It felt like a dream. The moon hung full over the island of Hawaii and just before midnight, under a tree in the middle of a grassy knoll, I dropped to one knee and looked up at the face of the man I had grown to love. I heard words pass over my lips the likes of which I never imagined saying. “Will you spend the rest of your life with me?” I pulled from my pocket the ring I kept concealed and placed it on his finger. He said, “yes.” And then I opened my eyes only to discover, it was all real and a dream come true.
After 25 years of hiding and thinking that finding a man to spend my life with was only something to experience in a dream, at the age of 41, it happened for real. Life is no longer a dream. My dream of being married is now a reality. Life before coming out is a distant memory. All that I feared was for not.
As a young police cadet in 1978, I discovered within minutes of my first day on the job that my dream of having a successful career in law enforcement and being “out” and gay was not a possibility. There was no employment protection for gay people and I heard only rumors about “out” gay police officers in San Francisco. I buried myself my work and dated only secretly never letting anyone get too close or know of my true identity.
Ten years later, rumors flowed in and out of the police department each time stirring the fear I always had about losing the job I had grown to love. The greatest and most terrifying threat came when my conservative Christian boss called me into his office because one of my peers “expressed concern about my lifestyle.” My boss expressed the same concern. Worse yet, the chief of police told me that if I was gay, I wouldn’t “be able to be a successful leader in the department.”
I survived the rumors by adamantly denying my truth and eventually left the department to become the director of the Napa Valley Police Academy and the deputy police chief of a small railroad police department. I realized the career of my dreams, but went home each day alone with an empty heart.
Fortunately, in 2004, times had changed and I found a way “out.” Since then, I have had the fortune of being able to share my story and those of other gay police officers in two books with the hope of helping others find the kind of happiness I only dreamed of. My eyes are still open and life continues to be better than anything I could have ever imagined.
Now is the time to come out and to find the kind of happiness you’ve only dreamed of.