I guess it’s unusual to realize you are gay when you are 38 years old. That’s what I’ve heard anyway. I’ve been asked if I had any idea before that and I can answer no. I’d never experimented or had thoughts that I tried to pretend didn’t exist. Of course, looking back, there were definitely some red flags (or rainbow flags as we like to say). Lots of them. But to be perfectly honest, I had no idea until I met my wife. I’ve read this is more common in women than gay men. Typically males have stronger orientation at a fairly young age. Women might too, but not always. I’ll spare you the reading I’ve done. The only heads up that really ever crossed my mind was when I had a flitting thought that I brushed off so quickly it wasn’t even a denial, it was a “that’s totally impossible!” Once or twice this crazy thought would cross my mind that I was attracted to my friend (now wife) and I would think “impossible, because my brother’s gay, that can’t happen twice in a family!” Oops. And, that’s a really ridiculous thought.
One of my biggest fears when my feelings for my best friend crossed the just friend line was how I couldn’t fathom dealing in society with a label like that. Best case I was willing to contemplate moving to an unknown town and starting over; worst case was I couldn’t imagine how we could be together. The implications seemed astronomical. Overcoming that thought was one of my biggest blocks. It was not in the realm of possibility. I couldn’t begin to unravel that challenge.
The good news is the tide turned quickly, and came along the fast waves of our progressing relationship. If you had asked me then, coming out in culture was by far the worst part.
But suddenly, it wasn’t a thing. My wife laughs at me when I grab her hand and kiss her in the streets because I told her in the beginning I could be with her but maybe we didn’t need to have anyone really know. I’m the one who will touch the small of her back in church, grab her hand in the middle of town, kiss her cheek. She does the same but I never even think twice about it.
I don’t really know why it went from the biggest (ok, one of the biggest) obstacles to a speck on the page. Maybe, because like most things in life, what we have built in our minds is always much worse, much scarier than reality ever could be. We made a choice from the beginning that we would be an open book, not hiding anything to our family, friends, the world. And, also like most things, when you make the decision to stand up instead of run, facing your fears becomes like realizing you’ve been running from a mouse rather than a lion. You didn’t die. You survived. And there wasn’t actually anything to survive.
I then went through a short phase where I didn’t want to be labeled. I didn’t mind being out but I didn’t want people to assume anything about me. They would obviously assume I was a lesbian. Or bi. I didn’t want that either. I didn’t want to spend much time thinking about what category I fit best. I was worried that I would eventually resent the label people gave me and feel like I wasn’t myself-label less, unique, personally different.
That was short lived when I realized one day that I didn’t care about that either. I was the one making a big deal about what I was or wasn’t, and by not wanting a label I was the one making a label so important. I realized not only that it wasn’t that important, but it wasn’t scary to be labeled perhaps for exactly what I am. Why not be labeled when it’s actually who you are? Of course, that’s just a part of who I am. Like all labels, it only defines a part of me, but it also is an accurate label of that part of me.
Maybe I’m not actually that brave, though, and those who have traveled this path years before me were the brave ones. I’ve met with very little judgement or negativity. I’ve been able to be out and extremely open only to be embraced and welcomed. I think this is a newer phenomenon that we are enjoying. We are blessed to be living in a culture where the tides are turning. This change in attitude is definitely not lost on us and we are reaping the benefits.
But the biggest, truest reason it’s easy coming out? I’m so, so proud to have a wife. I love her so much, I can’t help but want the world to know that she’s mine. Perhaps this is the biggest reason for being out and open. My pride in her. I have this amazing person who chose me, who is by my side, who loves me. I love being able to show the world we are together. And that is all that matters.