This is a very specific post. So specific that I'm writing it to one person.
I don't know him very well. I know his first name, and based on his email address, I think I know what state he lives in. But I won't get more specific than that, since it's not my place. But I need to talk to him directly here, so everyone else look away for a second. 'Kay?
Hey. You. Dude. I'm talking to you. After I wrote my Coming Out post, a few months ago, I got some emails from readers who were kind enough to share some of their own stories with me. A few of them had already come out, a few were in the middle of dealing with it, etc. But you were the one who emailed first.
You wrote and told me that you were currently in the same situation I was in two years ago: 40, husband, father, gay, didn't know what to do about it. You hadn't yet told anyone, but your clipped and direct sentences were enough to reveal what you would later describe as a tight knot in your chest that was starting to hurt more and more.
You and I corresponded back and forth a bit, and then a couple weeks ago, you sent me another email telling that you'd taken the incredibly difficult first step of coming out to your wife.
I've tried to email you back several times, but all of my messages have bounced back. I don't know why -- maybe you shut down that email account. Maybe you decided you needed to go off the grid altogether for a while. Maybe you left home, hit the trail and have become a survivalist living on Brokeback Mountain. (Probably not that.) Regardless, I hate the idea of you not hearing back from me, especially at this very crucial point. So I'm going to say to you here what I've been trying to say in an email:
"Congratulations" is a somewhat odd term to use in this scenario, I know. It fits, in a way -- but it still sounds strange, especially when you're busy looking out for your family, and trying to figure out how to help them deal. So instead, I'll say that I understand exactly how tough it was for you to take that first step. I don't know you, but I'm very proud of you. I know what it took to make it happen, and I hope you take some time soon to acknowledge that you did something very, very difficult.
I know the rough parts aren't behind you, but I also know that the biggest, awfullest part is done. There might be a few days coming soon where you question that notion, but I think you know it's true. As you said in your last email, that knot in your chest has started to loosen a little.
Nothing else was going to make that happen.
Now it's about moving forward, as responsibly and healthily as possible. For you and your family. And being honest is the right way to go. It may not feel that way right now, but it is, even if you take the next steps incrementally. (If I say any more than that, I'm going to sound like a douche, because I'm certainly no expert. I began the coming out process a year and a half ago, and as a friend recently told me, you're never done. Once you come out, you just keep on coming out, no matter what pace you choose. There's alway someone else with whom to have The Conversation.)
Because I don't know you, your family, or your friends, I can't say how things are going to go, or even how they should go. Only you should get to decide: 1) how to ultimately define your orientation, 2) who should know, and 3) what your timeline should be. I can tell you that over the past 16 months, as I've come out to expanding circles of people in my life, I've experienced an increasing sense of peace. Each time I had the conversation with someone in my life, it made me feel better, regardless of their reaction.
In case anyone in your life doesn't react favorably, in case anyone gives you a hard time... just remember: Being honest is not something for which you should have to accept blame.
So there you go. I don't know why my emails to you haven't been going through, but I hope you see this. And I hope you email me again and keep me posted on how things are going. I'm in your corner, and as time goes on, I bet it's going to get crowded here.
One more time: proud of you.
Ok, everyone else can come back now. On to some fun stuff: I'm taking Mini-Pirate to Comic-Con this week to see if being around all those geeks activates any latent X-Man mutant powers within her. I'll be writing about it next week on DadCentric. Later, Crusaders.