A friend of mine wrote that he can’t believe this story still happens to people in 2011 America. But of course it does. From Steve Kornacki at Salon.com:
Our first non-bar date was at a movie theater. My hand brushed against his after the lights went out, and I held it until the film was over. It was the simplest thing – who doesn’t do that at 16? – but it was brand-new to me. There was no better feeling in the world.
I began thinking about my old promise to tell my family and friends if I ever made it into a real relationship. I also knew something important about myself: The longer I stayed on the diving board, the less likely I was to jump off. So I made a gentle suggestion to Dan: I’m not just OK with people knowing, I want people to know. But Dan wasn’t out yet either, and I was caught off-guard when he told me to slow down.
We remained close, but Dan’s work schedule changed. Even though we spent most nights together, he came home late, tired and preoccupied. It was the nature of his job, but I also grew frustrated, and I began regressing. The fear crept back: What if this doesn’t last? What if I end up alone? As I questioned the security of my relationship, I reestablished my old comfort zone with ease. I was straight during the day while spending my nights with Dan.
You can probably guess what happened next: Dan’s work life calmed down, and he became more serious about his personal life. Meanwhile, I was trying to have it both ways, keeping things going with him but paranoid of anyone finding out. Sometime in late 2010, he began telling people he was gay. His parents visited, and he invited me to meet them. I wouldn’t. He’d text me while hanging out with friends he’d told and ask me to tag along. I’d decline. I honestly didn’t want things to end with him. But I’d been on the diving board too long.
Here’s the part about how this could happen in 2011.
You may be wondering why I was so afraid. It’s 2011, after all, and I live in Manhattan, surrounded in social and professional settings by gay people. It’s not like I come from a morally judgmental family; I never feared my parents or other relatives turning their backs on me. But 17 years of fear and hang-ups can be hard for a person to shake.
In a way, I can’t even explain why I kept this part of myself private for so long. But whenever I would contemplate a change, I would think back to my youth, and the fathers, teachers and coaches who had been my adult role models, all of them old-fashioned family men. How could I possibly be so different?
It hurts now to think how long Dan kept trying – how long he kept believing in me even when I disappointed him repeatedly. He’d hint at his dissatisfaction, and I’d play dumb. One night in March of this year, he called my bluff in the middle of the night. “I think we need to take a break,” he said. A break. That’s just what I needed, I figured – a chance to work through my issues on my own, then come back to him when I was finally ready. It was tough leaving his apartment the next morning, but it didn’t feel final. In the back of my mind, I knew we’d get back together.
And that was my fatal error.
Baggage, baby. Everyone has it, straight and gay. But I suspect gay people get an extra carry on – a lot of us grew up with the expectation that you will never be loved if people find out who you are, and that you will never find love A) because if you date someone your family and friends will find out and they’ll disown you, and B) because you can never get married, so you’ll never have a family. It doesn’t matter if any of it is true, it’s what a lot of us grow up believing. And it has a way of seriously messing with your mind.
It’s a great and painful oh-god-that’s-me kind of story. Read the entire thing.