It just seemed like it would be easier to end things quickly rather than to continue the slow and arduous path to self-love and self-discovery. At times, even, those two states didn’t register as a possibility for me. I thought “coming out” would have felt like relief or perhaps like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders.
How did September of 2009 become a time of misery rather than a time of celebrating self-acceptance? At that point, I had been closeted for the entire twenty-one years of my life and I felt lost in in the new world I had just beheld. The reality of my story is that coming out was anything but a cathartic explosion of sparkling rainbows. It was a painful and uncomfortable process which brought me to a place that I could not have imagined.
Zoned-out for the first time.
I distinctly remember the day after I came out to myself and to my roommate. That morning, I showed up to my music history class and sat down as chipper as a cats ass after a kill. I was on cloud nine and I secretly wanted to shout out to everyone the revelation I’d had the night before.
At my seat, I watched as our music history professor, a definitive Bilbo Baggins look-alike, shuffled at the front of the class as he cued-up his PowerPoint lecture for the day. Oddly enough, something happened between the time I noticed him preparing to teach and the moment I realized class ended.
“Alright everyone, I’ll see you next class.” Bilbo said aloud.
How did I NOT remember what he taught in class that day?
I’m sure it had something to do with Gregorian Chant or the primitive belief that music’s original purpose was for documenting prayer. Normally, I didn’t even mind Bilbo’s class. In fact, I quite enjoyed his chatter and banter about the “proper place” music history should be held in the heart of the academic musician. What was surprising to me, however, was the fact that I did NOT recall the lecture at all! That day I heard nothing more than ramblings akin to the like perceived by Charlie Brown in his over-sized grade-school class.
Okay, so here is where I admit what really happened that day, why I was unable to stay checked-in with Mr. Baggins. Truth be told, his “blah, blah, blah” slowly dimmed as I got lost staring at the back of the head of my first boyish guy-crush!
I’ll spare you the details because, let face it, at that time I was still a human, and a guy human at that. So, you KNOW there were some not-so-PG13 thoughts flowing through my mind. But I’ll tell you this, I felt a mixture of freedom and relief as I allowed my eyes to trace his body and semblance because I finally felt “able” to do so. I let my heart-rate increase as I looked at his strong neck and jaw-line. I let my vision scan and trace the veins and muscle definition of his hands and arms. I marveled at the flushed cheeks he displayed as his physiology reacted to the slightly warm, poorly ventilated vintage classroom ambient. This was the first time I got to experience the rush of hormones that normally clouds the teen mind and causes it to, literally, zone-out in class.
So what? I wasted an entire music history lecture fantasizing about the cute piano player sitting two rows over. The exciting part, however, was that by the end of that day, I had received an invitation to join a friend to the Buffalo gay-district bars that following weekend!
He said “you should just go out to see what you like.”
Apparently I was being invited to a restaurant to pick a gay guy off of a menu!
So, did I go? Of course I did! I had never eaten at a gourmet restaurant and quite frankly I was feeling a bit famished!
A dramatic initiation.
The first bar we went to caused me to feel a bit of sensory overload! I felt out of place, like every gay guy there “had their shit together” and I did not. I quickly realized that I had no idea what I was witnessing or what the guys were even saying. At the door, I think I was greeted by a drag queen smoking a cigarette and inside, I eves-dropped on words like “twink” and “bear.” The guys had names for the different kinds of gay men based on body type and personality! Who knew?
I was feeling a bit too sober for that experience so I let some of the guys at the bar buy me drinks (I think they were flirting). As one drink turned into two, I started to loosen up “really good.” So good, in fact, that I ended up in a second bar without noticing it. I remember hanging out with the smoking crowd in the patio of Cathode Ray, an apparent second-destination bar of the Allentown street gay district. The guys were pretty awesome and were full of “congratulations” and hugs and kisses. This was unique, as I had no idea that the proper salutation to send a newly-outed gay man was “congrats” with a hug or a spank to the ass.
I remember making my way back to the bar for a “refill.” As I approached the bar stools, a skater-boy-looking guy walked passed me and performed a short, sort of, dramatic double-take. He had long-ish, sandy hair, blue eyes, blue jeans, and a simple blue t-shirt. He probably had Converse on his feet, but he definitely had stubble on his face.
“Is that my cologne you have on?” he asked me in a half-jokingly offended tone.
“Well, I’m the one who’s wearing it so it can’t really be yours, can it?” I replied wittingly.
“Let me buy you a drink, because anyone who is wearing Gucci No. II deserves for me to buy them their next drink.”
“Hmm, Okay!” I said.
Drinks in hand, we made our way to the smoking patio where he talked to me as though he was interested in my music career. He flirted heavily, at least from what I remember! This must have been the case because the next thing I knew, I was indoors by the pool table making out with Skeeter the Skater! What the heck happened there? I’m pretty sure people were staring at us. By that time, however, I was way passed three sheets to even start to care that Skeeter was pulling a fast one on me while an eight ball was sliding up my ass. Crass, I know, but I’m pretty sure I was the one uncomfortable being made-out with on top of the pool table in front of the Cathode Ray audience… I think.
