When Father T used to discourage me from coming out, he used to say that he didn’t want me to be “pigeonholed” — by which I think he meant that, once people knew I was attracted to men, they’d just think of me as That Gay Guy, and the Gay part would get in the way of them knowing me.
But of course what really got in the way of people knowing me was the fact that I had to hide this enormous thing about myself. I was constantly being put into situations where I had to lie, or at least mislead, even the people I was closest to.
When I finally came out to my best friend, I found that he had always wondered why, when he shared with me about his romantic life, I never reciprocated. When I came out, he finally understood, and asked me for the first time, “So…have you ever been in love?”
Knowing someone means having some insight into their daily experience. And there’s no day that goes by without gayness being part of my experience. That’s true now, but it was even more true when my gayness was a secret; its secrecy increased the sense of urgency, pressure, toxicity.
When Father T worried about my being pigeonholed, he was pointing to something real. Some people are so disturbed by homosexuality that, once they know that that a person is gay, the gayness eclipses everything else about that person for them.
But Father T wouldn’t have encouraged me to hide the fact that I’m Catholic, or Jewish! I don’t go around hiding that light under a bushel because I’m scared that anti-Catholics and anti-Semites might pigeonhole me! So fuck ’em.
Father T also sometimes pointed out that my coming out might confuse people. Let’s say one day I decided to date women, but I had already come out as gay. People would be looking around, going “But I thought he was gay!”
This now seems to me, to put it mildly, an unlikely situation. But it didn’t seem unlikely to me or to Father T then, because we were both operating under the standard assumptions of ex-gay thought: that homosexuality was essentially just a kind of blockage in a psychic pipeline somewhere, and once the blockage was removed, the clean, fresh water of heterosexuality would come rushing in. Kind of a Constipation Theory of sexual development.
So because heterosexuality was always just around the corner, it didn’t make sense to come out as gay, since it was probably just temporary anyway!
But I was thirty when I came out. And I had known I was gay since I was fourteen. And in the intervening time I’d been working more or less nonstop on “healing”.
So if it was a phase, that was one long-ass phase.