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Dear Mark,

I’m an out gay man living in Fort Lauderdale. I’ve been very out and proud since I moved down here in 1999. But before then I wasn’t out at all back in my hometown in Indiana. My parents didn’t even know I was gay until I moved down here, worked up the courage, and went home and told them over Christmas of 2001. Life has been good. I don’t have a boyfriend currently but have had a number of relatively long term relationships over the years which have been satisfying. They all ended on good terms.

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Dear Mark,

I’m an out gay man living in Fort Lauderdale. I’ve been very out and proud since I moved down here in 1999. But before then I wasn’t out at all back in my hometown in Indiana. My parents didn’t even know I was gay until I moved down here, worked up the courage, and went home and told them over Christmas of 2001. Life has been good. I don’t have a boyfriend currently but have had a number of relatively long term relationships over the years which have been satisfying. They all ended on good terms.

The problem is that I have begun to reconnect with old high school friends on Facebook due to an upcoming reunion. It has been fun talking with everyone again. High school was a tough time for me because I was beginning to understand my sexuality and had no one to talk to. But it was also a fun time. I was popular and had a fair amount of friends. Now they keep asking me about my life down here, how I like it and if there’s anyone special in my life. I find myself balking at these questions. It’s uncomfortable for me to begin the “gay conversation” with them. I’m worried about their reaction. I’m worried that I will stumble on my words. I guess I’m also concerned a little that I don’t have anyone special in my life. I feel like a walking gay cliché since I moved to a big town and live the gay promiscuous life. At least I’m worried that’s what they’ll think. How do I begin this conversation with them?

Signed,

Jay
Victoria Park

Dear Jay,

You are struggling with something that every gay and lesbian person struggles with at some point in their lives. You are confronting your own inevitable internalized homophobia. You have crossed the hurdle of being “out”. Now you have to work on the issue of being “proud” of who you are. When you talk of being a “gay cliche” it signals that you think there is something wrong with what you have done. What’s wrong with knowing you are different, discovering there is a place where there are others like you, and being proactive enough to find a way to get to that place? Sounds pretty smart to me. It’s what gay people have been doing forever. And, in my opinion, it’s a pretty wise decision. There is the argument for staying where you are, living proudly, and therefore teaching others around you by example. But there’s also the argument for finding a safe and accepting place where you can be yourself and live your life without the fear of being judged or hurt. Owning your decision and being honest about your own motivations can help you greatly here. Because once you own your decisions and your life you will be able to begin these conversations with your high school friends. Some may not get it. That is part of this process. Not everyone has to love us for who we are. The only pre-requisite is that we have to love ourselves. However, you may be surprised. You may get support and understanding from some of the most unlikely places. This is the beauty of living your life completely in the open. It opens the door to more meaningful and satisfying relationships.

My suggestion is to take baby steps. When you’re asked about that someone special, you may want to think about assigning a gender to that person. Something along the lines of “I had a great boyfriend two years ago, but since that relationship ended I haven’t found the right man yet”. Or “I’ve dated my fair share of men, but haven’t found someone special yet”. These matter-of-fact statements will send a signal to your friends that it isn’t a big deal for you. It’s just a part of who you are. The hope is that they will react in kind. Again, some may not accept you. But the ones that do might become good friends for life. Is this a risk you’re willing to take? If you’re interested, there is a great book written by a gay psychotherapist, Joe Kort titled “10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do To Improve Their Lives”. Good luck.

 

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