Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sharing with Elevencats, Part One

(For those of you unfamiliar with Elevencats, that is the pseudonym of a young man, who is gay.)
Dear Elevencats,
Over the past week, you commented twice on the post titled “Positive Images, Part 5 (Roy and William).”  As I read your words a number of times, I heard my own voice, in my early twenties.  I related so much to your frustrations, anxieties, even anger, particularly since I know how difficult it is to be unable to share your feelings.         
You gave me much to work with in your comments.  So I thought the best way to address the concerns you raised is to review them in detail, one at a time, and capture whatever thoughts come to mind, thereby giving you some different things to think about.  In the process, I hope what I write will be helpful to others going through what you are.       
You began your first comment with the following:
Elevencats:  I want to die at a young age.  I’m too afraid of growing older, because I love my baby-face, my skinny body.
Rick:  I know you wrote this out of frustration and don’t mean it.  How can anyone, at the mere age of twenty, want his life cut short, just because he’s fearful of the physical changes associated with growing older?  That’s not a good enough reason.       
Don’t look at aging as diminishment.  When I gaze at the picture of Roy and William, I see two older gay men whose lives surely weren’t easy, but who, despite all the challenges they encountered, lived fully and meaningfully.  I imagine everything they went through, at a very different time from ours, just to be together and to experience love.  For that reason, they inspire me; seeing the beauty in them moves me deeply.          
That’s why I had to include their picture in my “Positive Images” series: because I consider them an extraordinary example not only of individual gay men but also of a gay couple, and of old people.  They set an example to all of us of what we should hope to be and to have at their ages.       
In between the age you are now and that of Roy and William--a lifetime, really--you have a whole lot of living to do--at least fifty years, as I see it.  Don’t rush it along, because it goes fast enough on its own.  Don’t wish it cut short, because you’ll need every bit to become everything you were meant to be.  And don’t squander it, because every minute counts.        
Finally, don’t forget that our bodies, no matter what they look like, are merely vessels.  All they do is contain everything that we are.  What they look like on the outside, in the grand scheme, doesn't matter.  Infinitely more important than a pretty face and a thin body are a mind, a heart, and a soul.  It is in those three places that a life well lived is truly measured. 
E.:  I am always afraid of losing control over myself; that’s the main reason I don’t drink.  I’m afraid I’ll slip, tell someone that I like guys....  
R.:  So join the club; I’m not a drinker either.  I have two main reasons why I’m not:  one, my father is an alcoholic, and I know what liquor can do; and two, getting drunk and losing control has always been a big concern of mine.  I’d far rather be sober and in control, even if it means I can’t deaden the pain I feel from time to time, than drunk, out of control, and dependent on someone else to get me home safely.  I’ve never been confident enough anyone would take that responsibility.    
In my opinion, you’re not missing anything because you don’t drink.  And the fact that you don’t get drunk and put yourself in the position of blurting out to someone that you’re gay, when you’re not comfortable with your sexual orientation let alone anyone else finding out...well, what better reason not to drink.  Lots of people don’t drink for lots of different reasons.  You’re in good company. 
E.:  Oh, I’m afraid of being a faggot.
R.:  I’m struck by your use of the “f” word--possibly the worst epithet directed at gay men.  But I know why you use it--because you’re angry.  Because it doesn't seem fair to be gay.  Because we still live in a world where being gay, despite all the positive changes in some countries, is bloody difficult--certainly more difficult than being straight.  I hear you.  I really do.     
All of us, Elevencats, are afraid of being gay at one time or another, particularly before we’ve fully accepted what we are and come out to family and friends.  You are not alone.  Countless thousands, even tens of thousands, of young gay men and women just like you are right now processing the same feelings, the same fear, each in his or her own way.      
But believe me when I tell you, where you are right now is infinitely more difficult than where you’ll be when you finally come out.  At least that’s been my experience and the experience of countless people.  Obsessing about what you think will happen to you, about what your life will be like afterward, is infinitely worse than the reality.  You don’t see that now, but, in time, I think you will.  
Once you make the decision to come out, I suspect you’ll care less than you ever have about how the world around you reacts to the truth of what you are.  Yes, it would be tough to lose family members and friends, because they can’t accept your homosexuality, but, honestly, I don’t think that will happen.  It didn’t to me, and it doesn’t to the majority of gay men and women.  
Ninety-five percent of the time, family and friends come around, after they’ve taken a surprisingly short period of time to process what took you years to come to terms with.  Give your loved ones all the time and support they need to assimilate what you share with them. Assure them you’re still you and haven’t suddenly become someone they don’t know.  You’ll be amazed at how much support is out there waiting for you.         
E.:  Maybe I should try to fall in love with a girl; I have many wonderful girls surrounding me (and even maybe someone who doesn’t know why the heck I haven’t made a move yet...or most probably know).  But I don’t want to make another person suffer.  Shit, I promise, I’ll live my life alone, always being the single man who hasn’t got time for family business.
R.:  No need to promise you’ll live your life alone, or to explain you’re still single because you don’t have the time to find the right girl, get married, and have children.  That’s an unreasonable expectation for any of us.  All of us have the right to live our lives fully.           
I want to share a little story with you.  It might help.
I remember walking home from high school one bright spring afternoon with a girl named Shelley.  If ever there was a girl for me, it was her.  If ever there was a girl I should have married, it was her.  
Shelley was terrific.  I loved her long, kinky, bright red hair, her beautiful smile, and her ballsy sense of humor.  We had a great time together--sharing some of the same classes, studying at each other’s parents’s houses.  For different reasons, both of us were outcasts and virtually without friends, but we understood and appreciated each other.  Hell, she was even Catholic, as I was.  Our parents would have been thrilled if we’d gotten together.  It would have been the natural order of things.  My mom and dad would have turned themselves inside out if I’d told them Shelley and I were seeing each other, thereby confirming their son was normal after all. 

