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You are entitled to feel normal …

03/31/2012

… 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. (www.bodyelectric.org) 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.

[This post is one of a number I published almost all at once in the first weeks of writing this blog in an effort to build traffic. Almost no one was paying attention back then, so I’m going to re-post some of the better – most useful, I hope – entries over the next few months.]

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. dolphin permalink
    03/31/2012 11:31 AM

    I actually thought I was straight, but I had this “boy problem” that refused to go away

    I think I know the exact thing you’re describing here. For me when I hit puberty, I assumed (like I think most people do) that I was straight, and I was well aware that I was attracted to other guys, but felt certain that EVERYBODY was attracted to everybody as they went through puberty. It’s just all those crazy hormones making everything look good to you. The thing with me was that I was never really all that attracted to the girls (sure I could think some were pretty, but recognizing beauty and being attracted are different things), and the height of puberty came and went and yet the attraction to hot guys stuck around.

    • 04/01/2012 7:25 AM

      It’s all so very individual. No one – absolutely no one, I think – follows exactly the same track on this, or any other issue. While you were never really terribly attracted to girls, I was. Combine that with the gigantic societal disapproval of homosexuality – this was over 40 years ago – and my choice was sort of made for me. I wish the answer had been clearer from the outset, or had cleared up more quickly like yours did, but it is what it is. It’s been an interesting, generally satisfying life so far, and that in the end is the most important thing.

      Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful and good-hearted comments.

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