During the summer, Justin and I go to the pool a lot. Last week, the pool opened for morning hours, which tend to be better for us. So last Wednesday morning, Justin and I headed out to the pool at 10am. It had rained almost the whole day before, and when we got to the pool the water was freezing. Justin, like all our kids, was completely oblivious. There was a body of water where he could swim. He was ready. Our kids would break ice to swim if they had to.
I was less ready. The water was cold. I was not excited. I am not a fan of even lukewarm water.
But Justin was already in and moving toward the deep end. He needed me with him. So I closed my eyes, got in the water, and immersed myself as quickly as I could. Sometimes it’s what you have to do. Just jump right in. Get wet. It's the quickest way to get used to your new (frigid) reality.
Usually when I sit down to write these things, it goes pretty quickly. By the time I am typing, I have thought about what I wanted to say, taken notes, and even decided how I want to introduce the topic I am talking about. The 5 Best Books of the 1980s or whatever. I like to start with a story or anecdote, maybe historical, preferably personal. Ideally, funny. Always interesting.
Not so much this week.
This week's newsletter is deeply personal. For reasons that will be clear in a minute. And I have struggled to know how to do this. How to say what I need and want to say. And I kept coming up blank. How do you say something when you don't know how to say it?
I realized that it is kind of like the pool. You just have to jump in. So. Here goes.
I am coming out as bisexual.
This has been a long time coming. I have shared this with a (very very) small circle of people close to me. Yes, that includes Barbara and my children, all of whom have been overwhelmingly supportive and encouraging. The few friends I have shared this with have been too.
I am sure you have questions. So, I will try to answer some of the ones I think most people will have. If you have more, please ask me.
You're bi? For how long?
Yes. And for as long as I was aware that sexual attraction was a thing, I have realized that I was attracted to people first, gender expression second. I didn't have the experience to understand it, or the vocabulary to describe it, but looking back it is as obvious as my blue eyes or the birthmark on my knee.
And Barb knows? She's okay with it?
Yes she knows. Yes she's okay with it. More than okay. She has been generous, loving, encouraging and validating. She has been amazing. Having conversations about this has sparked all sorts of other conversations about sex, intimacy, trust, fear, insecurity and a million other topics that are critical for the health of a long term relationship. We have a love that is rare and precious. And I am grateful.
But… how does this change your marriage?
The simple answer here is that it is none of your business really. We have ideas and thoughts and plans and we will move forward in a way that honors our love, maintains our commitment, and values every member of our family equally. The same as it was before this, the same as it will be always.
What about your kids?
They know, and they have been incredibly supportive and encouraging. Given that Liz and Alex both identify as queer already, this is just more family joy. We all just want everyone to be who they are always. That includes mom and dad too.
Why talk about this now?
It was time. This is part of who I am. This is part of how I see the world. After surviving my suicide attempt, I made a promise to myself to be as open and honest as I could be all the time. Even when it was scary, even when it hurt. Because I knew that the alternative to complete openness and vulnerability was death. So I have strived to be as open as I can be. And that extends to this.
It took me a long time to be able to separate my feelings from the sexual abuse I survived as a child. That confused me so much, and it made sex completely complicated. There was shame and fear and trauma where there should have been joy and freedom and fun. So it took a long time to sort all that out. Work that is ongoing.
I grew up in a conservative place, where "men" are expected to be a certain way and do certain things. I played sports, joined a fraternity, then the Army. I went to Airborne school and jumped out of planes, became a fitness and combatives instructor. I was constantly trying to reinforce the social picture of manhood I had been given, which in no way included being attracted to other men. I had to change my way of seeing the world - and myself - to be able to admit this to myself and, now, everyone else.
Now what? What changes await?
Really? Not much. My days will be largely the same. Only this will be out there now. And whatever will be, will be. Que sera, sera. The future’s not ours to see.
Did you really just quote a Doris Day song?
Yeah. Like I said. I have been queer for a while. I am just now saying it out loud.
How does coming out make you feel?
Relieved, happy, excited. This is a big thing for me and I am glad it's out there now.
Nervous, scared, apprehensive. I know that I will lose some people (especially some of my veteran connections) by saying this publicly. I know it will change the way some people look at me. And these are not unimportant things. Ultimately, though, I am responsible for being faithful to who I am and the things that are important to me. I am not responsible for matching the mental picture that someone else has of me.
Tomorrow is June 28. In the early morning hours 52 years ago, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn said enough was enough and fought back. Their resistance movement was led by trans folx. People of color. By men who were too effeminate and women who were too masculine. By people who didn't fit into any category - and didn’t want to. People on the margins, who fought for my ability to be able to come out as bi in late middle age. And who paid an unimaginable price for that fight.
I want to be clear. I am in no way taking on the mantle of those who did this before me. I have never paid any social cost for my identity. At all. In fact, most of the world sees me (and will continue to see me) as a straight, cis, middle aged white guy. And that is the closest thing to a superpower as exists in our world. I have never been marginalized for my identity.
That is not to say that I have not carried a burden. Walking around as something less than your authentic self is like wearing shoes that are a half-size too small or too big. You can function. You can walk, maybe even run. You can get through your day. But it never feels right. You are never comfortable. I have walked around for 35 years knowing that this is part of who I am, but scared to talk about it. 35 years is a long time in shoes that don't quite fit.
And I am ready to put on the right shoes. I am ready to recognize that my identity is more complicated than I had admitted. That I need to be open about ALL of it.
And here we are. I don't know what's next, or where this all leads. I do know who I am. I know what is important to me. I know what my values are. I know who my family is. After this - and so many other things the last few years - I (will) have a much better understanding of who my friends are. And I will know what the contours of my community of support are.
More than anything else, I am excited to be here. To be able to say this is part of who I am.
In the end, it's about the wine. Not the label.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for your support.
Have a good week, y'all.
And keep pounding the rock.