to go into any more details here about how obsessive and depressive I became over the whole situation with Dave -- spying on him, following him around campus, calling and hanging up -- yeah, I did it all. In short, I ruined a good portion of my last year in school over someone who never wanted to be my friend in the first place.
As the year went on, more people became suspect of me -- mostly because I "protesteth a bit too much", and because the people who I had originally confided in were leaking information to hurt me because I had "turned" on being gay. I remember over-hearing some of my fraternity brothers talking about the fact that I had a date for formal, and how strange that was to them considering I was probably gay.
It freaked me out to hear that people were talking about me in that way.
Not to mention my "obsession" with Dave was showing in a bad way. Almost everyone knew of my constant troubles with him and things were probably starting to add up. However, I was in such deep denial of who I was, I was clueless to see it. Not to mention that for as much as I denied being gay, I still had intense gay feelings and sexual fantasies about men -- including and especially, Dave.
Even though I was in a stage of denial, I made my second trip to a gay bar that spring. The place was called "The Station House" and it was about 20-30 miles away from the university.
Once again I was filled with a lot of scaredness and fear, but I was also a bit excited to go.
The bar itself was pretty small. It was one big room divided into two parts -- the bar area and an area for the tables and a makeshift stage. There was a mix of gays and lesbians. There was a drag show that nite, so I watched the show while I also tried to nonchalantly take in the surroundings and people. In some ways I had hoped someone would come up and talk to me, and in other ways, I was deathly afraid of anyone getting too close.
I distinctly remember two men from that night. The first was a black man with a football-player build. I remember most of the night he was cheering on the drag queens quite loudly with a VERY queeny "WURK IT GIRL, WURK IT!" like only a black man could do. The other guy was kinda butch-looking, had dark hair and he sat on the bar during most of the drag show. He was the cutest guy there in my opinion.
It was once again an eye-opening experience, but my trip to the bar that night didn't help my confusion at all.
As graduation got closer, I was no closer to deciding what I wanted to do with my life than I had been a year ago. I had interviewed to be on an LYE (Lutheran Youth Encounter) team but I didn't know if I would actually get it. I remember that even at the interview, I talked a lot about the troubles I had had with Dave, and I tried to play up how devoted of a friend I could be to people. I have no idea if the interviewer believed me, or if he saw through
me as well.
My friendship with Dave was a constant roller coaster that spring. For spring break that year I spent some time at both Dave's house and Jonathan's house. Both visits went fine, however, I remember that the visit to Dave's was awkward in my ways, since our friendship was so up and down. That visit was the last time Dave and I really spent a fair amount of time together alone.
After all, my college career was coming to a close, and I was very busy with final papers and projects. I hardly saw Dave or Jonathan. As always, I was still the one making the effort, but at some point I resigned myself to the fact that Dave was just going to avoid me a lot, and that at least Jonathan and I could hang out once in a while and have fun.
Two nites before my graduation came the final straw in my friendship with Dave. Dave was supposed to join Jonathan and I for a dinner and a movie. It was my last ditch attempt to end things on a good note with Dave. I wanted the three of us to go out and have a good time like we used to do. By that point, the three of us hadn't hung out in quite a while. For one last time I wanted us to hit dinner and movies like we had done before, and be
able to end the year and my college career on a good note.
However, Dave continued with his lies and avoidance strategies. Instead of staying on campus to hang out with Jonathan and myself as we had planned, he decided to travel up to Chicago with his girlfriend, and basically blew us both off without ever telling us he couldn't make it. It was actually another brother who told me that Dave was gone, and probably wouldn't be back around.
That was the last straw. I knew that our friendship had pretty much been over for a while, but to promise me that he'd join us, and then to blow us off was just too much. Lustful feelings or not, Dave was an insensitive jerk and he abused my kindness and ability to forgive.
Somehow I found out that Dave was actually going to be back on campus the evening we had all planned to go out, so I started to drive around campus to hunt him down. Why I thought I'd really find him I don't know. He could have been anywhere. But I was fuming mad, and didn't really care about my chances of finding him. My path had been crossed in a big way, and I was angry.
