January 1998

Hi everyone. I'm Jesse, although my friends call me Jes, and since I'm perfectly willing to make friends with each and everyone who reads this, I'll let you call me Jes as well. No, no...save the applause for later. I live in a town which could quite possibly be the Canadian equivalent to Leningrad. It's always raining, and when it isn't, we just wait a few seconds and it starts up again like clockwork. I know that British Columbia is a breathtaking province, and I wouldn't want to live anywhere else, but I'd appreciate some more sunlight. Most of the time I feel somewhat amputated from civilization. Oh...I'm 18, by the way. Right now I'm dutifully attenting the University-College of the Fraser Valley. Isn't that a nice euphemism? University-College.

I've read a lot of tragic coming-out stories in the course of a year (my year of being "out"), and I thought it might shed a little bit of light on this gray landscape if I were to share my own coming-out saga, which is more comedic than anything else. Well, the first part isn't. It begins in December...ah, Christmas. A time of sentiment, indulgence, and visceral emotional repression. I was in Grade 12 at the time, laboring beneath a hectic courseload and wishing to any Seraphim that might hear for a vacation. Aside from the stress, it was actually a great time in my life. I'd had the same group of core friends for years now, and we all cared about each other deeply. My best friend, (we'll call him Kevin) was really more of a brother. We'd been through Emily Dickinson's "fresh hell" together, and lived to tell the tale. We were closer than close...and I loved him. And by that, I mean I LOVED him.

I didn't understand it at the time. I hadn't understood it for years. But that December, things started somehow "clicking." I'd already survived a messy relationship between Kevin and a good friend of mine (we'll call her Sarah) When I first met Sarah, I thought I was in love with her. Kevin was definitely in love with her, and we both bitched fervently about it to each other. Sarah and I discovered that we had a love for writing in common, and as time went by, we became tight friends. I asked her out (DUH), and she turned me down flat. After a great deal of agonizing, Kevin finally asked her out a few months later, and SURPRISE, she said yes.

Thus, I began my quiet descent into hell.

Watching them together was like hearing nails scrape against a chalkboard. I still thought that I loved her, but I couldn't quell the intense, uncontrollable feelings that Kevin roused within me. I teetered on the edge of madness, and in the end, pulled myself away from the precipice just in time. Kevin and Sarah broke up after a short-lived (and wildly dispassionate) relationship. It turned out that she hadn't been in love with him at all, and when he professed his love to her, she panicked. The end. I was left to pick up the pieces of my best friend, while at the same time I fell apart in increments. I still couldn't pinpoint what it was that he made me feel. Why did I smile so much when I was around him? Why could he make me angrier than any other human being? Why did I want to scream every time he slept over, and I could hear him breathing a few centimenters away, close enough to touch?

I'd stepped on that part of myself for too long. I remember standing in the shower (don't worry, this story is P.G.) rationalizing everything to myself like a good little Freudian robot. I'd think: "He's your best friend. He's the strongest male influence in your life. Of course you're attached to him. Of course you enjoy being around him. It's only natural." Of course, none of this charming discourse answered why I wanted to sleep with him, but I just brushed that under the rug. Until one night--a Sunday, I believe it was--when everything suddenly slammed into focus with all the subtlety of a train wreck.

I was lying in bed, and I started to think about Kevin (as I invariably did when I couldn't fall asleep.) The revelation occured to me that I was really REALLY attracted to Kevin. More than attracted. I would have sold my soul just to have him touch me. I realized, slowly, that I'd never been attracted "that way" to a woman. I'd been able to convince myself that I was in love with Sarah, but I'd never been physically attracted to her. And I loved her as a friend...but Kevin was more than just a friend. The understanding that I was in love with him struck me like a sledge-hammer. Literally, I felt like I'd been kicked in the stomach. I was very cold in that instant. And I thought to myself: "Whatever happens, whatever choices you make, at least admit to yourself...you're gay."

