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When did you know?


A friend of mine tells me he knew he was gay at the age of four. He was watching TV and saw a bath soap commercial featuring a good-looking guy taking a shower. (Interestingly I remember this ad, too. Wonder why?) The guy in the shower was only visible from the waist up, and my friend remembers crawling up to the television and trying to look down into the frame to see the rest of the guy’s body.

I have another friend who says he knew by the time he was in fifth grade. Another tells me he went on his first and only date with a girl in high school, and knew that night that he never wanted to go out with a girl again. Several friends report they figured it out in college after dating girls and wondering why sex wasn’t as great as everyone said it would be.

Despite a lifelong attraction to males, I finally figured out I was gay – not bi or something else I couldn’t quite define – in therapy when I was in my 50s.

We all come to the knowledge at different times and in different ways, but the certainty we are gay, is a critical point in life’s path.

Knowing you’re gay and coming out are two different things, however. One doesn’t necessarily lead to the other. So, there’s another point of knowledge that’s especially important for late bloomers: When did you know you had to act?

Once I got to the point of coming out to myself, there was no doubt about it. I knew I had to come out to everyone else – including my wife and family, business associates, and friends. It was a rough process, but as I’ve said more than once in this blog, I’m so very glad I did.

But that isn’t necessarily what another guy can do or should do. The choice to come out should be made willingly and with eyes wide open. Anyone who comes out needs to be certain there’s no other way to live a sane, fulfilling life – especially if it involves leaving behind decades of living straight, with all it’s connections and complications.

Some of us get outed and have no choice, but if you’re thinking of coming out on your own volition, self knowledge is critical. If there’s the slightest bit of doubt, wait. Keep your eyes, ears, mind and heart open.

There will come a time when you know, and when you know, you will act.

And, when you act, your life will get better.

So, when did you know? And when did you know you had to make the move? I’d love to hear your story.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. permalink
    11/26/2011 7:14 AM

    I knew the very first time I had to take a shower after gym class! And I was VERY certain!

    • 11/26/2011 10:46 AM

      I remember that experience, too. I became VERY certain I liked looking at naked boys, but unfortunately, that’s as far as I could take it at that point. Hence my late bloomer status.

  2. Lee permalink
    11/26/2011 8:57 AM

    I’m not sure about one comment you make: “Anyone who comes out needs to be certain there’s no other way to live a sane, fulfilling life – especially if it involves leaving behind decades of living straight, with all its connections and complications.”

    Living a lie–or living in the closet–has profound consequences–all of which, I assume, are negative: poor self-esteem, emotional distress, dishonesty (to spouse, children, etc), a propensity for addictive behavior, and the inability to be ourselves. Indeed, coming out is a difficult process–but to encourage individuals to stay in the closet . . . well, that’s just not good advice. Instead, shouldn’t we commit ourselves (as “out” gay men) to help others make the transition?

    • 11/26/2011 10:39 AM

      I agree with all your points. Staying closeted is bad for the closeted person – and just about everyone in the mix – 99% of the time. In other posts, I’ve tried to encourage everyone who’s in to come on out and join the crowd. Life will get better!

      My point here is more about mental and emotional readiness – especially for late bloomers. You have to want this or you won’t be good it.

      I have two friends who are gay and married and in most circles closeted. I’m not certain, but I think one of the wives knows and the other does not. In both cases the man in question added up the positives and negatives and decided that staying put was the best course. It’s NOT the way I’d want to live, obviously. When I came to clarity, I knew I had to move forward and come out, but I can’t speak for them. And also this: Although I certainly can’t guarantee it, I have a feeling both of these men will eventually come out. When they are ready and they really want to live openly.

      • ryan permalink
        01/30/2014 9:49 PM

        It seems most men new from the beginning, I would go as far as to say I used to like woman. I am 35 and really think mostly about men. It has been 4 years since I slept with a woman although I have been with quite a few men in the past 4 years. I guess I always saw myself being happy with a wife. It seems like my sexuality has really morphed. I love getting naked with men I have even come to enjoy some of the more romantic sides to men. I love kissing men too. What bothers me is this is not how I was before and now something like looking at straight porn hardly intrests me.
        Can anybody relate?

  3. Greg Gardner permalink
    11/26/2011 12:45 PM

    I really enjoyed this post, David. The way I’ve reconciled (and continue to reconcile) my sexuality has been in the realm of identity. Theologically this has meant to intentionally claim and to continue to claim my sacred identity. In other words, it has been to claim the fullness of my created self. By this I do not mean to claim that I was “born this way,” although it’s entirely possible. Whether or not one is born gay is beside the point when considering the immensity of sacred identity. To hang everything on the claim or hope of some genetic component to sexuality is very limiting to ones creatureliness and to our Creator. Perhaps, then, to claim ones sacred identity means to recognize that we were created to love and to be loved- as image bearers who carry or are wired with our generous and compassionate Creator’s DNA.

    • Greg Gardner permalink
      11/26/2011 1:10 PM

      See also Exodus 16.

      • 11/26/2011 10:34 PM

        I read Exodus 16 and you’re going to have to help me with the connection. I’m not getting it. That’s why you’re in Div school.

    • 11/26/2011 10:33 PM

      I worked on the “born this way” question until my therapist got bored with it. Essentially he said, You are who you are now, so deal with it. Which is, I think, claiming my identity.

