I Know 2004April 14, 2007
The following is a post to an Internet forum that I made way back in Aug 2004. Gov. Jim McGreevey from New Jersey had just come out. This particular forum had many threads debating the morality of same-sex marriage and the validity of orientation as being either fixed by heredity or chosen. Very often, particular members of that forum posted degrading comments about gays and lesbians in general. There are some comments in this post that were directed at members of that forum. In this post I came out as a gay man to the on-line community and was well-received. It’s interesting for me to go back and visit this essay. McGreevey hasn’t exactly found his place in the community yet. I’m sure there are many opinions as to why that is.
So here’s the essay:
I know what New Jersey Governor, James McGreevey is going through. I know the pain he is experiencing at this very moment. I know how hard it is to tell someone close to you that you have been living a lie and can not possibly do it for one more moment.
“My truth is that I am a gay American.” were Jim McGreevey’s words. They are my words as well. I spent 40 years of my life trying to live as a straight man, and I believe that, had I continued, it would have killed me.
I know how painful it is to come out to people who love and respect you. It is not an easy task, and for Jim to have done so in such a public way and in these circumstances magnified the difficulty of the event. I am sure he loves his wife and children; I certainly loved my wife. That love changed and grew cold, but the love I have for my children has never wavered. The day my wife confronted me with her suspicions was quite possibly the most painful day I ever experienced. She had already told my children that she thought I was gay, and had already begun to tell others in our family and circle of friends. I had every intention of living a straight life until I died. Going against one’s nature is not the best course of action, I have learned.
I know how painful Jim’s childhood must have been. I knew I was different from the other boys as early as when I was 7 years old. It’s not easy to figure out why you’re different. You’re not trying to be different, but it becomes obvious to the other kids that you are strange. To keep from being ostracized, you learn to hide those things quickly. I recall how concerned my parents were that I didn’t like to do the things my brother did, and that some of my playtime was spent doing things that were considered “girlish”. My dad even threatened to take me to a psychiatrist. I knew I’d better straighten up.
I know how hard it is to be a gay teenager. I experimented with another teenage boy, my best friend. He later turned on me and made fun of me at the bus stop with the other boys, perhaps in an attempt to deflect attention away from him. I also figured out that it’s important to have a girlfriend, for a number of reasons. The reason that seemed most important was that having a girlfriend would cure a guy of those gay thoughts. It doesn’t.
Because I grew up in a strict, religious family, I had heard many times how evil it was for persons of the same gender to engage in sexual acts. Each time I indulged a fantasy, I would feel such guilt and remorse. I begged God to take those thoughts away from me. For years I would seek God in church, at the altar, call to God from my bedroom, or the car as I was driving. I tried “fasting,” denying myself food in an attempt to get God’s attention and help me out of this gay predicament. It never happened.
There were times when it appeared that I had the thoughts under control. I would find women to date, and eventually found someone that I wanted to marry. Marriage would certainly put an end to my homosexual thoughts and fantasies. It didn’t. I could go for short periods of time thinking I was straight, all better now, but eventually those thoughts would return.
I know how Jim McGreevey must have come to a point in his life in which he could no longer contain himself. He needed to seek release from his thoughts by experiencing love with another man. What a difficult turning point this is for a gay or lesbian person. It seems simple enough at first, but it becomes more and more difficult to hide the secret life. The person is forced to become a liar. I know the pain and difficulty of living the dual lifestyle. There is constant fear of being discovered. There is the fear of being rejected by family, friends, co-workers. There is the fear of losing a job, or even a career. In the governor’s case, he has been forced to resign, not because he’s gay, but because he’s lead such a double life.
Many of you know that I am a teacher in an elementary school. I lived in fear of being found out and how that might affect my teaching position. Even-though I know I am protected by the equal opportunity employment act, I know that there are ways around it as well. In my case, my wife informed as many people as she could that I am a gay man. Eventually, that word, with elaborated stories added, made it back to many people that I work with. A few, thankfully, came to me to get the facts.
I lived in fear that my children would reject me. I lived in fear that my parents would reject me. I lived in fear that I would be rejected by my church, and could possibly lose my job as music director. The bottom line is that I lived in fear most of my adult life.
It’s very clear to me that gay-bashing is acceptable behavior in much of our society. It certainly has happened here in this forum. It takes the form of humor, and subtle comments, and for some gay-bashing has meant violence and death.
It seems to me that the one place a person might find solace and protection is within the church. That does not seem to be the case. When I was twelve years old, I entered the waters of baptism to declare that I am a child of God. I promised to be steadfast in the faith, joyful through hope and rooted in love. The congregation promised to do all in their power to increase my faith, confirm my hope and perfect me in love. I remember my baptism, but the church does not. Because I am gay, I am referred to as a stranger. Some church leaders would remove me from my position because of my sexual orientation. Gays and Lesbians are told that they are not worthy to be a child of God. We have gifts to offer, and we may offer them if we are silent about our true nature. The church turns away God’s children when it treats us as if we are strangers, when it holds conferences to decide whether Gays/Lesbians who claim Christ as their Savior are worthy to participate in the family of God, let alone serve in it.
Now we find ourselves debating whether two people of the same sex should be allowed to enter into a marital contract, as if heterosexuals have provided such a great example of how to be married that homosexuals could do worse. If the government is concerned about the defense of marriage, perhaps they should outlaw divorce, increase education and awareness on spousal abuse, and publish the alarming statistics of child abuse in this country.
I know Jim McGreevey’s life as it must be at this moment. It’s not an easy one. A few of my friends have commented about my great courage to fix what was wrong in my life. There are times that I am able to see it as courage, and other times when I think that I did what I had to do to survive. Today we have seen a man face his life in a very extreme way. James McGreevey is a courageous man. For those of you ready with the jokes and vulgar remarks, you should live so long to have half the courage that gay American has.