My name is Frank Zahn and I’m from Washington DC.
The time is 1998. I’m living in California and it’s about 18 months after my marriage of five years to a woman came to a close. Now in California, this is a place where at the time you needed to be separated for 12 months prior to the divorce being final. So I spent some time getting to know myself a little better. Doing some introspection.
Now the marriage didn’t end as a result of me being gay. There were other factors as to why the marriage ended. However, this is something that I wanted to explore. I had an idea that I was gay, but I didn’t really know what that meant, how I was going to evolve and who I wanted to be.
So one small thing that I did was I put a small rainbow stripe on the back of my car. That was something that was, at the time, that was something in the Bay area where if somebody saw that, they might give a little honk or a little nod. And it was nice to know that you were part of a community and you weren’t alone.
So after having the sticker on my car for about three months, I wanted to start figuring out how I was going to start with relating my journey to my friends and the people close to me. Well, I didn’t have much of an opportunity to think about it because out of the blue, I received a call from my ex wife.
I could tell that she was a little tense. So when I asked her how things were going, before I could even finish my sentence, she said, “I hear you have a rainbow sticker on your car. Can you explain what that means?”
Now as I started to talk, she unleashed.She was upset not knowing – I had not told her. She was also upset and wanted to know whether I was faithful to her. Now, keep in mind. It’s 1998 in the Bay area and the aids crisis is still very, very active. It’s understandable that there would be a concern if… if I was, you know, fooling around. I assured her that I was faithful to her during the marriage and it was something that I did not start exploring until after – well after – we got through the divorce proceedings.
And then I explained to her my journey, how – what I’d gone on in my life. And then she finally said, after a long pause, she said, “All I ever wanted is for you to be happy.”
I responded, “I want the same for you.”
She said, “Well, are you happy with the journey that you’ve been on and where you’re at now?” And I said yes with a sigh of relief, because I was finally having this conversation with my ex-wife.
She said, “Good. Then we’re on the same page and we can move on.” And that’s what we did. She was the first woman I loved. So she was important to me and it was important that she understood who I had become. That was… that was the big hurdle that I had to overcome.
So today I’m happily married to my husband of two and a half years right now. And I’m able to live comfortably as myself, not just when I’m talking to people that I need on the streets in New York City, but also at work. Very, very easy to live my truth that way, and I feel very comfortable with it, so I’m very happy.
So when I look back and think about it, I started just by like dipping my toe in with a small sticker stripe on the back of my car of a rainbow. To today, I have a rainbow flag right behind me here. And that is something that I am not shy to talk about to anybody.
You do have friends, family, loved ones, extended family that are all ultimately here for you. And sometimes those hurdles may not be the biggest hurdles as long as you’ve spent time on yourself to understand yourself better.