I’m From Brooklyn, NY.

by Lenair Xavier

Satellite overhead image of New York State from Google Earth 2022

Growing up in a religious Christian household hearing how “gays are going to hell in a hand basket” isn’t easy. Especially when you know in your heart of hearts that you are in a great degree everything your mother is talking against. Because of this, unlike most, I had 3 coming outs instead of just 1. And the reason I must tell all 3 is because they each connect to the next in a way forming the SINGLE coming out most think of when they talk about “coming out.”

The first coming out was when I was about 12 years old. A big news story at the time was about NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association). So between that and being told early on that I had a cuteness gay men like, my vivid imagination went to a worst case scenario of me being kidnapped and raped by males who were members of this group. Add to that growing up hearing all the derogatory talk about homosexuality in my home, and in schools, yet feeling attraction to males and females, I took it upon myself to scare myself into being “straight.” So I wrote a note to myself with that expressed purpose. I guess I was a writer even back then.

I stuck this letter into my sock, and evidently at some point during the day while I was home, it fell out of my sock and…my mother found it. Remember me mentioning how religious she was. Hence why this discovery led to an hours long talk telling me how if a man has sex with a man he immediately goes to hell.

That talk tortured me for years. Almost two decades actually. It led to me having friends, but never letting them get too close. Never dating a girl, because I didn’t want to get to the point of becoming married and having children. And never being kissed. In fact, my never being kissed is what caught my interest in the 1999 Drew Barrymore movie “Never Been Kissed.” That title explained my life perfectly.

These things that most people take for granted once they become the legal age of adulthood, were things that I denied myself. For I was told that what I felt was an abomination. So it is no surprise that for all of those years, at the slightest of letdowns, thoughts of suicide arose. For I already had a massive inner-pain of denying what I am. So the most minute thing on top of that was nearing becoming the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The second  coming out was as I was nearing 31 years old. I was hating myself more and more at this point because I was 30, and still had no idea of how to define my orientation. I still had an attraction to women, but my attraction to males had me always fearing that a good-looking man could easily make me stray from my girlfriend/wife.

The only gay bar I knew of at the time was Splash Bar. I learned of it because a modeling contest was held there about a year earlier. I did an internet search of Splash Bar then, and that’s how I found out it was a gay bar/club. I think that discovery is one of the main reasons why I chickened out of the contest. Even though it was for a modeling contest, I didn’t want to explain to my mother that I was going to a gay bar of all places, and knowing that I would be putting myself in the throws of tempting that part of myself that we addressed almost 17 years prior.

Even though I bailed on going to Splash for the contest, I at this point felt that I had to go there. For this self-loathing because of not knowing myself had to stop. I had to stop wanting to die because of it.

I couldn’t wait for the weekend, for I was going to put myself to the test. And as an Aries, I love challenging myself. So on that Saturday night, February 9, 2002, I got on the subway train, and went to Splash Bar. While I was unaware of my orientation, I was quite self-aware about many other parts of myself. So I knew that once I felt the vibe after I walked in, if that place was not for me, then I would do a U-turn out the door.

I walked into Splash Bar, felt the vibe, and I quickly felt a sense of…belonging. The same way I do when I go to a church. Yes, church – where I make the commonality of the building’s purpose be what makes me belong there, regardless of how different we may act from one another beyond that purpose. In church, the purpose is to provide a place for those who believe in God. In Splash Bar, the purpose is to provide a place for men who have an attraction to other men.

Most people define “coming out” as when you tell someone else. That was the third coming out. This second coming out at Splash Bar was the most important coming out of all, for it was the night I came out to myself. It was the night I said, “LeNair, meet LeNair. Meet what he is orientation-wise.”

“What is LeNair orientation-wise?” I asked myself.

My reply…”He’s happy to finally know that he is a predominantly gay bisexual.”

About a year later, this is when the third coming out came around. I told my mother about my realization about myself, and how nothing much had changed since our discussion back nearly 20 years ago. This came about because of my involvement with a guy who was mentally draining me. And I still had no friends to talk to about my gay love life at this point, so Mom was still all I had. After that discussion, to my surprise, she seemed to take it well. When I asked her why she was so calm, compared to when I was 12, and she was hysterical, and caused me years of fears and contemplations of suicide, her reply was, “You’re an adult now. So anything you do now is between you and God.”

Now, 10 years after realizing my predominately gay bisexual self, I am happy to be alive. The thoughts of suicide are no more. And when faced with adversity, I’m more than willing to fight it until I come out on top. What troubles me, but at the same time wows me the most is the fact that all it took to avoid this misery was me first and foremost, being honest with myself.

Imagine how much happier this world would be if many did the same. I hope my story inspires more to come to make this world the happier place it can be with that honesty.

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