Part One: My Coming Out Story (A Short Autobiography)
When I was about 13, I declined an inappropriate offer of m/m sex. It was inappropriate because of an age gap and the circumstances, but that’s not what this is about. There was no trauma, no crime, no harm done – it was simply a pass declined with no further repercussions.
The relevance of the story is that, at the age of 13, it did not bother me that I had been approached by a man. I found that I was including men in my adolescent fantasies and seeking out erotica that featured them. Around that time I heard the word “bisexual”, and thought it sort of fit.
However, it was the 1980’s, and I was discovering my sexuality and sexual orientation at the end of the Sexual Revolution, a revolution lost to the Plague. I remember sitting in a school assembly about AIDS – I remember when they called it GRID, Gay-Related Immune Deficiency – and thinking that I would probably die within minutes of losing my virginity. It almost made my self-image as an unpopular alien a good thing; if no one wanted to even be around me, then I probably wouldn’t catch the Plague. (I understand now that I was probably better-liked, at least in certain circles, than I realized. Undiagnosed Aspergers has a tendency to make one verrrry defensive and distrustful, because if you can’t tell if someone is angry or is lying to you, the only way to stay safe is to assume everyone is both.)
My (adoptive) mother was very homophobic. She was unapologetically bigoted against anyone who didn’t fit her narrow guidelines – she used to say, with pride, that “I’m not a racist, I hate everybody.” Well, she didn’t hate everybody, she just thought she was better than everybody. And the comments she made certainly gave me the impression that it was better to be dead than to be queer.
I had some girlfriends, and some boyfriends. The relationships were different. I did not have the words at the time to understand that I was more heteroromantic even though my erotic attractions transcended gender. I got married and divorced in short order, and then…
I was chasing this absolutely beautiful guy. Beautiful in body, mind, and spirit, classic and classy and steadfast and charming and drop-dead-sexy. He moved like a cat and his hair smelled like home. He tripped all my triggers.
He was dating a young woman from the Midwest, and had told her that she should meet me, as we had similar senses of humor and shared a tilted and idiosyncratic look at the world. One night she was driving several of his friends to an informal social gathering (with beverages) in a local park. I was transfixed. When she mentioned Robert Anton Wilson it was all over but the shouting. I ran through the sprinklers, got cold, and ended up spending hours snuggled up under her jacket, afraid to make a move but knowing that was where I wanted to stay.
I left the state the next day and hitchhiked cross-country. I was in my early 20s, in the middle of a divorce, sleeping on my friend’s couch (the back seat ripped out of a VW bus), broke, trying to deal with my newfound and terrible freedom, and figuring out that I really was not a very nice person – not because I was bisexual, not because my experiments in polyamory had crashed and burned leaving three people scarred, but because I was using people as means rather than viewing people as ends in themselves. I was an arrogant, deluded poser who thought I was some kind of spiritual guru and mystic warrior – and somewhere inside I knew I could be a better person if I just figured out who I really was. If you wanted to find a guy just like me in early 1990’s California, all you had to do was throw a brick, you’d hit one of us.
After a season on the road, I returned home and a few months later was delivered a letter from this amazing person. I called her that night and by the end of the conversation had invited her to come live with me. A few months later she arrived at the bus station, tired, hungry, cranky from the trip, and the best thing I had ever seen. When we kissed, for the first time, the world spun around us – it’s a cliche, but that’s what it felt like.
We got married a year later, and in April it will be 21 years.
There’s a reason I told you that story. Bear with me, I’ll get there eventually.
So I stayed in the closet for 18 more years. My wife knew, a couple of people who had known me for a long time knew, and a few of the friends I made along the way knew. I had a tendency, when I would feel under pressure, to drink too much and hint broadly that I might like snails as well as oysters. And under pressure I was.
Being in the closet was a daily struggle between my essentially truthful nature (people with Aspergers, as a rule, find it very difficult to lie and almost impossible to do it well) and the constant lying to everyone. In my 30s, I (through the efforts of my lovely wonderful and I-can’t-say-too-many-good-things-about-her friend Judyt54, one of the ones who knew) located the family of my birth, and I found out that both my sister and my mother identified as lesbians. I found them too late to talk to my birth mother, but it was astounding and amazing to realize that maybe I was indeed born this way.
Not too many years later, my adoptive mother died. I was with her during one of the final weeks, and struggled mightily with whether I should tell her or not. She could no longer hurt me, she barely had the strength to lift her head off the pillow. One of her friends from high school was also there, and while I have little or no gaydar, I got the impression he was queer. I hinted around the issue with him, and he hinted back that she already knew and it was better to just let it be. I took his advice, because I was there for her benefit, not mine – the wounds she had left in me were too deep to heal while she was alive without her becoming an entirely different person.
I continued to keep my secret for another half-decade, and then my father died a few days after my 40th birthday. One of the many rings I wear every day is the wedding ring he got for a present on his 40th birthday, I do it both to honor him and to keep him close. He raised me as his own, and while I failed to appreciate that when I was young, now that I have a child of my own I understand how great a man he was. (In a fascinating maybe-not-a-coincidence, I was the same age when my son was born as he was when I was born.)
I regret never telling him, but I was still cowering in the closet, afraid to come out.
I ended up back in school, pursuing a dream that I had thought unachievable – to become a therapist. Shortly after starting, I began to understand that I would never be able to help others if I was not able to help myself, so I made the choice to come out, to proclaim to the world that I’m here, I’m queer, and those that don’t approve will just have to get used to it.
The story that I told my classmates was the story that I just told above, the story of how I met my wife. The story that for 18 years was edited to “a friend of ours fixed us up.” On the day that I came out, I came out as bisexual.
(Continued in part 2)