By Kevin Everline

I contacted Jeff Walsh a week or so ago with the proposal of writing something for Oasis, but I had some reservations. First, the fact that I recently turned 30 made me wonder if what I had to say could help impact the life of say, your average gay 17 year old. At the same time, as I read many of the articles in recent issues of Oasis, I felt more and more compelled to contribute in some way, especially since I've been out for just over three years, even to myself. I told Jeff a little bit about my story, and he thought that what I had to say really was important, and he asked me to contribute something.

Well, like I said, I'm 30. Let's clear that one up first. I hate it. True, it's only a number, and I really don't think I look 30, nor do I feel it (what the heck does 30 feel like, anyway? I still feel 18, and I hope to keep feeling 18!), but it still stinks, in a way. Maybe it's just that I don't like all the adult responsibilities I have sometimes. Over the past three years, those responsibilities were almost too much to take at times. I've wanted to write this piece for a while now because I know there are people out there who have dealt with or may end up dealing with some of the things I have, and if I can help just one person avoid what I went through, then I know this will have been a success.

Let me explain. I used to be married to a woman. I was married from March 16, 1991 to February 7, 1996, when my divorce became final. Actually, I had quite the perfect little life going, sort of. I didn't. Okay, that's not entirely true. I really didn't have any feelings, sexual or otherwise, for guys for a couple of years, up until the summer of 1994. That's when things got worse. A lot worse. I not only stated having sexual feelings again, but I would see cute guys at the mall or in public and think, "Oh, he's really cute". That never happened before. Somehow, the connection had begun to be made that the feelings I had all my life were real. That scared me-a lot. I went through such intense inner struggle that summer that every day I when I would get to work I would go into my office, close the door, and cry for at least half an hour. I didn't know what to do, didn't know who to turn to, and honestly, I was afraid of myself, of who I might really be. The worst part was I had to begin to accept it and move on, or live with the current situation and not only risk losing my mind, but risk my wife and family finding out my little secret against my will, which I thought was an even worse fate than telling them myself and suffering the consequences.

Finally, in April of 1995, I told my wife after some silly two hour fight that I thought I might not be straight. It wasn't what I wanted to tell her, but I hadn't yet accepted it myself, so it was a start. She thought at first that I was joking. When she realized I wasn't, she basically told me I had to figure out whether I was straight or gay, because if I was gay, then I couldn't stay with her. For a couple months leading up to this, I prepared for the worst. I looked at my money situation and looked for an apartment in case she kicked me out immediately. Luckily, she didn't. In fact, she stayed around until that October. In June I started seeing a therapist to try to help me figure out if I really was gay (I was, but just hadn't accepted it yet) and how to deal with everything. My life was a mess. I had lost my job in January and loathed the one I had. I used to find any excuse I could think of to miss work, come in late, leave early-I almost got fired three times that summer. With my wife there was always something that didn't seem quite right, but I could never put my finger on it. Now I knew what it was.

As the summer wore on, it became increasingly clear to my wife that her husband was gay. Ironically, I was not the first gay man in her life, but the fourth. She then became worried that she was some kind of "fag magnet" and would wind up in the same situation again next time around. By this time, I had begun to develop a network of friends who were my real support group. I was still too afraid to attend any "real" support groups, relying on the help of one or two other people for my strength. By October 1995, our marriage was over. Within a week, she had begun divorce proceedings, moved into her own apartment, and I had met my first boyfriend. In November, I finally did lose the job that I almost lost three times over the summer, but this time because the division of the company I worked for shut down. By January 1996, I had a new job in a new city and began to piece my life back together. Things got better slowly, but the hurt still lingered for a long time.

I know this story was long, but I hope it helped. As I said at the outset, if I am able to help just one other person to avoid the personal turmoil and hell I went through, then all this was worth it. I saw being gay as a curse rather than something to accept and to celebrate. I can't change my life and the things I've done but only learn from the experiences I've had, which I think is one of the reasons we're all here anyway. I hope to write about some of my experiences as a questioning teen in the next few months, as well as what life has been like since I've come out. Thanks for listening, everyone.

Kevin can be reached at paboy20s@aol.com.

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