Secure and Confident: Part 2

In a prior blog post I had written about the secure and confident environments we all had as children.  I had also touched upon how, as we grow older, those secure worlds we had as children begin to crumble and are replaced by other much less secure and confident conditions due to external influences that begin to impact us.  The purpose of this essay is to carry those general concepts forward and describe this evolution we all face in more personal terms.

Looking back on my childhood, many aspects were quite similar to those of other children I was growing up with.  I liked to play and hang out with my friends.  I went to school and experienced much of the same trials and tribulations that others around me were experiencing, but my secure world seemed to have started to crumble very early in my life.

There was something deeper inside of me that I could not put my fingers on.  I sensed something “different” was going on with me, and I began to internalize it and not focus on it much.  Due to this subliminal knowledge that I was not quite like the other kids I hung around, I started to do many more things on my own, became much more of a “loner” and began to sense a rebelliousness inside of me at a very young age, that would carry through to my adult life.

In elementary school, I didn’t know what gay/straight was and didn’t have any real conception of what it meant to be attracted to another of the same sex.  Despite this relative “innocence” I knew as early as 1st grade that I was wired differently when for Valentines Day, I would look forward to the other boys in the class giving me a valentine; much more so than those from the girls.

Another sure sign of my evolving sexuality came in 4th and 5th grade when my infatuation with other boys began to manifest, with sexual experimentation with another friend of mine.  We would steal away to secluded spots along the river bank and in the woods, and in each other’s homes when we were alone.

We would just gaze at each other at first, but then it became more physical than simply childhood wonderment.  There were a couple “close calls” but we recovered and formulated quick excuses, but looking back upon those times now, I don’t believe the people we made the excuses to really believed that we were not doing something more than what we actually said we were doing.

These feelings carried through year after year and just started to get much stronger.  With every reinforcement of this attraction to other boys, I became more reclusive and withdrawn to the point where my parents and others around me began to notice and were concerned over my welfare.  I remember my mom telling me later in life, that my grandmother who lived with us, was worried about me and often wondered what would become of me.

It was not until late 6th grade and definitely 7th grade when my secure world would crash down around me, due to the evolving process called “puberty.”  I had clear and unequivocal self knowledge that I liked the boys better than the girls!  But times being what they were, one could not express themselves openly and pronounce their sexual preferences at such a young age. Thus began the formulation of that “second life.”

It is at this point in my life that living a lie became the norm and I buried my true self even deeper and became even more rebellious and reclusive.  I would also allow people to come into my world but only to a certain point, at which they were then shut out and repelled from going any further out of fear of someone finding out about what lay within me.  All this combined with the normal sexual awakening that comes with puberty, just wreaked unbelievable havoc on my psyche and would shape who I would be for many, many years to come.

I have to say that this insecurity with myself combined with all the changes one goes through as an adolescent, shaped my relationships with many people, including my father.  We always seemed to log heads and I would many times buck his authority.  I now realize that the problem was never really my father.  It was mine and mine alone.  I actually think it was a response to my internal fears of being who I was, that I had to project my fears into some sense of security and confidence in myself by rebelling against the primary male role model that was closest to me.  It was in a sense, my way of empowering my evolving manhood that was seriously in question due to my emerging sexual orientation.

Unfortunately, living a lie does hurt those closest to you sometimes, and for that I sincerely regret.  However, this fence has been mended, as far as I am concerned, since I am no longer living my life as someone else, and have been able to come to grips with my sexual demons, and see things in much better perspective.

Even though I am very comfortable in my skin now and have evolved into the person I have become by rejecting the falsehoods upon which I based much of my existence, there clearly are lingering issues from my past that still drag me down.  After so many years of not letting people get close, and denying one’s true self, old habits die hard.

While I have come to grips with much of my past, and my relationships with my family, especially my father, there are still inadequacies in my internal makeup.  Living in the closet and denying who I really was has deprived me of many friendships and opportunities at true love.  I have never really learned what it means to be in love with someone, and to experience sexual gratification within a loving relationship.  It has also deprived me of many opportunities to be part of a larger support network of caring and understanding individuals that I could fall back on for help and just get a hug or two, or three from.

