[ Note --- This is my unfinished "coming out" story. I am still working on it, but I need some suggestions and critiques. Tell me what you think of it so far ]
Names are changed for privacy of those mentioned.
“When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.” These poignant and rather eye-opening words are carved into the headstone of Leonard Matlovich’s grave under the words, “A Gay Vietnam Veteran”.
I was once told that a quote is often a good way to start off a story. After all, “The ability to quote is a serviceable substitute for wit.” W. Somerset Maugham said that. A quote suggests a theme, sets a mood and simplifies the amount of subject detail the author actually has to give to his or her readers. Often times, the words of another are put more into perspective than the author who uses them. I’ve never been in the military, nor have I had the chance to get discharged, but what Leonard Matlovich went through is a perfect example of what millions of gay and lesbian people go through every day, only his experienced was brought on by our own, loving, government. It is Matlovich’s experiences that describe my own, in some small way.
When I was younger, around age 12 or so, I knew that homosexuality was wrong. I grew up in a very conservative household; we went to Church on Sundays, Bible school on Wednesdays and any church function in between. It was at home, in school and in Church that I learned that homosexuals were horrible, detestable, dirty people who defied God and paid for their unnatural acts with the threat of AIDS. I think even when I was young I was never close to God for my own reasons. I was “close” to God because my parents told me that I had to go to church, attend Bible school and give my heart to Jesus. I didn’t really understand why, I just knew that I had to. With the same reasoning in mind, I knew that I had to like girls, go out with girls and somehow, find them attractive. All of the other boys at school liked the opposite sex quite a bit more than I did and I would just have to figure out how to as well. Yet, there was a problem with that equation… I didn’t like them the way other boys did.
Still, I knew that being gay was wrong. How could it not be, with my classmates calling each other “fags” or “homos” all day? It was just like calling someone “retarded”, and being a fag, a homo, a retard or a Jew was certainly a most horrible thing. But, I found myself attracted to other boys, which I automatically knew was… wrong… or at the very least, different. I was forced to conclude that something was wrong with me, in turn. Anyone with those feelings had to be, as a friend of mine at the time put it, “effed up in the head and the ‘sack’.” So, naturally, I kept my feelings to myself and dated girls in hope that they’d “fix” me.
The first victim of my misplaced and confused sexual “cure” was a girl named Jamie. By this point, I was 13 and in the seventh grade. I had been thinking about getting a girlfriend for some time as a cover-up for my gayness and a way to end it, so when one of her friends asked me out for her, I accepted. At this age, “go out,” meant seeing each other at school, referring to each other as boyfriend and girlfriend and maybe holding hands at the high school football games. I thought that nobody would think I was gay if I had a girlfriend, and it… didn’t work. Nor did the relationship.
For a few years, I kept relationships with girls, though none of those girls had wanted to do so much as even kiss until I met Sarah when I was 15 in 9th grade. Sarah was an admittedly unattractive girl, but she was nice to me and I enjoyed hanging out with her. About two days before the Fall “Under the Sea” homecoming, she asked me to go with her. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to prove to the word that I was the straightest fifteen-year-old that ever walked on this earth. We went to homecoming and over dinner I, being desperate to not be gay, asked her to be my girlfriend. She, being desperate for a boyfriend, said yes. It wasn’t long into our relationship that I knew that I had made a horrible mistake.
I went to her house one day to watch a movie. Her sister and her boyfriend were there with us. If I recall correctly, we watched Armageddon and Sarah sat on the couch with me, her arms around my neck and her legs over laying over my own in that position that screams, I’m a woman, so whisk me off my feet and buy me dinner. Her face was close to mine, and she bent in to kiss me. I pursed my lips tight and did all I could to keep from backing off. On the loveseat next to us, Sarah’s sister and her boyfriend were kissing furiously, their mouths not so much kissing than sucking at each other, like a child trying to eat an entire ice-cream cone in one bite. Soon, the couple made the way to the bedroom and weren’t, shall we say, shy about what they were doing in there. Several minutes later, Sarah put her hand on my crotch. I pushed her hand away and she grabbed my own and placed it upon her breast. I pulled it away and she took my other hand and put it on her own crotch. I pulled it away again, and apparently Sarah got the hint this time because she slapped me… hard. I got up and she said, “You must like boys or something.” That hit deep and it was harsh. So, my being in the closet with clothing piled on me yelled, “No, it’s just you! You’re ugly, you’re a whore and your breath smells like you at a heaping pile of shit!”
