Note: I wrote this during the 2000s and it appeared on my website “Gay Male Life” on February 9, 2003. The subject is coming out or not.
Many males throughout history have suffered through the tremendous difficulties of making a firm decision to come out or stay in the closet. Don’t be fooled by those who tell you it’s easy and fun to come out. One thing for certain is that it’s healthier for your life — mentally and physically — if you choose to come out.
A Personal Story of a Guy Who Came Out Late
You begin to accept that your sexual identity is never going to permit you a life of happiness married to a woman. You won’t make it through that ceremony officially sanctioned by one of the world’s organized religions. This messes up your mind. The time ultimately comes when you say to yourself, “Oh, shit. What do I do now?”
Even when I was a young boy, I knew something “was wrong” with me.I knew I was not normal. Something was wrong. Something about my sexual orientation. I had the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church to instruct me: Having sex was solely for married people–one man with one woman–and was strictly for producing babies who would grow up to be Soldiers for Christ.
And if you dared to “touch yourself in an impure manner,” as the priests in those days used to say you were committing a Mortal Sin for which Hell would be your just reward when you died.
As pathetic as this perspective on sexuality certainly proved to be, I did not question nor challenge it in my youth. I simply lived with a deep knowledge in my heart and soul that no matter what organized religion may have been saying, it just didn’t ring true for me.
Learning what “be a man” means
Adding to the warping influence of Roman Catholic teachings through the 1960s, I was raised in the Portuguese-American culture in California, where there was rampant male Mediterranean macho and toughness for me to savor.From my culture and my socialization, I discovered the grand reality of maleness was that the more tough you looked and acted, the more masculine you were perceived to be. Of course, this worship of testosterone runs hot and freely in many other ethnic groups, but it is particularly evident in the Portuguese heritage
My maternal grandfather was a noteworthy example of what anti-male feminists in the 1970s started calling “testosterone poisoning.” He was born and raised in “the old country,” the Azores Islands in the Atlantic Ocean west of Portugal.
The men from the islands are typically hot-tempered, physically big males, who are also strong and powerful–a potentially dangerous combination of traits. At age 41, he blasted a double-barrel shotgun at pointblank range at my grandmother. Then he opened his mouth for the weapon and blew his brains out.
In their shame, my parents tried to keep the family’s murder-suicide scandal a dark secret by telling me and my siblings of an “automobile accident” that claimed the lives of my grandparents. At 19, however, I uncovered the truth after doing some research at my college library using microfilms of my hometown newspaper
However, I harbored a more significant secret for decades. Until I came out late in life (at age 45), I could not admit that I find myself attracted to masculine males. During the 1960s, those black and white Warner Bros. TV westerns especially offered unparalleled opportunities for “touching myself in many impure ways.”
I could not face the truth, however. There were no positive gay male role models in those days, and we good Catholic boys, of course, were taught to dispise fags and queers. And so I was programmed to deny who I really was, a deep-rooted condition that remained long after I became a “lapsed Catholic.”
My Unhealthiest Decades
Like other baby boomer men have discovered, the eventual acceptance that I am a gay man was a difficult journey. Like so many others, I wish I had learned earlier in life that no matter how high the pressure may be from the people and institutions in our lives, one day all us gay men need to honestly and without denial face who we really are.
What I did was “waste” decades in unhealthy lies that I kept telling myself. At age 28, I married a woman in a Roman Catholic ceremony in the same historic California Mission in my hometown where my parents had been married three decades earlier.
Despite what they saw as a deep religious significance in their vows, my parents got divorced after nearly 28 years of marriage. I, too, saw the same, or similar, significance in my marriage vows, but my marriage was at best, bogus. We retreated into separate bedrooms and grew steadily apart but remained married.
I did not want to get divorced like my parents, and it didn’t help that I kept insisting on believing that I was a straight man. Meanwhile, my sexual fantasies were always about masculine men.
For me, each passing year was more painful than the previous one. Investing successive new year upon new year in a sexless and angry marriage to her formed thick emotional scars on me. My fantasies kept insisting that I would be much more fulfilled emotionally and sexually if only I had the courage to find and fuck just one cowboy.
