Sunday, April 28, 2013

"I don't know your coming out story..."

27 days into 30 Days of Blogging, I have failed.

I didn't write a blog yesterday because I was out doing stuff in the afternoon and then I took a nap and then we were out skating last night and then we went to a bar and there was a band and I didn't get home until after midnight and I was tired so I have failed to blog for 30 days in a row. Rather than give up, I will soldier on in the face of my failure and continue writing for the last three days of the project, despite the sad, gaping hole at Day 27.

So, on Day 28 of 30 Days of Blogging, I've come to a topic that my friend QH suggested:

I don't know your coming out story, especially the parental part. I'd love to know about that about you.

It's not that exciting. Like most actors of my stature I had a cover story on "People" magazine and a string of guest appearances on daytime talk shows, Piers Morgan, and "The Daily Show". Isn't that how everybody does it?

Seriously, though, some of my friends know this, my family knows some of this, some random strangers that I've talked to on educational panels know this, but I'm not sure if I've ever laid the whole thing out from start to finish, so we'll start at high school, when I was completely, deeply in the closet. Oh, sure, I knew that I didn't like girls, but I'd spent a really long time and a lot of mental effort convincing myself that I didn't like boys, either, and was instead operating under the firmly set (yet incredibly fragile) view that I just didn't like anyone. I went away to college pretty virginal (I'd been to a couple bases with a girl or two, but nothing serious and no boys), and spent most of college that way. I tried getting interested in girls a few times, and managed to cash in my V-card, but that just convinced me that no, I still didn't like girls.

Then my senior year of college there was this boy. We're going to leave his name out of the story, but we'd known each other for a while, but senior year we really started hanging out a lot, and did pretty much everything together. And then a month or so into senior year we were drunk, and we were in my room, and we did some other stuff together, and it was kind of fun but it was also kind of drunk and the whole thing was kind of weird and awkward and we didn't talk to each other for like two days. I wasn't sure what to do, so I called my friend Donna and her first husband, Anthony. Donna was busy, so I explained the whole thing to Anthony.

"Well, did you like it?"

"I think so, but we were really drunk."

"Well... maybe you guys should talk, and see if you feel like trying it again when you're sober, and then if you do, see if you still like it."

This seemed kind of reasonable, and when Donna finished whatever she was doing she got on and said pretty much the same thing, so after I talked to them I went and talked to the boy and then we stopped talking and did some other things and then we started doing those things a lot. One thing the boy and I didn't talk about, at all, was whether we were gay or not.

I had that discussion with myself a few weeks later, when the boy and I were out driving in the country. He knew this place in the hills above town where you could park the car and see the whole town spread out below you (I have no idea where this place was, and never tried to find it again, but it's up there above Cortland somewhere), and he liked to go there to think and wanted to show it to me, so some night after dinner we went for a drive in his car in the dark and actually found this place. It sounds way more romantic than it was, but there we were, sitting on the hood of the car, holding hands, looking at all the lights in the city of Cortland, and the sky was clear, and the moon was out, and there was a breeze, and I thought he was perfect, and he wanted to drive out there with me, nobody else, just me. Then we drove back to campus and parked the car, and we were walking back to the residence hall all alone in the middle of the night, and all of a sudden I thought that I might be in love with him, and the next thought followed immediately after:

"Oh, shit, I think I'm gay."

For a second, I might have actually said this to him. The words were in my mouth, and right at that moment he started bitching that leaves from some weed had gotten onto his jacket when we got out of the car and now they were all over his coat, so I just shut up and agreed that it was terrible. There was a moment there, but I was the only one having it.

In the spring semester the boy met a girl, and decided that he liked her more, but didn't really seem to know how to actually break up with me and I didn't really understand why he didn't love me like I loved him and it got really messy and that was it with boys for a while. I graduated, spent the summer working as a custodian while I tried to put myself back together, turned down a hall director job at a small school in North Carolina whose name I can't remember and who hired me after a phone interview, moved back home, worked at a reform school/children's home for a semester, and then in the spring after my senior year I returned to Cortland as a hall director.

While I was there again, there was a lot of drinking, and a few guys. I had a full head of hair and was a lot thinner then. The second Easter that I was there I was home for the weekend, and my mom and I were out driving somewhere, and my mom casually asked, "Do you like boys more than you like girls?"

I figured if she was asking then she was ok with the answer, so I said, "Yes."

There was a definite swerving of the car, but to mom's credit, she did not run off the road. We had a long, long discussion (which really can't have been more than twenty minutes because there aren't that many places we could have been going and the whole discussion took place in the car, but in my head I remember it as FOREVER) which basically amounted to mom wanting to be sure that I was sure (not an unfair question, given that I'd recently ended my college career with an obvious mental issue and depression problem) and warning me not to tell dad until I was sure, and that was the last time that we discussed it for a year or two. I kept doing what I was doing, mom and dad kept doing what they were doing, and I built up a neat little wall between campus life and home life where some topics were just never discussed and that was it.

Then I moved to Albany in 2000, and in October my parents and I went on a road trip and discussed the car that they were planning to buy for me. I was having some trouble with the idea that I should take a car from people that I wasn't fully honest with, and while I was on that trip I happened to buy and read the trade paperback of The Kingdom. As I explained a while ago in another blog entry, reading that comic made me decide to go ahead and come out to both parents, because I was sure and I was tired of having two lives. Mom and I avoided mentioning that we'd had this discussion once before, and that was it.

And that was my coming out story.

Looking over it now, it seems shockingly devoid of drama, but I think I've just smoothed over all the rough spots in writing it down.


Donna said...

I think I was in the bathtub. ;)

Justin Bower said...

Lacking drama and lacking emotional power are not the same thing. Thanks for an incredibly emotionally honest post, and, probably, apologies for being a relatively oblivious or absent friend during parts of this time frame.

Taylore Griffin said...

Joel, I am so lucky to have read this story of yours! Thank you for sharing. You are such a great role model, much like you were to me at UTK. I'm so glad that you are happy!!