Jon, in his own words: “My personal definition has changed as the years pile on.
First, I thought (being gay) simply meant I was different. Then I thought it meant I had the privilege to turn my life into whatever I wanted it to be.
On a personal level, being gay thrust me into a space of asking questions that are usually reserved for a later stage in life: Why am I the way I am? What’s my place in the world? Why does the world see me a certain way? Can I have what everyone wants?
It’s forced me to forgive rejection and epithets. It’s forced me to be more compassionate. Knowing what it feels like to be perceived as different because I don’t do what some want me to, gives you some perspective.
Though others who aren’t gay, lesbian, or transgender have been forced to do the same thing.
So, I guess, I’m not so sure what it really means.
A challenge? Getting lost in the “cause” of being gay. There was a long period of time when I believed my experience was an automatic certainty of how others should live out theirs. I’ve made many mistakes in my life. That is definitely one of them. I pushed wonderful men away because I was too busy being proud of being a homosexual that I forgot to SEE them.
A success? Having my mother know who I am. She knows me. I’m lucky to have had that intention fulfilled. My coming out to her (done subtlety by bringing a man home) could have gone one of two ways, but that woman is effervescent with an incredible life trajectory, resilient, but unconditionally loving. Her acceptance isn’t my success, though – that’s hers. Mine was simply showing her who I was.
New York City is like a blood diamond. You toil to get ahold of it, to stay living in it, to be a part of it, but shit…it’s beautiful. Still, in the midst of all that gay men in NYC are masters at building communities and families.
Dance troupes. Adopted families. Friendsgiving. Charities. LGBT homeless shelters. I mean, there are endless examples of how gay men come to NYC (or grow up in NYC) and move on to build families like it’s their job. It’s insane.
Most gay men in NYC are better at building families than my real family is at building families.
Truth be told, the “coming out story” never ends. If you’re gay you’re going to be coming out for the rest of your life.
The only difference between my first coming out and the last time I came out was how many fucks I gave about it. At this point, when I tell my Dominican barber that I don’t want to meet his daughter because I like to have “novios no novias” (Spanish for “boyfriends not girlfriends”) it doesn’t faze me like it did when I said, “I’m gay,” for the first time.
Those two words would come out when I was 17 years old. At the time the feeling of isolation coupled with the sensation of a giant hole in the center of my chest was debilitating. When people describe the physical feeling of a broken heart – that’s what I was feeling. I wish that no one ever has to feel that.
In true gay-boy fashion I decided to tell my best friend first. It reached a point where I couldn’t fathom existing without at least telling one person what I was feeling. My initial “coming out” was a necessity. Looking back, I’m certain it was a life and death choice.
Earlier that summer I was listening to one of those crazy Lauryn Hill interludes on her ‘Unplugged 2.0’ album and feeling something click, “[The] real you is more interesting than the fake somebody else.” Listening to someone self-examine on a microphone was astonishing to me. I’d spent so much energy repressing everything I was feeling that I found her recorded vulnerability more than admirable. For the first time ever, I’m realizing that it inspired me.
I graduated from telling one person to a couple. It was gradual. It was on my own terms. Little by little the weight of holding a secret lifted.
Even as I read all these coming out stories and the range of ages of the people who are telling them, I now know that you can be 17 years old or 26 years old, coming out is the same at any age. It’s convoluted and at times you contradict yourself by holding on to things while still wanting to tell the world a kept secret. It’s like Jay Z said, “To have contradictions – especially when you’re fighting for your life – is human.”
(If I could give advice to myself before coming out) I would tell that kid not to fret because fearlessness doesn’t exist. I’d let him know that he can be brave and scared at the same time. That it’s how shit gets done. That it’s how most good changes are made in the world. That in all likelihood all the things he’s going to want to do and NEED to do will scare him.
I’d also tell him that he’s pretty fucking great.”