In honor of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, Alan has agreed to share part of his story. Those who comment on this post will be entered into a drawing to win a $10 gift certificate to either AllRomanceEbooks or Amazon, to be chosen on May 25th**.
**Winner has been chosen: Milica. An email has been sent to the gmail address you used to sign in, if it does not reach you, please contact scuttlebuttreviews also at gmail.
My parents have had photographs hung all over their den for as long as I can remember, pictures of family and friends posed together spanning decades, the people I grew up around. Comforting to look at in my early years, but when I became aware of my otherness, these pictures served to remind me every day of how different I was. It never occurred to me to confide my worries. I knew there were gay people somewhere, at least in theory, my small hometown was solely comprised of heterosexuals. There were never any snide, throw-away comments, but it was like homosexuality simply didn’t exist in our part of the world. So I tucked that piece of myself away, dated women casually and infrequently to prevent questions, and buried myself in work in the small city nearby.
I was in my early thirties when another man started working for the same company. He was quick-witted, good at his job, well-liked, and kept a picture of himself and his boyfriend on his desk. I’m afraid my first thoughts ran along the lines of, ‘wow, a real live gay man!’ but something about seeing him in my town, working the same job as me, and fulfilled in life, made me realize that maybe, just maybe, that could be me.
It took about a year, but I finally sat my parents down in their kitchen and had The Talk. My mother looked stunned and muttered something about being a horrible parent for not noticing. My father started crying and left the room. He returned a minute later, wiping his face on his sleeve and holding a framed photograph from the den. The picture was of three people: me, about four years old, held by my uncle who’d died shortly after the picture was taken, and my father with his arm around his brother, the three of us smiling the same wide grin. “He was so full of joy, just the happiest, best person I’d ever known.” These were the same variation of words I’d heard describe Uncle John my entire life. I must have looked confused, because he snapped, “Why would you think I’d love my son any less than I love my brother?” I had no idea what the connection was, and it felt like forever before my mother huffed, “For heaven’s sake, Alan, your Uncle John was as gay as the day is long!” A long discussion ensued, me asking why they never mentioned it, them baffled because he didn’t have a boyfriend or partner, so why would they have. My parents were horrified that they had unwittingly contributed to how different I’d felt.
Nothing my family ever did made me feel like they would stop loving me if I didn’t meet certain standards, it was my own lack of self-acceptance that kept me quiet. Of course this could have gone in the opposite direction, I could have been ostracized, but I never even tried to confide in anybody. Sometimes I wonder how the first decades of my life would have gone had I only talked to somebody, because although I’m pretty pleased with how things have turned out, I could have reached this point sooner. Talk to somebody. It doesn’t have to be family or friend, nowadays there are resources and helplines to call. Don’t deny yourself of your true self.