As I stated in my prior blog post, we need to create new paradigms of thought that reject past secure and stable conditions premised on lies and falsehoods, as the basis by which we try to derive solutions to current issues.  While I feel sad over the self-deprivation and my resistance to free myself much sooner, I am also optimistic that I can and will overcome that which still drags me down and regulates my movement forward away from  my past.

Our past is part of us. We cannot deny it but we can leave it behind.  However, we can and should carry forward those lessons learned in our past to become better people in the future.  I am comforted that I have been able to move ahead with my life, and leave many of my insecurities behind.  I am also comforted that I was introduced to a woman, who has opened my eyes to much of what has been hidden within myself and she has given me an ability to see what I can be and will evolve into as long as I am open to the possibilities.

Unfortunately many people do not learn from their mistakes or are given an opportunity to see what they can become.  Are you open to the possibilities?  I encourage you do so.  It is never too late to turn yourself around and get on the right path to your future and becoming who you are truly meant to be.

Coming Out No way In

The true story of why professional soccer player Robbie Rogers had to retired immediately after coming out as the UK’s only openly gay top flight professional soccer player.

It was only this February that the then Leeds play who has also represented the United States in 18 international football matches, opened his heart and revealed his true sexuality, then promptly walked away from the beautiful game. In his first interview for UK media since he came out, he explained his hurt, anger and how it is still virtually impossible for gay players to come out and remain in the game.

Robbie Rogers is a long way from home and the self confessed Californian dude who grew up playing soccer, surfing and going to church faces a somewhat uncertain future after his recent revelation which stunned many in the professional football world. “Life is simple when your secret is gone. Gone is the pain that lurks in the stomach at work, the pain from avoiding questions, and at last the pain from hiding such a deep secret.” Robbie wrote on his website, “Secrets can cause so much internal damage,” Rogers wrote. “People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay.”

As soon as those words were out there in the public domain, Rogers instantly became only the second gay footballer in Britain to ever publicly come out. The first was the late Justin Fashanu, whose experience after coming out was far from celebratory and positive. He faced a saver backlash from colleagues inside the professional footballing world and his family, including homophobic brother John, turned their backs, Justin took his own life in 1988, hanging himself at home in Shoreditch, London. Coincidentally, just a short walk from where Robbie Rogers now lives.

Since coming out, Rogers says he’s been besieged by large offers of money for expose type interviews and contracts, as well as moving emails from thousands of people who have thanked him or asked for advice on coming to terms with their sexuality. Last weeks interview with the UK’s Guardian newspaper marks the first major interview since coming out and readdresses some of the issues his declaration raises. Not least the difficulties that professional sportsmen and women face when coming out publicly. “Football is an amazing sport,” Rogers says. “But it is also a brutal sport that picks people up and slams them on their heads. Adding the gay aspect doesn’t make a great cocktail.”

The interview poses the question what would have happened if Rogers had still been playing for Leeds when he came out? “That would have been interesting,” he says wryly. “I don’t think I would have been able to go training the next day. That would be so scary. The guys might have said, ‘That’s great, Robbie.’ Maybe. But because no-one’s done it and because of the things I’ve heard in the dressing room I just thought: ‘I need to get away from this – make my announcement, find peace, go from there.’ So I can never imagine announcing that at Leeds.”

Would it have been different if he were back in America? “No. Not at any club – anywhere.” He says emphatically. It is true to say that In almost all sport, especially at a professional level there is a certain about of bravado and banter, but even light hearted banter can be callous and hurtful, “There were different emotions.” Rogers explains when asked how he reacted when team mates made homophobic quips and jokes. “Sometimes I would feel bad for them. Sometimes I would laugh because it was kinda funny. And, sometimes, it got malicious.”

