Coming out is never easy, but for a man who is past the age of 40, it can feel like you’re transported suddenly to somebody else’s planet. Why would any man choose to “wait so long”? Let me share with you how my transition from a supposedly straight man to a definitely gay man benefited from my use of the Internet.
Before I came out during my 40s, I had read how some men knew they were gay from a very early age. Today I realize that they are, indeed, the fortunate ones. Knowing early can spare a man many years — perhaps even decades — of emotional pressure, turmoil, and self-punishment. But getting to the point in your life where you know yourself and your sexual identity can take much time, especially if there are factors in your life that combine to confuse you.
Let’s be honest here. Conservative persons and organized religions have attempted for decades to brainwash us into believing that we make a choice to be gay, and that making such a choice means we are sinners and outcasts.
I finally learned the reality that biology is biology. Biology is not a choice. And biology is not a sin. If you are gay, you were born that way. If you are straight, you were born that way.
I also have learned that where choice does enter in to this sexual identity issue is limited to a man’s choice to act upon his sexual orientation. Even though you may be born gay, you can choose to deny it. You can choose to act as though you were born straight. This takes a lot of your time and energy that could be channeled into other endeavors in your life. I call such a waste of a man’s life and energy battling biology.
It’s important to understand that battling biology is nothing less than going against the natural flow of life. It takes work to go against any flow. But, battling biology will cause an imbalance in your life that cannot continue for too long. Such an imbalance may topple a man emotionally or sexually.
Of course, when you choose to stop battling biology, a good many things immediately must be dealt with. If you are a member of a mainstream organized religion, you will really be cooked. If you were raised Roman Catholic like I was, you’re in for an especially bad ride. Guilt and shame can really ruin your entire personality and demeanor, not to mention that it causes you to not be any fun at all to hang out with — in or out of bed.
For right now, mainstream organized religions look upon being gay as being in a state of wrongful conduct deliberately by choice. Some leaders of organized religion here in the United States use their belief about the alleged choice to be gay as the basis for spreading criticism, negativity and hate.
Hate Disguised as Holiness
The most stunning example of this is found in Topeka, Kansas, where there is a group of people who consider themselves to be a “church.” But, no genuine church would behave as crazy as this group behaves.
Proof of the group’s craziness is that they set up a website to spread their unashamed agenda of hate: God Hates Fags.
This is just one of a whole crazy lineup of real examples of how the mentally ill behave if you let them form a church and then put websites online.
Most mentally healthy, reasonable people (regardless of whether they have any religious affiliation) will look at that Kansas group as being the poster children for the lunatic fringe. But, just because this Kansas group calls itself a “church” does not mean that they are holy people.
In fact, this Kansas group should be accepted as dangerously unhinged emotionally and intellectually. Makes me want to steer clear of Kansas.
Just because many people believe in something does not make it true. Those who once believed that our planet was flat eventually had to admit that they were completely wrong. Those who once believed that the sun revolved around our planet eventually had to admit that they were wrong. These are only two examples of things that many people believed were true that were eventually prevent to be completely false. Inevitably, the day will arrive — sooner or later — when scientific findings disprove the long-held belief that the people choose their sexual orientation. Then, people will begin to accept the reality (which some of us already accept) that biology is what sets a person’s sexual orientation. In that future time, it will be very difficult for a religious person to be taken serious when they put down on gay people.
In turn, people will one day not have a religious or spiritual basis for guilt and shame over their sexual orientation. And, I believe that ultimately the more progressive faith-oriented organizations will promote responsible sexual behaviors as the preferred way of life for all adults, rather than wasting time and energy passing judgment on a person’s sexual orientation. Some spiritual leaders and religious people today have already gotten a clue about this.
The Purpose of Sexuality
As if dealing with your faith is not enough of a challenge when you stop battling biology, you will also need to face how your culture and your family environment defined being a man for you when you a kid. From the earliest days of my boyhood, I never had a solid definition of what a real man was. This is probably why it took me “forever” to come out.
I struggled under a once-prevalent Roman Catholic perspective during the middle of the 20th century on masculine sexuality: Sex is solely for married people and is strictly for producing babies who will grow up to be Soldiers for Christ. Also, if you dare to “touch yourself in an impure manner,” you are committing a terrible sin.