And guess what I did next. I cried. Not very much, but more than I'd cried in a very long time. Then I went to school and pretended that nothing was wrong. The act failed miserably. (Hell, you're thinking, this was supposed to be funny! Well, I'm getting to it...) After coming out to my mom, I was terrified of telling my dad and repeating the experience all over again. My mom took it well, but I knew that she was in shock. My dad and I ended up going on a trip into Vancouver, and we spent two nights at a nice hotel. It was sort of like a cost-effective bonding experience. (Anyone who has divorced parents will sympathize with this parental bonding thing...) Well, that night in the hotel room, I couldn't think of how to tell him. Then, out of the blue, we switched on the TV, and there was Ellen DeGeneres! It was her interview with 20/20. I couldn't believe my luck, because it was the perfect segway.

So I told him afterwards. We talked about it for a while, and our emotions were quite poignant. The funny part comes when we were about to go to bed. My dad was walking around in a sort of truth-induced daze. He wandered into the bathroom, and came out holding one of those complimentary bars of soap in the little wrapper. Then he looked at me with this expression of ridiculous gravity, and said: "Look at this. They gave us soap! I didn't know they gave you soap!" He assumed a perfectly childlike grin, and concluded: "We have soap!"

We both started to laugh, until we were practically crying. It was such a wonderful tension release. Almost as funny as when I told Kevin's current girlfriend, Lisa, who is also one of my best friends. This, of course, came after I told Kevin...which was sort of funny, now that I think of it. Here's a sample of our conversation:

Kevin: "When do you think you'll get married?" Jes: "Um...I'm not going to get married." Kevin: "Why not?" Jes: "Just because." Kevin: "But you'll have a relationship, right." Jes: "Hah. I wish." Kevin: "Jes, you need to have a good relationship. You just haven't found the right girl yet." Jes: "Well, I didn't say I'd NEVER have a relationship. I'll have one, eventually...but...um...not with a girl."

That was my tremendous coming-out speech to him. It had taken me five years to get that far. Kevin's response to five year's culmination of brooding, planning, and soul-searching was: "Oh."

I'm serious. That's all he said. It was like a waiter had just told him: "I'm sorry, sir, but we're out of marinara sauce." "Oh."

We talked about it later. Everything worked out in the end: he told me that nothing had changed. I eventually learned that he meant nothing had changed between US, since we both knew something huge had just happened. I pray that some of you have a best friend like Kevin, because he's an absolute Godsend. He insists on being the best man at my wedding! And he wants me to be the godfather of his child. And yeah, I'm still in love with him...but it's changed over time to something manageable, and more comforting than anything else.

But I was getting to Lisa, his girlfriend. We were all camping together (Sarah, Kevin, Lisa, and four other friends.) Everyone there knew I was gay except Lisa and Sarah. Mel (another good female friend) kept making off-color jokes the whole night about my sexuality, and admittedly they were hilarious, since I make it a habit not to take myself seriously...but Lisa and Sarah were totally in the dark. Finally, when Sarah had left, Mel started joking again, and Lisa kept saying: "I don't understand. Am I missing something?" I got really aggravated, and I just turned to her and yelled: "We're joking about the fact that I'm GAY." I swear, the word GAY reverberated like a struck gong against the surrounding trees, and we could hear the echo of it for a full minute afterwards. I'm certain that we terrified a whole family of Baptist campers.

Later, Lisa and Kevin were alone in their tent (Kevin told me this story, and he could barely keep a straight face) Lisa gives him this terribly serious look, and whispers: "Kevin, did you know that Jes was GAY?" Kevin starts to laugh and says: "Of course I did." Then he starts to laugh some more. Lisa asks: "What's so damn funny? I didn't know!" Kevin just looks at her and says: "Well, can you imagine if I HADN'T known? Poor Jes would have a hell of a lot of explaining to do!"

Well, this article has grown frightfully long, so I'll conclude it for now. I wanted it to be peppered with political views and snappy metaphors, but it's ended up being a sort of quasi-commentary on my life thus far. Oh well. Thanks to everyone who managed to stay awake. If you'd like to talk, feel free to email me at: lread@dowco.com I'd love to hear from you.



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