“That was when I would get this awful feeling in my stomach. I would turn my head and try to chat about other things. They often don’t mean what they say. It’s that pack mentality – they’re trying to get a laugh, they’re trying to be the top guy. But it’s brutal. It’s like high school again – on steroids.”

The fear of hostility from team mates is one issue that prevents more gay soccer plays from coming out, another would be the reaction from the supporters. “Maybe a lot of fans aren’t homophobic. But, in a stadium, sometimes they want to destroy you. In the past I would have said: ‘They don’t know I’m gay so it doesn’t mean anything.’ But, now they know it, am I going to jump in the stands and fight them?” Indeed homophobic chanting from the terraces is regular occurrence during many games up and down the country on a Saturday, despite various campaigns to combat homophobia in the sport.

Robbie Rogers

Rogers came to the realisation that “In football it’s obviously impossible to come out – because no-one has done it. No one. It’s crazy and sad. I thought: ‘Why don’t I step away and deal with this and my family and be happy?’ Imagine going to training every day and being in that spotlight? It’s been a bit of a circus anyway – but that would have been crazy. And you wouldn’t have much control because clubs are pushing you in different directions. I was just fearful. I was very fearful how my team-mates were going to react. Was it going to change them? Even though I’d still be the same person would it change the way they acted towards me – when we were in the dressing room or the bus?”

It would be incredibly powerful if a gay footballer could face down that hate and abuse – just as black sportsmen like Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali stood up to racism in America. “Sure,” Rogers says. “I’ve thought about that. I might be strong enough but I don’t know if that’s really what I want. I’d just want to be a footballer. I wouldn’t want to deal with the circus. Are people coming to see you because you’re gay? Would I want to do interviews every day, where people are asking: ‘So you’re taking showers with guys – how’s that?’

“If you’re playing well it will be reported as: ‘The gay footballer is playing well.’ And if you have a bad game it’ll be: ‘Aw, that gay dude … he’s struggling because he’s gay.’ Fuck it. I don’t want to mess with that.”

Thoughtfully when pressed on the possibilities of other gay footballers, Rogers says “No. Even now, one of my best friends said: ‘Do we know anyone else in football who could possibly be gay?’ And we couldn’t think of anyone. We’re such great actors because we’re afraid to let people know who we are. We’ve been trained by our agents how to do interviews, how to present ourselves. No footballer has since said to me, ‘Robbie, thank you, I’m gay too…’ I don’t know if anyone will.”

“I know things will change. There will be gay footballers. I just don’t know when and how long it will take. The next step is how do you create an atmosphere where men and women feel it’s OK to come out and continue to play? It’s a great question. Football has so much history. It’s a great sport with so much culture and tradition. But I’m positive there will be changes.”

The full interview can be read at The Guardian website here.

 

Fitness Guru Shaun T Comes Out – Quietly

Is coming out becoming so normal that it’s not worthy of “insane” media publicity and high production values?  After Anderson Cooper and Frank Ocean recently came out to much fanfare, fitness guru Shaun T quietly slipped out of the closet this weekend via a simple retweet.

Shaun T created Insanity, a 60-day program focusing on “maximum-intensity exercise with short periods of rest.”  The program promises fast results without leaving the house and has been wildly successful. Shaun T followed up his continuing success with the “Hip-Hop Abs” video which had men and women swooning across the country.

With so much success and having such a high profile, Shaun T could have attempted to milk his coming out for additional publicity, but his coming out story is much simpler and void of all fanfare. Alex Coloreo, an attendee at the wedding, tweeted an Instagrammed shot from the wedding:

Shaun then retweeted this and followed up confirming the holy matrimony…

And that was that.  A simple and sincere moment captured via Instagram and Twitter to two newlyweds!  No product tie-ins or advertising blitz. Congratulations to Shaun T and his new husband Scott Blokker!  We wish you the all the best in your new life together!

Weatherman Sam Champion Engaged

ABC’s Good Morning America Weather Anchor and Editor, Sam Champion, is officially engaged to his longtime boyfriend.

