As I’ve written, I came out of a straight marriage about a year ago. One of the cornerstones of support helping me on the coming out path was a peer support group in Washington DC for men ‘who are married to, have been married to, or are in any other similar relationship with a woman’. The group is called GAMMA DC and can be found online at GAMMAinDC.org. This group has been a lifeline for me. Through GAMMA I’ve made many wonderful friends and learned a lot about myself.
I invited a friend of mine from GAMMA, who’s still in his marriage, to join me for the Capital Pride Parade and got the following response: “Thanks for asking, but this is clearly beyond my comfort zone.”
I was a little taken back because that’s the same guy who does naked yoga with me, has an occasional FWB on the side, and seems to be rapidly coming out of his marriage. So what about the gay pride parade gave him such terror? Was it that someone might see him at the parade and think he’s one of ‘them’? In my own mind, I had moved so far beyond my own terror of being found out that it seemed hard to fathom in another person.
So many of us are still stuck in that mindset of sickness, pathology, and morbidity about our sexual orientation. We’ve spent years trying to be other. I struggle with this all the time because as far as I have come out, including to family, friends, and work, there’s a part of me that feels like I’m telling people about a terrible disease or sickness every time I come out. Why can’t we see ourselves as human beings and being gay as a natural aspect of all the diversity of man? Something in the natural order of things.
As I headed off to my first gay pride parade I was very excited. It felt so right for me to be there. The night before the parade I went to the National Pride Shabbat Service at the 6th & I Historic Synagogue. It was a very moving service and I was proud to be there and be part of it. The Parade itself was fantastic. One of the most powerful parts of Capital Pride was seeing so many men and women just like me, out and proud. I had friends marching in the DC Pride parade which was also exciting to see. I marveled at how much the world had changed. The parade was almost 2 ½ hours long and had a surprising number of corporate and religious organizations marching. The day after the parade I went to the Pride Festival on Pennsylvania Avenue, which was also fantastic.
The week after the Capital Pride Parade, I went to see the Baltimore Pride Parade. I had planned to meet a GAMMA friend of mine who was helping to set up the float for a group he was part of called, Beltway Bears, and then I thought we watch the parade together. While I hadn’t planned it, I ended up with my friend and the other Beltway Bear men on the float throwing out beads to the crowd. After a few moments of fear about being more public than I had planned I decided to ride on the float. It was a joyful experience that I hope to write more about.
I suspect because of my age, mid-50s, and my choice of marriage to a woman for 20 years, on the path to get to the point of being fully out, that there will always be a part of me that has to fight feeling like being gay is a sickness. But each of these events and steps in my journey does make me stronger, prouder, more sure of myself.