I left her house, sparing the door hinges none of my fury, and began walking home. I called my dad on my cell phone once I reached a gas station so he could pick me up. When he got there, he asked me what was wrong and I answered simply, “Sarah is an ugly whore.”
As I remember, he said something along the lines of, “Ya think so?” which essentially meant, “What took you so long to realize?” I knew, however, that he was only speaking of her outward appearance, which was rather unkempt. He did not know that I was deterred by her simply because she tried to make a pass at me. Most guys would fly at the chance to have a girl touching his nether regions. I, however, found it violating, disgusting and uncomfortable. As I sat in the passenger seat on the way home, I knew that I’d never be able to tell my parents what my true feelings were, though I had not yet fully admitted to even myself that I was gay.
Two years passed, and in that time I had had two more girlfriends. One named Jess was a pretty girl who had the personality of a tranquilized squirrel. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; she was funny and I enjoyed being in her company. Oh, she was a walking bag of electricity, sugar and cats. Oh, yes, she loved her cats. If she were ever to become a character from The Simpsons, she would have to be the “crazy cat lady”. I like cats just as much as the next guy, but I wouldn’t go so far as to buy mine a little “cat sofa” when it is just as happy sleeping on a windowsill.
The funny part about my experience with Jess is that her previous boyfriend, a guy named Phil, may have been the most stereotypical gay person I’ve ever personally known. He dressed nicely (not just nicely, gay nicely) and had that swish, walking, talking and hand gesturing included. Not to mention, a certain attraction to manicures. One day, before Jess and I were dating, he told me to back off, because she was his girl. Well, it’s good to see that their relationship lasted… for another two days after he said that. It was 9th grade, and Jess asked me to my first homecoming. To that point, I don’t think I’d ever asked anybody to homecoming, girls had always asked me. I went with her, and in the same way I asked Sarah, asked Jess to date me. Over dinner, I, being desperate to have a “cover-up”, asked her to be my girlfriend. She, being desperate for a boyfriend, said yes. You’d think I would’ve learned…
We dated for a hot two minutes before she realized that I was weird and didn’t want to kiss her. Aww, shucks, another one bites the dust.
My fourth and final girlfriend, Mary, lasted considerably longer time than any other girl had before… because we never talked or hung out, and when we did her family scared the crap out of me. Occasionally, I went to her house and watched a movie but that was about it. That doesn’t go to say that I don’t have stories… ooh, do I have stories.
During my second homecoming with Jess, when she decided that I was too weird for her cat sofa, I danced with Mary. She was a nice, Christian girl who thought Harry Potter and homosexuals were evil. Sweet. Every experience I had with Mary was stranger than the last. The first time I went to her house, her dad whipped out the knife and gun collection… nice. That didn’t scare the shit out of me at all. The second time I went to her house, her brother showed me his knife collection, and told me how each knife was used in hunting. Oh, serrated blades of justice, I wanted out of that house…
A month after I broke up with Mary, I came out of the closet to a close group of friends at a bon-fire that I had going in my backyard. At first, they were horrified that I had been “recruited”, because a month earlier I had obviously been straight. I tried explaining to them that it had all been a cover-up, but the only one who eventually understood what was going on was my friend Zach. In his company that night at the bon-fire was Brittany, a vindictive, two-faced girl who got her kicks from talking behind people’s backs, and Devin, an over-excited and annoying kid who always laughed at his own humorless jokes. One joke from Devin may go something like this, “McDonalds, more like McGreasy! Hahahaaha, just kidding.”
