I’m From Riverside, CA.

by Rick Clemons

State Satellite overhead image from Google Earth 2022

It all started as I kicked out of the womb. No, I didn’t have an epiphany as I ventured down the birth canal. And it wasn’t some stress of being birthed that caused me to be gay. In reality, it was the venturing into the world that launched me into the yet uncharted territory of finding my true self.

Beyond the crib and potty training I embarked into the typical yet atypical life of a young boy. Riding bikes, playing Indians and Cowboys, watching Gilligan’s Island. On the other side of me I was fascinated with art, envisioned myself dancing on stage, and was a veritable fountain of emotions beyond what a “normal” young man should have.

In high school, the yearnings and stirrings led me to tip toe into relationships with girls, enjoying the kissing, heavy petting, and wonderment of what was happening between my legs, yet still not feeling like I was an active participant in the experience. Of course, like most gay men (if they would be honest), I had numerous unconscious crushes on my best friend, the gym teacher, and other guys that I found myself purposefully working my way into any activity that would just get me close to them. However, it was all very unconsciously conscious in retrospect.

In 1982 I was away at college and had 1) been sneaking off campus to take dance classes, 2) cruising around town, finding the few gay bars that existed, yet, never having the nerve to go in, 3) found myself being more and more bold with guys I perceived to be gay in my dorm…yet still not acting on my urges. All of this collided with a phone call home to Mom and Dad in which I announced “I’m Gay!” Not realizing how that conversation would change my life and save my life, I now see clearly that I may have been gay, but wasn’t truly ready to be gay. So back in the closet I went after some therapy and because, quite honestly, it wasn’t my time to be myself.

In 1986, after landing my first job out of college, I met a kindred spirit. This spirit just happened to be a woman. Joy of joys, I wasn’t gay after all. But who was I kidding. Yes we connected – intellectually, energetically, likes, dislikes, etc. I was able to be sexual with her without a lot of effort and before I knew it Mom and Dad were proudly standing for family wedding photos with their son who was no longer gay. Or so it seemed.

The years progressed and the epitome of married with kids prevailed. Nice home, world travel, successful careers, two beautiful daughters, good friends, ample money, yet below the layers of fat (close to 300 pounds on my 6’5” frame) I was miserable and life consisted of drinking, eating, keeping peace at home and sneaking around looking at gay porn and being a cheat. Yes, I admit I was a cheater. Not proud of it and making no excuses. Yet, I don’t believe that “once a cheater always a cheater.” Why? Because when you find yourself and you live your truth, “What is there to hide?” Nothing!

In 2002 on a trip to London, I found myself in the arms of a beautiful Brit, in his hotel room and for the first time I knew what being gay could truly be. We didn’t have sex, we had deep conversation and real intimacy…not sex. This really threw me for a loop! What was this I was feeling? How could this be happening? Who was I becoming? Two days later and a 12-hour flight back to the States I had answered all those questions and was ready to face my truth. A truth that there was no turning back from, or going back into the closet for, ever again.

I had seen what intimacy, passion, communication, and non-sexual life could be like with a man. Even weighing in at close to 300 pounds, this beautiful man had found me attractive, wanted me, and saw in me something that until that moment I hadn’t even seen in myself – a real man, a gay man, who needed to love himself and start living his truth. At that moment, the weight began to drop off of me, figuratively and literally.

Upon arrival at home, I summoned up every bit of courage I had and said, “Frankly my dear, I’m gay!” I’m not going to sugarcoat the rest of the story and say it was a fabulous celebration and we lived happily ever after. However, what I will share is, we (my ex-wife, my two beautiful daughters, my partner, and I) became the Modern Family before it was ever a hit TV sitcom. Did it happen overnight? Hell no. Was it easy? Hell no. Did it take work, compassion, give and take? Hell yes.

Is our story a fairy tale? To some it does seem that way. But in reality, when someone comes out of the closet, the first place to start with acceptance is within themselves. You’ve got to be 100% in you, your mind, your heart, and your body as an LGBT individual before you can expect anyone else to love you and accept you. Secondly, just because you’ve been preparing for this for 18, 25, 32, 38, 54 years – whatever your age when you come out – doesn’t mean all the rest of your peeps have had that same opportunity. It’s a bitch slap upside the head for most people when they hear the words, “I’m gay.” At that moment you have to realize you’ve just come out, but they may have just gone in the closet.

I have a theory, and maybe it’s because of the work I do as a coach working with all individuals through the “coming out journey,” that the more room we make for everyone to be in the journey in their way, the sooner we can all continue to live the journey of our lives exactly as we are intended.

Today, I am blessed. Blessed with a loving ex-wife; daughters who are very open-minded and non-judgmental towards others; a fantastic, patient, and sexy partner; parents who’ve taken their own journey and arrived at a space where mutual respect thrives; but most of all, I’m blessed to be doing work that means more to me than my jet-setting life ever did. I’m fortunate to wake up each and every day and work with people to help them cultivate their truth and embrace it.

My story contains pain, hurt, confusion, joy, fear, discouragement, happiness, and a different way of being in the world. In reality, it reflects life. The same life that anyone from any walk of life experiences. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to have this life, this experience, and to now help others grow into themselves with love, compassion, and respect.

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