September 10, 2014

I wear a size 10 shoe

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In September of 2014 New York Times published an article, "Corner Closet Opens Up a Bit Wider" about gay CEOs and the further development of gay power in business. Interestingly enough, one subject of the article, Travis Burgess stated, "Being gay is just a fact. I view it like height, or eye color." New York Times, "Corner Closet Opens Up a Bit" by James Stewart September 5, 2014.
It's been an interesting year or two in the world of celebrities and those who are gay or bi-sexual. Legalization of marriage for same sex couples aside, a lot of ink is spilled talking about gay sports figures, news casters, journalists, celebrities in film, stage and television. The fascination with these folks sexual orientation and how well they will fit into their perspective fields of expertise has been much the topic of discussion. Even to the absurd where a reporter commented on Michael Sam, the former player for the St. Louis Rams (who happens to be gay) and his showering behaviors at the training facility.
 
I've personally never been especially comfortable in an all gay scene; going to clubs or bars that cater to exclusively gay or LGBT communities makes me a bit uncomfortable. Sure I've gone plenty of times to gay bars (I do love the EAGLE), either because I was with a date or a partner or because the reality of the 90's and even now is that it just feels safer to be with others who have a like mind. Yet, I quite often have wondered that is that exclusivity still entirely necessary or is it even healthy? Perhaps there is the need culturally, a safe place, and I understand the desire for as is said, "birds of a feather, flock together." Yet, as I grow older, and more established in my relationship (going on 13 years), I much prefer to sit and enjoy social company in a diverse and mixed crowd - gay, straight, black, white, etc. I have come to realize in my life that while my being a gay man is part of who I am - NOT something that I choose - but rather something much more ingrained, my entire sexuality, sexual identity is not the sole definer of what makes me, me.

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Those reading who are my friends may know this about me, but I like Batman. I love the story of this man who was broken, hurt by a tragedy in life, who swore to not let his type of pain be felt by anyone else. That the loss of his beloved parents, especially his father would move him to try to be better than, rise above, conquer the life he had been so cruelly dealt, bereft of parents, alone in the world. Of course, as a young boy I also loved his bat-tools, bat-car, bat-cave. I loved that he was a character of action, resolution, pride and honor, but that he was willing to sacrifice those elements to achieve his goals, which was to fight injustice, seek vengeance and rise above. It didn't hurt my childhood mind too thinking that here this Batman, was just Bruce Wayne. A self made hero - not super, just super resolute. I loved dreaming that I could be Batman too, well maybe. Yet my love of Batman - it does not define me. It's part of me and has been since I was a very young boy. I also loved the Six-Million dollar man, the Incredible Hulk, Captain Kirk, C.H.I.P.S., and many other "hero characters". I can say that the Batman is part of who I am, mostly, very likely, the darkness of Batman, which I came to respect and love in the 1980's. Yet this Dark Knight is not who I am, it is not the sole characteristic of my personality.
 
Now many of you may not know that I also love fantasy novels. I started consuming them in the 1970s, reading voraciously every science fiction and or fantasy book I could get my hands on. I loved Lloyd Alexander, R.A. MacAvoy, JRR Tolkien, Piers Anthony, Ray Bradbury, Clifford D. Simak, Robert Asprin, Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman and many, many more. These worlds, created and imagined became my reality. I escaped into them, not so much because I wanted to get away from something, but because I wanted to discover something else. These rich worlds of magic, fantasy, adventure were a place where I resided most of the time. As a child I never thought of myself as different (or gay or straight or otherwise), nor did I ever even consider my sexuality. Instead my youth, up into my teenage years were spent focused on stepping through the door of new worlds, the threshold of these doors being the fantasy books I journeyed upon. My life and world were, even perhaps through young adulthood, consumed more with creating in my own mind a world filled things yet undiscovered, mysterious or fantastic. I was never an overly sexualized young man, not even loosing my virginity until my early twenties and then it was well after college. But in my world, I had already lived life as a king, a hero, a villain, a knight, a bard, a wanderer and a peasant and the focus of these world's never included my sexual orientation; which gender to which I was attracted never even entered my mind, much like my shoe size (which is 10 narrow by the way).
 
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An elephant often in the room, when some folks discover that I was a former priest, is that I must have left the priesthood because I was gay, or even that I became a priest at first because I was gay. I know that this is true for many men in the ministry, the celibate life is an alternative to living a life as gay man.  In the Catholic Church at least, homosexuality is considered abnormal, and acting on gay sexual urges is considered morally reprehensible, a mortal sin even (a sin so grievous that one without the sacrament of confession will not see the shining gates of heaven or St. Pete's ugly mug). But again, for me, in my journey it wasn't a concern. I wanted to be a priest because in this world, at least in my young mind, it presented the opportunity to continue to play at the fantasy life I had been living in for so long. I could be the magician. I could be the cleric. I would be the hero. I had never even thought of priests in a sexual manner, but of course I never thought of my parents or any other adult in such a manner either. My priesthood was simply a continuation of the fantasy I had been living since I was eight years old, exciting, new, a discovery, but ultimately, for me, it was just that, fantasy. It never had anything to do with my sexuality. Even in college, surrounded by so many young men, some quite handsome, I did not explore my sexual orientation or act on sexual urges. It was there, the urges, the desire for a sexual experience, but it was not the driving force. This changed when I became a priest, in part because I was no longer a na├»ve young man (younger anyway) and in part because I knew that the fantasy world of priesthood was not sustainable. It had to end, but not because of my sexual orientation, but because I fundamentally did not believe in God.
So now as I enter the last half of my middle age (I'm 45, soon to be 46, I've got what, 25/30 years to live?), I can reflect back and take in the whole experience of my life, both as a man who happens to be gay and as a man with a size 10 shoe. My feet are important. They've gotten me into and out of a lot of trouble, a lot of fun, a lot of sorrow and have enabled me to journey through a life that has taken me from the peaks of Colorado to the deep valleys of Israel. My sexuality is important too. I've fallen in love more times than I can count; broken as many hearts as times mine has been broken, and in my sexuality I have met and become the man I am. Yet it is a single part of me, not a defining part, but a part. I suppose on some level it's like mixing yellow and blue to achieve green, for without one of the two colors the third would not exist. For if I had not been gay I would not be the man I am today. For those that know me well (and like me, there are still few of you left), you can appreciate I hope and embrace the gayness. But perhaps no more so than these feet of mine. They take me to you, near you, with you or away from you. They support my body everyday, sometimes they hurt, get blistered, wear out shoes, but always they are here, helping me move and discover the world around me. So sure I'm gay - but guess what, I also have size 10 feet.
 
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