The Heart of Things
After hours of basketball practice in the sun, my teammate’s cool bedroom was bliss. My sweaty, exhausted body collapsed onto Brandon’s bed. Sleep was imminent, but then I saw Brandon removing all his clothing. In a futile effort to appear undistracted, I began to ramble about practice, but I was just too overwhelmed by his naked body that I found myself speechless. I blushed as I took in his tanned, muscular swimmers’ physique.
He left the bathroom door wide open as he showered, giving me the opportunity to peek through the clear glass shower doors. Although I was aroused by this, I was also torturing myself. Brandon was straight and he was unaware that I was gay. A romantic relationship was not possible, but I felt hollow for not establishing a genuine friendship with him. While Brandon offered openness and trust, I remained deceptive and dishonest about my true self.
I took pleasure in reaping the conveniences of living the straight life at the cost of my emotional and spiritual freedom. The straight life provided me with many advantages: smoother relations in school, at work and with family members, acceptance within the community, more open doors for career and personal advancement and more opportunities to witness straight guys undress unhesitatingly in front of my very eyes. The straight life provided me with a safe haven from all the societal tribulations gays endure. I excelled in school, was well established at work, and happy with my friends and family. I had no reason to come out of the closet, but as I grew older I gradually discovered that my life was not real.
Throughout my life, I occasionally toyed with the idea of coming out. I thought of all the possibilities and scenarios, but all I found was fear. I wondered if the truth would scare away my friends. I wondered if I would lose the love of my family. I wondered how my daily life would change. But these fears of change conflicted with my attraction to men, my strong desire to be romantically and sexually involved with a guy. It was excruciating to hang out with gorgeous straight guys, some unknowingly teasing me with their bodies, and not be able to pursue any of them.
What finally propelled me out of the closet was my relationship with Marie, my last girlfriend. She was attracted to me but the only interest I had in her was friendship. I did everything I could to try to love her: I devoted every bit of free time to her, went on trips with her, and even lived with her. Although I cherished her company, I didn’t feel any romantic chemistry between us. I forced every hug and kiss upon her in hopes of developing feelings, but my heart refused to beat to her rhythm. Our conversations were often shallow, while our usual silences were stressful. It didn’t take long for her to realize that I wasn’t into her. One night, during sexual intercourse with Marie, I wasn’t able to attain arousal. I apologized, but it wasn’t enough to keep her from crying. Needless to say, our relationship ended that night.
I blamed myself for the break-up and for all my other past break-ups. People were undeservingly getting hurt because of my choice to maintain my secret, a choice that always resulted in misery. That night, I decided to come out the closet and gathered the energy produced from my guilt, frustration and anger and redirected it towards my fears. I knew my fears had been defeated when I logged onto the Internet and found my first true love.
The Internet was my only initial connection to the gay world, my only chance at knowing who I really was. I didn’t particularly care for the chat rooms or the e-clubs, but what drew my interest were the dating personals. When I saw Philip’s picture, his cute face and adorable smile, I immediately became hooked. I e-mailed him my picture along with a letter describing my situation, the first time I disclosed the truth to anyone. He wrote back to exchange phone numbers and I can still remember feeling the overwhelming nervousness I experienced when he first called. It was as if I were speaking to the President of the United States. His male voice, unlike the robust, masculine voices I was accustomed to hearing from my straight male friends, resonated sweetness and gentleness. We got to know each other well over the phone and although I didn’t meet him in person right away, I found myself developing feelings for him. When we went on our first date, he easily took my heart away. Sitting next to him in the movie theatre brought loving chills through my body. Our conversations during dinner liberated my soul, enabling me to finally express my heart and mind freely. I felt as though heaven had blessed me with an angel.
Our drive home that night took us through a tunnel. I told Philip that it was customary for me to hold the hand of the person whom I truly cared about while in a tunnel. He then reached for my hand and held it on his lap for the rest of our ride home.
Philip and I made love in a moment more beautiful than I had ever imagined. I sat nervously by the edge of his bed. Realizing my trepidation, he knelt, looked at me with comforting, affectionate eyes, then slowly proceeded with a tender kiss. I trembled in ecstasy as he caressed my body with his warm touch, while also ensuring my comfort and respecting my feelings. I have never felt romance that deep.
My commitment to Philip marked the beginning of the end of my straight life, but the coming out process continues to be the most difficult ordeal I have ever had to face. In public, I refused to kiss Philip or even hold his hand, not just for the sake of our own safety, but also because I feared ridicule. This proved especially problematic when we went out with other gay couples that weren’t afraid to physically express their love for each other in public. Fortunately, Philip accepted and understood my discomforts and did not take offence to my selfish acts.
I found myself as restrained as I was while living the straight life. However, Philip gave me the experience of true, unconditional love. From our relationship, I rediscovered the importance of personal character, honesty, and trust–values I intend to maintain and utilize throughout my coming out process.