You’re what? I could barely make out what Roger was saying. He was mumbling and sounded delirious, like he just woke up and couldn’t figure out where he was. He was going pale on me. Okay, I said to myself. I’m ready for this. Roger is Republican. He’s Conservative. He’s Roman Catholic. When it comes to politics and religion we agree on nothing. But, he’s my best friend. He was saying something again. You’re gay? I braced myself and didn’t really want to hear what he was going to say next. I felt trapped in my own car. Roger is pale white and mumbling shit I can’t understand and all I want to do is roll down my window and throw up. This all seemed unnecessary, even inappropriate. Why did I let Gracia and Evelyn talk me into this?
The very first months right after Evelyn and I began struggling with all of this I fell into a deep depression. She was going through hell and I was falling apart. Several months into it something strange happened. I woke up early one Saturday completely overcome with excitement. I felt an overwhelming need to open a window and shout loud enough so the whole world could hear. Good Morning everybody! It’s me! Henry! Guess what? I’m Gay! It’s true! I am! I wanted to shake Evelyn awake! I got out of bed and decided to take control. No more guilt and shame! What the hell’s been wrong with me? I need to stop all of this crying! I need to stop feeling sorry for myself! Evelyn will be fine! The kids will be fine! I’m a good guy! I can do this! A switch went off. Just like that. I know what I need to do! I need a plan! With goals! Objectives! Deadlines!
I didn’t waste any time and got right to work. I made a pot of coffee, fired up my laptop, and started putting together a list of people I wanted to tell. Family first. Friends next. Some colleagues at work. I copied the names onto a spreadsheet and added several columns to track all sorts of things. I created drop-down lists (very close family, family, good friends, co-worker, others). I planned to track how I expected them to react (supportive, angry, confused, negative). I expected some people to be assholes, negative or angry. I dropped them to the bottom. I took names off the list, including my parents and my oldest brother. No way I wanted them to know (they still don’t). One column noted dates I planned to tell and another captured where. I also planned to track how I would deliver the news (face-to-face, an email, a phone call). Henry, you’re a fucking genius! Why hadn’t I thought of this sooner?
I scratched and un-scratched the same names over and over. I played with the order. I changed dates. And I kept asking Evelyn to predict how certain people might react. Really Ev, you think so and so won’t care? Nope, I’m telling you, he’ll be fine. What about X? He’s always cracking gay jokes. He’ll probably stop talking to me. Nah, you’re wrong. He loves hanging with you. You don’t know what you’re talking about! You have no idea how people feel about this stuff, especially other guys! Jesus! Can’t you be more positive about this! Every time I say it’s going to be fine, you think the sky’s gonna fall! You’re not the one that has to do it! Then drop it! If you don’t want my opinion, don’t ask!
For the rest of that weekend I tortured her about my plan. It all made so much sense to me, until Sunday night. By then, I was exhausted thinking about it all and I was back to feeling depressed. Thinking I could use a spreadsheet to manage coming out as a married gay man with children has to be one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever had. Evelyn knew this, she just didn’t have the heart to tell me. I deleted the spreadsheet and went to bed. Who was I kidding? I didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t even want to be gay.
Want to know what’s worse than coming out? Crawling into a closet and repeating over and over that you wish you weren’t born. Or staring at a mirror saying I’m not a homo! I’m not a homo! In 1978 Harvey Milk said “We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out.” I totally agree.
That’s it? That’s what you wanted to tell me? Roger looked so relieved. Bro, I thought you were gong to tell me you’re dying of cancer or some shit! We burst out laughing. WTF! You scared me! Does Gracia know? Yeah, the kids know too, but that’s it. And I’m finding out now? WTF! Sorry, I didn’t know how to tell you. Bro, I don’t care. I admired you before, I admire you even more now. I love you no matter what! He gave me a hug. Wow! I felt like yelling out a window again. Shit! It’s almost 11! I’m hungry! Damn! Right. Let’s go.
My best friend got me off to a great start. I’ve never said this to Roger, even though I think it’s understood.
Thank you bro.