That night ended with my friend driving me back home alone. I fell asleep and woke up the next morning realizing that Skeeter had given me his phone number. I quickly texted him to say “Hey, I had a great time with you last night. We should hang out sometime.”
By the end of that Sunday, I had realized that I had broken one of the cardinal rules of bar hoping, a rule that only gets to be learn through this unique kind of experience and its subsequent disappointing outcome: don’t expect a text back from a fling!
Bar hoping seemed like fun and games but the pressure of not having my ‘gay identity’ figured out cause me to start thinking up some really hateful shit about myself.
“I think guys think I’m too fat.”
“Maybe I’m too feminine?”
“Do all gay guys ONLY like masculine guys?”
“Am I a ‘cliche’ like Will and Grace?”
These thoughts were exacerbated by one event in music school. This even was a post-recital reception.
In approaching the reception room after a bathroom break, I couldn’t help but think that I’d just overheard my best gay friend saying my name while in conversation with a number of fellow musicians. As I walked in their direction, my friend gave me that holy-shit-I-think-he-just-caught-me-talking-crap-about-him look. His face reeked of guilt.
“Whats going on?” I asked him. “Why are you guys talking about me?”
“Well, we were just observing how you’ve been acting lately.” he said. “We noticed that you have been acting extremely ‘queeny.’ I think you might have to tone it down.”
“What do you mean ‘tone it down?'” I asked offendedly.
“You’re just too gay. Its uncomfortable. There IS such thing as just too gay, you know.”
I could not believe what I had just heard. So, I did the only thing I could think of doing in such a time: I left the reception to crawl into a practice room and cry.
I thought my friends were right. After all, I had been experimenting with a new ‘queenier’ hairstyle. I had been letting my hair grow out a little and had high and low lights put in at the local salon. I even started flat-ironing my hair and styling it as hot-couture-esque as possible. I started wearing rings on my fingers and grew a little soul patch on my chin.
I was going for ‘artsy’ but that’s not what the post-recital posy thought at all.
I was acting “too gay.” So, logically, I had to figure out how to get into a relationship so that I could prove them wrong. That would have solved all of my problems.
Fist step, since I thought that I wasn’t masculine enough, I figured that I would loose weight to find a boyfriend. So I did. I started to loose a lot of weight. Then, almost instantly, I mentally plateaued. I still saw myself as a really fat kid that graduated high school- I saw myself as still being at my max weight of 318 pounds.
To my dismay, I couldn’t shake the thought that I was not making progress. I saw myself as ‘super big’ in the mirror and that caused me to fear gaining additional weight. So, I decided that I would just eat as much as I wanted and then get rid of the calories by ingesting strong laxatives- Magnesium citrate was my poison of choice. This became my almost-daily ritual.
I remember that my personality begin to shift gradually. Before I knew it, I began to feel isolated because of all my rituals. I wanted to talk about boys, but folks thought I was too gay so I stayed quite and retreated. I felt judged by the gays around me and I felt like I disappointed all of my friends because I started to withdraw from them and behaving reckless. I would drink on weekday evenings and miss classes and show up wasted for mandatory recitals.
I did not recognize myself. I did not want to practice my saxophone. Slowly but surely, I realized that I didn’t want to be alive.
Hopelessness was was comforting.
I remember crying many tears as I lit cigarette after cigarette in my bedroom- it was the perfect place to experience my gloom. When I was getting prepared for my next bulimic episode, I would cry as I shopped the isles of the supermarket. I would experience both excitement and fear about the foods I was going to devour. When I got home, I would cry while I ate with desperation. When I was done, I would cry when I unscrewed the top of my next magnesium purge.
I started to hate the sight of my own face. Occasionally, however, I would look into the bathroom mirror and see myself as more beautiful. But unfortunately, that thought only came as a result of fantasizing of being gone from this world.
It was a bizarre and juxtaposing feeling. I almost wanted to feel the anger and sadness that came from being dead, or from hating those around me, because these feelings somehow felt better. They were feelings that comforted me. They would caress my cheek and tuck me in at night. They would hop along for a ride as I pretended to be present in my day to day, that I actually loved the new skin I was in. It was around this time that I wrote “verisimilitude,” a poem whose main character killed himself. I was definitely succumbing to the lyric and cantor of my dysmorphic state and suicidal idealization.
How could such negative feelings feel so good?
I had no idea that one day in the future I would know, with great clarity, the answer to this very question. Somehow, something kept me from taking the plunge. Something helped me see past the siren calls of death and dysmorphia that had been romantically louring me to the lowest vibration possible. That something was an interesting thought. That thought went something like this:
“I think there is something wrong with me.”
I held on to that question like my final crutch in life.
Disclaimer: This post is in NO WAY advocating for self-harm of any kind. It is only the internal reflection of the hopeless feelings I was experiencing during a painful period of self-actualization. Stay tuned to find out how I went from that mental and emotional state, to being able to freely write this, albeit, shitty time in my life.