Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What John Lennon Said About Love

I cried the day he told me he was gay.

It wasn’t that the thought of Bryan being gay surprised me. To be perfectly honest with you, I had always known. I must admit this though-there did come a point in our friendship when I had begun praying for all straight woman-kind that their knight in shining armor they waited for day and night, the man they had hoped would come save them from their dragons, would do so and not seek a knight of his own.

I knew that day what I had known all along. The man I had loved for as long as I can remember was gay. Bryan was gay. I had always regarded sexual identity as just one of many traits, acquired over time or something he was born with, the things I had always loved about him: the actor, human rights activist, poet, philosopher, and so many other things that made him…Bryan. I especially loved the way he treated his friends as family and loved them as such. I could say or do nothing to change him, nor did I wish to alter such an intrinsic part of one of my dearest friends. There was something special about him from the moment I met him that I couldn't quite place, but I knew it was there. As time progressed and I became better acquainted with this utterly fabulous man, I found it more and more difficult to grasp exactly how lucky I truly was to have met such a wonderful person.

The day I knew Bryan was gay was just an ordinary Wednesday afternoon, three days after I graduated from high school. It wasn’t a big secret he had been keeping from us all, for fear we would hate him forever, that we would excommunicate him from our close-knit family of friends. He never turned to me and said, "I'm gay." or bounced into the chorus room one day during lunch and said, "Hey guys, I have an announcement to make." It was a much more subtle understanding that day among us all, and I will never forget the look in his eyes. It was as if the sparkles that had fled from them the year or so ago was back again, and this time it was permanent.

But what an injustice to straight woman-kind! Surely this is an injustice of a higher sort, a cruel joke the Gods are playing on us silly mortals. (As of course you know, they like to do things like that, they’re Gods, what else are they going to do with their unlimited amount of time? Surely they aren’t trying to convince the muses to help us poor starving writers out there with our Writer’s Block, or even carousing with scores of Goddesses, but no! Do you know what their entertainment is up there? That’s right, making fun of us silly mortals and the stupid things we do, like fall in love, regardless of which gender we fall in love with.) Is Loki up to his old tricks again? Well if you know Loki as well as I do, you know he is probably the one responsible for this terrible fact every straight woman has faced, or will face, sometime in her life: being attracted to a gay man. If you haven’t, let me tell you now, its not one of the most pleasant situations of your life. I should know. Its happened to me, silly little mortal me, at least twice. But enough about me. I’m going to tell you the rest of my story now.

I gained such an insight to the tenacity of the human spirit that day that I had never experienced before. I will never know what it was like for him, to stand before the people he had loved throughout school, not to mention dealing with his family, and coming out of the closet, for better or for worse. I knew as well as he did who he had to worry about the most, but I admired him for his courage to put himself out there like that. To stand boldly before the people you love, the family you were born to and the family composed of friends you have chosen, to tell them something some of them will never accept, understand, or believe, who you are and what you stand for, that has to take some guts. I guess I never told him how I admired him for his ability to do so.

I feared for him when he finally did make it known this was who he was, for better or worse, we would either accept him or we weren’t his friends in the first place, and I knew the latter was never an option. I had learned first hand early on in my school career how malicious the high school grape vine could be. I wanted so much for him then, as I still do now, and always will. I wanted him to be able to be himself- the same kid I could talk to for hours over coffee, if our schedules were not in constant conflict. He was still the same person I could confide in when I knew I had no one else. But living in Podink Nowhere, how could a man proclaiming himself gay possibly have a nice, normal dating life (well, as normal as teenage dating can get) as any straight man can boast of?

