Years ago I built a family history web site. A section of the site housed all the digital photographic creations I had made over the years: cards, invitations, photos, awards, etc. Yesterday I found a picture of my son on the website, when he was probably 6 months old, sitting, or slumping, as 6-month-olds do before they can sit up, in the baby Stanford T-shirt my brother had given him. Underneath the picture, I had written his name and the caption: Class of 2018.
On Monday I fly with my son up to college to move him into the dorm. Half his things are already in storage at the college, and my wife is driving up separately with the rest of his stuff. From the vantage point of 18 years ago, reaching this point seemed so far away, yet now it’s here. My son will be a freshman in college beginning next week. But we are not quite the typical empty-nesters planning for our retirement. I started my new life as an out gay man a little over a year ago and my wife, (I say wife because we’re not divorced yet), and I am leading separate lives. In so many ways I feel my life is new, fresh, just beginning, and I often feel like a teenager again.
18 years ago when my son was born I was in a very different place. I was committed to my marriage. I knew I was still attracted to men but also loved my wife and enjoyed sex with her. I told myself that I was probably bisexual. But as the years went on the attraction to men became stronger and my attraction to my wife faded. I still loved her but I was silently, emotionally, internally moving away from my marriage.
Earthquakes can take years to happen because the friction between the tectonic plates must build up enough pressure for the earthquake to occur. On the surface, all is quiet until the earthquake occurs. I was like an earthquake. For years the pressure slowly built. Increasingly I became sure of my homosexuality and dropped the myth that I might be bisexual. As time went on my ability to function sexually with my wife diminished and I increasingly avoided having sex with her. Emotionally I began to separate myself from my wife and extended family, pulling back into myself. I became increasingly separate, quiet, lonely, and in pain. And then the tectonic plates shifted. I went to for an erotic massage which ended up becoming sexual, and my world began to change. That visit for the erotic massage was the beginning of my new life, which would still take some time to burst forth.
Being married to a woman and having a son is foreign to many gay men. I’ve met men who think it’s great that I have a son, and wish they could have had children too. They see that I stayed in a committed relationship for 20 years as a plus. But I’ve also met men, (luckily only just a few), that see me as something of an oddity.
I wouldn’t redo the past twenty years. I still care for my wife and feel close to her. I love my son and stand in wonder at each step he takes, even now. I have liked being a father and a husband. I have cared for my wife’s extended family. They were my family too. But I also know that coming out and moving out of my marriage was something I needed to do. My state of mind was deteriorating increasingly the longer I remained in the closet. Coming out has given me new life, emotionally, mentally. I’m so much happier than I was just a year ago.
So next week we drop my son off at college. What he is about to embark on seems so exciting. I wish I could be there too, attending classes, learning, starting over. I can not. But I have my own college classes. I’m taking a degree in becoming a professional, out, proud, gay man. And so far I’m passing all my courses with flying colors.