How does one go about recovering a sense of identity that was (i) hidden as a child because of child abuse, (ii) repressed further as an adolescent because of the discovery he is homosexual, (iii) largely (i.e., that which was left by this point) discarded and abandoned when he joined the church, and (iv) then further repressed and suppressed upon getting married?
I feel this is the challenge before me. Affirming my gay-ness is a huge step forward, and I am anxious to explore this new gay world that I never before had the courage to investigate.
But closely connected to this “coming out of the closet” is an effort to reclaim all those bits of me that I have sensed are there, but are either lost to conscious knowledge or, because of shame and expedience, are so afraid to come out that I feel it will take a great deal of effort, affirmation and courage to reclaim them.
This past week, I had an existential moment which clearly showed to me just how out of touch with my Self that I am. Someone asked me to compile a list of my 10 favorite movies. Simple, right? However, as I started the process, I literally froze up as I realized that I had been in such pathological control of my false persona that I had not even allowed my real self to “like” anything (i.e., independent of the false persona’s needs). Result: not only was I not able to compile the list, but I was so overcome with fear and anxiety that I had to let go of this simple task, unable to complete it.
I can hear some of you out there saying I probably need a good therapist. Who couldn’t use a good therapist? But counseling costs money, and that is a commodity in short supply these days. So, I resort to doing it on my own, with the help of, among other things, this blog and my online support community.
I have also turned to my sisters. I still have not heard back from my older sister, and I am prepared for the likelihood, because of her ghosts that haunt her from her own childhood, that she will not be willing to “go there,” even if it would help me.
My younger sister, however, has proved to be immensely supportive. As part of the effort to recover my identity, I have asked her to describe the young man I once was. Her response somewhat surprised me but was – as hoped – revelatory. I am sharing some of her thoughts as part of my effort to live “out loud”, to affirm the secret parts of me that feel either afraid or incapable of coming out of the closet with me.
I just read some parts of your blog and was so touched by the honesty behind the words and images that express who you are.
I feel as if I am rediscovering you, yet at the same time as if I am getting reacquainted with a brother I had lost touch with years ago. You know, this person is the one I've always held in my heart: you whom you are revealing is not anyone new to me.
I've always known who you are: your delicate and refined elegance and passion, your profound intelligence and wisdom, your deep admiration and appreciation of beauty.
This is the brother I have always loved. It is the one I feared losing all those years ago when you wrote me a letter, telling me you had joined the LDS church. I felt that I was going to lose you, but I never felt that I lost knowing who you truly were. You may have never known that deep sense of loss that I felt. I hope that this doesn't surprise or shock you.
After you joined the church, I felt as if I was watching you disappear, slowly ... with fragments of you disintegrating beyond my reach. You know the sensation of what you see in movies: when someone is falling and someone is reaching their hands to catch that person ... like off of a cliff and then the hands join, but the clutch weakens .... and the person above the great "vide" disappears.
This is how I felt when I received your letter at school all those years ago. I stood there shaking as I read your letter with tears running down my face ... it was if you had announced to me that you had died. I felt that I had lost you forever. The letter was so serious and severe. You had gone from being so happy, smiling, understanding and LOVING to someone so cold, intolerant and always frowning ... At least that was what I perceived.
The memories I have of you from my childhood and youth are loving and fun ones: walking with you in the snow with my hands in the muffler that you had bought for me. Looking up at you smiling and talking with me about I don't know what... but loving to be with you. I remember laughing, remember you smiling.
I remember riding in your chic car and singing, eating, talking and laughing. Watching you laugh when I’d tell a joke. Hanging out at your place when home from school, listening to music and dancing and you singing, or watching you read and just hanging out admiring your intelligence and zen-ness ... all so loving and peaceful
When I visited you in later years [i.e., after marriage and the arrival of children], I felt as if your life had been sucked out of you. You always looked unhappy. I remember saying something about this to my husband the last time we were there, which has now been some time.
I felt that for someone supposedly so happy with church and family, you seemed so miserable.
In what had once been a joyous face full of laughter, I now saw Mom’s pout. Instead of the brother with whom I always was openly affectionate and loving, I now saw someone who couldn't sign letters or tell me that he loved me ... would simply give me a cold pat hug ... I was devastated. I hope you don't mind the sincerity in my words.
This is also healing for me because I honestly felt that you had died all those years ago when you joined the church.
So, this brother I am reconnecting with today, who loves his body and is accepting of affection, who doubts and questions, who expresses his love and feelings, who expresses his creativity with pictures and words ... who weaves in humor and jokes .... this is my brother I saw disappearing … The one I’ve always held in my heart.
I wasn't going to do a post today. I know I need to slow down, and I'm going to. I think starting today, I'll go every other day or so. But I felt like I wanted to get this out there.
Meanwhile, every day continues to be a journey. I'm learning, feeling, growing ... And I'm working on that list of favorite movies.