UPDATE: Thank you to all who have offered me your love and support. It means a great deal. I wasn't sure how this might be received, but my fears were groundless. You are all wonderful people. Thank you again.
First of let me clear. I am not a brave person because I'm writing this diary. Indeed, I have been a coward most of my life, so don't tell me this is a brave thing I'm doing. It's not.
However, after last night's vote in the New York Senate, I feel it is a necessary diary, if only for myself. Last night my Republican state senator (a career politician I've never much card for) voted to grant equal rights for everyone with respect to marriage. That took courage. If he can make that vote as a state senator in a very red district, than at the least I can tell my story.
I am a bi-sexual, and also, I believe a transgendered person.
Those facts are a part of who I am. Just as is my marriage to a heterosexual woman. Just as is the fact that I am a father to two beautiful and smart children who I adore. Just as is the fact that I have a chronic autoimmune disorder and cannot work because of my symptoms. Just as is the fact that I suffer from depression and social anxiety disorder. Just as is the fact that I am a liberal.
The difference is that until this morning I did not tell very many people about my sexuality. My wife knows and has known since before we married. My adult son knows. A few, a very few, close friends I know. Now you know, too.
Excuse me if I ramble a bit, but I have repressed a great deal about myself and who I am, and I have much to say. I'll try to keep this as brief as possible.
* * *
As a young child I was very sickly and frail. I was also extraordinarily shy. I had few friends and the ones I did have were people who made an effort to seek me out and offer me their friendship. As an adolescent I did not date. I was too fearful to ask anyone. The first woman I did date I ended up marrying. I was so excited that anyone would say yes to me that I focused all of my emotions and romantic fantasies on to her. Our marriage lasted 9 months before she left me for an older married man.
After I graduated from college (1978) and my divorce became final I lived with a male friend ( call him M) who had also been a friend of my ex-wife. To show you how clueless I was about sexuality, I had actually been jealous of him and believed he was a potential rival for my wife's affections before she and I married. When I moved in with M he had just come out as a gay man to hid family. His parents were deeply religious Catholics and they immediately disowned him. We spent long hours together talking (well he did most of the talking and I listened -- shy people often are very good listeners).
He was excited about coming out, about finding a society of people who did not condemn him for his sexual orientation but welcomed him and accepted him. At the same time he was very emotionally distraught about his family and their rejection of him. Gay people had just started to demand equal rights and it was an exciting, liberating yet still very dangerous time.
I became very close to M emotionally, and (what shocked me at the time) I also began to feel physically attracted to him. He was very outgoing and extroverted -- the exact opposite of my own personality, which was overly serious, introverted and often fearful. M was good looking as well, my height with dark curly hair. He was always smiling and laughing when he was happy or excited and his spirit and encouragement was a balm to my wounded soul after my divorce.
After a while, I became jealous of the time he spent with his gay friends, and especially when he took a lover. To be honest with you I was incredibly confused about my feelings for him. One night after he had gone to bed, I went and stood outside his door, trembling. I wanted to knock and go in and make love to him. I wanted to but I didn't. Perhaps I was still to afraid of rejection, still too damaged emotionally by my divorce. I know I was afraid of what might happen if I knocked and he answered the door and asked me in. I was attracted to women. How could I also be attracted to a man?
Two years passed. I no longer lived with M because my job was an hour away in the city. At least that was the official reason. I worked as a counselor at a facility for emotionally disturbed adolescents and rented an apartment with another openly gay man, though this time not someone to whom I was attracted in any way. At work I alternated between two" houses" as they were called, though they were simply locked down units within a single building, divided by gender and age. One included young adolescent boys and another adolescent girls (there were six "houses" in all).
In the girls' unit where I worked, the main male counselor was a tall young man who I swear looked like your classic version of white Protestant Jesus except that he dressed as a stereotypical hippy (for obvious reasons let's call him J). He had the beard, the long hair, the piercing blue eyes. He was a calm and caring presence, and all the teenage girls in that unit (most of whom had been sexually abused by relatives) had crushes on him. J was the first male figure who treated them with respect and nurtured them. No matter what the situation, I never saw him get angry.
