Hiding is easy. Subscribing to the Matrix and all its programmed bells and whistles is comforting. Pleasing family, churches, and our social media followers at the expense of our well being is celebrated, and encouraged. It’s what you do! We are creatures of habit that are taught from an early age to fit in, get in line, and stay within our lanes and designated boxes.
I’ve been existing in my bubble of being an openly gay black man to my family for five years now. Wow, even I can’t believe how long I’ve been living in authentic and problem free bliss. Well the truth is I have not. There are moments when I miss the days of being covered in a security blanket of anonymity when it comes to my sexuality and love life. In the past, it was dangerous yet safe. That feeling of being protected, prevented the whispers, judgement, and loneliness that can accompany same gender loving men who don’t yet have the courage to live authentically.
I stand now in a truth that is liberating that even in my roller coaster like ambivalence of being myself, still has its challenges. As I struggle to be open in all environments, I observe the countless men with whom I know that as a reader of my blog stated, don’t allow themselves the agency to truly live their lives. As I gaze at heir perfectly crafted and failed attempts at exhibiting heterosexuality online and in real life, I often ask myself, what if I, like them , had never came out of the closet?
I would still be a man of a certain age, forging my way through a journey of self improvement, creativity, and eliminating comfort zones, but life would be drastically different. Another tough question would be, what if I wasn’t accepted and embraced by the very people who meant the most to me?
I can’t even fathom what my life would be if I were disowned, cursed out, disrespected, and deemed as being more despicable of a human being than a murderer, rapist, or child molester simply for being gay. How would I cope with losing the very foundation in my life that albeit wasn’t perfect, was mine, full of love and my saving grace. I do know definitively that had I came out when I was much younger, and it went badly, I don’t think I would have made it. I might have fell victim to the very thing that took the lives of so many souls who lost the love of the people who should have been their primary source of joy and support.
In my twenties, I was preoccupied with trying to be as responsible as my parents. I failed often and miserably while learning to take care of myself. I wanted to mimic my parent’s adulting habits, and stay focused on paying my bills and being completely independent of them. It would have been devastating to have gone through all that messiness in addition to being a societal pariah to my family. I did however, had a backup plan if the unconditional love I received by coming out, didn’t occur.
My plan which was very well thought out, was built on the fact that I was financially independent and doing quite well. I knew that had I experienced a coming out story from hell, I wouldn’t have needed my family to take care of me. That’s important because I’ve known quite a few men who were still living under their parent’s roof when they dropped the bomb of all bombs. One that obliterated the dreams of what appeared to be conditional loving, church going, hypocritical parents. They were cast not only out of their childhood homes, but the churches they sang and praised in. Their entire existence as they knew it was gone like the cruel ending of summer on the first chilly day of October.
I also knew that I had a solid network of a family that I wasn’t born into, but chose. These Motley Crew of saviors, were everything my loving family could not be, even under my fairy tale like experience of their embracement. They are the men who asked my about my dreams, pushed me to start my business, and know better to dig deeper when questioning why I’m not authentically being myself. I would have missed the love of my family if they didn’t want me in their lives, but I would have been ok and eventually, learned to survive. My friends, during the early days of my personal discovery right up until now, are my go to source to lick my emotional wounds.
There is not a day that goes by that I’m not grateful for being able to be myself around my loved ones, but if they weren’t there for support, I was already on a path to a new beginning . One that I was drawn to before I ended up in an abandoned phone booth in New York City telling my father I was gay. I simply chose Me regardless of what the outcome of that terrifying moment would have rendered. I was prepared to go it alone. Thankfully, I did not have to.
I would have still evolved spiritually, freeing myself from religion, while becoming a self aware man fighting for the life I wanted and knew deep down in my gut, deserved. There is no doubt in my mind that the trajectory of my life was put in overdrive once I knew I could pursue it while being unapologetically same gender loving.
In a nutshell, my life would have simply gone on without the love and acceptance of my family. It would however, been extremely difficult. I lived a sheltered childhood. Although I knew I was loved, I shutter to think of all that could have been lost if my coming out story was devastating enough to convince me to consider my own demise.
I know me. I’ve known the hollow feelings of darkness I felt by not accepting myself and at many times, flat out hating who I was and what I was doing with men sexually. I was part of another undesirable portion of some people’s version of a perfect society. I made it through the storm, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t understand why others did not.
As I write the what if’s of what a world of still hiding or not being accepted might entail, my stomach is full with anxiety desperately looking for an escape route. There is a tenseness stacked like bricks upon my shoulders until remember, I’m ok! I now live with a peace that can be disturbed depending on the people I’m around, or environments not so welcoming to men like myself. It is still a peace that I fought for, longed for, and feared would never be mine, but is! I’m glad I’m still here in all my insecurities, fear, and sometimes wanting to revert back to old patterns of forced heteronormative ideals.
I did make the right choice by living my life on my own terms and I’m still moving forward. I bask in a light of my own creation that was born out of yearning to be free. I needed to feel the flow of lightness as I did during the moments when I’m all alone without the world watching with judgement. I wish the twenty something version of myself would have known that feeling but I’m grateful to have made it my foundation that I stand boldly upon today. I’m comfortable in all my messiness because it’s what kept me alive and able to find the love for myself, even if I didn’t always receive it where I thought I would.