Thursday, February 3, 2011

Getting Out There: Letting / Figuring It Out

Four months ago, I couldn’t have dreamed that I would be where I’m at today.  Then, I was a closeted gay man who was experiencing a period of renewal in his marriage of 20+ years after recently going through some very difficult periods with his wife.  Today, I am out to my wife, my four older children and to others; I am in the process of separating; and I have begun the process of creating a new, gay life for myself.

A crucial part of my coming-out process has been this blog.  Of critical importance, it has resulted, both directly and indirectly, in the formation of many friendships, both in “real” life as well as in cyber-space.  Beyond this, it has enabled me to express myself, to give voice to thoughts and feelings, to receive feedback, and to just plain “let stuff out.” 

I recently commented to a friend that I thought perhaps I shared too much of my emotions and inner thoughts on my blog.  He responded by saying that it was important, as I am first coming out, to express myself – that this expression in and of itself is an important part of my “gay development.” 

I thanked him for that counsel, and as I have thought about it since, I have reflected on the difference between “then” and “now.”  “Then”, my gay world consisted of me, myself and my computer.  I never shared my inner gay thoughts with anyone.  I was alone.  My gay self found expression only though fantasies fed by pornography and “let out” through masturbation.  To put it mildly, this was not healthy.  Nothing about it was real, or fulfilling or growth-producing.  It satisfied basic needs (for which I am grateful), but that was about it.

Now, I live my gayness out loud – at least to a certain extent; I’m not totally out.  I talk to real gay people, I interact with real gay people, I have real “gay” experiences, and all of this has served to release a lot of feelings, thoughts and emotions (not necessarily gay-related) that have been bottled up for a very long time.  I talk to my friends about some of these thoughts and emotions, but my blog allows me to express these things in ways I find difficult to verbalize or otherwise share.  It allows me to “let things out,” and in so doing, perhaps even be of some benefit to others.

This new life has, however, brought some challenges.  Among these are figuring out the relationships that comprise gay life.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had any real male friends with whom I could be pretty much myself and whose company I really enjoyed.  So, forming friendships of any kind would represent a challenge to me after so many years of living within the cloistered existence that characterized my marriage. 

To form friendships with other men as a gay man has been an interesting process for me.  Fortunately, I was given some good advice about avoiding the tendency among recently-out men to sexualize friendships.  To put this advice into practice has been a learning process for me, but I think I’m making good progress.

Then there is the physical affection that is commonly shared and displayed among friends in the gay world.  I love this; but, again, I’m having to figure out what is what.  When is the guy running his fingers up and down your back just being friendly, and when is it more than that?  (I can just see the eye rolls out there.  Come on, guys, I’m new at all of this.)

Then there’s figuring out the difference between romantic feelings and feelings of friendship.  And figuring out (on the horizon for me) the whole dating thing, let alone the sex thing. 

Sometimes, to be honest, all this figuring out business gets a little overwhelming for me.  When that happens, I try to just step back, take a breath, remember where I was, remember how recently I was there – then call a friend to ask them what the hell it all means. 

Bottom line:  Yes, there’s a lot of figuring out going on, but that’s part of the journey.  I liked what Wyatt posted on his blog (from which I have received, and continue to receive, much inspiration) on Tuesday:

Life is about figuring things out.  About the journey.  About discovery.  I’m very glad that I’ve finally left the harbor where I’ve spent most of my adult life and have now embarked on that journey.

1 comment:

  1. I relate very closely with the account of your experiences and feelings and the contrast you described between the “then” and the “now”. I was also cloistered in a marriage for many years, living alone, and isolated in the midst of family, friends and neighbors. It was as if I had to perpetually hold my breath for fear I would be discovered. It was such a welcome relief to finally exhale, connect, unabashedly show affection, and belong.

    I also had to learn the ropes, so to speak, something especially difficult for someone timid as I am. It was overwhelming – still is. I am grateful to have good friends; I love each of them. I am also blessed to have a loving, wonderful partner.

    Best wishes. And feel free to call if I can help.