I have never been one for dates – yes, my birthday, anniversary, but not one for marking milestones. Maybe philosophical and maybe something as simple as poor memory; so it is with this background that I share the marking of January 19th on my mental calendar.
You see on January 19th I headed downtown – not for sex, not on this night. There are more important things. Dinner to start - five people I had never met – and then what Springsteen once called “the long walk”: a few blocks to The Center, a hub of New York’s GBLT community. I walked through those doors – a much anticipated moment -and into the other world. I spent the next three hours in a room, a bakers dozen of married gay/bi men, a monthly gathering of a support group.
What is shocking is not that I found myself there: what is shocking is that virtually a year elapsed before I took that step – I once would have called it a leap, but it was only a step. I will not write of those three hours except to say they flew by, it was – is – an amazing group of men and I now understand support groups, whether this or AA, in a whole different light. The depth of the trust in that room was new to me, eye opening and respecting such a bond comes very easily.
Our three hours drawn to a close, we huddled in small groups - a wind swept street, the light snow on the ground - and the decision is made: which bar, gay bar, to head to and head we do, a loose caravan on the streets of the West Village. A drink or two: some conversation with this one and with that. Time to gaze around at the sights and time to soak in the ambience. Time to allow another three hours to pass and time for a late – very late train back home. I who loses attention with friends at the three or four hour mark, spent eight hours on this adventure of an evening, and if not for a suburban train schedule would have spent longer..
So far there has been nothing written which would warrant marking the date. I was too busy being to consider what any of it might mean. I awake, four hours later, a long day ahead, and see Carrie in the kitchen. She of course asks how my evening was and I tell her of the meeting – not specifics, but an overview. A word crosses my lips and I do not even notice but the second time it struck even me: “They”. I was telling her about them – those other guys, those gay guys. And after the second time I stopped my self, stopped almost mid-word and said “We”.
And in that moment I realized that on some level I went out for the evening, walked into The Center, sat with these men, as a form of learning who I was, a Chicago like evening of “playing” gay, taking it out for a test ride. And in that moment I realized the truth, that I was one of them, one of a group of gay men sharing an evening, sharing our souls.
It is strange how in these posts I have shared my coming out to a wife, friends and children. I have even shared my coming out to myself: but coming out to oneself does not self acceptance make.
I will share one thing from the meeting because it was my moment and one that will not surprise those who have joined me on this journey. Shame has always been my problem, not guilt as afflicts so many others, but shame. I expressed this last night. But today as I look back at my evening – dinner, the meeting and the time spent in a gay bar, I feel no shame, no shame at what I did (which was not much), no shame in the men I was with, no shame in my gayness.
One night does not change a lifetime and I will have many missteps ahead of me, too many I am afraid, but as I type at this late hour, my mind numbed from a long day piled on a short night, I realize the fundamental nature of things. I am separated from my wife for a very simple reason: I am gay. I need to continue to grow beyond the safety of the cyber world, to develop gay friends. I need to start to live.
While glancing at my last post, I read: “Tonight is time for a bit of self acceptance, only a bit I realize.” It was a good thought, a good thought for then. But tonight it is time to edit that line, to remove “a bit”. For tonight I realize that every time I write “a bit”, every time I find another modifier, it is one more instance of “them”. Tonight it is time for “us”, to mark the calendar: “Acceptance Day”.
Well, I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk
And my car's out back if you're ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door's open but the ride ain't free
And I know you're lonely for words that I ain't spoken
But tonight we'll be free, all the promises'll be broken