“Was I supposed to say that, despite my best efforts, the power of gay porn was too strong for me, and I was asked to step down because of it? Was I supposed to go into detail about the guys I ended up blowing in the bathroom at Splash that summer in New York? Though there may seem like an obvious “yes” answer here, at that point, there was still a part of me that wanted to hide that from her. A part of me that wanted there to still be a chance with her.”
Sometimes the idea of “conversion therapy” seems more like an exercise in self-deception. Then again, those are the good days. From what we hear, most days were a bit like the Spanish Inquisition, minus the Comfy Chair.
Then again, there are those of us who tried self-therapy, and it is possible to find something positive amid the years of lying to ourselves. I got a daughter out of the attempt, and she is a result I will never resent or regret.
† † †
It is hard to explain; my coming out process was atypical compared to the power of NCOD, or acknowledging yourself during some sort of event like a dinner with HRC or GLAAD. At forty, there were four people left in my life who didn’t know; my parents, my brother, and my daughter.
Everybody else knew. My former partner who graced me with a daughter; my longest friends, and, generally speaking, my newer friends, as well. Then again, to be completely honest, there was a circle of friends through my brother who didn’t know, but it’s not like any of them were surprised. Neither was my brother; indeed, his wife already knew, so that awkward pause when I told him wasn’t any sort of confusion over whether or not to accept what I was telling him, but, rather, whether to celebrate, merely say, “Good for you!” or simply nod and carry on with grilling chicken and salmon for dinner.
My mother knew by that time. For whatever reason, it occurred to her to ask straight out. And, you know, that might have taken some courage, but then again I think back over a decade to an experimental family ritual of golfing on Christmas Day―yes, really―and one occasion while waiting on the fourth green when my mother lamented the fact that neither my brother nor I were inclined to marry, and she really did want a grandchild. “Even if you’re gay and have to adopt,” she said.
Mother’s intuition? I wasn’t even admitting it to myself, yet.
When I told my father, he did take a few minutes to go through the thoughtful congratulations and hopes that standing in clean daylight would help me work a few things out.
But it really wasn’t much. My closet was largely obliterated. I kicked over half a stud with a couple of broken pieces of lath still nailed to it.
It should not have been a big deal, but one of the first things that happened is that I started thinking gay.
And perhaps that seems an odd way of putting it, but it’s almost a year later and the sensation can still be dizzying.
To the fun side, a lot of stuff I used to think of in terms of eighties hair rock―pretty ’em up for the girls―started standing out as entirely gay. It’s kind of hard to explain, but you can even see it in cartoon characters. The way a suit jacket suddenly billows, light and airy, the vulnerability, the, “Come hither, Daddy”. Half the time I’m probably fooling myself, but it makes for great entertainment, a running inside joke ‘twixt me, myself, and I.
More seriously, it’s also true that the automatic “mate-check” my mind used to run through―a version of something genuine heterosexual men do, considering the potential of getting on pretty much any woman one encounters―has largely evaporated, at least for the time being.
Such is my experience; I can’t speak for anybody else.
But the difference should not have been so striking. It’s not like I wasn’t already awash in gay fantasies, willing to watch damn near anything that qualified as gay porn, or entirely conscious of how many sportscasters can’t seem to match a shirt, tie, and jacket.
But with those final sticks kicked away, it really is true that the world looks entirely different than it did a year ago. Sounds different. Feels different.
Smells the same, though.
And I still haven’t learned to dance.
And I still tell the funniest gay joke I ever wrote: A queer dude walks into a gay bar. Nobody notices.
Never mind. It’s all part of a learning curve. And that, I suppose, was unexpected. But I also never figured out until I was out that there is actually a learning curve to being gay.
But if you tell me he likes me, screw that. I’m not going to beg.
Don’t tell me he likes me. I have exactly no reason to believe it, and I’m not going to beg.
Oh, right. Digression. Sorry.
Anyway, yeah. One of those things, I guess.
I don’t know why people think specialized “conversion therapy” will work. The operant conditioning of living in the closet certainly doesn’t, and unlike therapists, it is impossible to be smarter than Life, the Universe, and Everything.
Hernandez, Chris. “Falling in Love (or Something Like It) With a Girl During Conversion Therapy”. The Huffington Post. 7 April 2015.