What was Your magic moment of recognizing Youself?
And the moment of self acceptance, what was it like?
A story I've related here before:
It happened in a flash, all at once. There's no doubt I'd been suppressing it, and likely always knew it in some subconscious corner of my mind. All it needed was the right key to unlock the door.
That key was a gay guy I'd never met, just been e-mailing, and been reading his posts on a chat site (not gay). I used him as a resource to satisfy my curiosity about the gay world, because I was totally ignorant, having just retired from the US Army where my knowledge of the gay community had been non-existent.
In yet another e-mail to me one day he once again stated that the popular images of gays are stereotypes, of hair dressers and drag queens. That gays in reality can be police, firefighters, truck drivers, football players, construction workers... and Army soldiers. And for some reason a light went on that day, a moment of recognition and insight, that he was describing me, too.
I almost blacked out from the shock. At first I fought back at the idea, a battle going on inside me. But the genie was out of the bottle, and it wasn't going back in. A strange thing began to happen. Memories began flooding back to me of past incidents in my life that could only be defined as meaning I am gay.
But I wouldn't call them repressed memories in the classic sense, because I had never totally forgotten them. Rather, my mind would never before allow me to recall more than 1 of them at the same time. I guess I could deal with them better singly, enable me to dismiss them, rationalize them, ignore them, turn my mind to something else.
But here they were being remembered all at once, and the total effect was overwhelming and inescapable. So that for the first time I was able to connect all these separate memories, these separate dots, and form a complete picture. The image could be nothing else but that of a very gay man.
At the same time I had a problem - gay wasn't what I wanted to be. US society told me gay was bad, and my beloved Army had told it was bad. At best in my own mind I found gays to be strange and at times laughable, not worthy of much attention. Never an active homophobe, nevertheless I didn't have much respect for these outcasts, and I wasn't sure what it would mean to join the losing team myself.
But within a few hours I had concluded that I was the same person I'd always been. And I wasn't inherently bad, I wasn't a pervert, I wasn't all these awful things gays are supposed to be. So if that's true of me, can it also be true of other gays? Was the popular image wrong?
I decided to find out. The very next night I attended the largest annual gay event in Seattle at that time, around 1100 men at a dinner-dance. I e-mailed my friend to say I'd be there and he was appalled. He was afraid I'd blow a fuse or something, have an overload. going from straight to gay in 24 hours. And afterwards go into a relapse, have depression, remorse, all kinds of emotional upheaval.
Not at all. That party was my coming out, I had an incredibly wonderful time, a beautiful time that showed me a loving side of gays I had never dreamed existed. This was a team I would be lucky to join, proud to join. And I've been out ever since, more happy every day, soon to be 18 years later.