Other Issues

And Now, The Hard Part

Hi all,

I am a cartoonist, so that is how I best express myself. But let me make my point briefly here, as well as I can, using only type.

Yesterday was the most wonderful day for gay rights in perhaps forever, maybe since Stonewall.

And, as a gay man, I hope that I live to appreciate it.

You see, I am single. So the marriage-thing (as I call it in my mind) — while entirely possible for me someday — is as abstract to me right now as the idea that I might one day travel into space.

So yesterday felt like a really hyper version of Valentine’s Day for me: I saw a lot of people (especially on Facebook) feeling very very happy, and reaffirming their vows, and proposing, and — well — just glowing.

And to be honest: I just didn’t feel anything.

OK, that is kind of a lie. I actually felt a very dull version of sadness. You see, I am one of those people who somehow (by the somewhat late age of 41) still haven’t “gotten their act together.” Coming out was not easy for me, and for years I struggled to make gay friends. When I finally made gay friends (by the rather late age of 30), I came to realize that I was years behind in social development. So I was left feeling like I didn’t know how to date, while others had already had many significant relationships.

A few life changes later I move to a more accepting community, and — surprise — my social life suddenly explodes. I was 35 years old before I could even begin to wrap my mind around the fact that people actually liked me. So now I had all this opportunity. So now I started carrying on like a college student, parties and drinking. You see, I was insanely depressed in college, and dropped out due to the stress, pressure, and depression of having to come out to myself and others, plus trying to juggle things like a crappy retail job while taking classed on physics, botany, and Chaucer.

So I never got to party. I never had fun.

Oh, by the way, for the record my coming-out experience was a big D+. I did not have any gay friends to support me, or commiserate with. (Big mistake on my part, I see now. But how could I possibly have known? This was before the Internet. I was entirely isolated. I just thought somehow that I “had to” come out.) My family, whom I still lived with, did not kick me out or anything, but — maybe just as bad — they did not make one move to ever make me feel better about what I was going through. Once I came out to my brothers, they never spoke to me about it again, and would nervously change topics whenever it came up.

So now I am 35, having fun, sort of, and slowly realizing that everyone else around me is already married, or partnered, or living happily in houses together, or buying houses together, or even just dating with the hope of a long-term relationship, which — somehow — I still have never figured out the stick and clutch on. Any attempts at dating would pretty much sputter and die almost immediately. Worse, I got blinding headaches as soon as I would meet someone. Anxiety does not begin to approach the experience I have around dating.

So now I am 41. Still have not mastered the dating thing. I don’t like typing this, even as I am typing this. But it is the truth of where I am. I (finally!) have found a good therapist, who is everything to me: I see that the more that I develop trust with him, the more I am able to model significant supportive relationships that I never had growing up. Plus, I have learned how to cry, a miracle I will be forever grateful for. And this year I also discovered “men’s groups.” Yes, the drum-circle kind, but there is something to it. These are really good men — gay, straight, bi — brave enough to step around the cultural idea of masculinity in order to share their heart. I am learning that weakness is strength, selfish is good, and crying is connection. It is all very confusing to me, like being in a world with entirely different physics. But — unlike the world I actually grew up in — these physics feel good. Even better, they feel *correct*.

But, anyway, back to my original point. I *love* that we now have marriage equality. But I would also *love* to be in a place to someday take advantage of that. I *hate* feeling lonely, and always feeling “behind,” the perpetual late-bloomer, but I am learning to love myself enough to know that that feeling — loneliness — is neither good nor bad. It just is. If anything, it proves my inner desire for connection with another man. And my job right now is to love this lonely person: me. To love him as hard and as fiercely and protectively as someone else will one day do for me. But until the time that someone else can pick up a shift, this is *my* full-time job: to love myself.

So the last point is this: We can legislate equality. And — proof positive — we can win! But even after all the victories in the world, we still have to return to the damage done — all these years — within ourselves.

Even as people *out there* start to see us as equal, which they are actually starting to do, I just want to make some space for everyone out there to understand that gay people are still very tender beings who have absorbed a lifetime of damage. We might look strong on the outside, but it is because we have had to be, living every day in a world that might threaten or kill us. It’s a little like being asked to make friends with cobras. Being told that they’re actually safe, fun even. Still, no fast moves.

Anyway, you get my point: as long as the political process has taken, internal change is actually much slower. It is an echo of the changes “out there,” it takes time to settle in. Trust in yourself, or in others, or in a safe world does not happen as quickly as the banging of a gavel. It takes time, sometimes a lifetime, to heal a heart. So, now that we finally have equality, I would actually like to start *feeling* equal. It will be hard, but I will try. I mean, what else can I do?

Now, to prove once and for all time that, truly, a picture is worth a thousand words, I offer you this: http://pinterest.com/pin/415034921880488328/

Best to all,

Profile photo of Ken



Submit Your Story

We all have a story. What's yours? Submit your damn story!

Submit Story

Get Informed

What issues are currently facing the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community?


Join the damn campaign.

It's free! Join us as we work towards equality for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.

One Click Sign Up:

Join/Log In