Back Down Memory Lane, Part Two

When last we parted company, I had just discovered my lazy jaw, an aversion to dick sucking, and my attraction to pretty young damaged boys. Fresh from my first walk of shame, I cried myself to sleep, because I had become, in my mind, at least, the one thing my mother said she could not tolerate: a sissy. In a search for answers, I decided to visit.libraryIt was one of my favorite places. I loved to read back then, and still do, but for different reasons now…readReadNeNeThat afternoon in the summer of 1985, I devoured everything I could on the subject of homosexuality, discreetly, of course, lest anyone catch me reading about that PARTICULAR subject. Every book I read said just about the same thing: many boys go through a phase of attraction to other males, with varying degrees of intensity, and while some even act on it, most eventually grow out of it.

MOST was a powerful word and as the days turned into weeks turned into months, I comforted myself that I would SOON I would become part of the MOST who had grown out of that phase. I used to pray about it every night. I hung all of my hopes and dreams on those two words, MOST and SOON. Paradoxically, they also held me back, preventing me from facing the truth about who I was. It wasn’t until my 26th birthday that I finally stopped bullshitting myself and admitted the truth to myself, that I was gay.

All of those thoughts came rushing back to me as I sat in front of that tract home in the suburbs of Washington, DC a couple of weeks ago. I remember the fear of being outed weighing on me like a beautifully-tailored lead suit. That fear, that denial, kept me from exploring what I am only just now finding out was a thriving gay culture that bubbled along at Florida A&M University just below the surface, but that in retrospect, was hiding in plain sight. What would I say to that scared 14-year-old, just settling into a comfortable fiction that was to shape the next 12 years of his life? What indeed…

Dear Young Dominion

(I know that’s not our real name, but let’s dash over that for the moment),

I am writing this as I sit in front of our house. It still looks the same, but what is just a memory to me is your future. I hope I can help you by offering you some comfort.

From your perspective, I have some bad news, some REALLY BAD news, and some awesome news. The bad news is that you are still fat, but that is the subject for another time and another letter.

The REALLY BAD news, at least you will see it that way, is that you are gay. This isn’t a phase. You won’t grow out of it. I know what the books said, but I am telling you what I went through and what you will go through. Admit that to yourself now! Don’t waste the next decade waiting for something magical to happen. You aren’t going to wake up and miraculously be just like everyone else, because for one thing, many of them are going through the same thing you are, so you already ARE like everyone else (or at least quite a few). I am here to tell you that over the course of your life, everyone you tell about yourself has, to a person, been positive. You will have wasted your life in the closet for nothing. The rejection you feared, even from your own family, will never come.

The awesome news is that you get to become me. As you come out of the closet and your shell, you will find the world opening up to you in ways you never imagined. Being honest with yourself is the first step on a journey that you can’t even imagine now, but will enjoy more that you can know. That honesty will free you from prison. So many young brothas your age, even today, are trapped in prisons of fear and external expectations. Saying those words, “I am Gay”, is the key to unlocking that prison, and I hope you find the courage to do so.

Those words started rumbling around in my head when I was 24. It had been 10 years since I first discovered that catalog you keep hidden in that locked briefcase. It took me two more years to say those words aloud, which I finally did, the day I woke up on our 26th birthday. It was a weight lifted off my shoulders and I immediately thought of you. I remember wishing we had not taken so long to get to that point, and as I sat in my car in front of our house so many years later, those same feelings of regret washed over me.

It wasn’t until I sat down to write this letter, until this very moment, that I realized I was wrong. What is there to regret? You made the best decisions you could with the information you had, and I am here to tell you that everything worked out just fine, so cry yourself to sleep if you have to. You turned out just fine, and that is perhaps the most awesome part of all!

Except for that whole fat thing! Put down that slice of cake and get on your ten-speed!

With Love,

Old(er) Dominion

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