I Just Met Myself and I Have Fallen In Love - A Story About Coming Out Gay Later In Life
I was born in 1978, I came to life in 2016. Yes, I waited almost 37 years to start living. Before that, I merely existed. My story has too many parallels in other lives. But before we get to 2016, we need to go back even further in time.
I grew up in a small town in Northeastern Ohio. You wouldn’t say it’s rural by looking at it, but dairy cows outnumber people. My parents moved there from Southeastern Ohio. It’s not a bad town, but it’s very much a small-town atmosphere. They still have two curfews; pre-teens are required to be at their homes when the lights turn on and teens must be in by 10 pm (air raid siren goes off to let everyone know). The main street is paved in brick. To further illustrate the size, my graduating class was 71 people. We were the largest class in the school district’s history.
It was into this world I made my debut. I was the youngest in my class. I am weird as hell. My view of the world is unique and a lot more fun. I was the weird kid with parents who were from “out of town.” I was bullied for my weirdness. In fourth grade, I earned the name “Fruitcake.” I didn’t realize what that meant until recently. I was picked on all the time until high school. That’s when I got mean.
I guess I should also note that this was a very catholic town. There were a few large churches around and most people went to one of them. We didn’t, but we would say we were Christians of some sort. We did flirt with a church when I was a teen, but I was the only one who attended consistently. But by my senior year, I was a practicing pagan with an open distaste for Christianity. I had my tribe.
Unlike my peers, I only dated two people in high school. I kissed one of them, but it was a non-event. I don’t remember it. I do remember thinking about how I never saw women as sexual creatures. They were fun to hang out with and to be friends with, but not to have sex with. Then we got the internet. I was almost 17. Dial-up with an overclocked modem that gave us a download speed of 19.2mps. I hold my first downloaded picture of a shirtless hunk in a special place in my memory. I was still clueless. I would purchase Men’s Health magazines “for the articles” and spent many an hour pouring over the JCPenny catalog’s underwear and sleepwear sections. I didn’t acknowledge to myself that I’m gay.
One of my best friends was suspected of being gay, he was tortured. He left before we graduated to go to a dance school. I missed him terribly but knew why he needed to leave. My fifth-grade teacher was a gay man. He was tormented and the rumors that surrounded him. My seventh-grade teacher and head coach of the football team was so deeply closeted it should be illegal. Now let’s add the AIDS epidemic. Holy shit, being a burgeoning gay in the 80s and 90s. In second grade I read an article provided by the school about Ryan White. I learned in it that toilet seats were safe, but not kissing or any other close physical contact. I learned it was the “gay disease” and God’s punishment for being gay.
So in 1996, I start attending Ohio University in Athens, OH. I lived with my mom’s mother. OU is a very liberal school. I ran headfirst into a progressive space and homosexuality wasn’t frowned on as much. I knew at once that I’m gay. I wasn’t ready to deal with it and spiraled into a depression. My family being such great people arranged for their pastor to talk to me. My grandparents were one of the founding members of his church. He addressed my paganism and took advantage of my need for community. I was isolated and overwhelmed. He offered religion as a solution and I jumped at it. I became a born-again Christian on November 17, 1996. I remember every moment.
I was afraid of being gay. I then became afraid that my sexuality would make me ineligible for heaven. For me, Heaven wasn’t so much a place but being in the presence of Jesus. I would say I was literally in love with Jesus. I centered my life on him. I wanted to show my love for him. I did this by transferring to a Bible College, going on a mission trip, and eventually ministry. I equated Jesus with the Bible (there is scriptural support for this view). So I devoted myself to studying the Bible. I dove into theology. I reveled in Revelation. For me, it wasn’t about power, it was about being as close to Jesus as possible. I heard God speak, I spoke in tongues, I prophesied, I prayed for the sick, and I prayed for myself. I would weep for hours and fast for days because I was gay. Every time I was attracted to a man, I tortured myself. When I would seek sexual relief in porn, I would beat myself up. It got to the point that I installed monitoring software on my computer and later smartphones to tell on me if I gave in. I also learned how to circumvent it quickly.
