On January the 1st 2016 I came out to my wife after 42 years of marriage. It was the end of denying who I was and the start of the life I was meant to live. I came out to everyone shortly after that and thus was the beginning of living my authentic life. The last 15 months have been a transformation, when you become whole, everything changes.
Born in 1952, growing up in Edmonton, Alberta as the oldest of four, definitely defined who I was to become. I was a shy reserved child, afraid of everything, not interested in sports, enjoying dancing, sewing, cooking, doing hair and designing clothes for the dolls for the neighbourhood girls. I was tall for my age, 6’4″ by 13, and everyone expected me to be an athlete, I tried, but it just was not me. I had a fairly large extended family, and we were raised with a strong Christian influence. Being the oldest I wanted to fit in, be loved, I knew I was different; I knew I liked boys, but also knew that this was a sin and I wanted to be normal. I was raised with alcoholism all around me, and I became responsible for my siblings, cousins and my parent’s friends children. I cooked, I cleaned, I wanted approval, the love of my parents and family. Hence a life of codependent relationships began.
I never fit in at school, I had few friends and hated sports, life was not easy. In grade nine one of the neighbourhood girls told the whole class I played with Barbie dolls, life just got worse. I loved to dance, went to every school dance and just watched; I was terrified of rejection. I remember one day in physical education the instructor kept me after class to climb the rope hanging from the gymnasium ceiling, only it was lunch time and all the students watched me be humiliated because I could not climb the rope. I was just always different, and I knew I had a secret. My parents and family I think always knew but choose to ignore it and hoped it was just a stage. My self-loathing kept everything in check all I wanted was to be like everybody else.
Having a family was important to me, one day when I was 19 a lovely young woman came along, who wanted me. She knew I had had gay relationships but accepted me for who I was and I thought that was the answer, my past would be just that, and the love I had for her would give me a normal life. I was married at 21, had a daughter at 22, was a business owner by 23, grandfather at 40 life was good, but it was difficult. I had begun to fantasize about men. I was a good father, husband, and grandfather, but looking back I realize what I had done was direct everything into my family, my business and just like I had done as a child, I had developed a co-dependent relationship to survive. If you helped and worried about everybody else, you could forget about yourself.
The defining moment came in 2004 when I attended a workshop on personal development. We had an exercise where we looked into the eyes of another participant while we pictured in our mind’s eye ourselves at five years old… What were our dreams? What did we think our life would look like? Shortly after that, I broke down in dry heaving sobs, and the facilitator took me aside and helped console me. I pictured this small frightened little boy, this gay boy and it was then I realized I had buried him long ago, in hatred and loathing. It was at that point that I began to work on becoming whole, over time, slowly at first, I changed my life becoming more positive. I had some gay friends and confided in them; It took 13 years for me to accept myself and be authentic to the world finally. It was a terrifying moment when I finally came out. I was totally surprised to find out that many people always knew or suspected, so my secret was not the secret I thought it was. The support I received from friends and family was unconditional. My daughter and grandchildren were great, my clients at work were happy for me, I was ecstatic, happy and joyous.
Looking back over my life I have had a few realizations, in my marriage the more I became me, the greater the distance between my wife and myself and the unhappier we became as a couple. My business had always had some success but never flourished mainly because my self-worth had always compromised it. I always thought… what if people knew the true me!!! I am asked all the time if I regret coming out so late in life, and my answer is no. You see I had done most of the work; I became whole and accepted myself for who I was. If I had come out before that, I can’t imagine how painful it could have been. My only regret is the pain I have caused my wife, to be facing this at this time in her life is difficult, but she has the love and support of our loving family, so I know she will be ok. The biggest truth for me has been the connection; I had always told myself it was just sex, so what the heck. I had a good life and a wonderful family, what more could I want, I now know how foolish that was. Since coming out, I have experienced a true connection and now know my life can only be with another man. It was overwhelming at first, but I would never go back, I am gay and proud of it.
Through my journey, there have been many ups/downs and challenges, but I am happy to be where I am and can face anything for the first time in my life with confidence. You see I love and accept myself for who I am; I am authentic, it was like wearing armour, once I did the work I didn’t care what others thought of me and no longer needed it. I came out at 63, my last challenge, the gay culture!!! I had felt like it was for the young and I was now an old queen… Wrong!!! I know I have a lot to offer and I am confident!! The journey is not over; I am learning daily, living in joy and in time I hope to meet that someone special.
I believe it is through telling our stories that we connect and understand each other, we are all human and it is our humanity that we have in common. Thank you for letting me share my story I know this project has the power to connect us all, I feel privileged to be a small part of it.