Bearded Straight Man

1.

Holding onto the past. Cluttering up the present.

2.

I saw athlete Jason Collins on the TV. He was being interviewed by Oprah.

As I listened to him tell his story I thought a great deal about other people I had known who lived as adults in the closet.

Collins was not involved with a woman when he came out.

He was single.

For those gay men who are married or engaged to women when they come out the trauma this causes the woman cannot be underestimated, yet somehow their trauma is ignored.

The woman from Connecticut hoards craft materials she intends to use. She never uses it. Her house is uninhabitable.

Her husband left her for another man.

A lie is revealed. The life of the lie is shared. Often those who have lived unwittingly with a liar also feel that they have lived a lie.

My important gay writer friend mocked Collins ex girlfriend Carolyn on Facebook.

He made fun of her for ‘not realizing’ Collins was gay. Not realizing that she was living with a lying sociopath?

My friend is a gay man who has had sex with women and dated women yet he can barely disguise his misogyny.

Like so many gay men he is, whether he likes it or not, a separatist.

Carolyn is an intelligent, kind and articulate woman who was duped by a liar.

I listened to Collins wondering how this man was cast as the hero?

He’s not the first athlete to come out of the closet, many women came before him and some men.

The Collins cocktail of gay, black and startlingly good-looking is somehow more intoxicating than remembering that Martina Navratilova had come out decades before.

Collins hopes that his coming out will ‘make it easier’ for others to do the same yet… it seems unlikely.

Is his coming out really a coming out at all?

He will only really know how it feels to ‘come out’ once he is back on the team.

At the moment he is cushioned by celebrity and an American media fascinated by his ‘bravery’.

Is he brave?

He is not a normal black kid from the ghetto.

He is not the normal black kid at the local church.

He is not a kid. He is not normal.

Celebrity assures him of that.

If you identify as LGBTQ then every coming out is circumstantial.

There will never be an easier time to come out because most everybody wants to fit it. To fade away. To avoid the glaring spotlight even if that spotlight is no longer hostile.

No one wants to say: I am different. Not today, not in America… where individuality is scorned.

Jason’s parents look suitably loving on the TV. They know they’re going to ‘love him no matter what’, they’re going to ‘get through it’.

I wonder sometimes what the expectation is for those new, enlightened parents who suddenly have a gay son or daughter to dote on.

Judging by those who now look sweetly at me and my partner whenever I am brave enough to hold onto my lover in the street… their reaction may have changed but the feeling I have remains the same.

They look at us… like I look at a particularly fluffy puppy. “Ah, how sweet.” They want to say. “How fucking adorable.”

I know they want to stop us and tell us how fucking adorable we are.

Those people who gawp and smile supportively are just as irritating as those who glare disapprovingly.

I don’t want you to have an opinion about us as we walk in the street.

I have no opinion about you.

Jason Collins coming out also poses questions about others who have not come out sooner.

I mean, If Jason Collins can do it… why can’t you? Why is it an issue? How could you not tell us the truth?

But Jason Collins has The President, ex President Clinton (the DOMA signer) the President’s wife Mo to congratulate him.

They are ‘proud’ to call Jason their friend.

Well, Jason Collins and those other gay people I allude to… they are adults. They came out as adults.

They can control the outcome.

They are ‘straight acting’ there was ‘no clue’, no tell-tale fabulousness, no lisp, no prepubescent flamboyance.

He was never harassed, he was never told ahead of time what he was before he knew himself.

Jason Collins comes from a ‘close and loving’ family.

Like other gay men who came out late in life… if their family was so close, so loving…why couldn’t they come out sooner?

What did they think they would lose?

The closer the family the harder the riddle.

The fantasy that one has for ones children, the perfect future… the wedding, the christening… cannot include a same-sex partner?

Well, no… not if you have invested in the lies your adult child told… again and again.

Lied to those very same people who now bathe you in their unconditional love.

Obviously, my ‘coming out’ as a teen… was very different.

Having no real option… was all at once a blessing and a curse.

I was brought up in a different age.

My coming out was an act of terrorism.

I threw it at them like boiling water and told them to get used to the burns.

3.

Meanwhile, there’s a teenager in Northern England struggling with his decision to reveal the truth.

He saw me on TV and sought me out.

He told his family he was gay… face to face.

He told his friends on Facebook

Tonight he told everyone how miserable he feels. How dark this place is.

Jason Collins has not helped him. He does not have the President of the United State to support him on Twitter.

Feeling different, facing a new world… not as an adult but as a child.

Things don’t get better… because he now has the prospect of British parochial gay life and all that entails.

He has predatory men to deal with at the local bar, he has rampant desires that remain unfulfilled.

I think he regrets not waiting.

It’s a big deal coming out when you’re a poor kid a long way from the big city.

It always will be… however many athletes steal the limelight from boys like him.