I’ve always been scared of the word man, today I take that word and own it!
I guess that I should start with the fact that I am an anomaly. A person that has never fit into one category, one group, one complete anything. Parts of me fit here, fit there, but nothing has fit everywhere. It is something that I have learned to enjoy, as I am able to fuse into many situations and be rather comfortable. However, never completely belonging, being somewhat of an outsider, can be taxing. I’ve always felt the need to explain myself, to have others understand me because I feel as humans we are so complex that to make a snap decision is unfair. I’ve lived unfairly for a long time, and I pride myself on not letting that be who I am.
With that said, I want to tell you something. It is something many of you know. It is something that the people closest and dearest to me have known for a long time, but still something I want to share.
I am gay.
Just writing it, even though it is something I haven’t hidden and have come to terms with sends a rush of adrenaline through my body. A metaphorical last bit of chip on my shoulder disintegrates, that last 5 pound weight is lifted from what was holding me down, a lightness has washed over me. I am free.
This minute detail in the complexity of who I am ultimately means nothing to me, but so much at the same time.
As far back as I can remember this trivial fraction of who I am has haunted me because I was in fact gay, but did not know it for myself. Sure, looking back at life and how I loved Barbie, my best friends were girls and I was sensitive could all be “tell-tale signs,” but why? Why did you care what I liked? Why did you care who I played with? Why did you care I was sensitive? Why did you care that I was gay?
I think what is so hard for me is that I probably would’ve come out much sooner, but being labeled the gay kid, when you in fact, do not identify with who that person is supposed to be, is so hard on one’s psyche. You fight so hard against something that you don’t even have a problem with, but just do not connect with that it becomes a constant struggle. Had all the people I had pushing this on me, just let me be me, I would’ve been able to figure out things so much quicker, and without a sense of fear, pressure and hardness.
It is not anyone’s job to tell someone else who he or she is supposed to be. It was not your job to tell me who I am. Who I am supposed to be. Who I am going to be. That is my job. My journey to take. My life to unfold.
I know that this is something that everyone deals with to some extent, gay or straight, but the amount of focus I was subjected to on a daily basis from people I would call my peers, but were rather bullies unable to figure themselves out, was so daunting and constant that I cannot feel as if I was constantly under a magnifying glass. Those people who had their own issues to deal with, but were too cowardly to look them in the eye and focus on themselves, so turned their attention on someone who was an easy target. A happy kid, who had a lot going for him, me. It wasn’t just kids either, it was parents, teachers, strangers. I was happy just being me, I didn’t know exactly who I was, nor do I now, but I continue to be happy, “gay” if you will because I learned valuable life lessons so early on.
At the age of six I watched my mother, my hero, fight for each day of her life. She was stricken with an illness that I to this day do not understand, but know it was life altering. When you see someone you love slowly die, you realize very quickly that time is precious and you must enjoy every minute of life. This life-changing event will forever stay with me, and continue to remind me that I will not live a life that just goes through the motions, but to live a life that is full, whole, happy and loving. Luckily, I can say I still have my mom 19 years later. It hasn’t been without ups and downs, but nonetheless she is still here and fighting.
I share this story with you because it truly was “that moment in life” that acts as a foundation of who we are to become. It is the oldest, most vivid memory I have, and physiologist will say it is the traumatic life event that leads to my hopes and fears, dreams and ambitious, problems and neurosis. I like to think that I have been very in touch with my own emotions and feelings, and that I have used this event as a way to understand myself and adjust to the world. I understand it, I process it, and I use it to move forwards rather than harp and feel victimized.
Moving forwards and going back to “officially” coming out because in today’s society if it isn’t done via social media, is it even official? I want to explain how deciding to write this open coming out letter isn’t to serve my own purpose, but rather the person who happens to read this and understands what life is like for himself, herself or that kid they don’t get.
It is not about being comfortable with others, it is about being comfortable with yourself, which only gets harder the more people try to tell you who you are. In the multiple times I’ve come out to different friends or groups of people, I’ve always went into the situation knowing that in the end, these people would not have a problem with it, but would probably love me even more because they finally got to see my true self. I knew that the people I chose to have in my life were to put it simply, good people. They were and are people that loved me for me, who let me be me, who saw nothing but Barrett. All the hang-ups and stresses were my own insecurities wrecking havoc on me from years of verbal abuse from those bullies, not my friends, not my family. I also know that I unlike so many, am blessed and lucky because this is not the case for so many beautiful people. For that I thank my friends and family for being the amazing angels they are.
