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December 8th, 2023

Ich Bin – I Am

When I posted a link to the final (ish) episode of A Coming Out Story to my Facebook page, with its simple title I Am, I figured I’d get some snark. And I did. But that’s okay, I’m giving some sideways snark back to a certain someone (Hi!) with that title.

I had no idea what to title that episode, and now that I’m doing them completely out of order it didn’t make any sense to give it a number either. The title came to me almost at the moment I finished it and I had to rename all my digital files to match it. But it was worth it because that’s the right title for that retelling of that particular moment in my life. There is power in embracing your personal truths, in deciding once and for all to be your authentic self, despite the pressure to conform or hide. It is exactly the right title for that episode.

The snark comes from a t-shirt I bought in Epcot Germany with just the phrase Ich Bin on the front of it. That was all. Not I Am German or I Am A Disneyphile, or I Am Whatever, but simply I Am. I liked it for the simple declaration of self truth, whatever that self truth might be.

During an interview, Stephan Fry said…

Oscar Wilde said that if you know what you want to be, then you inevitably become it – that is your punishment, but if you never know, then you can be anything. There is a truth to that. We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I am going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.

That’s a good way of looking at it, and it was sort-of what I was thinking when I bought that t-shirt with the words Ich Bin on it. I Am a gay man. I Am a software engineer. I Am a cartoonist. I Am a photographer. I Am Bruce Garrett. I Am.

So, happily, I wore it to my dinner at Biergarten reservation. And when that certain someone saw me arrive I pointed to the shirt, delighted to let him know that I’d learned a few German words and could even put them together into some sort of a sentence (if you’ve ever attempted German grammar you can appreciate how proud I was just then). “Ich Bin”, I said, pointing to the shirt, “I Am”.

And he gives me this look of pure disdain and says “The hilarious thing is you trying to teach me German.”

I wish I had a picture of the look on my face at that moment. But that was when I finally had to admit that we were probably never really very compatible.

What I am is what I am
Are you what you are or what?
What I am is what I am
Are you what you are or what?

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