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June 26th, 2008

To Everything Turn, Turn, Turn…

Peterson Toscano, links to an interesting page on the stages of coming out.  I’m not sure I agree with the implicit premise that everyone goes through the process the same way, but it got me thinking about my own journey, which I’ve been trying in fits and starts to tell in my cartoon series, A Coming Out Story

Coming out is a process that happens again and again; it is not just a one time deal and it does not follow a linear course. It occurs initially when one acknowledges to oneself (most important and difficult aspect of coming out) and to others that one is gay, lesbian or bisexual. One claims that orientation as his/her own and begins to be more or less public with it.

Coming out to themselves is one of the hardest steps in developing a positive gay/lesbian/bisexual identity for gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals. It involves much soul searching and introspection and a good healthy sense of self-appreciation and acceptance…

See…that’s not exactly the way it happened with me.  I fell in love, and once I realized it the self acceptance part just immediately happened.  I’d never felt anything so wonderful in my life.  Up until that moment, that instant (which I can still recall vividly to this day…it was on December 15th, 1971, at around 7PM.), I honestly thought I was straight.  I just loathed the idea of dating was all.  I’ll go to my grave angry that I wasn’t told before then that I guys could have boyfriends too and there was nothing wrong with that if that’s how you were.  I’d spent almost my entire adolescence hating the whole dating and mating scene and wishing I could go live somewhere where I didn’t have to deal with it.  But that was because of the pressure I felt to start dating girls. 

I just wanted to hang out with my friends.  My Male friends.  And one guy in particular who I still at that time hadn’t worked up the nerve to actually talk to, even though I was busy filling my sketchbooks and contact sheets with images of him.  Even though I would often take the long way to class in order to catch a glimpse of him walking down the hall.  If someone had told me that guys could fall in love with other guys I would have had an entirely different attitude toward this dating thing.  But what I was taught in my junior high school sex ed class, was that homosexuals were mentally ill, sociopathic monstrosities that raped children, hated themselves and usually killed the people they had sex with.  After mutilating their bodies.  I knew I wasn’t any of that, so I concluded I was not a homosexual. 

The moment I realized I was in love with that certain someone, all of the lies I was taught vanished in a puff of smoke.  I still knew I wasn’t any of the things I was taught that homosexuals were.  But I also knew then that all those racing heartbeats and sweaty palms I got at the sight of good looking guys, and especially at the sight of that certain someone, had been all that time a little more then just "going through a phase."  All the sex dreams I’d had about guys, and never about girls…yeah…that was telling me something all right. 

I was more stubborn then afraid.  Deep down inside I was conflicted over two mutually irreconcilable facts: that the sight of beautiful guys really made my day, and that being a homosexual meant I had to hate both them and myself…and I just couldn’t.  I would stare at them for hours, sketching them or photographing them…and in particular that certain someone.  And it didn’t feel awful when I did that.  It felt wonderful.  And so…ironically…it was on the basis of how good it felt to admire their beauty that I concluded I wasn’t homosexual.  The sex dreams that usually came later that night, I simply wrote off to "going through a phase"…whatever that meant.

So self acceptance came in a very odd and round about way to me, and I never hated myself.  But after that moment, did come the crystal clear understanding that I had to be careful, goddamned careful, who I told and how.  My peers all had the same sordid sex education concerning homosexuality.  I had a feeling I was going to freak out a lot of people if I just suddenly started being open about my sexual orientation.  So That process took a lot of time and a lot of soul searching.  Matter of fact…after the Bush re-selection I was still doing some pretty heavy soul searching over it.  But I guess a lot of other gay folks were then too.

Anyway…the page Peterson links to, got me thinking about that period in my life.  The first stage, so they say, is Identity Confusion…which I guess applied because I sure was confused.  In fact, for quite a long time before I entered high school, and first laid eyes on a certain someone, I was one confused little guy.  In retrospect, my feelings toward my male friends were always intense and full of a yearning that I never could quite understand.  When a friend would occasionally get mad at me I would be crushed.  When my best friend from grade school moved away I cried for weeks over it.  I remember that entire school year as being one of great sadness for me.

Why come out? It is a necessary part of developing a healthy and positive identity as a gay/lesbian/bisexual individual…

 

 

I am different from the others.
Why can’t I make friends like
the others can…?
I’m smart…
…so why do my teachers hate me?

 

 

Then comes Identity ComparisonIdentity Tolerance

  
 

I’m not gay.
I wish everyone would stop wondering
when I’m going to start dating.
I hate the thought of dating.
I need to make prints of the pictures
I took of "TK" this afternoon…he’s
so beautiful…
I wish we could be friends…

 

Identity Acceptance
 

I’m gay.  It’s no big deal, really.
Except of course you could get your skull
bashed in if anyone finds out.
But I don’t care…"TK" likes me…!!!
…I think.  Life is wonderful!!!
…I think.

Identity Pride
 

I’m gay.  That’s fine.
There is nothing wrong with
being gay.
It’s no big deal, really.
Why do people have to make a
big political deal out of it?
What the fuck is wrong with
Anita Bryant???
And…Jerry Falwell…???
This is why I don’t go to church anymore…
Stuart isn’t gay…
Is Keith gay…?  Was he
coming onto me the other day?
He’s a really nice guy…
…maybe…
I wish I knew where "TK" was…
God…I miss him so much.
I was such an idiot…

  

 

Identity Synthesis

  
 

I’m gay.  I’m alone.
Am I going to be alone for the
rest of my life…?

  
 

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven…

   
Somewhere back there…I got stuck.  I think it was at the part where I was supposed to start dating.  Maybe I shouldn’t have cursed the thought of it so much back then.  Back before I figured out that I could date guys too.  At least the other gay ones.  Now I’m 54, and I feel like I’m still back there…somewhere…still walking down the halls of my old high school…expecting any moment to be able to reach out and take my boyfriend’s hand into mine…except he still isn’t there…

  
 

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