20Oct/120

The Face of Gay 14 (David)

RECOVERED

It’s crossed my mind recently how I would have felt growing up if I’d found out a teacher whose class I was in was gay. Would I have felt a little more at ease? Would I have felt a little better about myself? Positive visibility might have been and still be a helpful thing. It gives those of us in the GLBT community something to aspire to, to know that we can grow up without fear, find happiness, and pursue any professional vocation that suits us–minus a career in the Boy Scouts of course. And despite the somewhat colorful negative adjectives used to describe many of us these days, I’m proud to say that we’re just as emotional, vulnerable, hopeful and sometimes as screwed up as any heterosexual.

We are the same. And here’s David with my proof.

The Face of Gay (David)

Growing up, I didn’t have issues being persecuted by others for being gay; I had internal issues with it. I knew I was different from other boys around ten years old, but I had no idea what to call how I felt. I never had anyone tell me being gay was wrong growing up, but I also didn’t have anyone telling me being gay was okay, either. Back in the 1980s, no one talked about being gay at all. The closest I knew about gay people was Billy Crystal’s character of Jodie Dallas on the sitcom, Soap, or Steven Carrington’s character on Dynasty. I knew I identified with them somehow, but I didn’t ever talk about it with anyone. I kept those thoughts to myself because I didn’t think anyone would understand.

In college, I had a friend who worked for the school paper, and the paper’s office was next to the GALA (Gay and Lesbian Alliance) office, so I saw gay men and women, perhaps for the first time, knowing they were gay. Still, I said and did nothing. I wasn’t ashamed of myself, but I didn’t think people would understand, either. I felt alone, though, since I had dated girls in high school in college because that was what I thought I was supposed to do.

After I finished graduate school, I moved back to New York into my parents’ house and found America Online (AOL). Wow… I was blown away by the fact that there were actual chat rooms for gay men and women. Finally, I found a place where I could talk openly about my thoughts and feelings, but I still told no one in my family or friends. I later moved in with a (straight) friend from college, Stuart, since we both wanted a place on our own, and we shared an apartment in NJ. For as much as I trusted Stuart, I couldn’t even tell him about who I was inside. I did, though, become more involved in the online gay life, making new friends, and eventually meeting my first boyfriend, Jim. It was dating him that prompted me to come out to my family and friends at 27, but before I did, I was in such emotional turmoil that I wasn’t a very good friend to Stuart. I lied and stole from him, and I was purely in a selfish place, but I couldn’t tell him truly why. Even though I eventually told him and some friends that I was gay, the emotional roller coaster I had been on for so long had me so exhausted that sharing those feelings seemed impossible.

Coming out to my mother happened over the phone before Thanksgiving 1994. I remember the phone call vividly, and I remember both of us crying quite a bit. My mother had to realize that she would never have the daughter-in-law and grandchildren from me that she wanted, and being her only son, that had to have been hard for her. At times I wonder if it still is. One sister took it very well, the other didn’t, but now, I think they know how happy I am with myself, and I am pretty sure they’re happy for me, too.

After coming out, Jim and I split up, largely because he wasn’t out to his family, and we remained friends for a while, but that faded. I met David online and moved to Florida a few months later, telling no one. I wrote my mother a letter, telling her what I had done. That relationship taught me much, especially since David is an alcoholic and a controlling one at that. I had dug deeply into myself to find the strength to leave after almost five years, and I had the help of friends to make it through that transitional period.

Ultimately, I met Gavi (James), and he changed my life. Being in a relationship with a Jewish man, one who had the same values and beliefs I did, validated everything I had ever done in my life. I felt whole for the very first time. Not long after we were together, I worked for a Jewish school, and my colleagues were very accepting of Gavi and me, something I had come to expect from the Jewish community. When I moved to public school, I stayed closeted, but I found a role model in my friend Jeff, a gay teacher at the school, and it was through watching him that I learned that I could be more open about myself.

Now, my colleagues know about me, and I’m pretty sure students do, too, and I haven’t had one problem with being a gay teacher. In fact, I’ve had students come out to me over the years. I’m now the sponsor of the Gay/Straight Alliance at my school, and I love being a role model for all students, but especially for those in the GLBT community. I’m proof that it’s not only okay to be gay, but it’s just another part of what makes me who I am. It doesn’t define me, but it doesn’t confine me either. I’m a gay, Jewish high school and college teacher who has a good, happy life.

It does indeed get better. So, stay strong. Believe in yourself and what you can accomplish. And, most importantly, teach others that it’s okay to be who you are. In fact, insist on it.
***
This was something I shared with my GSA two years ago, and I was met with so much support from students that I was moved to tears. I plan on sharing this with this year’s group, too, simply because they need to know that it can be okay.

I realize that it’s not always better for everyone; I’m not that idealistic. But, I do know that, even if someone still struggles with the exterior forces pushing down on him or her, he or she has to know that being true to himself or herself on the inside does indeed make a difference.

I never envisioned that I would be a role model for gay and lesbian students (or teachers) when I was dealing with my life early on, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

If you liked this entry, please leave David a little love in the comment section below. Also, if you’d like to contribute a story to the Face of Gay, let me know!

 

The Previous 5 entries in the Face of Gay Series:

The Face of Gay 9 (Katherine Trick)
The Face of Gay 10 (T.J.)
The Face of Gay 11 (Rob)
The Face of Gay 12 (Dorien Grey)
The Face of Gay 13 (amy with a lower case /a/)

Original Responses

Lloyd Songal says:
October 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm
I loved reading it. I just read it again after your post about your new fried David.
The first time I read it I thought it was about you. Your story.
Did you get my growing up story? I may have forgot to hit the post button, but I thought I did. I posted 2 stories.

Reply
Kage says:
October 20, 2012 at 4:13 pm
I didn’t see it. And no, this one isn’t about me. I post things about myself each Monday and Thursday. The Saturday posts are these. =)

Reply
Tom says:
October 20, 2012 at 10:50 pm
Wonderful story, David. Thank you!!!

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Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the novella Falling Awake (also to be re-published under his real name), and the upcoming Falling Awake II: Revenant.

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