My personal blog began as a form of therapy for me and a means to share my coming out journey with others in the hope that it might help others to avoid my missteps and to help others know that they are not alone no matter how alone they may feel in darker moments. Through it I found my way to activism and the Bilerico Project.
That said, October 10, 2001, to the best of my calculation, marks the tenth anniversary of the day I first came out to my former wife. Prior to that date I had struggled for the better part of 39 years trying to convince myself that what I knew in my heart about my sexual orientation was not really true. As part of that internal mental contortion process, as long time readers know, I married and fathered three children. In addition, I tried to be everything that church and society told me I should be.
Over time, however, it all began to fall apart and I came to realize that I just could not continue to live my life as an actor on a stage - if you will. I had to either to do something about my situation and "come out" or kill myself. I chose the former, unwittingly almost on National Coming Out Day.
So very much has changed since that fateful day a decade ago, not the least of which is that I have achieved a level of self-acceptance that had previously eluded me all my life.
That's not to say that such self-acceptance and inner peace with who I am came easily or overnight. I first had to overcome a sense of shame about being gay and a sense of failure that I had not been able to keep up the roleplaying and had thereby failed my children. In addition, I had to rebuild a future even as my world as I had known it crashed and disintegrated all around me. And along that path I seriously flirted with suicide when my sense of failure and an unknown future overwhelmed me.
Contributing to the sometimes nightmare-like journey, I also had to deal with being forced from my law firm for being gay and a nasty and contentious divorce. Coming out is likely never an easy process, but coming out later in life definitely entails additional challenges both in terms of one's former spouse and one's children.
Is the ordeal worth it? I say without reservation that, yes, it is. It's impossible to put a price on one's soul and self-acceptance. And to me, remaining in the closet is a form of selling one's soul. How did I survive the process? Here are a few highlights.
First, I will readily admit that without the efforts of two wonderful therapists I would perhaps never overcome the sense of shame and failure and made it through the coming out process.
One, an ordained minister, helped me rid myself of shame and the brainwashing/psychological abuse of the religious tradition in which I had been raised. Leaving that faith tradition for one more accepting of LGBT individuals also played an important role in the process. Remaining in a church setting that denigrates you constantly is extremely unhealthy.
The other therapist played the much needed role of someone who could be objective when I was unable to be objective and who could help me to believe that I did indeed have a future (even if the details were not yet known). The particularly unwavering support and love of one of my children also played a critical role.
When I came came out initially I had a picture in my mind's eye of what I wanted: a committed monogamous relationship with a wonderful man with whom I could be complete emotionally and in terms of my sexual orientation. The difficult part for me was to find a way to believe that what I envisioned and longed for would actually happen in time, particularly since when I came out, I knew virtually no one in the local LGBT community. Too often during my darkest days - and I had many of them - I saw the future as a black empty screen. It was very hard at times to remain positive and making the coming out journey was arduous.
But the longer term reality is that I did achieve my vision. I am happily partnered with one of the sweetest individuals that I have ever known. Like all couples we have our differences and frictions, but overall, he is everything that I wanted. And I have a great relationship with my children even though things were difficult at times during the contentious divorce.
The lesson in hindsight is to be patient - not my strongest suit - and to believe in yourself and that you do have a positive future. It is also important to realize that building a new life takes concerted effort and that you have to take the initiative to make things happen. Getting involved in the LGBT community and LGBT activism was a life saver for me and it truly allowed me to rebuild my social world and helped my law practice in the process.
For those coming out tomorrow and in the future, remember that you can survive and find happiness. It will involve hard work and rejection by some, but it is worth it. It's terrifying at times but so wonderful to finally live one's life as it was meant to be lived.