"ARE YOU DATING ANYONE?"
This is a question I got in an email from a long-lost friend. For years we attended church, enjoyed summer camp and endured school together in our rural hometown of 4,500 in Kansas. While we weren't the best of friends, I would still call him a good one.
The above question seems innocent enough but for someone like me, it's a loaded one.
Basically I have three choices a) lie and say no b) say yes and let the person assume it's with someone of the opposite sex c)come out by saying yes and start sharing my story.
I actually avoided the question before by saying "Don't worry- I'm not lonely and I'm doing fine." But then he wrote back and noted I didn't answer the question and posed it again. This email has been in my gmail account for a week now and I can't believe I'm back in this place in my life again.
This queer quandry has to with my ambivalent feelings about my sexuality and fear of rejection. Don't get me wrong, most days I'm proud of the creation God has made in me. But there are days I can't help but absorb messages from the world around me.
"It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,"
"That's so GAY,"
"The purpose of a man is to love a woman..."
"I'm sorry, the 'couple set' only applies to a man and woman couple. Please order something else from the menu."
So then I begin to be ashamed and protect myself from the hurt of possible rejection. Women, in my experience, seem more empathetic. I've also much more willing to present myself as a gay person with foreigners I meet in Korea. Those closest to me make the most daunting audience. Family, close friends, coworkers. They say things like "You aren't the person I knew." or "All this time I thought I knew you and now I don't." "Why didn't you tell me before?"
Honestly, I am ashamed of how I've behaved. I knew all about them and allowed them to know nothing about me. I've been their friend but haven't allowed them to return the favor. More than once, I have pulled away as a pre-emptive measure, if I thought friends (especially straight men) would have problems with my sexuality. More than once I've realized I was wrong to assume that my friends and family wouldn't support me and love me just as much as before. I've learned that I can have actually more in common with straight friends than I have with gay ones.
About month ago, my coworker asked me to take her and two friends to a drag queen show here in Itaewon on the infamous Homo Hill. I agreed with pleasure. Imagine our surprise when we ran into another coworker there! Unfortunately his surprise was more horrified as the first words on his lips were "Please don't tell my girlfriend!" (She's also our coworker.) He repeated this request a half dozen times before he left when the show ended.
Of course we assured him that we wouldn't "out" him because it was his private closet and doing so would inflict harm and pain. On the other hand, our complicit silence affirms that his sexuality is shameful and by extention, my own. And looking at the situation from the poor girl's point of view, she's wasting her time and could definately do better for herself.
So PRIDE doesn't just happen overnight. And I have discovered "COMING-OUT" is also a journey. It's a daily affirmation that I'm a child of God. To quote "God don't make junk." I count. I matter. I make a positive difference in this world.
I guess I better get around to answering that email now. I owe it to the both of us!