For a few weeks prior, I had been dropping hints to my friends that I was gay. The way I did it was incredibly obvious, though my friends just thought I was joking when I told them that I thought a guy was “hot”. I started talking to them about a friend of mine that I liked a lot and I mentioned that he was gay. Zach looked at me and asked me, in the most blunt way possible, “You’re gay, aren’t you?”
I answered truthfully and Devin began laughing hysterically in his hyena-ish style, all the while screaming, “I knew it! I fuckin’ knew it!”
Brittany sat there, listening intently to everything that was being said. Later on, she made a point of telling my friends that I was gay. A friend of mine told me that after I hugged her one day in the school hallway, Brittany went up to her and asked her, “Why did you hug him, he’s gay!” Keep in mind, this was well before I told the rest of my friends.
Later that night at the bon-fire, Devin vowed that he would make a point of making fun of me every day. Zach just laughed, and though he seemed quieter than before, he didn’t seem altogether shocked about what I had just told him. After a few more of Devin’s outbreaks of idiocy, everyone went home and I went up to my bedroom. I figured that my friends would never want to hang out with me again, but surely enough, Zach called me the next day to play hockey. Devin was with us, and held up to his promise. He called me a “faggot” all day long, until Zach had to bunch him hard in the arm to shut him up.
Driving home from Wompler (a skate park for hockey) Zach and I started talking about me being gay.
“You know, I don’t care that you’re gay. Just don’t get all fruity like Phillip Williams.”
“Man, I haven’t changed. I’ve always been gay.”
“I don’t believe that, you were straight last week. It just sucks that one of my friends is going to hell.”
I shut up and let him take me home. When I got out of the care, I slammed the door and he called for me and asked me what was wrong. I didn’t answer and went inside. He called my cell phone, asked what was wrong again and I told him that I didn’t want to hang out with him if he was going to say things like that.
As things progressed, Zach stopped saying anything negative to me about my sexuality. Slowly, more of my friends were told about it and then Jesse, who at the time was barely my friend, was told. Jesse then took it upon himself to tell everyone he could in the school that I was gay. This was incredibly risky and stupid, seeing that my mother worked as a substitute in the school at the time, but Jesse didn’t give a flying fuck about that. He just thought the world deserved to know, no matter how much I didn’t want the world to.
My peers began making fun of me daily, calling me a “fag” or a “homo”. I was asked nearly every day by someone if I was gay, and I always answered them with the same question, “Are you?”
I grew spiteful of my teachers, peers and above all, myself. The hate directed at me translated to hate of myself and of my parents, though they had done nothing and didn’t understand what was going on. I immersed myself in depression and dealt with everything in an angst way. I wrote poetry that mirrored my feelings of the world, poetry that I do not regret writing because it was a part of my life. I bound the poetry and published it. Though I appeared happy on the outside, on the inside I harbored thoughts of suicide.
By this time, Zach had accepted who I am and began to understand to a certain extent what I was going through. Zach had started hanging out with a group of friends on the school speech team with us who called themselves the “sexy group”. I, though I hung out with Zach and the others quite frequently, was excluded from this group per request of one of the people in it. The “sexy group”, Zach excluded, didn’t know how to deal with the outward effects of what I was feeling inside. One of the girls in the sexy six, Erin, absolutely hated me. Everything about me. She hated the way I talked, she hated seeing me, being around me, talking to me and she had no problem telling me exactly how she felt. While I was trying to find friends, this girl absolutely shot me down in a subhuman manner and made me feel like shit while I was already a low as I could go. Out of courtesy, I have not told anybody what she said to me because of her position on our speech team, but one cannot hide the past. She is outwardly nice to me now, but I have no idea what she actually thinks of me and frankly, I don’t care. I don’t think I’ll ever completely forgive what she said to me, because she almost pushed me over the edge when thoughts of suicide pressed my mind so frequently.