My Friend is Gay
A Self "Outing"
My friend is gay. Not happy - he’s homosexual. If I had to guess, I’d submit that it has taken him a long time to feel real joy, if not because of society's rejection of his lifestyle, then at having to hide it from those who should have embraced him just because. His anger is probably what prompted him to “out” himself to me. When he confided to me that he is homosexual, he was seeking my shock. Because life had beat me up enough to drain me of shock and replaced it with compassion, our conversation took a surprise U-turn. Instead of the expected, Oh my! I used the seconds of his I’m gay- exhale, to decide if I'd be honest and tell him that years ago I'd heard, through conversations with our former high school classmates, of his life-style, or if I'd lie and show him the I never would have guessed he probably wanted. I opted for a compromise.
"That doesn't surprise me," I stated. “All through school you acted gayish. You held your hand like this when you talked.” I demonstrated the stereotypical bent-wrist form he had just used. “And you certainly loved hanging out with females instead of ‘the boys.’ Plus, to be honest, there have been rumors, over the years, that you'd already 'come out'. "
This remark immediately sent him into a tirade of assumptions about what he "supposed" were whispered conversations.
“So what did they have to say about the class fag?” He asked, more as a preparatory defense than a question. He spit out “fag,” with a venom, intending to trigger discomfort, but I didn’t flinch. His obvious agitation propelled me into a Zen-state, a place I typically rest while a companion snaps into a rant I don’t quite understand… or want to. And since I couldn't honestly remember exactly what people had said, or, for that matter, who had said it, I was relieved not to have to "compromise" a second time. I locked into his eyes, a gesture that, under different circumstances, may have been mistaken as an act of seduction, and calmly assured him that he had not been the subject of judgments and ridicule over the course of our thirty years out of high school, that he'd been mentioned just like everyone else, merely as a response to someone asking how and where he and his siblings were.
“Besides,” I explained, “We accepted your behavior then; we'd be pretty hypocritical to walk in judgment now.”
Acceptance is Freeing
My comment seemed to free him. Perhaps he glimpsed short memories of high school antics and laughter. Perhaps, in our eye contact, he saw my soul’s warmth. Whatever the case, he used it as permission to shake the dust from his moldy secrets: his underground growing up years. He named guys who had either approached him on the "down-low," or ‘outed’ those with whom he'd actually had a short-lived physical relationship. The excitement glistened on his skin as a thin film of perspiration. Turning fifty had not damaged his smooth, deep- chocolate complexion, nor had it eased the pain he had internalized from society’s rejection of the person he knew he was. So, I served up my wide-eyed surprise and offered him even more than he thought he needed, a vessel in which to plant a seed of self-revelation: "the unspoken source" of youthful pain, which had left him angry and defensive, ready to assume the worst thoughts people may have about him. His words sounded like hatred, but only thinly veiled his need to be loved… at long last... just as he is.
Though my friend shared more about his past than our first conversation in thirty years warranted, our short encounter left me with more questions than answers about who this man is... but I walked away knowing that I had given him something much more important than my surprise. I thought I sensed a lighter step as he returned to his half-closeted life. Or, maybe I felt my own soul lifted by my simple gift of not judging him. Just who do we humans think we are to judge other humans so harshly that they spend their lives hiding who God made them?
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