10Nov/120

The Face of Gay 17 (Rick Reed)

RECOVERED

There are certain people you hear about, read about, interact with and hope to meet one day. Rick Reed is one of these people. For those of us in the publishing field, it’s difficult not to discuss authors who also happen to be a part of the GLBT community and not hear his name come up. And there’s a reason for this. If you’re not sure what that reason is…well, I’m not going to do your homework for you. You’re just going to have to check up on him yourself. I’d recommend you start here.

Welcome to Rick Reed’s Face of Gay.

The Many Different Faces of Gay—Photographs and Memories (Rick Reed)

This blog series, the Face of Gay, has demonstrated one thing to me very clearly—while there are common human threads that run through all of these thoughtful and often poignant posts, there is also a unique “face of gay” for each person who sits down to open their heart to readers.

For me, when I considered my own “face of gay” it was like looking through a box of old photos. That’s because I have worn many different faces of gay throughout my half decade or so on this earth and each “face” is a different one, representing where I was at whatever point in my life. Each memory is bittersweet, bringing with it a whiff of nostalgia at the boy or man who was and an ache—because it was not always easy to wear this face.

Let’s continue with the photo analogy and take a peak at my own personal faces of gay.

Okay, here I am at age three. I remember this photo was taken on my birthday. My mother must have stood on the other side of our dining room table, with the old Brownie camera that used big flashbulbs and one had to hold at waist-level to look down through the viewfinder.

Back then, I didn’t even know what gay was, or if the word had even made its way into the popular vernacular with the meaning it has today. But in retrospect, I knew, even then, I was gay. Small things for a little boy—preferring the company of girls, playing with stuffed animals and dolls, preferring quiet time alone all made me somewhat different than the other boys in my small Ohio River town, characteristics that would later brand me as a “sissy” once I took to the battlefield known as public school

And here I am at about age seven at the party my father’s workplace held for employees’ kids every Christmas. It would not be the last time I would sit on a burly-bearded guy’s lap, but let’s keep this sweet and simple. Even then I was fastidious about my appearance and like to think that my bowtie, v-neck sweater, and Chukka boots would look good even today. As a gay child, I knew even then that classics never go out of style.

And here I am at about 14, when the bad stuff was in full swing. In spite of my smile, I was a very troubled young man, at best called a sissy (or fag, queer, homo) and tormented verbally by classmates and, at worst, physically bullied for sport. Like the song goes, I was always the last chosen when choosing sides for basketball. I had no friends. I spent my time with my baby sister, walking her around the neighborhood in her stroller. How I loved that little girl! She was my salvation without even knowing it. Unfortunately, a little boy pushing a stroller around back in the late 60s only added to the abuse for my being “different.” Back then, I had no self-esteem and could only cast my tormentors as right in their abuse—after all, deep inside I knew was some kind of freak. This is when the self-loathing started and I retreated deep into the closet, thinking and praying for deliverance from being “that way.”

I remained hidden and tormented until I went away to college, to Miami University, where I could not only fulfill the dream of sharpening my craft as a writer, but where I could cast off the shackles of being derided as a sissy and someone only worthy of being punched as I stood in line for lunch in the school cafeteria. Because I chose a school where almost no one else in my class went (save for an overly bright girl, who had been tormented as much as I), I could recast myself as one of the guys, a blessedly straight boy…and I was able to fool most everyone. I wonder now if I was naïve in thinking my dark secrets were as hidden as I believed.

University was where I met and fell in love—with a woman. We were engaged; we got married. We had a wonderful sex life (when I could make myself believe I wasn’t passing some sort of test or that I was pretending); we had a child. Through all those years, I was deep, deep in the closet, wearing the thickest of masks, so thick I could barely breathe. But I weathered the storms of self-doubt, of recrimination, or terror, telling myself, throughout a decade, that if I played the part long enough, I would become the character I thought I should be.

But that gay guy inside me would not rest until I paid him heed. The harder I fought to be someone I wasn’t, the harder the gay part of me fought back. It came to a point where I realized that no one in my life—not family, not friends, not my wife, not my child—loved me for me. Because no one knew who I was.

It became a matter of living a lie and watching my soul, my very essence shrivel up and die, or make a choice—a choice that, as time went on, became more and more unavoidable. Finally, at age 30, I had to lay down the shield and the sword and stop fighting.