On that fine spring day, for the very first time, I was trying to get up the nerve to ask Shelley out.  We were just a block or two away from where I lived, where Shelley and I would part until the following day at school.  I had to make up my mind.  I felt like I was in a now-or-never situation.  Yes, I could have asked Shelley out whenever I wanted to, but, on that afternoon, I knew the time had come.  Which way was it going to be?  Ask her out, or never ask her out?  Straight or gay?  Decision time.      
I knew in my heart--as much as I didn’t want to--that I was gay, and that there was no point starting to walk down a road with Shelley that I would never see the end of with her.  It would not have been fair to me, but, even worse, it would not have been fair to her.  I knew eventually other fellows would discover her and find her as attractive as I did; one would even go on to love her in a way I never could.  As much as it pained me, I knew I’d have to face up to the reality of what I was, sooner or later, and I couldn’t imagine potentially destroying Shelley’s life because I was in denial.  I may have been only sixteen at the time, but, even now, I’m proud of the decision I made then.       
And you, Elevencats, know what the right thing to do is, as well.  As much as you might not want to be gay; as much as you might want your life to be “normal’; as much as you might want a family in the traditional way--you know the truth.  You know you’re gay, and that will never change, no matter how much you want it to.  You will always be more attracted to men than to women.  And, thankfully, you're mature enough to know you cannot be the cause of someone else's suffering because you don’t have the courage to face what you are head on.  
Taking the easy route isn’t the answer; it seldom is.  The answer is living authentically as the gay man you are meant to be.  The time will come to be all that you are.  Be patient.  Be patient and be ready.


For Part Two, please click here.  

2 comments:

  1. Fighting with my feelings makes me a two-sided person: one, who knows what I truly want, and the other me, who wants me to live like a man should. The main point is that I don't want to be something that is perceived to be bad. When someone (who is not gay) is stupid, then he is a faggot. I am a faggot, but I'm not stupid.
    I know I'm not ready to come out or have a partner yet. But sometimes I feel so lonely when I'm going to bed. I just want to scream! I want a special person to lay beside me. Someone to love and someone who loves me in return.
    I'm fighting to become a smarter me. A person who loves himself. On the way there, I find myself feeling everyone else is so much better than me. They know how to live. There is no chance for me. No place for me. Not a single person who'd love me. But these moments pass and come again. Pass and come again. I am thankful that I have someone who I can tell my silly thoughts to. Thank you!

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  2. A few observations from your comment, elevencats:

    1). As the two-sided person you describe, your challenge is to integrate both sides into one. The fact they're separate right now is central to the frustration you feel from time to time.

    2). I've written other posts about "gay" being considered bad or stupid. You can't change what other people think, only what you think. Don't be concerned about other people's perceptions; worry only about your own, and how you look at yourself.

    3). I understand you're not ready to come out or have a partner yet. You have other priorities in your life, including school. But take a look at Part Two in this series, which I just published. It will give you a few ideas to think about on this subject.

    4). When you look at other people and think they have it all together, the truth is, they probably don't. Do I look like I have it all together? In some respects, perhaps I do (that's the beauty of getting older), but, in others, I'm still growing and learning, too. That's our lifelong journey as human beings. Just when you think you know, you don't.

    5). I must ask you again to stop thinking so negatively. You have as much of a chance as anyone. There is a place for you and you'll find it (actually, there are probably any number of places, not just one). And someone will love you. You must absolutely believe that. You have no choice.

    Thank you for trusting me to share your most personal thoughts with. They're not silly at all. They are a valid part of you, and you must honor them as I do with the time and effort I've put into addressing them in my blog.

    I look forward to your comment on Part Two. Part Three is soon on its way.

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