When does “It Get Better”?? My thoughts about “coming out.”

When does “it get better”?  I’ve had this question in my mind ever since I first saw this project on TV.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s a great idea and a wonderful bit of encouragement for gay teenagers – but for me it really hasn’t gotten much better. 

Maybe it’s because I waited until I was 39 to “come out”, involved in a very conservative Christian ministry and married with 3 daughters that led to my initial attacks.  I was fired from my job, kicked out of my church and lost the respect of most of my friends.  I was the embarrassment of one of my daughters to the extent that she didn’t want anyone to see her with me during our weekend visits.  It was so bad that, yes, even I attempted several lame suicides and eventually hospitalized.  I even was so depressed I found a sense of worth through drugs and alcohol.  My warped self-image was temporarily healed through a lot of positive attention in the gay community of Dallas, and a noble attempt at making an attempt to live out my life truthfully. 

But the attacks continued when I moved back to Missouri to my hometown.  I immediately “came out” to all my high school friends and my lifetime support group of straight men.  I tried to break the ice into the local community by hosting dinner parties and open houses.  I opened a gallery in the Capital Mall in order to develop a positive, professional image.  None of it worked.  I was still considered a freak, and I was reminded of why I hated this town, why I never wanted to return.  Regardless of my situation I continued to seek counsel and was prescribed a rather large amount of antidepressants.  When will “it get better”?

This past summer I attended my 30th high school reunion.  I was actually excited about seeing the old gang and sharing stories and laughter.  Instead, I found myself  walking around the room trying to find a group which would greet me and include me in their conversations and eventually sitting pretty much by myself at a table in the back of the dining hall.  Instead of smiles during the tragic two-day event, I was greeted with scowls and looks of disgust. 

I compensated the next few days by trying to convince myself that my former best friends’ unfriendliness was due to my change in appearance.  I once was a bouncy, shaggy-haired hippie boy.  Now I am a near-crippled, overweight, bald old man.  I was sure this was the problem, until I invited one of my former classmates from kindergarten through college, a person who had spent many hours with me in cub scouts, band and college parties.  Someone who I thought would be a forever friend.  I should have known something was wrong when I left message after message on his home as well as his office voice mail to call me with no response.  After a final attempt to ask he and his wife to dinner he answered the phone and told me he didn’t want anything to do with me.  I asked why, and he said because the Wally he once knew was dead and gone.  He said I had changed so much he didn’t know who I was.  He hung up, but I could not put down the phone, gripped by a total shock.  I tried to blow off his words, but thoughts of us together through 50 years of friendship haunted me.  I wrote about my frantic feelings in my journal.  I wrote a poem, “I Am Who I Am” and posted it on Facebook, hoping he would see it.  I wanted him to call me back so badly, and say he was wrong.  The phone never rang, so my depression crawled back into my mind.  My depression kicked back into my life full throttle.

Several months have passed since that horrible phone call, but my shock and depression have not.  I feel alone, very alone, more alone than ever.  I now have access to counselling and medication which I adhere to religiously which keeps me from jumping from studio window, but I cannot bring myself to socializing with anyone out there.

For me it hasn’t gotten “better,” but it has just become tolerable.  When I see this ad “It Gets Better” on television and on the internet, I scream at the monitor “WHEN!!!???”  I will let you know when it does.  For now I am reclusive and uncharacteristically unsocial.  If being gay depends on who you share sex with, then I am not gay.  I am sad.

“Pacing the Cage” by Bruce Cockburn

"Green" 48" x 24" oil on canvas by Wally Linebarger

Sunset is an angel weeping
Holding out a bloody sword
No matter how I squint I cannot
Make out what it’s pointing toward
Sometimes you feel like you’ve lived too long
Days drip slowly on the page
And You catch yourself
Pacing the cage

I’ve proven who I am so many times
The magnetic strip’s worn thin
And each time I was someone else
And everyone was taken in
Powers chatter in high places
Stir up eddies in the dust of rage
Set me to pacing the cage

I never knew what you all wanted
So I gave you everything
All that I could pillage
All the spells that I could sing
It’s as if the thing were written
In the constitution of the age
Sooner or later you’ll wind up
Pacing the cage

Sometimes the best map will not guide you
You can’t see what’s round the bend
Sometimes the road leads through dark places
Sometimes the darkness is your friend
Today these eyes scan bleached-out land
For the coming of the outbound stage
Pacing the cage

Pacing the cage

“Rocks, Rust and Lily”: Reclaiming Precious Trash

“Rocks, Rust and Lily” oil on canvas, 32″ x 40″

That which once was walked upon and crushed below the feet of righteous men,

and that which once was scraped clean from hulls of royal vessels,

and that which still represents death and resurrection and hope —

All become one and in the oneness:  my life.
 
 

There Is Wonderlust In My Soul and Nowhere to Run

“In Memory of the Moment” Oils 5′ x 8′

there was a time

i lived in Spain

and fought the bulls

and danced with princesses

in gowns adorned with jewels

there was a time

i sang with symphonies

and harps of gold

there were times i entertained the fools

but these times have passed

and i fear the worst

the best times

are now behind me

To Forgive

 
"The First Fallen" oils on canvas, 48" x 30"

 

It’s easy

to forgive

when you really don’t remember

but when you remember

with all of your soul

it’s hard

to forget

and almost impossible

to forgive

whether it be myself

with whom I have been the hardest on

or you

who at the time

didn’t seem like you would

ever go away

but you did

and now I can’t forget

and all I have left

are my regrets

it’s not easy

to forget

nor easy to forgive

myself

for being

so insane

and so stupid to think

that you would not

forget

and I would not

forgive