“In Sickness and in Health”
The turning point for me arrived in the late 1980s with Prozac. No, it was prescribed for her–not for me. While taking Prozac, she developed a strong wish to kill herself and one night almost did by abusing alcohol.
I left her quickly and moved to the Southwest. Yes, the home of cowboys.
At this same time the Internet emerged as a private, yet instantaneous resource for information and recreation about sexuality. I began to surf the World Wide Web and found myself enjoying numerous web sites tailored specifically to gay men.
Yet, I kept telling myself that I was straight. I chose to believe that my Internet activities–such as downloading pictures of men having sex with other men–was nothing more significant than something I did with my PC at night in the privacy of my own home.
What a liar I was! I did not realize the extent of my lies to myself. Thick, impenetrable emotional scars had grown on my psyche and held me prisoner. While I had gained freedom from a sick heterosexual marriage, I nonetheless remained unhealthy.
When my mother died suddenly, the shock jolted me into an in-your-face and non-theoretical understanding of how mortal we all are. Immediately after her passing, a 68 year-old colleague of mine needed emergency heart surgery. He did not survive the operation. I was confronted with the clear and unmistakable reality that life can end without warning. This shifted my priorities.
When you learn so suddenly by the loss of loved ones how life is powerfully precious and temporary, your life gets rearranged, whether you want it to be rearranged or not. Such a significant emotional experience teaches you very quickly that there is no room for lies in your life. If you lie, you are not really alive.
Consider Diana, Princess of Wales and John F. Kennedy, Jr., as other examples of what I am saying here. Their lives ended so abruptly. Their sudden, unexpected deaths should teach all of us that life should never be wasted–especially if you spend your life living in lies and denial about who you really are.
After I came out, the entire universe looked different. In the 21st Century I will continue working on healing the damage done by denial, but I am grateful I had the opportunity to face reality even this late in my life.
I learned to accept the reality that some things in this life are not subject to conscious choice. If I am gay, I was born that way, or grew up that way. If others are straight, they were born that way, or grew up that way. Sexual orientation all starts somewhere in our DNA. It all starts somewhere in our blood and in our cells. Our socialization has an impact on your sexual orientation, yes. But I know now that what we have (or not) in our cells cannot be changed by our conscious choice or willpower or religion or psychiatrists. Our sexual orientation is never open to our own conscious choice, period.
I have learned that where choice does enter in to this is limited to a person’s choice to act upon their sexual orientation. Even though you may be born gay, you can choose to deny it. I know how that works. You can choose to act as though you were born straight. This takes a lot of your time and energy that could be channeled into other endeavors in your life.
I call such a waste of a man’s life and energy battling biology. It’s important to understand that battling biology is nothing less than going against the natural flow of life. It takes work to go against any flow. But, battling biology will cause an imbalance in your life that cannot continue indefinitely. Such an imbalance will topple a man emotionally or sexually, or take its toll in his life in some other way.
This all boils down to more than just black and white cowboys. [My sexual fantasies as a boy focused upon the Warner Bros. cowboys on television.]
Or even cowboys in full color [such as these objects of my fantasies during the 1960s.]
It all comes down to the importance of discovering yourself while you still can. For 40 years of my life, I was convinced that somehow I was a freak–the only man in the whole world who had the sexual orientation that I have. Thanks in large part to the Internet, I learned I was not alone.
After accepting myself as a gay man, I gave myself permission to love. And after I relocated to gay-friendly Washington, DC, I soon thereafter met a special man who became my partner. He has shared my life ever since. [We got married in Las Vegas in 2016.]
And no, he’s not a cowboy. He’s genuine–not some fantasy guy. The life we have today is far more real and far more meaningful to me than that so-called “married life” I had following that official Roman Catholic ceremony in the Old Mission over 20 years ago.
So I feel a responsibility to share here online what I have experienced and what I have discovered. I only hope that this website might reach at least one other man out there whose battles with himself can be brought to end now that we are entering the new century. It’s a time of change. It’s a time to set aside all that belongs in the past and to come alive in the here and now.