By Josh Feldman
This is my first National Coming Out Day as an “Out Gay Man.” Last year, I turned 24 and was not yet out to my own parents, nor had I really identified myself as a gay man with most of my friends.
Although I thought I had been leading the life of a gay man for a few years, I had not.
I’d been living in Los Angeles for nearly eight months, and had plenty of opportunities to indulge in the gay scene here, just as I had in Washington, DC, and New York City, where I lived before I made the trek out west.
Before last year, I always told myself that coming out was unnecessary, because straight people don’t have to announce to their parents, or the rest of the world, that they are straight. I now know that my avoidance was because of my own fear – and also because I hadn’t yet seen myself as a gay man. That was also because all I knew of the gay lifestyle was the weekend trip to the gay bar. I did not have many gay friends, for that matter.
How could I live as a gay man when I had no idea what living as a gay man meant?
This past year has been full of changes, most especially within myself. I had to realize that until I looked into the mirror and saw a (handsome) gay man staring back at me, I was never going to be able to really look at myself.
To do that, I had to take a lot of time to process my life up until that point: what I was proud of, and what I wasn’t, either. It didn’t all happen in one day, or one week – I can’t quite put a precise timetable on how I ultimately came to terms with coming out, or which particular day I looked in the mirror and saw a gay man looking back at myself. I just know one day, I felt ready.
I came out to my parents when I went home for the holidays last winter. I knew that was going to be the biggest step. My younger sister already knew – she had for a while. I remember telling my sister that I was going to come out to our parents, and I can remember the smile on her face. She didn’t say, “Finally!” or “About time!” – she just smiled.
I went out to dinner alone with my parents, as my sister stayed home. I sat across from them at the table, and got the words out. My parents reacted well, and that night, I had the best sleep of my life. It starts to delve into a bunch of clichés here, I warn you – but it is true what they say, a tremendous weight is lifted off your shoulders. I had been kissing men for many years before that, and I had long known I would end up with a man too – but nothing really makes that knowledge, or a kiss, as validated than when you are officially out.
Little did I know, coming out was only the beginning. In fact, it might have been the easiest part.
I finally could look in the mirror and see a gay man reflected back at myself, but that didn’t mean I was leading the life of a gay man.
I began considering what it meant to be a gay man in today’s world. The short answer, I think is, there is no short answer. The long answer, I hope, is to be found in this new column. I want to examine what it means to be a modern gay man in today’s world, and all the wonderful complexities that come along with it. I mean, I can’t be the only gay man who grew up both wanting to be Zack Morris, and to kiss him too.
It’ll be an interesting journey, and one I hope you’ll take with me. See you here next time!
1/3 Washington, DC, 1/3 New York City, 1/3 Los Angeles – shaken, not
stirred – and you’ve got Josh. The pop culture junkie to end all
junkies, Josh’s early ideas of love and relationships came courtesy of
the shows that aired on the WB network (RIP). An obsession with pop
culture, coupled with an ability to write -there wasn’t really
anything else he could do, so he’s staked it out here in sunny Los
Angeles to see where that’ll take him.