Sam Champion and Rubem Robierb

Sam Champion is the latest of big names to publicly announce that he’s officially gay and getting married.  This weekend, MSNBC’s news anchor Thomas Roberts married his partner Saturday in NYC.  CNN’s Anderson Cooper officially came out as gay during the summer.  There’s a trend for well known television personalities to come out and/or announce their engagements.

Champion is engaged to his longtime boyfriend, Brazilian-born photographer Rubem Robierb.

“We’re getting married New Year’s Eve in Miami,” the 51-year-old weather guru told The Times of his engagement to Rubem.

“We’ll do it [in New York] officially, and then have a party in Miami,” boyfriend Robierb added.

The couple told ABC News “We are thrilled and so excited and thank everyone for their good wishes.”.

We thank these television personalities for coming out publicly and talking about gay issues.  It’s not easy being in the spotlight and holding it in at your job for awhile.  We wish Sam Champion and his boyfriend all the best!

UK Radio Star Comes Out!

The UK’s national radio scene just got a good deal brighter as Nick Grimshaw takes over the mic at BBC’s prime flagship breakfast show on the public service broadcasters national Radio 1.  The second most listened to national station in the country.

The delightfully witty and intelligent 28 year-old presenter kicked off his first breakfast show by waking up floppy haired singer from top pop band Harry Styles live on air and has since woken up each mender of the 1 Direction pop group.

Nick, in a recent interview was more than happy to confirm that he is indeed gay and also admitted that he would “really like” to go out with US R&B singer Frank Ocean.   Grimshaw or ‘Grimmy’ as his fans call him, made the comments after the Guardian’s Alexis Petridis informed him about a fan-made website that wondered about the DJ’s sexuality.

Nick didn’t miss a beat with his reply,  “I’ve just not met anyone that I thought ‘oh, I really like you that much’. I work so much, when I do go out, I’d rather go out with my friends. I rather do that than, like, go out on the prowl. I literally can’t think of anything worse. I’d really like to go out with Frank Ocean…I think he might be whiny, though. Like, why have you not called me? He might be a bit wet. I think I’m just forcing that Frank thing…as soon as I decide, I talk myself out of it!.”

Nick has taken over from hypocrite Chris Moyles who angered may gay listeners and gay groups alike for his constant anti-gay jibes and jokes and was named “Bully of the Year” by equality charity Stonewall in 2006.

Questions started to emerge regarding Moyles own sexual identity after it was reported that he had been caught engaging in sexual activity in a sauna in the Milton Keynes area when he worked for Horizon. According to reports, Moyles was often at the  sauna playing with himself in a lewd manor and would encourage sexual activity. Moyles has always refused to answer questions on the matter.

Gay Soccer Player Its Too Dangerous

A top German professional soccer player fears he could be attacked by fans and even by other footballers if he goes public with his sexuality and officially comes out.

“I don’t know whether I will be able to take the constant tension between [being] the model heterosexual player and the possible discovery until the end of my career,” the unnamed top flight player said in an interview with Germany’s Fluter magazine.

He told them women friends act as “beards” at public events to disguise his sexuality, acting as his girlfriends. He confesses sadly that his last gay relationship was “poisoned” and destroyed by all the secrecy.

The German player thinks the increased media attention regarding his private life would have a big and detrimental impact on the pitch for him. “In the situation in a stadium or after the game, any tiny thing within the group would be made into a big deal.” More worryingly, he added, “I would no longer be safe if my sexuality was to be made public.”

He is not however an isolated case, there are other gay yet closeted sportsmen who share the same feelings, worries and anxieties. “I would love to come out and be open about my sexuality, but I just don’t think the UK is ready for an openly gay player yet.” a UK based professional football player told me in secret earlier this week.

“We thought racism was a thing of the past, but then you had that John Terry and Anton Ferdinand business and you hear the occasional racist remark or chant from the terraces and you realise that perhaps we haven’t moved forward as far as we thought we had.” he tells me.

