I’m From Williston, ND.

Satellite overhead image of North Dakota from Google Earth 2022

After I began to come out to myself in my mid-30’s, I realized that I had always been gay. The rural community in which I grew up gave me all kinds of social messages: from the church I attended regularly for a good, long while, to my peers with whom I grew up: being gay was a choice. And a morally bankrupt and totally socially unacceptable choice at that. So, I became a closeted homophobe for about 20 years, trying to change myself, or “make it go away.”

After high school and college, I watched my classmates go on to develop rewarding and satisfying lives for themselves. I knew I wanted someone in my life, as well, but knew that my choice would be met with a lot of stern disapproval. I finally decided to take the leap, not knowing that the one I chose came with baggage of his own. Not knowing that he was bi-polar. Not knowing that he was very flamboyant and had a temper to match. He seemed nice enough, caring enough, pleasant enough, but when challenged, he railed on people. I had worked very hard for a very long time to stay closeted. His behavior literally dragged me, kicking and screaming out of the closet. This had the effect of immediately completely estranging me from my immediate family. They invited me over for Thanksgiving and Christmas but directly asked me not to bring him. I responded by saying that we would be having the holidays at my place that year.

Within six months, we relocated and began our own life together. Within two years, things began to thaw. My mother was the first to contact me. We (my partner and I) were over 1500 miles from where I grew up by this time. I ended up making several visits back to my hometown. I lost a brother to a massive heart attack. Another visit to pick up a vehicle and yet another visit to bury my mother. While the personal losses really hurt, life goes on. You adjust and move forward. I’m still estranged from my siblings (I’m the eldest of five). My father and I share an occupational interest and this is the present basis for our conversations, along with past family history. My mother, before her death, got along very well with my partner. They shared the same birth-date, coincidentally. They also shared an interest in cooking, so they “traded recipes.” He and I are doing much better, today, after 14 years together.

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