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Eric Reinhard

February 1998

I've always wanted to do this; but for like the past year, I've always had an excuse or reason not to. Well, now I don't, so my New Year's resolution (and I do plan on keeping this one) is to write for Oasis. I figure the first thing I should do is introduce myself, just like everyone else did at one time or another. I'm 23 years old, I live in Michigan, and my hobbies include reading, writing, and being on-line. I'm extremely friendly so if you decide to write to me, I will write back.

I couldn't figure out what to write about at first and then I was taking a shower this morning (more like this afternoon). and it came to me. I gotta tell you though, I have always had like the best thoughts when I'm in the bathroom. Yeah, I know what you're thinking and it's not true, I just kind of let myself go when I'm taking a shower and some of my best thoughts just come to me at a time like this. So, anyhow, what I was thinking about what it was like living at home two years ago and what its been like living at home now for the past month. In between those two times, I went back to school for a year and moved to Florida for six months; if you were wondering. So now for....

THE COLUMN

I kind of like that...it makes it sound more official, but that's just me. Anyhow so what I was thinking about was how much of a war it was with my parents two years ago and how peaceful its been the past few weeks I've been home. Sure you could say I'm more mature and my parents and I have probably resolved our differences since then, but the thought that hit me this morning in the shower was that I came out right before I moved back home the last time. This time I've been out for three years. So I really started thinking about it and what I realized was that I had been using my orientation (oh, by the way, I'm gay) as a weapon the last time I was home, and it's just such a non-issue this time. Thinking about it even more as I was brushing my teeth, I realized that the real difference was my comfort level with who I was. So there's the idea for my first column. No its not all about me, it was about the realization of what its like when you first are open to other people about being queer, or at least what it was like for me.

The whole story starts back in December, 1994. I first came out on December 10th, but that was just to one person I was going to school with at the time; well actually it was more like we came out to each other which is a really cool experience if you ever get the opportunity. For a month, he was the only person that knew. In the meantime I had been going to the support group merely as a supporter myself, I suggested that we meet a gay bar in Detroit over the Christmas holiday as a way to get together and keep in touch over the break. It really was just an idea, but I DID go and I DID spend the evening dancing with this one guy (who later became my first boyfriend when I moved back home that summer) and pretty much outed myself to the group at that point. It was a couple months later I came out to my parents and that was pretty much the end of the issue until the fall.

I was pretty quiet over the summer because I was working full time and going to school. I was dating this guy behind my parents' back so it was pretty much like nothing was any different for them. That all changed on September 23, 1995. That was the first Saturday I started going to a local support group meeting. Basically the few times I went out that summer I was meeting people who had like 5 to 10 years on me. I just basically wanted to meet people my age so I figured the meeting for people 21 and under was the right place. OK so I wanted to use it as a meat market, but so did everyone else (I later found out). My dream did come true, I met people my age, dated a couple of them, and generally had a good time. The only problem is that I cut loose on my parents with my orientation.

Everything thing became a war with them and you could usually trace it to my orientation. I realize now that most of it was me creating battles and then blaming it on my sexual identity. What hit me in the shower this morning was that I was angry with myself still for being gay (then, not now), my parents had nothing to do with it.

It was over Thanksgiving that my mom approached me and said that she was frustrated that I had this whole secret life that she and my father just didn't know anything about. So we stayed up that night until like 2 in the morning just talking (well me talking, and her listening) about the past ten years of my life. About being 12 or 13 years old and first thinking I was gay, the crush I had on my best friend throughout high school (and if you're wondering, I am still in love with him), the terror of thinking I was gay (remember this was the 80s), and the liberation of accepting that I was. It was like this dam had burst and I just was totally open with her after that. That's what I realized this morning, the difference was me.

I know I've rambled quite a bit, but the point is coming. When I first came out in college I was going to a small conservative engineering school. If you were queer, you kept your mouth shut. I just got used to keeping quiet about being gay. When I first came out, my idea of MY being gay was that it was ok, I just needed to be quiet about it. I didn't exactly have a close relationship with my parents then so there wasn't a lot of incentive to be more open about my being gay around them, I just got used to the way it was. Because I didn't tell my parents much about what I was doing or what was going on in my life, I left them out of it and it created a lot of tension between us.

So now my part about being angry about being gay still, I did a good job being a victim and feeling oppressed when I first came out. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it doesn't happen; I was just overblowing it. Actually it was that I was angry with the world for having repressed me for so long, but I repressed myself. Being gay became my identity, not just a part of it.

So the difference now, is that I treat my orientation as a non-issue. I'm not out at work, but I'm not in either. I just don't talk about it, but no one else talks about their sexuality either. That's pretty much the story of my life, yes I do have a rainbow sticker in my car but I don't introduce myself as queer every time I meet someone new. If people ask, I tell; its as simple as that.

Oh and my mother, she knows everything. I tell her about the guys I meet at the bar, my latest fashion crisis, who I'm in love with, what I think about different issues. It makes all the difference in the world. So my point can be pretty much summed up in one paragraph, but that wouldn't be a very good column would it? The point is that what I realized is that after I (and I hope some of you, otherwise this was a waste) came out I was so used to being in, I was still in. I don't have to remind myself every day that I am gay and out, but I think at one point it might have done me some good. Coming out is a good first step, but every day is a new day after that. I'm not saying you should blow your doors off and start wearing heels or something like that, but remember what the point to coming out was. So that you could tell someone you thought that guy over there was cute, or you think your mother has a fabulous outfit on, or you think that Leonardo DiCaprio is a dream come true. That was my mistake in my first year, and I hope it doesn't become yours.

Oh yeah and since I started with THE COLUMN I should finish with...

THE END

OK so I promise not to do that again...

I've got a whole bunch of columns ahead of me that I don't have topics for, and I love to meeting new people all the time so if you've got an idea or you just want to talk, you can find me at Bigfish758@aol.com.


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