With the help of a therapist, I stepped cautiously out of the closet. I was so scared, I leapt at the first cute guy who smiled at me and we were living together within a few months, causing, in part, a contentious divorce and custody battle. At age 30, my face of gay was out of the closet, but still yet unfulfilled.

See, I never had an adolescence, that experience most people go through when they try on different personas, play the field, experiment with life to see who they really are and what suits them.

My adolescence came way too late, in my mid 30s and early 40s. I plead the fifth on those years, but let’s just say there was a great deal of experimentation and pushing the gay envelope. I tried everything (and everyone) at least once.

My face of gay in my 40s was accepting, but unloved. I went through many relationships, some as long as two years, others lasting only minutes. Some of those affairs were conducted in only seconds, on a crowded Chicago el train, spoken with the eloquence of the eyes.

It wasn’t until I had given up on love and accepted me for me that I found true love. And that’s my face of gay today, with someone I hope to one day soon call husband (although he already is—in my heart—we’ve been thriving now for over a decade).

Because at this point, my face of gay is all about one word: family.

Connect with Rick R. Reed
Web: www.rickrreed.com
Blog: http://rickrreedreality.blogspot.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/rickrreedbooks
Twitter: www.twitter.com/rickrreed

Please consider leaving Rick some feedback in the comment section below. And, as always, if you have something you’d like to share for this blog series, please let me know.

The Previous 5 entries in the Face of Gay Series:

The Face of Gay 12 (Dorien Grey)
The Face of Gay 13 (amy with a lower case /a/)
The Face of Gay 14 (David)
The Face of Gay 15 (Kharisma Rhayne)
The Face of Gay 16 (Adriana D’Apolito)

ORIGINAL RESPONSES

Dorien says:
November 10, 2012 at 10:27 am
I am amazed at how much difference springs from so many similarities. Thanks to Rick for sharing these things about himself (about which I admit to always having been curious), and for Kage to present the stage on which it could play.

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Rick R. Reed says:
November 10, 2012 at 10:30 am
Thank you, Kage, for allowing me to be part of this incredible series and to take a moment to reflect on my own personal history. UPDATE: Bruce and I watched with elation the passage of marriage equality in Washington state this week. We have officially become engaged and our now planning our wedding.

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Vastine Bondurant says:
November 10, 2012 at 10:41 am
Always so good to see you, Rick, and I garner strength and courage and hope from reading your experience.

Again, congratulations.

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Monique says:
November 10, 2012 at 10:50 am
I had to put down my coffee and grabbed a tissue. I love your story Rick and I am so glad that you found your self even after everything you went thru. I am also glad you are having your HEA. I wish you well and I am glad you shared your story with the rest of us.

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Jaime Samms says:
November 10, 2012 at 10:54 am
I’ve followed this series since the first face appeared, and how fitting to come full circle to the day when the things you hoped to help accomplish with your blog actually seem to be happening, Kage.

Rick, I have to say your wonderful writing aside, it’s been a pleasure to have the chance to get to know you through various loops and things, and through this post. More than being the kind of writer I aspire to be, you’re also the kind of person I hope to be. So thanks for sharing this, and just thanks for being who you are. 🙂
Jaime

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Nick says:
November 10, 2012 at 11:07 am
Rick,
Your ‘Face of Gay’ had closer similarities in timing and a situations that I had. Gay has so many faces! These posts will help people connect there uniqueness with a positive outcome. These are great posts. Kage! These stories are extremely beneficial to the Gay community!

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Kayelle Allen says:
November 10, 2012 at 11:13 am
Rick, I’ve always loved your writing. I’m so glad you didn’t fade away or let yourself stay in the background. This short article revealed a great deal of yourself. Thank you for that. It’s good to know you.

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Diane A says:
November 10, 2012 at 11:27 am
Thank you for sharing that, those of us who are fans of your work see you now and probably think you have always been the person we see now, I can see your story inspiring people to be true to themselves sooner rather than later!
And as Jaime said, thanks for being who you are!

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Angel Martinez says:
November 10, 2012 at 11:28 am
Thank you for sharing so much of yourself, Rick, and congratulations to you and Bruce! May you have many more happy decades together.

