6/3/19 | Sacrifices
Who are you? It’s a simple question with a not-so-simple answer, depending on whom you ask. It’s a question with and without an answer all at the same time. And there is no right or wrong way to answer such a question because the answer might change depending on the day. I find myself asking this question more and more as I get older. As a result of this, I realize that I am changing in many different ways. And with those changes, come sacrifices. I made plenty of sacrifices in life, but the one that nearly killed me was my sexuality. That all changed when I did what felt like the impossible.
I came out.
Being gay was never something I was too keen on admitting. When you’re in elementary school getting called a “faggot” every day, it makes you fearful for whom you are on the inside. It makes you hate the very group of people being used to bully you. Being gay was never something I thought about, whether that was intentional or not. And as a result, I became resentful for the culture and people that were used as a weapon against me, despite the subtle hints my subconscious was making.
Growing up, I remember loving the Spice Girls and feeling so ashamed about it. I had to hide my love for them because boys simply couldn’t like them. But when I was alone in my room or I’d “go to the basement,” I would dance and sing to the Spice Girls, pretending I was one of them. And admittedly, it was pretty gay. It was incredibly gay, actually. I suppose I knew it, even at such a young age, because anytime I heard a knock at the door, or footsteps down the basement stairs, my heart would start to pound out of my chest and I would hide my CD player. I would take off the sneakers my mom bought me at Payless which resembled Baby Spices’ platform shoes. I would hide any and all evidence of my gayness in hopes that no one would find out.
Perhaps my mom knew then, but she didn’t want to admit it. Maybe she didn’t want to face that reality as she was checking out, buying girls shoes for her eager son. I remember that day at Payless in particular. She told me, “Don’t tell Dad.” I said I wouldn’t and then I gave her the biggest hug in the entire world thanking her for my new shoes. She didn’t care. She just wanted me to be happy, whatever way that was.
Fast-forward several years to an older, more mature me. I finished college, graduated PA school, and became a certified physician assistant with a new job in a new city. My move away from Philadelphia was a chance at freedom. It was a chance at a new life and a new experience. It was an opportunity for growth in all sorts of ways. And I decided to stop sacrificing the part of myself I spent so long hiding. I came out, first to my sister, who is gay also. The night I came out to her, we laughed, cried, and talked about how we both had hints growing up that this was an inevitable epiphany we would both reach. It was cathartic and enlightening to share the thoughts and feelings I had with someone who knew those exact thoughts and feelings.
When you’re gay, you feel alone in the world. You feel like you are destined for a lifetime of failure, misery, and isolation. I think that occurs because the world tells you that you’re a problem. The world tells you that you are insignificant and disgusting. The world demands you to sign a contract forcing you to stand out. And you have no choice but to accept the terms, as painful as they are. Because in that agreement, you trade the weight of a thousand “faggot” and “fairy” insults for the constant fear of living out in the world. And there is valid fear. Take Orlando, for example. Or Prop 8, or Matthew Shepard—you don’t have to think too hard to think of the countless moments in time that validate the fear you have as a gay person.
And because of that fear, you sacrifice. Well, at least I do. Perhaps it’s because this is a new situation to be in, as an out gay man, but I sacrifice. Despite my best efforts at owning my confidence, I still find myself asking questions like “Is this outfit too gay?” or “Do I sound really gay over the phone?” The subtle nuances of an entire sexuality defined in the simple nature of a T-shirt; it’s a sad and real thought I have in my head. So I sacrifice parts of myself for the sake of survival. And I am okay with that for right now. I am okay with dimming a defining part of myself when I’m at a bar with all my straight friends, or when I’m back home with some of my family, because it makes life easier. It makes life more tolerable.
It took me twenty-three years to finally get comfortable in my own skin to even just say, “I’m gay.” I hope that in another twenty-three years I will be in a space that provides me with comfort and safety to live the honest and happy life I dream about. That space might allow me an opportunity to go back to the contract I just made and change some of the agreements so that my sacrifices are not as detrimental to my sanity. Because the reality is that at any given moment, someone can find out I’m gay and decide to end my life. And if that were to happen, maybe I would find some peace in the world that made me sacrifice. Maybe it would make me truly limitless. I don’t want to die right now, but it’s a conversation I’ve had with myself given the nature of the life God chose for me.
But God loves me. He made me this way after all, so he has to find something decent about me, right? I know “being gay is a sin,” but I never raped or killed anybody. I just lived. And I’m going to continue to live. I will live the way I was made to live. I know I’m a good person and I don’t need to convince myself of it, so I’ve conceded the idea that I have to convince anyone else. I pay my bills, pay my taxes, go to work, save a life here and there, and try to do it all with a smile on my face. If any of that should change since I came out, I don’t think I was living my life correctly.
The only thing that changed when I came out was my happiness. I am so happy that I released the biggest secret I had to hide. And that feeling of happiness is what allows me to get up every day and risk it all because I know I am living as my most authentic self. There is power in that truth.
For now, I’ll work on discovering the intricacies of me. There is a lot more to discover now since I had a rebirth. But that search wont feel as scary because I can stand strong in knowing that I am home. I am where I’m supposed to be. There might not be a road map to direct me, but I know I’m on the right path, wherever it leads. And I look forward to the future, when my sacrifices are small and my joy is big. Hopefully it will be as big as the Spice Girls.