Amazingly it didn't take me long to find him. I found Dave and his girlfriend in a bench area outside one of the academic buildings. I pulled my car over, stood on the door frame, leaned over the car, and I finally let out all my anger at Dave. I screamed and yelled at him while he sat there with his girlfriend in his arms. Never in my life had I ever exploded at someone like that. I told him how shitty he had been to me and how much I was
hurt. Dave told me that he had never really wanted to be my friend, and that he had just felt sorry for me all this time, and that I just couldn't take the hint that he didn't want to be friends with me.
It was a truth I didn't want to hear and it crushed me inside, though at that time, I did not let my hurt show. I was too angry. Dave had never wanted to be my friend. Well, maybe he did for a while, but things changed, and because he didn't have the balls to ever tell me directly that he didn't want to be friends, I tried to perpetuate a friendship that didn't really exist. And because I was blinded by my lust for Dave, I never saw the signs that
he didn't want to be friends. Scratch that. I saw the signs. I just didn't want to believe them. My inner lust and desire to be close to him drove me more than common sense that he was an asshole.
And thus our friendship ended, or what was left of it.
I did "talk" to Dave once more before I left Valpo. I was sitting in an empty dorm room watching him help load up his truck with his girlfriend's stuff. Yeah I know, even after all that had happened and how angry I had been with him, I still couldn't help myself, and I continued to "spy" on him. He spotted me as I sat in the window, waved, and I shouted down to him... "Take care of yourself Dave." It was the last time
I ever spoke to him.
I have written all about my "friendship" with Dave here to illustrate how my friendship with him played on my mind constantly, and how it was a manifestation of the gay feelings I was trying so hard to deny and suppress. As I said before, I would try to explain away my obsession with Dave as just part of trying to maintain our friendship, but in reality, I was in lust with him, and wanted him in the worst way. On one hand I was in denial about who
I was, and on the other, I was obsessed with it.
At this point, I was still claiming that I was straight..... and that I wanted nothing to do with the gay lifestyle.
Summer of 1993 found me working at a Lutheran summer camp -- Lutheran Memorial Camp, in Fulton, OH, just north of Columbus. I had been living in my fraternity house after graduation, in the hopes of going on a Lutheran music ministry for the summer. However, that didn't pan out, and LMC kinda "fell into my lap". (Read the story here of how I ended up at LMC.)
LMC was my chance to break away from some things in my past and start anew. I knew that getting away from Valpo and all of the bad feelings and experiences I had in my last semester would do me good. And even better, I met a girl named Christy who I totally fell for.
Christy seemed to embody all those things I liked. She was smart, decent looking, very tomboy-ish, and I loved talking with her. We quickly took to each other and the relationship started there and went quite well the entire summer.
However, once again I found it hard to be intimate with a woman, and I often felt as though I was forcing myself. I didn't have a problem holding her hand or hugging her, but when it came to kissing or anything else, I found it difficult to initiate. In my mind I said it was because I didn't want to be thought of as too aggressive and slutty around the other counselors, but in reality, it was because I was uncomfortable with the physical part of being with
Christy. I tried to play everything off as though I wanted to be careful, and didn't want to rush in to anything. And of course, I couldn't mention that I had crushes on two of the male counselors.
However, Christy seemed to sense something strange about me as the summer went on. I tried to play things off as just wanting to be friends with people and all, but I think she could see through it to a degree.
The same sort of problems I had with Dave were starting again with other people. I found myself attracted to both Matt and Sean, and I wanted to be near either of them, touch them, hang out with them. I'd make excuses to do stuff with them or go out of my way to be friendly. It was easy to get away with being friendly at a Lutheran camp -- group closeness and camaraderie are expected from counselors. I thought once again that no one could see my
true intentions, however, I know that Christy knew something was a bit odd.
The summer pretty much went without incident. I threw myself into my new role as camp counselor, and boyfriend to Christy. I tried to convince myself that Christy was my last chance at being normal, and that I didn't want to be gay. I needed my relationship with Christy to be a success to prove to myself that I was not gay, and could really be in a long term relationship with a woman.
