Growing up and growing old aren't the same thing. Since writing this I've received yet another milestone in the high school reunion category. I opened the letter, read it, tore it up, and tossed away that portion of my life. It isn't that I don't want to remember that time in my life, because I do, but unlike so many people who look bad at their past and think of it as the best times, I look forward to the future and hope there will be better times.
The Beat Goes On
A Gay Opinion 7/23/00
by R.A. Melos
I was 17 the first time someone called me "Mister". It was a horrible
shock to my emotional system to have anyone, albeit a child, call me the "M"
word. It was a sign of growing up. I managed to ignore it, after the original
shock wore off, and went on with my life, until the next plateau of adulthood
loomed it's ugly head in my face.
This plateau was a five year high school reunion. It was actually an excuse to have a keg party, but we were all still fairly young, some just graduating from college, and any reason to party was good. Unfortunately, I saw it, the word "reunion", as another horrible reminder of my gradually increasing age. This one wasn't walked off so easily, especially since I was starting to get the occasional ache in my knee.
There was another reunion five years later, but I didn't attend. I was totally engulfed in a very screwed up relationship with the person I refer to as my former Mr. Right. I was swept into the relationship stage of life without my full awareness, because I was still closeted and paying a great deal of attention to the rapidly decaying web of lies my life had become.
I had two sets of friends, some of whom overlapped, and was in a slowly awakening acceptance of myself as both a gay man and a pagan. I was still growing up, and now realize this process continues until death, but at the time I was too focused on the moment to acknowledge the marvelous person I was to become.
My friends blended, or disappeared, as the case may be, and Mr. Right turned out to be Mr. Wrong in many ways, but I was still evolving into an out, open gay male who practices the spiritual side of a nature based religion. I was becoming more aware of the growing process, and yet hated it. This was my own Peter Pan Syndrome.
The growing up process, for many, involves high school, college, work, marriage. In many minds, you are not successful unless you are earning some high number with a "k" after it, and drive an expensive car to show everyone how important you've become. Once this stage is reached you are an adult, in these minds.
I have a different idea of adulthood. I was raised in a family where several generations always lived together under one roof. On my father's side of the family two of his sisters never married, and remained in the home of their birth until their deaths. My own mother lived in the same house with her mother until my grandmother passed on.
Despite the closeness of my family, I managed to keep my life as a gay man quiet. Now, my family has adopted a "don't ask, don't tell" attitude toward me. Either that, or they are the most naive people on the planet. After all, I have now reached the age of 37 without benefit of a marriage, divorce, or any other visible relationship with a woman; most of my close friendships have been with men, and one relationship took me to another level of maturity I had never anticipated.
I was too young for the actual sexual revolution of the 1960's, but I experienced my own revolution when I was outed, and have reached the conclusion the sexual revolution comes in many forms. Mine was the discovery and acceptance of my own sexuality, which came with maturity, and is now an ongoing revolution as I strive to make my way in the world.
I also strive to make the world a place where closeted men, such as I was, can come out to themselves and then to the world. The acceptance of one's self, whether you are a 17 year old faced with the prospect of aging, or a 37 year old with much responsibility, or even a 77 year old still searching for your own inner happiness, is still the most important part of growing up.
The sexual revolution, for me, has been one of coming to terms with myself from an early age, and dealing with a society which encouraged and still encourages lies as the way to live your life. I've come through the shock of aging, and outing, and being used and lied to by someone I trusted and love, and I'm still here. Our society still encourages "Don't ask, don't tell" as a viable lifestyle, even after the so-called sexual revolutions of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
I guess if I hadn't been outed, and set free, I might still be advocating living a life of lies, but that is not the case. I have learned the only person you really lie to is yourself, for everyone else eventually sees through your lies even if they still "don't ask". And society eventually accepts you for who you truly are, even if they "don't tell".
The sexual revolution will continue as long as people exist. Each generation comes a little farther in the revolution, accepting themselves without reservations, and becoming bold enough to have youth organizations which are geared toward their own awareness of their sexuality. Each generation is becoming more aware of scientific proof showing homosexuality and heterosexuality are determined by genetic design.
The concept of being born gay was not something I knew of when I was 17. I knew of the sexual revolution, but the thought of myself as being "normal" was far from a reality. Today I know I am normal. I know I was born a homosexual, and I am proud of my birthright.
So, now my personal sexual revolution is about living openly and honestly, and being true to myself. As an open and out gay man, who honestly believes everything happens for a reason and the universe is guiding our lives, truth is the most important aspect of my life.
For some people, their sexual revolution is still going on in an internal struggle over truth and lies. For those people, the ones who are born homosexual but living lies, I pray they can overcome their own lies. Whatever the case, this is just one more example of the cycle of life. The next time you think about growing up, or growing old, or coming out, or living a lie, remember you're part of a cycle, and you will come to this point again and again in one form or another.