It is also easy to finally say all this because I have had the chance to live in New York City, where being an individual is praised. I have lived in Los Angeles where I had time to leave all that I knew, and focus on finding out who I really was. I have given myself multiple explorations and adventures to find more and more vignettes that comprise who I am as a whole. Each step of the way has been scary, different and sparked something new in me, but it has been important; and I have tried to appreciate every moment as best as I can to understand that I will never be in this specific place in my life again. I may end up somewhere similar, but never an exact replica of each moment.
I have learned that I don’t fit in, and I never will. I have learned it’s the best thing in the world to stand out in a crowd. To be that light in darkness. I have also learned that you will never be able to please everyone, so if you can please yourself than let that light shine as bright as that fiery mass in the sky.
I’ve also learned what I think so many LGBT people have a hard time learning in the beginning, there is not just one specific idea of what it means to be gay. Everyone feels the need to put everything into a box, a category, a specific. What I have found is that there will always be many intricate facets that collaborate to create the unique being that is me. A stereotype is something that we use to make sense of the world, but I do not think in my case it serves me as much positive as it does negative because in the end I am still my own man.
I think the way so many gay men refer to each other as “her” or “she” is funny and playful, but I also think it is destructive. I am someone that looks at being gay as a piece of me. I do not want it to define my existence, my life. I will allow it to be present as it is part of me, but I do not want to live in a bubble that is all things gay. I think it is amazing that there are neighborhoods dedicated to gay communities. It is an environment of comfort for so many, who probably had never felt such comfort before. It is a place to be one version of yourself and not worry about making anyone else feel uncomfortable. But to close yourself off from things because there is no gay undertone is dangerous, and in my opinion, leads to a different kind of hazard. A false sense of real.
My friends and I joke that being gay is “cool.” What I really think we mean is that it is finally not the deviant, the monster. Yes, gays are popping up everywhere and times are changing. Things like the new TV show Looking, the marriages performed at the Grammys, and the daily celebrity coming out all exemplify how being gay is becoming just another “normal” in our abnormal world. However, I think it is important to recognize the fact that there is still so much progress to be made, and so many obstacles to overcome as a world. Gay still equates to bad or wrong in so many places here and abroad. Its hard sometimes to fathom this as I am someone who has lived in a liberal metropolis for almost 10 years, but it is still very real for so many gay brothers and sisters.
Being gay is an ever-confusing concept to not just straight people, but to gays as well. I think that so many of us suffer from daddy issues, mommy issues, both or none. I definitely have both. We are in the same constant search for love as everyone else. We confuse sex with love, love with sex. We are looking to fill an empty void in us, sometimes more so because for so long we couldn’t figure out why people looked at us differently. We use hook-up apps to fulfill basic needs, and then call ourselves sluts. We use dating apps to try and fill deeper needs, and then are left feeling like there is no one out there for us. We go on first dates, which sometimes lead to a second, or nothing at all. We go to bars to see and be seen. We hang out with our friends to remind us that we have people we love and equalize us back out. “We” in the end are just living day to day like everyone else. Yes, there are some differences, but in general there are far fewer between straight people and LGBT people than most would realize.
I have met many people recently, who have asked me to promise them that I will never change. Never become jaded to the world around me. Never loose my desire to find love, my ability to be open and honest, and my pursuit to be as me as possible. I promise.
To the person who reads this and goes I’ve heard all this before, I say great! I by no means think I am saying something that hasn’t been said before. I am simply sharing my story, my thoughts, my struggles. The slogan, “it gets better,” is beyond true. I joke that coming out was the best thing I ever did for my personal and professional life, but to be honest it is true. There is an amazing network of LGBT people who run so many things that once you are ready to join, will be waiting for you with open arms. Not only does it get better, it gets fucking amazing.
Since “accepting myself” and coming out I have met some of the most amazing people, experienced real love, saw the world with a new sense of beauty and darkness. Some things affect me more, while other things affect me less. Overall, since coming out I have become a man. A real man.
I hope something I have written resonates with you. I am going to continue to share my life, my journey and my struggles with you. I feel it is important to have a voice, and use it whenever possible. If I can help just one person feel more like him or herself than I feel all this will have been worth it.
All my love,
I originally wrote this open letter 10 months ago, and it was amazing to see the support, love and humanity people expressed. By sharing my own story, I was able to set myself free, and look to the future with an evolved sense of light and love.
I felt it was important to share this extremely personal piece once again, as October 11th marked National Coming Out Day, and I had never officially taken part in this ceremonial date.
I hope my words still bring a greater sense of understanding, emotion and above all else, love.
Please feel free to share your thoughts, comments, and questions below. I love feedback, and hearing about your journeys. They inspire my own life, and make this ride feel all the more blessed!
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