This expression came into my mind this past weekend, and I couldn’t help but smile, albeit wryly. This play on what is a well-used scriptural expression in the Mormon world seemed to capture some of what I felt this past weekend as I bounced back and forth between my old “family” world and my new “gay” world and continued the process of acclimation to that new world.
It started Friday night as I went to my very first LGBT Film Festival, here in Salt Lake, and saw “Beginners.” The film tells the story of a man and his father, the latter of whom comes out as a gay man after his wife of 45 years dies of cancer. Primarily a story about relationships, the film also (lightly) touches on issues of what it meant to both the father and his wife, as well as to his son, to live in what we would today call a mixed-orientation marriage.
I have to admit that the movie caused me to be a bit reflective about my own marriage and current situation, and I started to feel that same old disoriented feeling that I have experienced so many times since beginning my journey out of the closet. This feeling was somewhat dulled by the stiff rum and coke I was served at the after-party (which had been prepared using a Dixie cup as a shot glass), but then was exacerbated by a growing sense that I was a foreigner in this crowd of people, someone who had come late to the party and didn’t quite fit in.
The following morning, I re-entered my family world as I took my kids to see “Hop.” As I sat there watching this movie about the Easter Bunny and contrasted it with the movie I had watched the previous evening, I have to say I was feeling more than a little bipolar, and the situation seemed somewhat surreal. I had fun with my kids, but I also felt a sense of disconnectedness to them, like I was no longer part of their world, but only a visitor to it.
Later that day, I reentered the gay world as a friend took me on my maiden (not sure if that is the right word) visit to Mischievous – a store in Salt Lake that sells various “types” of underwear, sex toys, and a number of other, ummm, items. It was obvious that my friend, who has been out for 20 years, felt totally comfortable in the place. For my part, I wasn’t bothered by the merchandise. But whereas he was totally at ease talking with the sales clerk (who appeared to be gay) about his purchases, I was very conscious of feeling apprehensive that I might be perceived as … gay. Duh.
That evening, my friend and I spent a delightful evening at the home of an older gay couple who had invited us for dinner. Yesterday, I went over to the family home for a Father’s Day dinner, to which I had been invited by my wife. Again, that feeling of bipolarity. Again, that feeling of being a visitor to my kids’ world. Again that feeling of disorientation … and the fear that arises that I will never feel “oriented” again … or even worse, that my coming out is all one huge, terrible mistake.
I hope this doesn’t come across as whiny. I’m just trying to figure out what the hell is going on in my life and what all of these feelings I have mean. Writing about it helps me to make sense of what’s going on in my life. The conclusion I’ve come to this past weekend is that – drumroll – I’m going through a lot of adjustments.
I’m not fully acclimated into the “gay” world, but how could I be? I’ve only been out 10 minutes. In a purely intellectual sense, it’s natural for me to feel disoriented as I bounce back and forth between the “gay” world and the “family” world. But this rationalization of the experience doesn’t lessen the whipsaw effect – the emotional ebbs and flows (not to mention the sudden jerks and pulls) that I feel as I engage in that bouncing activity.
The real lesson I think I’ve learned this past weekend is that I still have a long way to go in this process of coming out. A friend of mine read my aura and my palm on Friday night while a group of us were sitting around a table at a local gay bar. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much of what he said (due in part to the stiff rum and coke I previously mentioned), but I do remember him talking about how crazy my aura was: stuff going off every which way, all mixed up, about me hiding things, about my life being fragmented.
When I first heard him say these things, I thought, “What? But I’ve come out! I’ve embraced who I am! Why are you talking about, me being guarded and fragmented?” Over the course of the weekend, however, I realized he was right: I pass from one area of my life to another like a Berliner traveling through Checkpoint Charlie from the East to the West, and then visa versa.
My life is not integrated. It is fragmented. This is something I need to work on. To take the metaphor a bit further, I need to tear down the walls between and unify the various parts of who I am and what my life is. No more checkpoints; no more sectors.
Furthermore, I need to keep working at being more comfortable in my own gay skin, at not only (so to speak) living in the gay world, but being of the gay world.