Adding to the warping influence of Roman Catholic dogma, I grew up in a Portuguese-American household in California in the 1950’s. In that culture there was no room for anything but macho and tough males, who were expected to produce babies. Of course, this was intended to happen after getting married, never before. The more tough you looked and acted, and the higher the number of offspring you generated, the more masculine you were perceived to be in that culture.
This worship of testosterone runs hot and freely in many other ethnic groups, but it is particularly evident in those of Mediterranean origin like mine. My dead grandfather was a noteworthy example of what feminists in the 1970s started calling “testosterone poisoning.” He was remembered as a role model of a man’s man.
I never knew him since our lives barely overlapped. What I learned of him came from my mother, who was his daughter. He produced 3 offspring in his short lifetime, if you wish to evaluate his masculinity using the scale of testosterone worship of his era.
He was born and raised in “the old country” — the Azores Islands in the Atlantic Ocean west of Portugal. The men from the islands were physically big men, who were also strong and powerful. He was like that. My mother told me he could win any fist fight with any man. He could drink any man under the table, she said.
His early 40’s saw the pinnacle of his machismo. One night after getting drunk, he blasted a double-barrel shotgun at point-blank range into my grandmother’s face. Then he fired the shotgun into his own mouth.
I was 19 years of age before my parents told me of this family tragedy. I was appalled, of course, yet I couldn’t help but wonder if my grandfather’s traits of machismo flowed in my blood. When I measured myself against him, it turns out I only got into two fist fights in my entire life (in elementary school.) And, to date I have produced zero offspring.
I grew up with low self-esteem and always perceived of myself as never being “masculine enough.” After I came out, I learned that gay men of Portuguese extraction are highly valued for their attributes. Well, after all, I am a descendant of the island men, and if you were following closely what I wrote, you will remember the part about the physically big men from the Azores.
Learning to Accept Who You Really Are
After you finally come out, you may find it a difficult transition. You must expect to deal with how your family and friends will respond. How your parents, spouse, siblings, children, relatives, and loved ones view you as a gay man may be difficult for you after you come out. But, no matter how high the pressure may be from the people in your life, you will need to face yourself honestly and without denying who you really are. People in your life are outside of your mind and outside of your body. They may lay guilt trips on your head and shame you, but eventually, you will lose the fight you’re putting up to restrain the laws of nature.
As other baby boomer men like me have done, I just could not accept that I was a gay man, so I got married to a woman when I was 29. I lived with her for two years and then spent 12 years married to her–a total of 14 years that I today consider were a waste of my inherent sexuality.
I will never get those 14 years back. I want you to think about how you would feel if you continued for 14 years to do something that you could not do. It felt like being a prisoner. I had imprisoned myself within my own lies to myself and to everyone around me. I actually told myself that I was a “good” man because during those 14 years I never had sex with any other person. I chose deliberately to remain “faithful” to my wife and the heterosexual way of living that I chosen for myself. I discovered that having sex with that particular woman was a complete and total turn-off. Some, of course, will say, “well, you just did not give women a chance; you did not find the ‘right’ woman to satisfy you sexually.” That kind of thinking about “finding the ‘right’ woman” is just plain nonsense.
Living as I did for 14 years proved to be very difficult for me. This was an “act” that was not possible to continue. The truth was that I could not “act” like a heterosexual male no matter how much I wanted to be straight. Accepting this kind of deeply personal truth may be very difficult, but one must ultimately accept it.
It took me 14 years to grow up and to stop bullshitting myself. I ultimately decided to end my marriage after my wife developed problems with abusing alcohol and drugs that I could not tolerate.
She was a chronically depressed person who chose to self-medicate with alcohol. Only when she was intoxicated did she stop feeling depressed, or so she told herself and me. She eventually found a psychiatrist who insisted on giving her prescription drugs like Prozac as an alternative to heavy drinking. Yet, she kept right on drinking to excess on a regular basis because she started feeling suicidal while on Prozac. One night after another typical incident of public drunkenness at a restaurant, my wife started throwing up. So was so intoxicated that she slipped in her own vomit and hit her face on the side of the toilet as she fell to the floor of the bathroom. This horribly dramatic and violent incident was the “trigger event” that taught me beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had to get away from that woman immediately and forever.