After my summer at LMC, I returned home to live with my parents. I still did not have any clear sense of what I wanted to do with my life, so moving back in with my parents was a convenient thing to do in the interim.
Christy and I stayed in touch, both by letter and by phone. But since it was now a long distance relationship (I was back home in PA and she was back in seminary in OH), things weren't going as well.
Christy managed to make a trip to my home to visit in October. My family had a big party for my father's parents wedding anniversary, and I had invited Christy to come up and join me for the party and dinner. I both wanted to see Christy, and I wanted to show her off to my family, further perpetuating the idea that was going to turn out straight after all.
One night while we were down at the marina just walking and talking, Christy brought up the topic of bisexuality, probably in the hopes that she would get me to admit something. She didn't ask me anything directly, but I knew she was trying to get me to open up and/or admit something. I didn't take the bait. Then again, on the surface I didn't think I was bisexual or homosexual. I was straight right?
Not too long after Christy's visit, Christy and I broke up. I was heartbroken -- mostly because I had felt she was my last chance at being straight. I tried in vain to convince Christy that things would change for the better if we just gave them a chance, but I know she didn't believe me. She already had recognized that I was fooling myself about who I was, and the fact that I couldn't admit it only probably made Christy more determined to end our relationship.
It was then that I began to realize that maybe I wasn't straight after all -- that I couldn't force myself to be something I wasn't. That the more I tried to not be gay, the more I thought about it. Maybe it was time to deal with the subject rather than avoid it.
The Internet was just starting to become "a thing" back then. Web surfing was done through a text-based client called Lynx, and the text-based directory client Gopher was also popular. Using Lynx and Gopher, I managed to come across the Queer Resources Directory, and began to download information about gays and the church.
Remember the big reason why I had such problems dealing with being gay was that I felt it was totally contrary to being Christian. I still felt that it was not possible to be both, and that if I had to choose between the two, I was going to choose the church. But my research on the Internet and Queer Resources Directory began to show me that there were major flaws in my line of thinking, and that many of the things I had grown up to know about the Bible and
its teachings about homosexuality weren't really true. There was another view out there that said being gay and being Christian could co-exist, and that many supposedly anti-homosexual passages in the Bible weren't really what they appeared to be. There was a historical context missing, and many translations left that context out.
I also struck up an e-mail friendship with a guy from NYC named Rich. I think we met through a newsgroup posting. In my e-mails I began to tell him my whole story -- my gay feelings, the situation with Dave, and so on.
It was at this point that I finally realized I had to stop fooling myself. Here I was telling my story in great detail to a complete stranger on e-mail, and yet, I still hadn't said one word about ANY of my gay feelings in my diary.
While there were pages upon pages about Dave in my diary, not a single sentence made mention of my gay feelings, or my bad experiences with the gays on campus, or even any of the real feelings I had had. I had always felt that if I wrote about that stuff in my diary, then it would have to be true. By not writing about it, I could deny that it even happened or existed.
But the reality was, it all DID happen, and the feelings WERE there. I couldn't go on trying to both suppress and encourage something.
So in November of that year I managed to contact one of the first gay guys I had ever met -- John. I hadn't talked to him in a long time, and for that matter, the last time I had seen him I had totally blown him off.
I wasn't sure how he would react to me trying to get a hold of him. Would he remember me? Would he be angry at me? Would he give me the time of day? But John was the only gay person in my area that I knew, and I felt he was basically my only chance. I dug up his e-mail address and wrote him.
After exchanging some e-mail (and apologies) and such with John, we arranged to meet at a coffeehouse in Erie (along with his then-current BF) and then go to one of the local gay clubs - Lizzy Borden's Part II.
The date for our nite out was 1 December 1993.
