After three months of fairly serious, issues-oriented columns I decided that this month I would tackle something a little lighter. Originally, I was going to write about my web page and the experience of putting together my directory of glbt youth groups. But the other night I was talking to my friend Michael, who is a college freshman out in Ohio, and he suggested that I write about him (no ego involved there!). At first I thought, "yeah right, Mike," but the more I considered the idea the better it sounded. After all, it's the least I can do. I owe Michael a lot.
As you read you may decide that this is indeed another issues-based column. I'll have some things to say, I'm sure, about coming out and the value of supportive friends, both straight and gay. But for the most part this is going to be a personal story about friendship.
I've known Michael since he was about twelve years old and have literally watched him grow up on a soccer field. Last year, I spent an unforgettable fall watching as he finished off an outstanding high school career. As the soccer season came to a close, we decided that we didn't want to just drift away until spring soccer rolled around (Mike went to school in the town next to mine, so I didn't see him every day). We agreed to have lunch one Saturday afternoon a few weeks later, and from that came a new tradition -- our monthly "bonding" lunch. June was a month to remember!
In June, I took Michael to get steak (it always seems to be some place nice when it's my turn to pay) and we talked and ate for close to two hours. When it was time to leave I told him that I wanted to talk to him about something, and that it had to be some place where we could be alone. Anyone who knows the two of us wouldn't be surprised to know that we drifted over to the soccer field at his school -- both of us are drawn to soccer fields like magnets. I kept making small talk for a while, nervous about what I was going to do and trying to stall. Finally he asked me straight out what I wanted to talk about.
I then launched into a roundabout discussion of the fact that I was gay. I guess when I'm nervous I'm hard to shut up and he just sat there listening. Finally, when I came up for a breath, I asked him what he was thinking and he said two words that I will never forget.
Michael can be a bit of a clown sometimes but he told me with total sincerity that he was truly honored that I had chosen him to share this with. He made it seem as if I had done him some huge favor instead of the other way around.
I'm not sure if my experience was typical but it certainly was wonderful. From what I've read of other Oasis writers and gathered from talking to other people, many gay males are more comfortable telling girls. I'm not sure if that's better or not. I imagine that for every person it's a very individual thing. What I do know is that when you do decide to come out to someone you need to be very sure. Once it's done there's no turning back.
The other thing you need to be prepared for is the rush of emotions that goes along with coming out. I was talking to my school's health coordinator the other day and she described what she often sees as a sense of total euphoria that can be followed by a sense of "oh my gosh, what have I done?"
Since June, Michael and I have been much closer in many ways. At times I think he views himself as my confidante and also my great protector. He's really good at figuring out what's okay to say and what's out of bounds, and he's made a concerted effort to make himself more aware of gay issues. Of course he did slip up a bit the other night when he told me that his sociology class was "totally g-- ..... I mean I just don't get it." When I stopped laughing at him I told him that I was very impressed that he managed to stop himself halfway through a one-syllable word.
Any one who has come out to a good friend knows the value of having someone you can confide in, someone who is more concerned with who you are than what you are. And when you have a sense of humor like both Michael and I have, it doesn't hurt to have someone who gets all the jokes. Maybe some day the rest of our friends will understand what the heck the two of us are always laughing about!
Thanks again, Michael.
Comments can be sent to me at BCEagleGuy@aol.com. And if you're looking for a glbt youth group near you, don't forget to check out the directory on my web page.