Coming Out: now and then

30 Jun

 2015

The first production of  the Jacksonville Coming Out Monologues opened at Kent Campus of Florida State College on June 29, 2012. 

Being part of this community-grown project was truly a life changing experience for me and for many others. Happily, the show in 2012 was only the beginning. I have been honored and inspired to have been a part of this remarkable project, both on stage and behind the scenes, for four years now.

The Coming Out Monologues 2015 was performed this past weekend. Opening a show like the Coming Out Monologues on the same day the Supreme Court made their historic ruling making same sex marriage the law of the land, was serendipitous to infinity. And what an amazing cast of storytellers! I am so happy to have met each and every one of them and am so blessed to have them as friends. 

For a taste of what the 2015 COM was all about, check out Kyle’s blog: My Coming Out Monologue. Kyle is both witty and wise, so you owe it to yourself to click the link and check his wonderful monologue. 

2012

All of this COM love sent me on a rainbow walk down memory lane to the very first Coming Out Monologues, at Florida State College Kent Campus.

Although I have written about COM in previous blogs, I have never shared my monologue from that first show. I’d like to remedy that today–the 4th anniversary of the final performance of the first production of Jacksonville Coming Out Monologue. And here it is:

August 1958: I came into the world 12 days after the birth of Madonna.

That may be the gayest sentence I have ever said out loud in my life.

Like most children of my generation, I learned early that homosexuals were terrible, scary people.  I just wanted to be loved, so, there was no way I could ever be one of “them.”

There may have been gay liberation somewhere, but I grew up in Jacksonville. I’m pretty sure the Stonewall riots weren’t covered by the Times-Union.

My father died when I was six. So, when it came time to teach me the facts of life, my mother gave me a book: David Reuben’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask.  I raced to my bedroom, closed the door and immediately turned to the chapter on homosexuality.

The book said gay men live loveless lives spent in public restrooms, writing notes on toilet paper and “playing footsie” under the stall. Dr. Reuben said a homosexual has to get his fun where he finds it since Mother Nature didn’t see fit to give him a vagina.

            By then I knew I was attracted to other boys but I definitely didn’t have vagina envy, so I was clearly not a homosexual.

In high school, I began keeping a journal. Even though I recorded my most intimate thoughts, my desire for other boys was the love that dare not write its name. I knew what I felt, but I refused to admit what it meant. I wrote in my journal about girls I told myself I wanted and expressed frustration that whenever I got close to a girl, we always wound up being “just friends.”

I also wrote about boys—guys who triggered desire I wouldn’t accept, so I channeled the feelings into an emotion I could process–jealousy. I was jealous because more than anything, I wanted to be like other boys who I thought were normal in ways that I feared I would never be.

I was a virgin when I left for college and during the next 2 years I went on exactly one date with a girl.  While I was writing frantic journal entries, pining for a girlfriend, I was engaging in activities I didn’t dare document—furtive, random hook-ups with other men that left me feeling empty and even more alone.

Since I really didn’t enjoy these trysts, I couldn’t really be gay.

I’ve never been particularly athletic, but I am a Gold Medal winner in the sport of mental gymnastics.

In 1977 Anita Bryant went on national television and said, “If gays are granted rights, next we’ll have to give rights to prostitutes and to people who sleep with St. Bernards and to nail biters.” I have no idea what Anita had against nail biters, but Anita was yet another warning that I had better keep this whole gay thing under wraps.

While I was busy keeping secrets in my own head, I made a secret deal with myself.  I couldn’t and wouldn’t decide if I was really gay, until I experienced sex with a woman.

Fall 1978, I took a class on The Novel and in that class was a woman I couldn’t take my eyes off of. She looked like a Cuban Carly Simon. For the sake of the story, I’ll call her H. I plotted excuses to strike up a conversation with her. I even had a pre-rehearsed line:  “I’ve never read Virginia Woolf before, so Orlando is a real revelation to me.”

Note to anyone who wants to woo a girl who’s an English major with a Women’s Studies minor–this line works like a charm!

After class we walked together and talked about literature and life. The fact that we were both left handed Virgos seemed to take on cosmic meaning.

Besides astrology, H was also into Tarot cards and she insisted on giving me a reading. She laid out the cards and then predicted that I would soon meet someone who would change my life. I was beginning to think I already had.

November 27, 1978–I lost my virginity (heterosexually speaking.) Afterwards, H said, “Are you going to write about this in your journal?” and we both laughed.

And then I went back to my dorm and wrote about it my journal.

 H consulted her astrologer about me. The astrologer warned H that a high percentage of Virgo males, born in 1958, were gay.  Really? I blame Madonna.

Spring break 1979, H stayed in Tallahassee while I came home to Jacksonville. During the break, feeling lonely and horny, on a whim I visited a gay club. I was bored as soon as I got there and I nearly left, but then I saw him. His name was Ray and he was different from any of the other men I had met.

I spent the rest of Spring break being wooed by Ray–we went out for Chinese food; we went to the movies; and spent time at the beach, where we found an abandoned kite.

When I returned to Tallahassee after the break, I had no idea what I was going to do.  Ray and I had not made any commitments. I wasn’t even sure I’d ever see him again, but I knew everything was different now.

Just like the Tarot reading said, I had met someone who had changed my life.

What was I going to tell H?

I called her. H sounded odd and declined an invitation to have dinner. When I called her, the next day, she cut me off in the middle of a sentence. She said she was listening to a Lou Reed album and wanted to hear ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ so she had to go. Two hours later, she called to wish my roommate a Happy Birthday, and when he asked her if she wanted to speak to me, she said, “Not really.”

Did she suspect? How could she know? Was it that damned astrologer?! I still blame Madonna!

After two days of silence, I ran into H on campus. She looked me in the eye and said the four scariest words in the English language: “We have to talk.”

We sat down and I waited for her to say something. By now, I was prepared for the worst.

Finally, she spoke: “I’m having an affair,” she said, “with a woman.

This is how I described the next moment, when I wrote about it in my journal:

I told H that her confession had made it much easier for me to confess something I needed to tell her: I have been having an affair with a man. (My God, I’ve actually written it!)

After all of the mental gymnastics and then finally meeting a man I thought I might love—it still had to come down to this. The moment I wrote it in my journal was the moment that I truly, finally came out to myself.

H told me not to label myself but to be open to this new love. And I was.

I did see Ray again. In fact, today, decades later, Ray and I are still together. I’m still keeping a journal too, but thanks to H and Ray, I’ve stopped keeping secrets from myself.

I guess I had always known it would take the love of a good woman to teach me to accept the good love of a man.

2 Responses to “Coming Out: now and then”

  1. Jason L June 30, 2015 at 10:32 am #

    Love this – I too read Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask…and I laughed out loud at your description, because that was pretty much the truth of how it was written. Inspirational – thank you.

  2. Ami October 18, 2015 at 11:53 am #

    I have adored and respected you since we somehow connected here on the internet. Reality always told me…love the one your with. So happy your relationship with H put you and Ray on your life path. Proud to know you Catzenspace. Best wishes always. Ami

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