Friday, June 17, 2016

Coming Out Again

“OK, Marc, no more Facebook for you,” said Lady. “You’re definitely becoming even more off than usual.”

“You know, I decided to listen to Bach today, since the Romantic era might not be the best place to be at the moment. After all, there are other composers than Johannes Brahms. So now I’m listening to the B minor Mass, specifically the Credo, which has to be the longest credo on earth. So now I’m at the Et in Terra Pax and I feel better: I can go on, today.”


“It’s one of the mysteries: How was is possible that Johann Sebastian Bach lost nearly half of his children, in addition to his first wife, and yet he had such an unyielding faith? The texts to the cantatas are virtually unreadable—they’re the sort of texts that every good Christian would cringe at. God is all powerful and all-loving, but also quite willing to come down here and bitch slap the unworthy straight to hell. And trust me, the texts describe it so much you can smell the sulfur and feel the flames licking your calves. And here I am, undone by 49 deaths (sorry, but I’m not much mourning Mateen).”

“Well, of course it’s going to hit home,” said Lady. “unlikely as it is, you could have been in that bar—or one of the sort—on that awful night.”

“What pisses me off is that it’s just an invitation back into the closet. Invitation—hell, it’s a virtual order! And you know, absolutely every gay man has a story about how difficult it was to enter a gay bar for the first time. Maybe it’s different now, for some kids, but by no means for all. And the thing is, there was nothing else at the time when I was coming out. OK—I think there was a club at the university, but there were no cafes, no gay choruses, no gay running groups. So it was the bars only, and no wonder there was such a problem with alcoholism among us. Anyway, you never asked ‘was it difficult to go into a gay bar for the first time?’ Instead, you asked, ‘and how many times did you walk around the block before got up the courage to go into a gay bar?’ And the answer was rarely less than five….”

“Ouch—what was the big deal?”

“It varied from person to person. Some of it, of course, was the fear of being seen. But a lot of, and perhaps most of it, was the fear of facing yourself. Somehow, it felt that if you went in, you would never come out quite the same person. So it was a scary thing. And now this guy has just made it infinitely worse for all of those kids who are struggling with their identity. And for the people on the island, the idea that it could happen in the promised land—Orlando—is awful. And you know, even for me, well…I’m feeling it too.”

“How so?”

“Well, the gay pride march will be in a couple of weeks, and will I go? Absolutely, and I’ll walk down the street and wave the flag, and do all that stuff. I do it because I can, and many, many people around the world cannot. Or if they can, they do it at huge risk.”


“Right, I took a look on YouTube for the gay pride rally in Moscow, and from what I could see, it was all of two people. Who got arrested, of course, which might have been a lot better than getting attacked by the thugs. So yes, damn right I’ll go, and I’ll march, and you know what? In the back of my mind, I’ll be conscious that I’m walking past condominium building with 10 or 15 stories, and how many balconies? And all it takes is one balcony, holding one lunatic, and one AR-15. So I’ll go and do it, because if people can do it in Uganda and Russia, then I can do it. But I’ll breathe a sigh of relief when it’s done. And that’s the whole point—this is supposed to be a celebration, right? This is supposed to be happy, joyous, fun. But for me, it will be all that, but tinged with anxiety. And when that happens, the terrorist has won.”

“That’s sad….”

“And you know, in a way, the attack was not just about forcing us  back into the closet—it was also about having to come out again.Because when you get hit with that wave of hatred and fear, then boom! You’re 18 or 20 years old, and you go home to tell your parents, and you think, ‘OK—this time, this time, I am really, really going to do it.’ And guess what? You spend all weekend nervous and on edge, and your stomach isn’t good, and then the moment comes when your father goes off to get the oil changed on the car, and that’s the perfect time to tell your mom, because she’ll have enough time to pull herself together before the old man comes back. But she begins talking about something else, and then there’s a little lull in the conversation, and you open your mouth, and get ready to speak, and then she says, ‘and have you met any nice girls at school, hon?’ In fact, you’ve had a boyfriend for three months now, and he’s fully out to his parents—who are both, duh! Professors! So how hard can that be? But no, you blow it again. You always do! And then you’re going to have to go back to your lover, and he’s getting impatient. Because it’s the late 60’s or early 70’s, and every action is political. Buying grapes is political! And the fact that you can’t come out to your parents is an indication of deep-seated feelings of inadequacy, which would require hours of psychotherapy. Which you can’t afford.”

“No,” I continued, “you lover is getting pissed, because it’s already been Thanksgiving, and you left for your family and he left for his. Except that you were invited to his family, but he was invited to yours. And why? Because you didn’t have the courage to tell them!”

“Or was it worse? ‘Do you really love me,’ your lover is thinking, or maybe he’s not. Maybe that’s just your fear. But whatever it is, it feels like there’s some wall growing between you, and you hate it, and then—bam, your father comes back with the news that the oil has been changed, and the car is running great, and everybody is so happy! Happy, happy, happy! A continent of Osmonds couldn’t be happier, and now everybody sits down to dinner, and grace is said, and you? Well, your guts have twisted into a thousand knots, and that’s too bad, because your mother has made you your favorite meal, and the look on her face when you tell her you can’t eat it?”

“So if she’s having a worse time than your average Christian martyr, thrown to the lions, can you imagine the look on her face when….? And then it really gets bad, your stomach, and so you leap out of your chair, and run down to the bathroom, and you start to dry-retch. Dry, because you haven’t eaten anything today—for obvious reasons—and then your mother gets worried. Are you eating all right down there in Madison? So you explain to her that Madison has some very good cooks, yes, since it is probably twenty times the size of your little Wisconsin town. But your mother has got it into her head—and if you need to come home, son, you just call us, and we’ll come down, day or night, to get you. And by the way, La Crosse, which is only 30 miles away, has a perfectly good school! You could drive back and forth, and even with the gas, save money….”

“But there was a reason you chose Madison, and it wasn’t just that it wasn’t thirty miles away from home. No, you had seen it when a bunch of your friends had gone down for State Basketball Tournament in March, the year before. And it was supposed to only very slightly behind Sodom and Gomorrah in the sin department. In fact, it was a close as Wisconsin got to S and G! And it was where your lover was, waiting for you top come back with the news that, once again, you were chicken shit. You were a little light in the pants. You needed to grow a pair….”

“Ouch,” said Lady, “you went through that?”

“Most of it,” I told her. “We all did. And don’t ask me how, but Mateen shot us all back there, last Sunday morning, and we’ve been crawling out ever since. Because coming out was all about ask the universe—and all of your family and friends—the question: am I worthy? And Mateen’s answer couldn’t be clearer.”

“I hope Naïa never has to go through that,” said Lady.

“She won’t,” I told her. “But here’s the thing every gay man and lesbian comes to understand: it was a blessing, in a way, to have to do it. Both of my brothers are fine men—but there is something different about me. They live more easily in the world than I do.”

“And that’s a good thing?”

I think hard for a moment, and then I tell her….