“If we haven’t stamped out racism yet and it’s now 2012, what hope have we got for homophobia?”

“There isn’t a training session or a match day that doesn’t pass without some sort of homophobic remark or joke banded about the changing room or on the pitch. Sure, most of it is just banter between guys with ego’s far larger than their IQ’s, but even that can be discriminatory and sometimes hurtful. They just don’t think about it, its a normal part of the ’lifestyle’ and therefore its accepted and if its accepted then its considered to be ok.”

“Of course there are some deeply homophobic players as well, they say they’d never tolerate a ’queer’ on the team, on the pitch, sharing changing rooms and all that sort of stuff. Thankfully guys like that are getting few and far between, at least I think so, of course I can’t be sure and homosexuality isn’t really talked about a great deal. Unless it is the basis of a joke or something like that, homosexuality is somewhat of a taboo subject.”

In a recent interview with the Gay Football Supporters Network (GFSN) Clarke Carlisle, Kick It Out ambassador and York City player said “You know it is one of the biggest bugbears for me that no player feels able to come out and talk openly about his sexual orientation”.

Clarke said he had spoken with eight gay players recently, “Seven of the eight said they didn’t want to come out because they were worried about the media. Nothing came of our conversations with these players so I guess we are back to square one”.

He continued “You have to understand that the use of language in football, in the changing rooms, between players and managers and of course on the terraces is at a pretty base level… so any player thinking about doing this would need to be very brave”.

Whilst Clarke remains worried that any out gay footballer would be “driven out of the game,” because of pressure from the fans and the media, the anonymous player however believes that’s only part of the fear and an equal amount of pressure would come from within, “Football is run much like an ‘old boys network’ and I don’t think they are either ready to support or willing to accept an openly gay player. There is a lot of hostility there and those attitudes don’t just change overnight.”

Mika Comes Out.

There can be few who knew his music that were surprised by the stunning revelation recently from singer Mika, that he was in fact one of our gang, a happy homosexual!

Ok, so perhaps previously he self identified himself as a bisexual, however many saw this as just either a passing phase or a record company imposed condition in order to sell more records.

The attractive 28 year old made the revelatory announcement in an interview with Instinct Magazine in which he also confirmed some of the songs on his new album were inspired by his relations and love affairs with men. Ok, so he’s got a new album out, so that’s why there is a lot of publicity about him at the moment. Cynical me? Well perhaps just a little.

During the interview the handsome golden voiced star said “If you ask me am I gay, I say yeah. Are these songs about my relationship with a man? I say yeah. It’s only through my music that I’ve found the strength to come to terms with my sexuality beyond the context of just my lyrics. This is my real life.”

Mika has always added an air of mystery to his sexual identity over the years, for example in an interview with Dutch magazine three years ago he proffered “I’ve never limited my life. I’ve never limited who I sleep with…Call me whatever you want. Call me bisexual, if you need a term for me.”

He considered himself a label-less person, say he could fall in love with anybody, a sentiment that I can applaud and agree with to some degree, after all we fall in love with a person, not a sexuality, however that doesn’t mean I’m a closet straight or a secret bisexual, but then again, I’m not trying to sell records and get people talking about me!

Mika, I salute you, welcome on to the gay bus!

 

Coming out … as “crazy” too!

Coming out as mentally ill, or coming out gay? Which is harder?

I’ve often noticed the similarities between coming out gay, and as a person with a serious, “scary” mental illness, in my case bipolar disorder Type I – the most virulent type. Like all gay men, I have my “coming out” story down pat, and the simple version of it is rather generic. The self-knowledge that I was homosexual had been with me for most of my formative years. I don’t think I’d even turned ten when I made the abrupt connection between my attraction to boys and the concept of “gay”. I vividly recall that exact moment: a horrible sinking recognition that I’d be alone for life, in the darkness of the closet. (I’d grown up in a very macho society, near Newcastle, in the north-east of England, in the seventies.)