I soon learned, after talking to Bryan and many others, that my fears were my own. He knew it wouldn’t be easy, but he knew something I didn’t. Bryan knew exactly who he was, what he stood for, and who he loved. I cheered him on as I always had, dismissing my tears resulting from tumultuous relationship difficulties of my own, deciding your problems were more important than mine. And thanks to my dear friend and our decreed Gods of Coffee and Pasta Alfredo, we helped each other through our problems. We were a team, as I had always hoped we would be. Maybe batting for different teams as it were, but I cared not, because we were friends and in little leauge softball, it doesn’t matter which team you play for; you all come out victorious in the end. I knew that Bryan was still the same man I loved ten minutes before I knew he was gay, and you know what? I loved him even more for telling me. Coming out to our friends was the core of what I believe he is: The man who fights for what he believes in, is true to himself, and to those who he holds dear to his heart.

I guess I should explain now that I am one of…those poets. You know the type. Keeps a little sketch diary of the things and people she sees, recording little details and fragments of verse that skip through her imagination from time to time. One of those poets who can write ten poems about every situation, every love interest, however fleeting, she has ever had in her life, and has done so. Saying this, I wrote a poem depicting my feelings not about his coming out day, but that of my dear friend Joshua who had come out to me the year before. When I stood at that podium at an open-mic poetry night I faithfully attend once a month and introduced the piece, I suffered my usual case of momentary panic, but this time I knew I was somewhat justified. What would they say if I read a poem that was so blatantly about a drag queen who also happened to be one of my dearest friends?

Once more I gazed intently into Bryan’s eyes at the back of the room. I knew then the poem I was about to read was what I had been waiting to tell him, the things he needed to hear, and things I needed to tell the friend who was there that night and not so far out of his closet yet. I was going to speak for all those who I knew have never been able to speak about such things. I was the voice in the silence and I would read these words, mine, Joshua’s, Bryan’s, and all the others who must never speak a word of the one they love because according to some relative or priest it wasn’t right. Joshua was not able to be there that night I transformed his story and that of so many others into poetic expression. But Bryan was there. This was the opportunity I had been waiting for months.

I will never forget the moment I read that piece, titled “Beautiful Boy” (Rightfully so, after the incredible song by John Lennon) to that hushed audience. I wasn’t even sure was ready to hear such a thing, but I was more than ready to read it. I felt like I had to read it. About halfway through the poem, I could feel his eyes upon me as I spoke the words that were if I was speaking the words upon his heart:

Maybe at one point
You felt like a freak of nature
Why me?
Why couldn’t it be someone else…

I was in tears at this point, but I knew it wasn’t over yet, as I could feel his eyes burning into mine as I continued to read:

You knew it wasn’t right, at least not for you
You knew who you were
Your true friends understand
You only lost those
Who should have been there in the first place.
You had the courage to chase after your dreams
And became an actor
An unruly, unfit profession
So your father told you
But you knew it was who you were
This was the life you were born to live

I don’t recall ever feeling such a current of love as that night he held me beneath the full moon of that humid Floridian August night. I never loved you more than that night.

Something I learned that year, something that Bryan taught me, was that no part of growing up and finding yourself is easy. To realize you are different, that you somehow do not fit into the puzzle of society can not be easy, and to accept those differences, to go beyond the barriers and celebrate who you are, that’s bravery at its finest. I cried the day he told me he was gay, as I am crying as I write this, because I know the magnitude of fear I felt then, and not even that can surpass the joy I feel for him now.

You see, that same knight in shining armor that has a thousand well-qualified women both known and unknown to him pining for the day the would meet, found a knight of his own not long after that humid Wednesday in June. I’d like to think of him as a long-awaited award for conquering the most challenging and treacherous dragon of them all-accepting one’s own self.

It took all my strength to finish the piece at open-mic poetry night, but by some miracle or the grace of the Gods, I did it. I will never forget that moment I finished when my eyes met yours, nor the look in your eyes as I spoke the final two lines of the poem. Those two lines will ring true for Bryan, for Joshua, and all the rest who have ever and will ever say to me, "Jen, I have something to tell you.":

I couldn’t love you more
But you know I love you just the same.

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