Realizing that I was gay at the age of 11 in early 1960’s rural America terrorized me and thus at that time I ‘chose’ to be straight. Hiding within myself while growing up, I dated girls exclusively and eventually married my college sorority sweetheart. Deep denial is apparently a very powerful psychiatric coping mechanism.
During the 34 years of our marriage, my imprisoned feelings only grew more intense. At the age of 56, emotionally exhausted and no longer hoping to age beyond my real sexuality, I needed a change. Meeting my life-partner, Clarence, in 2006 and falling deeply in love with him gave me the pride and the courage that I needed to walk away from my own self-imposed closet…a prison of my own keeping.
First I talked with my wife, then with a therapist and then with a series of very close friends. With each new step it was obvious that my darkest fears where delusions. Almost everyone put my life’s efforts and changes into perspective, intuitively understanding that being gay and coming out is not a casual thing. I came out to my family in the summer of 2010 in the form of a seven page letter. It was an excellent format through which to break the news because it avoided confrontation and pressure for immediate reactions. It gave people time to think and talk it through.
Then in late August, one of my fellow anesthesiology-group doctors was loudly and derisively ‘outing’ me in the hallways of our operating rooms. It was very public, behind my back and I felt that the chips were now down. I could run, hide, deny and apologize OR choose to come all the way, the rest of the way out.
With determination and purpose, I went home, put over 55 email addresses in the “To:” line of the email form and then attached my seven page coming out letter sent earlier to my family. My thought: ‘If you’re gonna talk, talk about the facts. So here’s the facts.’ As I hit the ‘Send’ key I was prepared to give up friends, career, reputation, all of it for a greater truth and my own sense of dignity. Not willing to take crap anymore, and not knowing or caring what the reaction would be, I held my breath and spam-outed myself.
Within minutes the return emails ended a lifetime of fear and pain. My doctor-partners and friends wrote beautiful email responses and were hugging me in the hallways the next day. The general response was beautifully reassuring that we as humans respect and honor the truth. There were unpredictable losses, to be sure, but in the end, I felt so very much reborn into a real life. It’s an amazingly powerful, life confirming, maturing process and I am so very proud to be gay. Thank you, Clarence, for helping get me there. Forever and a day, Babe.