J was quiet, like me and we became good friends. What I didn't know at the time was that he was infatuated with me (why I could not say). I only learned of his romantic interest when he confessed his feeling for me to the woman with whom I was living at the time. For reasons I still cannot fathom, she told me and arranged a date for the two of us shortly before J was to take a trip to India. And so I had my first sexual experience with a man. He was very tender and loving. Regrettably, he left soon afterward. But something had clearly changed in the way I thought of myself.
The woman I lived with back then was a very disturbed person from a broken family. She had been seeing several psychiatrists for some time before I met her. A few months after J departed, she attempted suicide and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. My reaction to that incident surprised and shocked me.
On the second night of her admission, after having learned of the location the largest gay dance club in the city where I lived, I went into our apartment's bathroom, but on my girlfriend's makeup (blush, eye shadow, eye liner, mascara), curled my hair with her curling iron, wore one of her gold necklaces, used her perfume (Shalimar as I recall), put on her black silk black halter which tied in front in a bow (I was very slender at the time at 5'11 and 145 pounds give or take), put on a windbreaker to cover up what was obviously a piece of woman's clothing and got I my car and drove to the gay club. I danced and was picked up by a man and went to his home.
Over the next few years this would be a recurrent pattern.
* * *
Let me back up a bit here. From an early age (as young as 5 or so) I had dressed up in my mother's clothing. I also tried on her lipstick and mascara. I couldn't have told you why I did, it just felt natural. Of course, later I would pray to god asking him to forgive me for the sin of dressing like a woman and begging him to make me stop. God never got around to helping me out with that, however. I guess he had more important things to do.
I mention this now because all throughout my life I have felt that I might have been happier as a woman. Oh, I played team spots and was very aggressive and competitive in football (until my coaches said I was just to thin to play my preferred position of linebacker) and basketball, but I see my daughter today, and she is just as competitive in the sports she plays as I ever was. Certainly she is far more competitive at sports than my son. So, even though team sports was considered a sign of masculinity when I was a boy, I no longer feel that it was a sign of my true personality as a male.
Plus, I have to consider all the other aspects of my personality. I was very empathic as a child, and nurturing. Indeed, I much preferred taking care of small children and interacting with them than my peers as a young adult. Whether these are both equally male and female traits, I cannot say. My experience is that many more women than men assume the role of nurturer, but I'm not going to say its a trait determined by biological factors. Heck, my wife and the mother of our children was not especially nurturing toward them when they were younger. Nonetheless, I did feel more comfortable in roles that were traditionally defined by gender: cooking, child-caring, etc.
At one point in my life, after I had been diagnosed with my chronic illness, and was suffering from depression and stress, I saw a therapist. Eventually I told her about my bisexuality and that I had seriously considered a sex change operation. What stopped me? The fact that 1) my illness made me a poor candidate for sexual assignment surgery, 2) I had two children and a wife who depended on me for emotional support and 3) I wasn't completely certain that making such a drastic change at my age would make me a happier person, and was concerned it would cause great harm to the lives of my wife (whom I love) and my kids.
Still, I often wonder what I would have decided if I had been born 20 years later, say in 1976, rather than 1956, the year I was born. In my youth, transgendered people were not labeled transgendered. Indeed, the first time I ever heard about a man who had a sex change operation was the controversy over the Tennis player Renée Richards who was excluded from playing women's tennis because she had once been a male, Richard Raskind. The media was not particularly supportive of her, even after she won her Supreme Court case and was permitted to pursue her career as a female professional tennis player.
I suppose I will never know what decision I would have made if my circumstances had been different.
* * *
So, why do I say I'm bi-sexual and not gay. There are several reasons but the most prominent one is that I am still physically attracted to women. Indeed, I married one and had two children with her. I don't view human sexuality as an either or proposition. Some scientists of human behavior suggest that there is a spectrum along which a person's sexuality and sexual preferences lie. I personally believe the spectrum idea is too simple. I'd prefer a three dimensional model in which a person's sexuality lies along three separate but intersecting axes: gender, sexual preferences and sexual desire.