      • Greg Gardner permalink
        11/27/2011 12:53 PM

        I see in the Exodus 16 story three parallels in my own life- wandering in the “wilderness” of uncertainty, change, fear; the romanticizing of my former (closeted) life (after having been freed from slavery and oppression in Egypt, and now experiencing freedom in the barren wilderness, some Israelites bitterly complained and longed for their former lives as slaves); and the faithfulness of God, i.e. God comes through in surprising and unexpected ways.

      • 11/27/2011 1:00 PM

        Makes sense. I got distracted by the mana and the quail. that’s why you’re in Div school and I’m not.

  4. Eddie permalink
    11/26/2011 3:08 PM

    I KNEW at 10 and spent another 9 years acknowledging I was “not straight” but waffling between labeling myself bisexual and gay. Attempting to have sex with a girl at 19 immediately made things very clear; I almost laughed out loud at how utterly wrong the idea of it seemed, let alone the act. I hadn’t hidden my attraction to other men since 15, and I came out to Mama BEFORE my last romantic relationship with a female, so I suppose I confused a lot of folk LOL. I couldn’t even begin to give a closeted man advice b/c I don’t really have a frame of reference for that kind of existence and as vivid as my imagination is, I have trouble even picturing what it would be like.

    • 11/26/2011 5:21 PM

      Sounds like you were remarkably clear from the outset and that’s a very good thing. Thanks for, um – Oh Jeez! I just can’t say sharing. How about – Thanks for telling me this.

  5. Patrick M permalink
    11/28/2011 1:16 PM

    Ah, the days before porn was available at the click of a mouse! I should write an ode to the manly men of Sear’s catalog, the wish book of my tender years.

    I dated girls pro forma in high school; I never had any trouble making good friends with the fair sex. However, I was always terrified they would want to move on from making out. It all seemed so wrong. I was so confused.

    Having a good family and happy childhood, I believed all the values I was brought up in. Honesty was one of them, though, so I just had to put the whole sexual question on the back burner, wasting a lot of time through college until the end of my 20’s. As it happened, things worked out pretty well, but still….

    The pharmacy tech—so good looking—
    has filled my prescription.
    I linger near, reading the labels
    on aspirin and vitamin bottles.
    Should I ask him–I wonder–
    where, where on these shelves
    are the cures for lost youth?

    • 11/28/2011 4:36 PM

      Indeed, it has worked out well. And I’m glad for you. Few people, straight or gay, have relationships as enduring as yours.

      I loved the little poem! did you write it, and may I quote it? As you might imagine, it speaks directly to my heart. There are many, many days when – despite being largely content, and at peace with my life as it has played out – that familiar twinge of regret and yearning for what I never had pays me a brief visit.

  6. Patrick M permalink
    11/28/2011 8:40 PM

    Thanks, I did write it, and yes you may quote (with credit, please). Read it with a light heart and a bit of tongue in cheek (your own), though I do resent mightily all the wasted years due to the religious and cultural zeitgeist of our youth. In our various ways, I hope we have changed all that for good.

    The big 6-0 is looming this summer, and I notice I’m slowly becoming invisible. People are polite at parties, but they’ve ceased to flirt. The handsome young things out and about do not look back these days, even if only to wink the wink of brotherhood. Not that I can complain–moi aussi back in the pleistocene. You can cue Die Rosenkavalier now. Something about gathering rosebuds.

  7. Ryan permalink
    02/23/2014 11:56 PM

    Hey it is me Ryan again. So last week I found myself in a all men’s bar, I met this gorgeous man a little younger but just dead sexy. One thing led to another, he invited me to his place and we made love, it was amazing and we went through most of the night kissing and trying new positions at the time I felt fulfilled. When I woke up I had this terrible guilt telling myself I am not gay this is not me and snuck out.
    This weekend I still had this guilt but also had Tim on my mind quite a bit. So I did something stupid; ended up in a straight bar and picked up a woman, she was actually was quite beautiful and ended up coming home with me. Like I said it has been four years since I have been with a woman and I think I was trying to prove something to my self, so we ended up in my apartment. We were kissing which I didn’t mind but was getting board next thing I knew she striped down and striped me down, Only one problem I couldn’t get it up ” never had this problem with a woman. I could not get excited and this was a good looking woman. We tried foreplay and I think she blamed her self. I felt bad. The whole thing felt mechanical and I just wanted to get it over with. I just do not know how to deal with these changes. I mean I felt nothing sexually or emotionally for this woman. Still I can’t get Tim out of my head. I am starting to agree Tim 😉 something has really changed. I am gay now it was never what I wanted. The signs are clear though. How do I tell my family, friends, and ex girlfriends? Most would say I have lived a lie but really I used to enjoy woman, now I don’t.

    help? Advise?


    • 02/25/2014 11:31 AM

      Hard to say what you should tell your friends, family, etc. since I don’t know them. But I’m usually in favor of unvarnished honesty. If your sexuality has evolved, say exactly that and don’t worry about justifying it. It is what it is. Other people are going to think whatever they want and you can’t control that. If they think you lived a lie, so be it. I’m sure people thought (and behind my back some said) all sorts of things about me, but I really don’t care very much.

      • ryan permalink
        03/04/2014 10:57 PM

        I was asking how did you know for sure you were gay?

  8. 03/05/2014 10:07 AM

    I knew for sure when the idea of changing my entire life – getting a divorce in the process – became less scary and forbidding than the idea of attempting to live with the status quo. I can’t put my finger on an exact moment when this happened, but when it did I knew what I had to do.

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