I began coming out when I was 5. I didn’t know I was gay. I was just being me, but me being me worried my mother. I remember her expressing concern about who and what I played with. She lamented that most of my friends were little girls since there weren’t many little boys living nearby. She forced my brother, six years my senior, to drag me along to pick-up games of baseball or football in the park with his friends. She pestered my dad to teach me “manly” things that required the use of tools, engines, and manual labor. She refused to let me play with a GI Joe because “boys don’t play with dolls”. She grew concerned if I spent too much time playing with my stuffed animals.
Thus began my coming out. I didn’t know I was different, but apparently others did. I didn’t think anything was wrong with me, but it didn’t take long to realize I made others uncomfortable. I spent the next 30 years trying to hide what others - including God - deemed unacceptable, shameful, even sinful.
I learned there was only one acceptable way to be a man. If I was going to hide my secret it was necessary for me to be that man. I made it my mission to walk like a man. Talk like a man. Hold my books like a man. Look at my nails like a man. Throw a ball like a man. Think like a man. Dress like a man. Be sexual like a man. Move like a man. Relate to others like a man. Love women like a man.
The more I tried to cover up what everyone else seemed to suspect, the more I was unable to contain it. I was oozing out whether I wanted to or not.
At 32 I subjected myself to ex-gay therapy in a final, desperate attempt to pray the gay away. Three years later, weary from the failed attempts to stop being who I was, I officially come out... to myself. No one else was there. No one else was informed. I don’t remember the date, but I remember the feeling of self-acceptance.
On that day I gave myself permission to be me - the 5 year old me who was happy with who he was until others told him he wasn’t good enough. Today I embrace little Joel and have told him he’s just fine as he is. I show him what a beautiful man he has turned out to be.
He loves me. I love him.
LGBTQ Writer, Speaker, Gatherer JoelSpeaksOut.com