Fifteen years ago I met one of my best friends. Although we were in elementary school, we seemed to fall head-over-heels for each other; we immediately became best friends and eventually started a puppy dog romance. We did the typical elementary-school-love acts of sending each other neatly-folded love notes and at one point she chased me around her parents’ garage with bright-purple popsicle lips, trying to kiss me.
Now she’s married and I’m gay - my how the times change!
Although we're no longer romantically involved, and haven’t been since the 8th grade, we can still talk on the phone for hours at a time. It doesn’t matter how many months pass between calls, we always pick up exactly where we left off and never miss a beat.
In May of this year, I came "out" to her after taking her to lunch for her birthday. I was terrified but she, being the wonderful friend she is, took everything in stride and told me that she was always going to be my friend and that she loved me.
I remember walking back to my office in tears, so grateful that among the constant evolution and change in my life, at least I still had my friend.
Well, we spoke for the second time since I told her I was gay last night and it was both a wonderful and painful experience. We discussed the ups and downs of both of our lives and we shared many intimate details about our individual trials and struggles. But, during the conversation, one thing she said really stuck out to me.
She said that she “didn’t know me, the REAL me,” and that I had hidden so much from her that she “needed to get to know me again.”
Her comments really got me thinking and I admittedly got a little frustrated (I know you're reading and again, I’m sorry). In the heat of the moment, I tried to explain that I am me; the same person I have always been. Regardless of whatever experiences or feelings I may have hidden from family, friends, and the world, my life experiences to date have defined and molded me into who I am today. All of me.
Being gay is only a fraction of who I am. It is only one, small puzzle piece that doesn’t define the entire picture but rather enhances and completes it.
As I thought about this analogy, I started to think about other puzzle pieces that make me whole.
- I am an artist
- I am a musician
- I am a student
- I am a teacher
- I am a minister
- I am a comedian
- I am a lover
- I am a car enthusiast
- I am a cook
- I am a young professional
- I am a hiker, skier, and bowler
- I am a shoe connoisseur
- I am inquisitive
- I am a writer
- I am wounded and bitter
- I am forgiving
- I am tired of politics
- I am driven by equality and human rights
AND I'm gay.
And so much more.
I don't want to be merely identified as the 'gay guy.' I want to be known as the young professional who also happens to be gay. Or the writer and activist who is gay. The forgiving pastor who is gay. The friend who has been there through everything with you and is also gay. Or nearly any other THING that I am but ALSO happen to be gay.
This isn't the first time that I've had this conversation with someone but coming from someone I love so dearly it really impacted me. My newest goal, for now, is to be the best me I can be and show the people in my life that I may gay but I am also a lot of other wonderful things, too. To show that I am still me and always will be.
That's not to say that we don't change and evolve, eh, I know we do; that's just the natural progression on life. But I am and always will be me.