That first trip to Lizzy Borden's on 1 December 1993 with John and Ralph marks what I call my "official" coming out date. Sure, I had started to explore the gay aspects of myself well before then, but that was the day I finally took some real-life action, committed to it, and didn't turn back. In past tries I had ventured out, flirted with the closet door, but always crawled back inside to hide. That night I had truly made up my mind that I
wasn't going to hide anymore, and I wasn't going to go back in the closet.
I haven't regretted my decision. In some ways, I wish I had dealt with it all sooner, but I had to learn what I learned, and I had to go through what I went through. It's the old cliche that "hindsight is 20/20". It's very easy to look back and see what I should have done differently, but I can't go back and change that.
At times I wish I had never met Dave, and that I hadn't gone through the depression, anger, loneliness, and frustration that I felt. I wish I had been nicer to John a lot sooner. I wish I had had the self-esteem to just be myself and not worry about what other people thought of me. All easy to say now, but it was so much harder back then.
Of course, the story does not end here. Going to Lizzy Borden's that night, 1 December 1993, was just the beginning of my coming out story. There were so many more adventures and stories yet to come, and perhaps someday I will tell you about those as well.
Being gay is only just a part of who I am. I know that sounds unbelievably trite and simplistic, but it really underscores how I feel about this whole issue. My basic philosophy now is that I don't care who knows. I don't make any outrageous effort to make sure that people know I'm gay right off the bat, but I also do not lie about who I am.
As I grew in the coming out process, I adopted the idea that I wouldn't lie about it. If I was genuinely asked, I would genuinely respond. Over the years, I got tired of lying about stuff, and trying to cover my tracks, and quite frankly, I don't have time for that kind of bullshit. I have much better things to concentrate on and worry about in my life. I'm gay -- get over it.
Almost all of my family knows I'm gay, many of my non-gay friends both past and present know, and a majority of my co-workers know about me. I can count on one hand the number of times I have received any sort of "grief" about it. There may be many things that may have been said and done behind my back, but at this point, none of those things have affected me in a negative way, and therefore, I am not going to worry about them.
I think it has helped a lot that I am comfortable with the whole thing. I have always been a believer that if people don't sense that you are comfortable with something about yourself, they will not have the courage to ask you about it. Generally, people are not going to ask you about things they feel like are "touchy subjects" unless they really know you. And even then, it can be a difficult thing. If you project confidence and comfort
with who you are, the people around you will also feel comfortable.
And a sense of humor is essential. You have to be able to laugh about it. You have to be able to take a joke or too. If you can, people will feel further at ease, and won't be so nervous about saying the wrong thing. Go ahead.... laugh at the off-color gay joke... just be sure you have an off-color straight joke ready to go.
So how "gay" am I? Well.... I don't know. Am I butch? Am I a queen? Do I set off gaydars a mile away? Am I more "straight-acting" or "gay-acting"? Do I swish when I walk and do I talk with a lisp? Nothing used to piss me off more than when someone would ask me in an online chat room if I was "straight-acting" or something like that. My response always was "I act like myself".
Who am I to say if I am more "straight-acting" than "gay-acting"? And what do those terms mean? Every person has their own definition and perception of what those phrases encompass, so how could I possibly know what frame of reference they are using? I don't know, and quite frankly, I don't care. I am myself and people can make their own judgments. I can be all of the above or none of the above, and each person's perception
of me is going to be different.
I have my queen moments... I have my butch moments.... I have my average-guy-next-door moments... I would hope that people perceive me as a complex individual that has many facets and take me as a whole (why do you think I've put so much effort into this website?). If they pick out one little part they don't like and use that as a basis to hate me... so be it.
For so many years, I lived in an environment that was not conducive to being gay, and I had no concept of being part of a gay community. When I moved to Philadelphia and now in the DC area, I get involved with many aspects of gay culture -- gay men's chorus, going to pride festivals; having mostly gay friends, a pride flag on my car, and going to gay bars on the weekends. Does that make me "too gay" for some people? Possibly, but again, it's
all about frame of reference. For as much as I do and get involved, there are gays that do lots more than me, and plenty that do less.
It is was it is, and I am proud of who I am, and what I've achieved so far.