Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thought for the Day, #55

During the recent election in the United States, several states had marriage equality for same-sex couples on the ballot (it was passed in Maine, Maryland, and Washington State).

Here's what an editorial comment, originally published in The Ottawa Citizen, and subsequently appearing in The Vancouver Sun, had to say on the subject:

...If [marriage equality] is a right, then it's a right, and not subject to approval or removal by popular vote.  That's why constitutions protect basic freedoms and equal treatment under the law.  It's a protection against the tyranny of the majority [p. C3].

Amen to that.

In Canada, marriage equality has been in place nationally since the mid-2000s.  Before that, several provinces had approved marriage equality without taking it to a vote (including BC, the province I live in), but the federal Liberal government at the time had the foresight to make it a right across the country.  The world didn't come to an end as a result.  

Which is precisely what the federal government in the U.S. must do.  Individual states must not have the power to grant or withhold marriage equality for same-sex couples by popular vote, based on voters's personal or religious beliefs.  It is not their place to do that.

If it's a human right to get married, and gay people are human beings (last time I checked, they are), then marriage is a human right, regardless of sexual orientation, and not subject to the whim of those who don't approve at the ballot box for whatever reason.     

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lift the Weight of Being Gay

Image from
This past September, I received an email from a reader with whom I maintain an occasional email communication.  He lives in an Eastern European country and is a student at a university there.

In his email, he said he needed to take a break from being gay, that his focus had to be on the demands of his challenging studies so as to earn high marks.  

Then, last weekend, I received a comment on the "Barbra Streisand" blog post from another reader, who shared the following quote with me:

It is often a case of being neither glad nor proud to be gay, but finding the honesty and courage to bear its disadvantages.  (The quote is from Janet Watts, "Domestic Allsorts," The Tablet, November 21, 1998.)

Further, this reader wrote:  "Those words rang true for me.  I suppose that I couldn't embrace the reality of being gay as something that was cause for rejoicing.  I thought, though, that I could maybe move to accept the fact that this is who I am and get on with it. Even to do that would be a way forward from where I was (a place of having to cover [it] up...).

When I read the comment from the latter reader, I was reminded of the one from the former, and it seemed to me their messages shared common ground.  In them, I heard these two readers say that being gay was something extra they had to deal with, something they had to tolerate, something they had no choice but to put on and wear, like an oppressive garment.

Learning how being gay is for these two readers, and I'm sure countless others like them, makes me sad.  Sad, even though I understand.      

Before I came out, being gay felt like an enormous burden.  For many years, little else occupied my mind, I was so obsessed with it.  Not a day went by that I wasn't in some way reminded of what I was, and what I had yet to deal with fully–accepting myself and revealing what I was to those who were most important to me.

I managed the burden better some days than others, but, make no mistake, the anguish was always there.  And I remember literally praying–"Dear God, please don't let me be gay"–that the weight of being gay, threatening my very existence, would lift.  I wasn't sure how much more I could take.  I needed to be set free, and I couldn't imagine how that would ever happen.  

All these years later, I know now how it would happen.  The answer was always there, even if I refused to see it, even if it was arguably one of the most difficult things I would ever have to go through (but, I hasten to add, one of the most necessary).

So listen up, anyone who feels like my two readers:  The burden of being gay will never be lifted until you come to terms with it yourself.  One more time.  You must come to terms with being gay yourself, before the weight of being gay is lifted.  

This doesn't mean you must rejoice that you're gay, or celebrate it, or feel glad or proud or whatever (although, if you wish to, the choice is yours).  But it does mean you have to accept it.  It means you must say to yourself, "I'm gay"–two of the most difficult words you will ever utter.

Further, you have to say to yourself "I'm gay" and "It's all right to be gay."  And you have to believe in your heart that it's okay to be gay, because it is okay to be gay.  Take it from someone who's been gay probably a lot longer than you have.  It's all right to be gay.  I know what I'm talking about, as do all those who have also come out and gotten on with the job of living their lives.  And, one day, you will know it too.

The beauty of accepting that you're gay is that it's the beginning of a new life.  Getting to that point can take a long, long time–many years even–and it involves a lot of reasoning and soul searching and reconciling.  But it also gives you the strength and the courage to take the next steps to freedom.  And, if you're lucky, it gives you a glimpse of your self-worth and human dignity, both of which as necessary on your journey.

Being gay isn't something you should be forced to deal with, tolerate, or wear.  It's a part of you.  An integral part of you.  You would not be you unless you were gay.  And the only thing holding you back from accepting this part of you is your perception of it.  No one can help you make peace with being gay.  Only you can do that for yourself.      

All of us are different in one way or another, and in our differences are the gifts we have to offer the world around us.  Did I ever think, back in the 1970s and '80s, when I was suffering through the torment of being gay and taking my sweet time coming to terms with it, I would write, thirty-plus years later, a blog that would help people just like you understand, accept, and love themselves?  Not a chance.  (There were no computers or blogs then, and I was in a pretty messed up place.)

Yet, writing this blog–and having my life blessed by all the people who have connected with me through it–has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  And I would not trade that for anything.      

