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You are entitled to feel normal …


… because you are normal.

I knew there was something different about me by the time I was five. I didn’t know what it was exactly (until the hormones kicked-in a few years later), but I knew. Growing up in a religiously, if not socially, conservative household, I knew by osmosis that “different” meant “bad.” And I knew that I didn’t quite fit in. Most gay people I know tell me some variation of this: “I knew,” and “I didn’t quite belong.” For many of us who were socialized in the 50s, 60s or even the 70s that meant trouble.

Some folks know they are gay early-on and never have a question about it. Others of us, me for example, are, or have been, unsure about it. I actually thought I was straight, but I had this “boy problem” that refused to go away – even after I began getting laid, by girls, in college. I liked women and I didn’t feel “different” enough to flout all that I’d grown up with.

Totally different and certain about it, or just sort of different and not sure – it doesn’t matter. We grew up feeling different. And not quite … normal.

So how do we get to normal?

One of the best things I have ever done for myself is attend a weekend retreat for gay men run by an outfit out of California (where else?) called Body Electric School. ( This was not long after I had moved, alone, into my new bachelor condo, and was trying to get my act together. Among all sorts of things this retreat gave me was a sudden awareness that I was normal. There was somewhere I fit in – all the way, as opposed to sort of half-in, the way I had always felt.

The retreat center in the North Georgia mountains had an outdoor hot tub big enough for 8 or 10. One night, a bunch of us ran through the frosty air wrapped in towels and jumped in, naked of course. It wasn’t sexual – sexual activity was off limits for the weekend. It was actually much more than that. I was completely in my element for the first time in my entire life. There I was, in a hot tub with a bunch of naked guys, flirting (a little) and hooting (a lot) and – at long last – normal. Nice!

So, how do we – those of us who have spent years being unsure of the truth, or running away from the truth, or accepting the truth, but hiding it – go about being normal once we are out.

One thing I do – which is good for my soul anyway – is to consciously embrace diversity. Not everyone is like me. Male, female, black, white, brown, short, tall, dumb, smart, gay, straight. Taking it further, I look at all the diversity that exists in creation – all the different species, and all the variations within each of those. There is no simple norm. Not anywhere.

From there I go to this (repeat after me): “I was born this way. God (substitute another noun here if you wish – Allah, the universe, whatever) made me this way. I am a reflection of the divine.”

And from there, I go to gratitude. “Thank you Sir for making me a gay man. Life is a good thing!” The gratitude part may not be easy for you. It was way hard for me. But if you work toward it, you can get there. After all, you got to the point of coming out, didn’t you?

And to all this I add – obviously enough – the presence of gay people in my life. Not just guys I’ve got the hots for, but everyday friends – and that includes gay women. People who are like me, reflect my experiences, understand who I am.

Something to keep in mind: Being normal also requires being a part of the larger world. Do not give up or neglect your straight friends in your new rush of freedom. If they loved you before, they will love you still. They know your history. They are anchor points for your life. Lose them and you lose a part of your authentic self.

And one more thing: Doubt, fear, uncertainty, sadness and anger are all perfectly – what? – normal reactions to where you are in life. See? You’re more normal than you thought.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. nanci Reese permalink
    06/14/2010 4:51 PM

    This post was particularly moving. I too felt different ( but for diffenrent reasons- psych stuff and alchoholism-) I always felt like a freak also because in college my art was so wild and crazy. Being in SF made me feel more normal- it is hard to be a freak here. And as a garden variety drunk most alchololics felt out of place growingup. I can’t believe the kind of similarities. But there are big differences and I awknowledge that.
    Keeep going.

    • 06/14/2010 4:59 PM

      I’m glad you liked this. I think alienation, and dealing with alienation, is one of the basic themes of human life – no one escapes the feeling altogether. But people like you and me have particular, rather pointed, reasons to feel this way.

      Glad SF works well for you. Having been there a time or two, feeling very much like a country mouse come to the city, I can believe it’s sort of hard to be a freak. There’s always somebody farther out on the ledge than you are. Not a bad place to land!

  2. Dennis permalink
    06/14/2010 6:07 PM

    Something to keep in mind: Being normal also requires being a part of the larger world. Do not give up or neglect your straight friends in your new rush of freedom. If they loved you before, they will love you still. They know your history. They are anchor points for your life. Lose them and you lose a part of your authentic self.

    The paragraph above is a very special and true statement. As one of the loving straight friends, the unintentioned distance or rejection from old dear friends is hard to understand. Thank you for this blog. It has been an inspiration to both my wife and I. I know it is a labor of love and that love is returned by many readers who would never acknowledge it.

    • 06/14/2010 6:24 PM

      Dennis – Thanks for writing and for the nice words.

      I’m hoping this whole thing is helpful to all sorts of people in all sorts of ways. Maybe reading this will help somebody out there remember to reconnect with friends who are feeling left behind. It really is important, and it’s something I have to remember. I’ve added a number of new friends to my life in recent years – a good thing – but the old ones are just as good as they used to be. Sometimes it’s hard to get around to everybody, but it is always with the effort when I do.

      On the other side of the coin, I wonder if sometimes the straight people who feel left behind when somebody blasts out into the open, feel hesitant to “intrude.” I hope they don’t. We need you.

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