I always think I’m going to find a more clever title for these posts, but I guess now I’ve started this way, I’ll keep going, for anyone who might happen along and want to read this in chronological order.

So, when the story left off, I had just told my therapist. I left that day with an assignment to write out my “romantic history” for want of a better term. It was fairly short – I’ve included most of it here. It wasn’t extremely helpful in the moment, though as I mentioned before, I did have one or two insights into my own behavior. The main thing I remember from that week between appointments is the feeling of total panic that everyone would find out. I spent a really really long time trying to figure out how to password protect the word document I was writing for my assignment, even though the only person who would have access to my computer at the time was my mom, and I knew she never even turned it on, let alone looked at any files. But I felt so afraid that someone would find out before I was ready to talk about it or deal with it. When I went back the next week to see my therapist, we looked over the pages I’d written and discussed them, but she didn’t need to keep them, and I seriously considered driving to like Magna or Tooele and finding a Kinko’s where I could shred them, so no one I knew would accidently find them in the garbage. As though I knew a lot of people who were dumpster diving! It was insane, but it was so scary at the time.

Even though I was still talking about it in conditional terms (“it really might not be true”), in my heart I knew it was, and I felt very limited in my options. Basically it felt like there were two choices – one was to bury this part of myself and go on as I had been, resigned to being alone, and then second was to “be myself” with the hope of meeting someone, but in the process very likely losing everything and everyone that mattered to me. There didn’t seem to be a middle option, at the time. I felt sure that one or two of my friends would probably not shun me, but outside of that, I wasn’t at all certain of how anyone else would react.

A few months into discussing it with my therapist, I found out my friend’s aunt would be in Salt Lake for a few days for a family event. She was the only gay person I knew, at the time. She had lived outside of New York when I was there, and I’d actually stayed at her apartment for about a week when I was looking for a permanent place to live. I hadn’t been in touch with her for a while, but it seemed like a lifeline, so I emailed her. Even this was terrifying. I think I said something like “I’m kind of freaking out about the possibility that I might be gay. Do you think we could talk for a bit when you’re in town?” But I cried and cried, even just to write it down and send it to someone I knew, even though of all people I knew she wouldn’t judge me.

I decided that it was time to tell my friend, since I was going to be hijacking her aunt for a bit, and I didn’t want to put anyone in an awkward position, making up a story or something about why she was meeting me. My friend, with her social work background, was a lot like my therapist, waiting me out through a lot of ums and ahs and oblique references. I do think she finally let me off the hook though. I do remember feeling a bit of relief, along with the fear and despair, when I told her. Just the small act of setting down the burden slightly by telling someone you know will still love you is a pretty huge step, that early on.

So, my friend’s aunt and I went to lunch and talked for a long time, and it was the first time that I started to hope that there was a way this could end happily for me. Maybe it didn’t have to be so black and white. Maybe I could be happy and successful, have my family in my life, and STILL be gay.

See, the thing is, without really ever being explicity told by anyone that being gay was bad (I really don’t ever remember any overt references to this topic growing up), I still was carrying around this impression that being gay meant being completely occupied by sex, which was bad. And I think that was part of why I was still denying that I might be gay, because I knew I wasn’t obsessed by sex and never had been.

But talking to her that day, I think I felt for the first time that this might just be a normal part of life. That being gay might be the same as being straight, and that it doesn’t necessarily mean you will be promiscuous or have trouble holding down a job or get involved in drugs. You could be that kind of person and still be straight, and you could be a regular person with a job and a relationship and a family and be gay. It was quite a revolutionary thought in my mind at the time.

Over the following few months, I told a few other friends. No one reacted badly, everyone was very supportive and so I started to feel a bit better about things. I still hadn’t told anyone in my family, and wasn’t sure when I would do that. I felt I needed to figure out some of the church issues before I opened that door.

And during this time, I fell in love with someone, quite by accident. It happened so gradually that I didn’t realize it until I was in pretty deep, emotionally. It was someone who was not in a position to return my feelings, but I fooled myself into believing it might somehow work out for a long while. There were a few short weeks where I was happier than I’d been in years and years, and I guess the good thing that came out of it was that I wasn’t wondering anymore. I had never felt that way before, and I couldn’t pretend anymore that it might not be true.

But the happiness went away pretty quickly, and things ended badly. I think there’s a reason that most people have their first loves when they are very young, because to have it at 31 I think it took on an even larger meaning for me. I literally felt like if this didn’t work out, that was it for me. I wasn’t ever going to meet anyone else. The months after it ended were some of the darkest I’ve ever experienced. I was also struggling on a spiritual level, which I’ll talk about more in the next post, and I had some financial issues from my broken leg and the medical expenses involved, and there were many many days when I wasn’t sure I was going to make it.