From the feedback I continue to receive, I know what I write inspires gay and lesbian people around the world, and it gives them hope that they will come through this difficult time.  I could not ask for anything more, and the fact that I'm able to do that because I'm gay, and have been on my own journey to self-acceptance, makes me happy to be gay.

I pray you will accept yourself, recognize the role being gay can play in your life, and find in your struggle the gifts you have to offer others.    


My thanks to the two readers who inspired me to write this post.  You are already making a difference.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

"How Did You Find the Courage to Come Out?"

One of the most gratifying aspects of owning and running this blog has been that, even as I can't spend as much time on it as I did almost a year ago (since I'm busy working on the second draft of a novel), I continue to receive unexpected emails from people around the world.  Most of the emails I receive thank me for what I've written, and tell me how helpful my words are.  Often, I get an email with a question, as happened last week from a young man (country unknown).

His question was, "How did I find the courage to come out?"  I want to share my response to him with you, in the hope that something I wrote will help you on your journey to self-acceptance and to living your life as an out and free gay man or lesbian woman.

Here, in part, is what I wrote:

You’ve asked me the question, where did I find the courage to come out as a gay man?  Below are some of my random thoughts on the subject, which I hope will be the answer you’re looking for.

I need to go way back here, because I’ve been out since January 1, 1986.  But, as I recall, for many years, I’d been getting closer and closer to accepting that I was gay.  At various times, I’d gone through denial and anger–I refused to believe I might be gay.  I call this my asexual stage, when I tried not to think about women, men, or sex at all.  

But, by the time I got to my early- to mid-twenties, I had to face the realization I wasn’t like other young men my age.  I wasn’t interested in young women, even though I found some of them physically beautiful.  When I saw myself being sexual (because I wasn’t until I turned twenty-six), it was always with another man.  And when I saw myself being emotionally connected to someone, settling down, and building a life, it was also with another man.

So I was different, and, no matter how I tried to turn my back on that reality, I couldn’t.  With that information, what could I do?

For me–and I’m not saying it’s like this for every gay man, but I’d be surprised if there isn’t an element of it in every one of our stories–I think I found the courage to come out when I realized it would take more courage to be what I wasn’t (straight) than what I was (gay).

Said another way, the risk of pretending to be what I wasn’t, at some point, became greater than the risk of losing those who were most important to me, when I shared with them the truth of who and what I was.  Think about that.  The risk of not being true to myself, and dying a little more inside every day that I wasn’t, was greater than potentially losing loved ones, because I told them I was gay.  Do you get that?  Does that make sense?  Have you gotten to that place yet, in your own journey to self-acceptance?

I’m not saying you should wait to some out until you're so desperate to be who and what you are, you simply can’t take living a lie one more day (like I did).  

I don’t know your particular situation, but I suspect coming out today isn’t nearly as bad as it was in the 1970s and ‘80s.  Every day, it seems, there are stories in newspapers concerning gay and lesbian people, and how things are continuously improving for them.  In some countries, like Canada, where I live (and states in the US), gay marriage is now legal, sending the message to the population at large that being gay isn’t what people thought it was all those years ago (thus breaking negative stereotypes).  There are numerous series on TV now depicting gay characters in more or less positive roles.  In other words, being gay isn’t what it used to be.  So I don’t believe coming out has to be as traumatic as it once was.

At the time I came out, I wish I had known a number of things (they would have made the job so much easier).  They are:  

1).  That it’s okay to be gay.  It really is.  Gay, straight–it’s all the same.  At the end of the day, all of us want nothing more than to love and be loved.  There’s nothing wrong with that, even if it’s with someone of the opposite or same gender.  First, give yourself permission to love yourself. Then, give yourself permission to love someone else.        

2).  That just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I’m not worthy or valuable.  I am.  I am just because I was born, because I’m alive, because I draw breath.  I am because all the horrible things that have been said about me, as a gay person, over the years, simply aren’t true.  I’m not an abomination.  I’m not immoral.  And I’m not going to hell because I live with and love another man.  How can love be wrong?   

3).  That life on the other side of coming out is so much better.  The world won’t end just because you’ve come out.  It really won’t.  Depending on your loved ones, it could be a little rough for a bit, but that will pass.  It’s the rare occasion when someone loses a parent or sibling or friend for good just because he’s come out as gay.  

Think about it this way:  You took time (I'm guessing a long time) to become adjusted to the idea of being gay, so give your loved ones time too.  In all likelihood, they will see you the same way they did before, and nothing will change between you.  Except you will be who you really are, and that can only improve, deepen, and enrich your relationships with others.

As far as the specifics of gathering the courage you need to actually come out, well, if you haven’t already, I hope you’ll take a look at the posts I’ve written on my blog under the heading Coming Out.  You’ll find a lot of resources there.  Some will apply to you, some won’t.  Use what you need.  All of them are intended to help you through the process of knowing what you’re getting into and how to go about doing it.  Being prepared will help a lot with mustering the courage you asked me about.  

And if you have any questions about anything I’ve written here, or you want to keep the conversation going, I invite you to email me again.  I’m here for you.  I want you to know I’ll support you in any way I can.

Thanks for your email and your question.


By the way, no matter how busy I am working on my novel, I'm always happy to hear from readers, and I always respond back.  So if you have a comment or a question, feel free to contact me.  I'd love to hear from you.