by Michael Ditto
May 1996

I was thirteen years old the first time I felt the need to call it quits. I knew I was gay, and I didn't really even have a problem with it; I just was terrified should anyone ever find out. I had seen what had happened to gay people who were open about their sexuality on television, and I was not going to subject myself to that kind of torment and fear, so I thought death was the only escape from it. I even went so far as to write a note to my mom, who I loved (and love) very, very much, in which I came out to her after saying "by the time you read this, I will be dead."

Luckily, I changed my mind, and luckily she had not had time to read it, so I picked it up from the kitchen table and shredded it in the kitchen garbage. I made up my mind at that point that I would never tell a soul, and that I could live that way for the rest of my life. And I did, for six more years, until I was nineteen years old. Little did I know what would happen that glorious year...

By that time I had been in great conversation with other gay kids on the gay areas of computer bulletin boards, but I was also without my first love, of seven years. He had moved far, far away, and I felt very isolated and lonely. The only person I had met in real life who knew I was gay was now gone from my life.

Then I met John. I was a coach in a self-improvement workshop, and he was my coach...the coach's coach. He was totally out of the closet, and everybody knew he was in a three year relationship with the leader of the program, Michael. Both of them are tremendously gorgeous, and I had an unbelievable crush on them. I had hand picked my group of people, one of whom is gay, and one a lesbian. I now see how I was setting myself up... The gay man in my group asked me if I was gay on the first day of class, and almost by accident, I said yes!!! It all started rolling from there...

I thought my world had fallen apart... I took John aside and told him, and he gave me a big old hug and said, " I was wondering when you'd do that!!! Congratulations!" I was aghast. He told Michael, and then, about an hour later I got up the courage to stand up and tell the whole class, 137 people, the breakthrough I had had. In a week, without my ever saying anything to her, and without any contact with any of the people in my class, my mother pulled me aside at home.

"So when are you going to get a girlfriend?" She asked. I sidestepped the issue. "No, really... I am very curious about this... Don't you like girls?" She prodded incessantly. "Well, no. Actually..." I answered feebly. "That's what I thought. I was just wondering when you'd admit that to yourself... and me..." she said. We hugged and cried together, and we have never been better friends. My father was a different story entirely... I'll save him for another column.

Needless to say, life has not been the horror I thought it would be being out and open. Basically, what I guess I'm saying is to never underestimate the people whom you love. I'm not saying you will be totally accepted by them, but please, please remember that you will always be loved by them. Even if they do not show it because they are afraid or don't agree. I am not pushing anybody to come out. Sometimes it is clearly inappropriate to do so. But if you are just afraid... There is no time like the present!

Michael Ditto, 20, of Denver, Colorado is a part time student, writer and activist. He is currently employed as an operator at a satellite TV company, and is studying physics and education at various local colleges in Denver. He is currently 'single', but is dating a very sweet man. He can be reached at dittomj@worldnet.att.net.
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