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Carrie Ann M. says:
November 10, 2012 at 11:50 am
Thank you for sharing yourself with us Rick. I am so glad that you became who you were meant to be. Many blessings to you and yours.

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Erin says:
November 10, 2012 at 12:05 pm
Thank you for sharing your story with us! Made me cry. I would have been your friend! I can honestly say this, because although I didn’t know it at the time, but all of my friends at the cafeteria table in 7th grade were gay. I turned out to be the only straight person at the table! 🙂
I’m so glad that you finally let yourself be who you are! We all love the person you share with us!

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Sarah says:
November 10, 2012 at 1:10 pm
Thank you for sharing this & I hope you and Bruce continue to have a wonderful life together.

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Jean Paquin says:
November 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm
Thank you, Rick. The journey you’ve traveled just reinforces that I’ve got to fight harder for equal rights for all. No one should go through that much pain.

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Madison Parker says:
November 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm
Hearing this makes me believe in happy endings all over again. I’m so happy for you and Bruce! Thank you for sharing your story and for the many wonderful stories you’ve shared through your writing.

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Jeanne Barrack says:
November 10, 2012 at 4:06 pm
Wonderful revelations, Rick. Gotta say, you were and are, quite the looker!

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Dawn Roberto says:
November 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm
Thank you Rick for sharing your story with us. Now I need a tissue. *sniffles*

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Chris says:
November 10, 2012 at 5:40 pm
Thank you for providing some insight into what makes you you!! Isn’t it amazing that we survived those years of self loathing and zero esteem? I count myself among the blessed who came out on the other side of self-hate!! Now to be happy, joyous, and downright gay!!!

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Cindi Sulken says:
November 10, 2012 at 10:15 pm
My husband Mike and i just read this together and both have tears in our eyes. What a brave (and handsome!) man you are. . .XOXO

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Lloyd Meeker says:
November 10, 2012 at 11:42 pm
Thanks, Rick, for sharing your story. So many parallels to my own. And congratulations on your engagement! Marriage equality in Washington State is yet another chapter in the Face of Gay, and for me, Bruce’s face next to yours will always represent that triumph to me.

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Jeff P says:
November 11, 2012 at 3:14 am
Thank you Rick for sharing your story with us. May your wedding be as beautiful as your soul.

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Nick Thiwerspoon says:
November 11, 2012 at 5:14 am
A moving story, Rick. In many ways, so similar to mine. Good on you!

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Katherine T. says:
November 11, 2012 at 6:54 am
Isn’t it funny how we so desperately want to fit in even when we know it is at the expense of our own souls? I’m glad you had the courage to finally be true to yourself. That’s where real happiness happens. Congratulations on your engagement and hope a marriage is soon to follow. Love is an amazing thing, isn’t it?

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H.C. Brown says:
November 11, 2012 at 8:24 am
I hope the world is changing for the better and other young men won’t be bullied at school in the future. You’re a hero, you took life and shook it until love fell out.

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Susan65 says:
November 11, 2012 at 9:52 am
We just assume that everything is all rainbows and roses when you see someone who is happy and successful. Your story was very poignant and real, a story that I am sure a lot of gay men have lived. Thank you for sharing such an intimate part of yourself and educating those who make the poor assumption that life has always been easy. I have never and could never understand what it truly means to be a gay person, but my heart is filled with love and hope for all who are born to walk this path.

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Jean says:
November 11, 2012 at 11:55 am
Great, moving story, Rick. Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you have found the right place in life for yourself and are thriving. That’s a daunting task for most people, straight or gay.

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Rick R. Reed says:
November 11, 2012 at 4:59 pm
Thank you all so much for the kind words. I read–and treasured–every one of your responses. I’m grateful to all of you for taking some time out to read about my journey and glad that you found something worthwhile in it.

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Cristi JO Corak says:
November 16, 2012 at 10:25 pm
Ricky, First I’d like to say how not only I’m so happy for you and Bruce. I’m very proud of you for your passion towards your love. I do want to mention about the picture of you and Bruce. The one with those great deltoids, biceps and triceps. I have that picture blown up. If you would have squeezed Bruce any harder I think he would have had to have c.p. r.!!!!! I love that picture. You both are so happy and that makes my heart happy. I Love you both. Congradulations, Your cousin, Cristi Jo

________________________
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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