I divorced her. I relocated immediately from the state where we lived together because I wanted to be anywhere else but in proximity to where she lived. I never looked back. I cut off all contact with her. We have not had any communication since our divorce became final on April Fool’s Day in 1991.
Speaking as someone who knows from experience, I urge any man who thinks he might be gay never to get married to a woman. Entering into a heterosexual marriage WILL NOT solve your sexual identity problems if you are a gay man who prefers not to be gay.
I needed to learn that I was not a straight man like I had chosen to be. I became living proof that one cannot choose his sexual orientation no matter how much he wants to choose. I became living proof that it is impossible to choose to be straight. Because of the life lessons that I have learned, nobody will ever be able to convince me that it is possible for any man to pretend to be straight or to “act” as if he is straight if he really and truly is gay.
For five years following my divorce, I was frustrated with how unsuccessful I was at making rewarding emotional and sexual connections with women. I kept insisting on believing that I was a straight man. Yet, my fantasies were always about having sex with men. I could not break free from the lies I told myself about who I was.
At this same time, I began to surf online and found myself enjoying numerous websites tailored specifically to gay men. Yet, I kept telling myself that I was straight. I chose to believe that my Internet activities — such as downloading pictures of men having sex with other men — was nothing more significant than something I did with my computer at night in the privacy of my own home. What a liar I was! I did not realize the extent of my lies to myself.
Life Can Be Short
When my mother died suddenly at the age of 66 (compared to most other women on her side of the family that lived to their late 80s or 90s), the shock jolted me into an in-your-face and non-theoretical understanding of how mortal we all are. Immediately after her passing, a 65 year-old colleague of mine needed emergency heart surgery–a quadruple bypass. He did not survive the operation.
I was confronted with the clear and unmistakable reality that life can end without warning. This shifted my priorities. When you learn so suddenly by the loss of loved ones how life is powerfully precious and temporary, your life gets rearranged, whether you want it to be rearranged or not. Such a significant emotional experience teaches you very quickly that there is no longer any room for lies in your life. There are other, more famous, examples in life of people who die suddenly and unexpectedly. John Lennon comes to mind. So does Diana, Princess of Wales and John Kennedy, Jr.
If you have been denying that you were born gay, eventually your religion, your culture, your upbringing, your environment, and your family become less important when compared to accepting yourself totally and honestly. As I did, you may wake up one day and realize deeply that battling biology means you are not really alive at all. And so you make the choice to stop lying and start living for the very first time.
Living as a Gay Man
Sooner or later, a man who is truly gay must choose to live as a truly gay man. It is ridiculous to me to consider how some people choose to believe that gay men recruit other men “to become gay” by using the tools available on the Internet. If you think about it for a moment, this is a very silly belief since either you are born gay or born straight. The Internet cannot turn a straight man gay any more than organized religion can turn a gay man into a straight man. Yet, there are many people who believe that we gay men need to “recruit” straight males and “turn them” gay. Believing in this concept of the “recruitment” of males to “turn them” gay is to believe is to be a totally stupid person.
There is a great deal a man can learn online about his sexual orientation — especially if he wants to control his privacy and his identity. Through email or sites like Tumblr, for instance, you can keep your anonymity and yet meet and communicate with other men who are just like you.
The use of the Internet demands, however, the very basic need for men to behave responsibly. If you choose to get together with someone in person whom you have met by email, there are certain risks involved. Only a naive person would believe otherwise. If you behave responsibly, you minimize the chances of getting hurt emotionally or physically, and decrease the likelihood of getting HIV and AIDS. If you expect to stay alive nowadays, having a responsible sex life makes good sense no matter what.
I cannot adequately express how relieved I felt when — thanks to the Internet — I realized that other men out there had thoughts and fantasies like I was having. For decades, I was convinced that somehow I was a freak — the only man in the whole world who had the sexual orientation that I have. And so, I am pleased I could share what I have experienced. I hope that I might reach at least one other man out there whose battle with himself at long last can now come to an end. It’s time to set all that aside and come alive.
I subsequently chose to channel the lessons I learned from pretending for decades to be heterosexual into creating illustrations and stories. Most people will not go as far as I did to channel lessons learned. But, you should seek your own way to express yourself nonetheless.
There is no time for lies we tell ourselves. Life can be short. Live the life you have been given. Live in truth. The time is right to stop battling biology and live in truth.