Of course, I was wrong about most of that, but it took coming out to make that obvious; not to mention moving to another continent. I went to U. of Penn to do a Ph.D., and it’s only in retrospect that I realized that moving so far was really the means of giving myself space to deal with my sexuality. In my second year, my grades fell apart as I yearned with the insane physical desire to be touched by another man. I ended up pulling out of school early, and graduating with a Masters. The sequelae are conventional: I told my best friends, and, oh, it was no big deal; I told my parents, and … dead silence for a year, followed by grudging acceptance so long as I never, ever talked about it. (Coda: turned out that my brother was a big poofter too, and, years later, one of my sisters turned into a lesbian. Coda upon coda: all three of us have life partners, and my Dad loves them all.)

The fear about coming out as gay is that people will be disgusted, or that you’ll be disowned and rejected. In most civilized places, this disgust has become lessened by increasingly common marks of acceptance: gay marriage lawsuits, famous people coming out, etc. And even in less civilized places – oh, like Los Angeles – at least you won’t be feared. (I joke about LA – I mean it is uncivilized, but being gay there is at least not much of an issue.) Coming out as mentally ill is something else entirely. As with being gay, you’re facing prejudice and incomprehension. But most people also have a visceral fear of mental illness: it’s a subject wrapped willfully in darkness and obscurity. People fear that you’re unpredictable, and you’re going to act “crazy” at any moment. Hell, I’d feel the same.

My coming out as a PoPD (“person of bipolar disorder”) was, as with most PoPDs (I coined that term, by the way), abrupt and non-volitional. My rapid ascent into mania ended up with a fist-fight at a downtown luxury hotel with three security guards, a quite horrible night in jail capped by my faked suicide attempt (and one impersonation of the Anti-Christ), then four involuntary nights in a locked ER psych ward. It wasn’t exactly easy to keep all of this quiet.

Nonetheless, I still had a more formal coming out to consider. I’d started up various business ventures when I was in the manic misconception that I could do anything I put my mind too, even in the absence of funding. And at the same time, I’d been maintaining a blog (still ongoing, at brokenwhole.com), documenting what I’d thought had been an amazing recovery from decades of depression. Even after I’d been diagnosed as a PoPD, I still felt that some of my business ideas made sense: but I was faced, suddenly, with a horrible choice: should I keep my mental illness in the closet, as far as business was concerned?

This was not an obviously clear decision. There’s so much shame associated with mental-illness, and my own two decades of pre-bipolar depression had been clouded with it. Light is the opposite of shame, and so, to counteract shame, I’d always been open in my various blogs about depression. But bipolar disorder is altogether more serious, and I’d doubt many people would consider going into business with a newly minted PoBD. So my choice was to “come out” in my blog about my new diagnosis, and kill my business ideas; or to keep it private, and carry on as normal albeit with a superadded burden of closet-shame.

In the end, the decision became obvious. In the space of ten minutes, I crashed from declining, medicated mania into acute depression so bad that I felt I was teetering on shaking ground on the edge of a chasm, all my dreams fleeing away. And I knew then that being quiet about my condition wasn’t an option. It was hard … very hard … to say goodbye to my ideas, but being open about my diagnosis was much more important to me, and, ultimately, the only way to get a measure of healing. In fact, I even went one huge step further and wrote a book about it.

I still deal with the consequences of being an uncloseted PoBD. For instance, nobody’s ever said it to my face, but there’ve been situations where I’ve started a potential new friendship which has come to a sudden end coincident with their reading my blog for the first time. Like I said: mental illness is scary: which is why I write about it; to remove the mystery; to show that people like myself form a colorful part of life’s tapestry, offering qualities and insights perhaps not available to others. But not everybody can hear that. Of course, it’s also possible that some of these potential friends were scared off by my bad writing. It’s difficult to hide that in the closet (though I’ve several dusty drawers full of it.) Oh, and if this is my last appearance on this website, feel free to draw conclusions. (I’m joking, Bryce! I hope!)