by Chris Bodenner
A reader responds to yesterday’s video:
Andrew, the video in which you expressed near-speechless amazement at the recent acceleration of the US toward embracing LGBT rights truly struck a chord with me. We’re roughly the same age (I was born in 1960), but I grew up in southwest Virginia, the heart of the Bible belt, a part of the world where being gay was considered the worst fate one could imagine, the most shameful, wretched possibility – worse than being a criminal, worse than anything. My family wasn’t particularly religious, but the messages they gave me from the time I was a child (and they certainly sensed my gayness early on) clearly steered me toward a life of respectability and “normalcy.” I entered a state of deeply ingrained denial, believing and hoping so strongly that there was simply no way possible that I could be a homosexual, that it simply wasn’t an option.
I eventually married a woman, and truly loved her, though in a limited way that ultimately led to frustration and bewilderment for both of us. We remained married for 12 years, until my wife suggested that I go back into therapy. After much difficult, emotional work with a supportive therapist, I was finally able to admit the truth of being gay, first to myself and then to my wife. Our marriage was over as soon as I disclosed my sexuality (and my lies and infidelities). Sadly, we remain distant and have little contact with each other.
So I came out at the age of 43, fearing that it was too late to ever find love with another man, and unsure that a sustained, loving relationship between two men was even possible.
However, I not only met a wonderful man, with whom I’ve shared my life for 8 years now (not married yet, but we’re talking about it), I also finally became politically active, attending protests of “ex-gay” conferences, and lobbying the state legislatures for trans rights. I was astounded and tremendously impressed by the young activists I met, wowed by their absolute conviction (yet so casually expressed) in their right to be fully recognized and their deserving complete civil equality. (I was living in New York during the ’80s, at the height of the Plague and during the rise of ACT UP, but I was severely closeted and scared to death of gay sex.)
While I’m amazed at the changes we see how happening all around us – the court cases that are going all the way to the Supreme Court, one state after another ratifying civil marriage rights for gay couples – I also cant help but worry that a backlash will come. I share your sense of hope, and I’m incredibly encouraged by the confidence and strength of will that I see displayed by the next generation of young LGBT people. But I still remember being slammed into lockers and being called a faggot in junior high (even though I was trying desperately not to appear effeminate … somehow people just knew). I know there are very large, heavily financed organizations composed of people that feel severely threatened by the advances we’ve seen: the FRC, NOM, Focus on the Family, etc. I celebrate right along with you, Andrew, and share your gratitude for how much has changed. But I’m still nervous, and still fearful, I suppose, of the bullies and the smoothly delivered condemnations after all these years. It’s hard to believe that the victories we’ve seen will really “stick” and become fully embedded into our culture, for good.
But most of the time, I do know hope. Because I was reborn when I came out, late though it was, and I learned that even a balding, middle-aged man, who once lied to himself so thoroughly that he had a hard time distinguishing truth from reality, was finally able to accept the truth about himself, and was able to find love. I share your awe in the dazzling, surreal world in which we now find ourselves, a world that was once only imagined but that appears to be coming into being. A world in which who we love really makes very little difference to the world at large, but a tremendous difference to each individual who has the courage to be themselves.
Thanks always, Andrew, for your honesty, and for making the case for marriage from early, early on.