More importantly why didn't I end up in a same sex relationship instead of the "opposite" sex relationship that I chose? That is a more complicated question.
During the period when I was sexually active with male partners, I derived a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction from those experiences. I explored a part of myself that would otherwise have always remained hidden away and deeply repressed. The gay lifestyle of the late 70's and early 80's was very exciting. As an extremely shy person, I especially liked the fact that I didn't have to make the first move. I enjoyed being considered an object of desire if you will, something that was not the case in my interactions with women. I also encountered a number of very sensitive and loving gay men who were very attentive to my needs. I even had one man who wanted to enter into a long term relationship with me.
So why did I choose a heterosexual relationship? Well, in the era I'm speaking about I also experienced many negative aspects of having sex with men. I was date raped twice. Both were very unpleasant and painful experiences, and one made me fearful for my life. What I knew about gay men came mostly through going to gay bars. As any gay man can tell you the gay bar or club scene is not that different from the heterosexual bar/club scene. It a great way to find someone with whom to have a one might stand but not the best way to find a lasting relationship. And though I knew of a few gay men in monogamous relationships, at the time I didn't see that as very likely to happen for me.
Because, you see, I wanted a monogamous, until death do us part, relationship. That was how I was raised and that was my personal desire -- marriage. I wanted children. In 1980, those things were not available to LGBT individuals. Discrimination and violence against LGBT individuals was also rampant in housing, work, etc. (as it still is). I eventually chose the field of law for my profession and I did not want to have to hide my relationship or fear reprisals in the workplace.
In short, at that time and place I was not willing to risk falling in love with a man. I had options that were not available back then to a gay male: legally sanctioned marriage, children, and the ability to enjoy sex with women. And then there was my AIDS scare.
Around 1984, after AIDS began making headlines, I became frightened. I have never had great health (asthma as a child, allergies, a susceptibility to bacterial infections, pericarditis when I was 17, etc.) and I had had enough unprotected sex with men that I was worried I might have contracted the HIV virus. I don't remember the year but at some point I went and had a test done and it came back positive.
Well, I don't know if you can imagine how that felt. My doctor said that I needed to take a second test, a more comprehensive one, to confirm the diagnosis. That test however, took up to 6-8 weeks before the result could be known (why I don't know). That period was one of the most harrowing of my life. Fortunately, the second test came back negative. The first test had a high rate of false positives apparently.
I was a traditional person, raised in a very tradition home. I wanted a very traditional life, and that would not have been available to me in a same sex relationship in 1980. And to be honest, I was afraid. Afraid of disease, afraid of not ever finding a life partner, afraid of never having children. For good or ill I chose to pursue long term relationships with women instead of men. I found someone, a beautiful woman who appreciated me, we fell in love and got married.
* * *
That said, let me add a few more comments and observations.
I do not regret the choices I made in my life. What I do regret is that I have hidden part of myself from the vast majority of people who know me personally or online. I have been lying to you and to myself, thinking it wasn't important enough to tell this story.
I was wrong. I acted out fear, timidity, cowardice -- take your pick. Yes, I have written here and at Booman Tribune about the need for a more just society. I have championed the rights of gays, lesbians and transgendered individuals, and often argued for the extension to them of the same rights under the law that the rest of us receive without thinking. But that wasn't and isn't good enough.
You see, I believe that there are a lot of people like me. People who have had same sex experiences and relationships with someone of the same sex who are hiding, just as I hid until today. I suspect there a lot more people similar to me out there who still refuse to live openly. More than those who scapegoat and attack LGBT people realize. And I also believe that there are more people in this country who would accept these people as their equals if they knew the whole story, and not just the part that they and I have been willing to publicly reveal.
I am exceedingly happy today that the state in which I live passed a law allowing same sex marriage. Yet I am cognizant that there are many other states, indeed, the majority of states, who refuse to offer basic human rights to their citizens solely on the basis of sexual orientation. I am ashamed that this country includes so many people who have a visceral and irrational hatred and fear of LGBT people.
Well, I'm one of "those people." I should have said so a long time ago.
Thank you for reading.