I is for It Gets Better (Part Two)

Yesterday I began sharing my story, my own experiences that have shown me it truly does get better. I spoke about my experiences hearing the word “gay” before I knew what it meant, and I shared the slow evolution from confusion to realization that despite all the pain it gave me, helped me to know I’m gay. I ended on a precisely hopeless note, but today all that withheld hope comes pouring out–and I hope you’ll continue with me on this journey.

My life was shattered. I had come to live a dual life, one part a rising Jewish lad, the other part a closeted gay boy. One Yom Kippur, 5769, I discovered I was whole, and wholeness was not pleasant when both sides were me and neither, it seemed, could live while the other survived. I wrote solemnly, “I’ll repent for this sooner or later.” Cross reference: “love does hurt”; See also: “Shattered.”

I was given a resource–for this time, I truly had asked for help–and over many months, I learned Judaism and homosexuality could exist as beautifully as oil and spices stirred in water, but more homogeneously, too. My turmoil with God, though far from won over, had gained me a small victory. Things got better.

In Israel in the summer of 2009, I got swine flu. Don’t look so surprised; it wasn’t that bad at all, we were all floored when the tests returned and we learned we had swine. The symptoms weren’t tremulous, but the quarantine was tight. There were eight of us. They made a comment about gay people, and as I was so tired and parts of my brain were malfunctioning, I actually spoke up and told them I was gay. They were surprised. But quarantine was much more fun after that. I feel it came as a changing point to my entire trip.

Before I knew it, everyone knew it. We were at a mall in Ra’anana and a good friend, the first person I’d met at the airport, who hadn’t been in quarantine, was sitting next to me at a fountain and asked if I had a boyfriend back home. He was so casual, so nonchalant, I was taken aback. The first and only time I had a cigarette I was with another two friends and we talked about my being gay, told me he was grossed out a bit at first, because all he was thinking about was what I’d do in bed, not about me. (And if I’m being honest, straight guys love to ask which role you take, a question I thoroughly despise, you should know.) And on our last night in Israel, the most homophobic guy on the trip, in his drunken stupor, told me he hadn’t known any gay people before me and he was glad he met me, that I wasn’t that bad, that I was the nicest guy he had ever met, and I was funny, too.

It had gotten better. Much better.

When I started college, there was no one I knew and our Gay-Straight Alliance was dead. Three other students and I got together; for that first half a semester till winter break, our group was three lesbians and a gay guy. Sounds like a sitcom. It wasn’t. But this growing community was growing, and I felt I had found my place.

As I became more involved, I began to come out more, and the more I came out, the more powerful I felt. I don’t think, by the end of my second semester, any of my friends didn’t know I was gay. By my third, fourth semester, I even feel my reputation preceded me. It felt great.

To be so open, and to be so accepted, there’s nothing else like it in the world. I like to think that, as I began to allow that deepest part of me to see the light of the world above, those other parts that had sunken with it also began to rise, parts of me bubbling to the surface that I’d never known I had, that I had forgotten in all my sorrow and despair and shame.

For a time, years ago, I was very interested in PostSecret, that website where people anonymously post their deepest fears and emotions. I found a drawing of two round-headed friends hugging each other online and recolored the one face purple. I added the caption: “As much as I want to be ACCEPTED, it makes me ANGRY when people accept that I’m gay. Because then I HATE myself for hiding it for so long.” 11/17/2008 3:15 AM C:\Users\Darren\Pictures\Art\selfhate.bmp.

People sometimes ask when I came out. To quote my most recent answer directly: “That is the question, isn’t it? I sincerely believe that you are never fully ‘out,’ for every time you meet someone who does not know, to them you are still ‘in’ and must therefore come out again.”

Later, I added: “I found I was the shyest person in the world before I came out. After I came out, however, I found that began to change. See, as long as I felt there was even one part of me worth hiding, I felt–even if wrongly so–that the rest of me was worth hiding, too, and had to be hidden, to not reveal those bits I felt needed to remain secret.

“It’s quite liberating. I highly recommend it. …

“You don’t need to come out soon, not until you’re ready, but I’ve spoken with many people and can speak from my own experiences that coming out can change you tremendously for the better. That doesn’t make it easy, I’ll be honest, but it does give good incentive to try when you can.”

My life is a story of repetitious circles in which those things that go around, come around, and those things that pass, will pass again. With every turn of the circle, however, the circle is lifted higher, and with every pass, my perspective has changed. I have grown. I have learned. I have lived. Tracing circles, I call it, when I’m lost in thought and idling away time, acting without thinking, just doing, tracing circles. My story is long, there are many chapters yet to be written and many chapters not written here, but my life is not singular. I alone am not invincible, I am not the only individual.

You are invincible, and you are as individual as anyone. And if ever you forget, if ever you need reminding, please take this to heart when I tell you, with certainty and conviction, that it gets better.

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