Jeffrey, in his own words: “My version of being gay means nothing more than the sheer fact that, at the end of the day, i’ll probably end up with a dude (sorry ladies!).
Over the years, it’s been a challenge to find solid friendship (in the gay community, at least) and cultivate healthy romance (also in the gay community, obviously), but I’m proud to say that my greatest challenges have ultimately resulted in some of my greatest successes as a grown up.
For the majority of my adulthood, I attributed being gay solely to dating, and avoided navigating the waters of friendships with other people who were gay. In all honesty, I’m not sure that I even realized that I needed gay friends, and struggled to make platonic friendships with other gay men outside the circle of people that I casually dated. All I know is that as I entered my mid-twenties, I looked around at my life and found myself awkwardly surrounded by a small handful of gay friends that I had either dated or had romantic history with at some point. To make matters worse, my dating history lined up as more of a rogues gallery that one of my friends summed up perfectly in stating that I “tended to seriously involve myself with sociopaths”.
It was at this point in my life that I made a concerted effort to seek out friendship before partnership, free of romantic strings and entanglement. Looking back, I still can’t pinpoint whether it was overall insecurity or my inner-middle aged single woman (that feared I would never find someone) that drove me to be so romantically consumed, but it was only when I let go of the search for “the one” that I was able to generate true friendships and (waduya know!) find someone to love.
That (all that!) being said, my greatest success is finding and connecting with people who love me and who I love, both platonically and romantically. Platonically, I’ve been lucky to meet a few “lifers” (friends for life) over the past few years who, from near and far and always with laughter and good times, continually inspire and encourage me through the journey of life that we share. Romantically, all I can really say is that there’s nothing more special than seeing the world and sharing a laugh and a smile with the man that I met under the stars by the crashing waves.
The short story of my coming out involves a tumultuous time period after my dad died (my own version of the roaring 20’s!) that consisted of rampant and uninformed trial and error that either shaped my character or scarred me for life (jury’s out, I still haven’t quite figured that one out yet). Although I currently try to live life unapologetically and without regrets, my early days of exploration included a variety of instances and experiences that I would probably take back if I thought about them long enough (which is probably not unlike the journey that most people lead at some point in their lives).
Ironically, I don’t think that I actually ever came out officially to the world (unless a public blog/photo feature on a website that’s very subtly titled “The Gay Men Project” counts). My personal view is that coming out is a personal journey of self-acceptance that led me to gradually get over the notion that I am letting people down by being who I am and loving who I love. It’s been a tough learning curve, but I’ve slowly been able to let go of the guilt and feelings of let-down that go along with leading a life that defies societal norms, traditional convention, and pretty much everything my parents raised me to be. In this sense, I guess I’m still very much in the 7th inning stretch of my coming out process, and in spite of a good number of people knowing that I’m gay, I’m still a work in progress, learning daily what it means to be gay and find satisfaction in life.
(With regards to the gay community in Orange County) There’s a gay community in OC? They don’t call it the Orange Curtain for nuthin!
(Advice I’d give my younger self) On friends, family, and acceptance: realize that acceptance takes time, and sometimes requires one to be generous with grace in the face of those who aren’t quite ready to adjust their understanding of who you are. People won’t always be ready for the truth (and will sometimes, surprisingly, be surprised!), but time heals wounds (sometimes lots of time!), and oftentimes brings about understanding. Don’t give up on lifelong friendships because of a bad knee-jerk reaction.
On love, friendship, and relationships: a younger version of me would probably benefit from being told to worry less about finding “the one” and worry more about building friendships with solid people that will be there through the thick and thin, unconditionally. Love and partnership will come when the time is right, but good friends make the world go ’round.”