Editors' Note: Guest blogger Bill Konigsberg is the Lambda Literary Award-winning author of Out of the Pocket and a GLAAD Media Award-winning sports writer. Bill came out on the front page of ESPN.com in 2001 with his essay "Sports World Still a Struggle for Gays." The article won the GLAAD Media Award for digital journalism the following year.
I was going to call this blog posting "gay fatigue," and then I realized the French have already coined the perfect term for this phenomenon. Their word for tired: "Fatigué".
Recently, I have surprised myself twice in conversations with people I'd likely never see again. The first time, with a masseuse in Billings, Montana, I turned into a single, straight man. And just now, in a swimming pool at a condo where I am temporarily living in Scottsdale, Arizona, I morphed into a married guy with two children, aged five and seven.
I suppose there's nothing that new about the whole "gay guy lying about his sexuality" thing. Except for me, it's totally new.
I came out in high school. I won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism in 2002, for my essay, "Sports World Still a Struggle for Gays." That essay served as my public coming out at ESPN.com. In 2009, my novel "Out of the Pocket," about a gay high school football player, won the Lambda Literary Award.
So I'm not exactly a closet case. At 39, I've been openly gay for more than half my life, and in the public eye for nearly a decade as a gay sports writer. I was out at The Associated Press, and even when I was visiting the locker room at Shea Stadium, I wasn't about to go back in.
Why is this happening now? And am I totally alone in this phenomenon?
The massage happened in my final days living in Montana. I thought I was just playing, trying on a different life. And with about five minutes left in the massage, I remembered, to my horror, that I'm Bill Konigsberg. That it wouldn't be too hard for her to find out exactly who I am with a google search. I obsessed about it for a couple days, blogged about it, even. A friend asked "did she see you walk?" Which I admit made me laugh.
My final day in town, I went back for another massage (the first was so good). I didn't fess up, but I also didn't feed the lie by doing any more of it. And the upshot was, she must have figured it out anyway. I recommended her to my husband, and he went for one after I did. As he was leaving, she said, "Have a great life in Arizona." He had said nothing about going to Arizona, but I had.
So she knew. Whether it was my walk, I'll never know. In the end I was glad she knew. I hate being deceitful.
But just now, I did it again. The men in the pool, both in their fifties, were talking about golf and condo prices. They both had wedding rings on. So did I, actually. Then they were talking about kids. They brought me into the conversation, and we formed a triangle in the shallow end.
"Do you have a family?" the guy with white hair and a big gut asked.
"Yup," I answered, fingering my wedding ring. My husband and I are a family. No lie there.
"Are they here with you?"
"No. Still back in Montana." A lie. He's at work.
"You have kids?"
"Yup." An even bigger lie. I am 100 percent sure I have no kids.
Suddenly, I was a guy with a wife and two kids, aged five and seven, back home in Montana. How did I get here? And how could I change courses, now that I was there?
It's a case of life imitating art. I'm becoming the teenaged protagonist, Rafe, from my recently written novel, Openly Straight. In the as yet unpublished novel, Rafe is an openly gay kid from Boulder, Colorado, with ultra accepting parents. He's tired of always being labeled, of everything he does being brought back to one thing about him. He decides to go to a boarding school on the East Coast, and re-invent himself as NOT GAY. Not in the closet, per se, but just NOT GAY. He laments that there's no such thing as "openly straight," that straight people don't understand what it's like to have to continually come out, every day, every second. In the end, he learns that there's really no way around it that works. You can try to argue that "it's no one's business" who you have sex with, but sexuality is far more than that. And to be an authentic person, a gay person simply has to be openly gay.
So why have I forgotten this lesson, a lesson that I wrote an entire novel about? At age 39?
I am chagrined. I've spent my whole life being exactly who I am, in far more difficult circumstances than a condo pool, with two guys who, while masculine and large, posed little physical threat to me. So what would possess me to be anyone other than myself, at this point in my life?
I wonder if perhaps I am going through gay fatigue. The only corollary I can think of is "AIDS fatigue," the so-called phenomenon whereby educated gay men stop practicing safe sex because they are so tired of worrying about AIDS.
Am I tired of fighting the fight? Am I tired of my sexual identity always being front and center in my life?
I know I have to stop. Lying is never good, and at some point I'll be caught. I wonder, though, if I'm alone. Have other totally out people found themselves yearning to be something other than out? And how do I stop, before it becomes a real issue?