July 1998

Walking The Tightrope

When you are a closeted non-heterosexual your life can at times -- if not always -- feel like you are standing on a tightrope, struggling to maintain the delicate balance of trying to be yourself while simultaneously hiding an important part of you from your family, the outside world, and quite frankly, sometimes yourself. The strain of your secret can becoming a crushing weight on your psyche, and yet you continue on enduring the pain, holding out for a time when things will be better for you down on the horizon, waiting for that magic moment when you can finally spill your guts and let out your angst to whoever may need to know.

I should know.

I've been there.

When I came out to my parents, it wasn't to release the strain and accompanying agony of my deep secret, it was to stick up for my brother. There was no planning involved, it just happened because I was at the right place at the right time. It was also the right thing to do. Our parents nearly split up over our announcement because their views of gays were so completely different that it wedged their unity. The living Hell that Chris and I went through was often just as bad -- if not worse -- than the private agony we shared before our secret was revealed. The week that followed had more tension in it than we had ever known as a family. The second-guessing of my decision tore me to pieces, both mentally and physically, and the guilt and shame of being caught having sex with another boy nearly led Chris to kill himself. Within a week's time I saved him twice.

No regrets.

In the end it was our love for one another that brought us back together, and while forgiveness can be a bitter pill to swallow, without it we would no longer be a family. Our reconciliation as a family took a lot of hard work and effort, but ultimately we have come out of this stronger and closer than before. We know our parents now better than we had before, and in turn they have a stronger bond with us. While we may look the same on the outside, we have felt tremendous growth inside.

Yet I still walk the tightrope.

While I am out to most of my relatives, that is a far cry from being out at school and in my community, and most important of all, to my peers. They have no idea of my true identity, but in order to protect myself I have to straddle the high tension wire that so many of us must tread everyday. I have to laugh at the gay jokes while inside I boil with rage against the teller. My parents hide the fact that they have two sons who are not heterosexual. I have to keep the true nature of my relationships with Anna and Eric a deep secret in public. The balancing act I have between those relationships alone is worthy of an entire column, but suffice to say that my love for them is so strong that if I had to choose between them I would choose neither rather than risk hurting one of them. Our bonds were built on friendship, and true friendship is a rare thing. A relationship -- whether hetero or gay -- is based not on sex but on love, and without love you have nothing.

I have been in a close relationship with Eric for over five years now -- longer than many marriages last -- and our bond to one another only grows stronger as time passes. He is also the only male that I have ever had sex with, and the only one I wish to do that with. While my attitude towards this may be rare in the gay community, in the end I may have found what those who jump from partner to partner may never come across.

True love.

For those out there that walk the tightrope everyday, just remember this:

You are not alone.


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