I thought God hated me for who I was. I thought that if I did enough, then he would “heal” me and I’d become hetero. I proposed to two women. The first one, I never kissed. I found an excuse out of it. She was involved with a borderline cult and wanted nothing more than to find a man to marry and then to start having babies. The second one…
I’ll start this part by telling you that I had graduated from Bible College and I had served with several churches. I had moved back to Southeastern Ohio. I was the associate pastor to the pastor that brought me to Jesus (I’m going to call him Pastor). Pastor’s wife had introduced me to Niece. She is a lovely woman who has two kids. I cared for Niece and the Kids, we ended up engaged and I was honest about my attraction to men but reassured her that I loved her and that I’d never act on my attraction. We did kiss and made out. She was always surprised by how attentive I was to her. On my way home, I’d find gay porn to download and take care of my needs. We broke up and it went bad. Pastor stood by me when Niece’s stepdad said he found porn on my laptop. Now, I was watching porn, but not on that laptop. They had it for 6 months. Niece stayed out of the mess. I kept serving at Church.
Every Sunday I was terrified that God would tell one of the prophets that I was gay. Every day I struggled with who I am. I hated myself. I wanted to die. I gained a lot of weight. I ended up taking care of my grandparents and working full time. I worked so I didn’t have to think. I existed.
Pastor told me he was retiring in 2014 and that he intended me to take over his duties. I quit my job in retail management and prepared to take over. He changed his mind. I lived off my savings and retirement for 6 months while I tried to find a new job. One person in Church helped. One. After a year, I resigned from my position to start a new church in Athens. Shortly after, I discovered the Gym. The new church never took off, but I found a progressive congregation and a Bible Study led by a professor in physics and his English professor wife contributed a lot. I looked at the Bible differently. I began to see it as literature with figurative language. I learned there are other ways to worship.
I lost 125 pounds and began to build muscle. I stood in the gym one day and looked at myself. I said, “You did this yourself. No one helped you. No prayer was answered. Your hard work did this.” I was working in social services at this point and I was helping people in need. But I mostly just existed. I lived for my time in the gym because it was my space. It was my time.
Then I got a DM on Facebook. A random local man wanted to give me a blow job. I was shocked and intrigued. My porn time was also escalating. I was watching several times a day. I felt my grip on reality was slipping. I took him up on the BJ, it was three. Things started to feel different. Less than a month later, my life changed.
I decided that it had been TWENTY FUCKING YEARS and I am still gay. God either must not care, or he must not exist. I decided to embrace my sexuality. To learn about gay culture I decided to download Grindr. Church Closet cases don’t miss everything. Honey, I learned. Unlike many, I enjoyed my time there. I felt attractive and wanted. I was invited to a guy’s house to visit. He was proud of his home and decorations. I got the grand tour. He then asked if he could kiss me.
I remember this kiss. I remember his lips, his beard, his tongue. I lost myself in it. I reveled in the “rightness” of it. I lost my full virginity that day, several times. Afterward, I expected to no longer “feel God’s presence” but I felt no different. We spent a lot of time together. When I got home, I needed to explain my absence. So I told my extended family that I was dating. My niece, who was visiting asked “What’s his name?” I took her aside and showed her his picture and asked her not to say anything. I spoke with my mom on the phone and told her, she primed the pump for my dad. My sister wasn’t surprised. My dad didn’t care. All in all, only my dad and one aunt had no idea that I preferred the company of men. My coming out to family was almost a non-event. A cousin won $50 in a bet with her mom.
Then I came out of Facebook. Shit meet fan. I lost all my Church friends. As in, hide in the grocery store. But I also saw my family and many old friends rise to my defense. I lost most of my face-to-face friends. I lost the people I had served and loved. I found out, that Pastor preached a three-week sermon series about me. They also changed their theological stance to exclude marriage equality. I guess I left an impression.
The physics professor? He invited me to coffee and asked how Out life was. He celebrated with me. Remember Niece the ex? She is one of my strongest allies and has stood up to Pastor and his wife on my behalf. My gym buddies hugged me and congratulated me. The first man I told face-to-face came out as being a transman, I had no idea. He and his wife invited me to my first Drag Show. I made friends at that show that I would trust my life with. I met my first boyfriend that year. I discovered who I am. I met myself and fell in love. I saw how much of my life was consumed with hiding my identity. I see how much I was afraid of ever “acting gay.” I see the sacrifices and half-truths. I don’t wish that life on anyone.
Today, I no longer believe. I’m a happily Out Gay Man. I’m Proud as hell. I’m proof that it’s never too late to live authentically. I’ve been engaged and I’ve seen that relationship end on difficult but good terms. He’s my best friend. You could say that I’m starting over, but I see life as a journey. I may have been on a path not meant for me, but I found my way.
Advice? Love yourself. Know that you’re loved. Embrace those who must fight their way Out. Support those who can’t for one reason or another. Be who you needed.
BTW, I’m still fucking great with scripture interpretation.