Sunday, December 11, 2011

Secrets

I have been analyzing my relationships - past and current - since I began these sessions. It has always been significant to me that I have had many gay friends (male). This, in itself, is not peculiar. But what is fairly unusual is the fact that I was friends with three of them (at different points in my life) before they came out of the closet to anyone. The first was a good friend of mine in high school who dated several of my girlfriends. We remained close after high school and during one my visits to see him at his college, he came out to me after a party. We sat in the blistering cold on a random doorstep on the streets of Boston, and through heart-wrenching tears he told me about the feelings he could not longer suppress.
The second was a guy I had befriended early on in my first year of college. Through many late-night chats he ultimately revealed his inner struggle to be the person he always had to hide now that he was away at college. We were sitting outside near the intramural field in the heat. He had never told anyone else that he was gay. After this, he had to work very hard at being open with others, but it got easier with each person he told.
The third was my absolute best friend in medical school. We were oddly close, leading me to believe that perhaps we could be more than just friends. But over time, when we remained close in every aspect but the physical, I started to see the signs. We took a trip to Mardi Gras together toward the end of our second year of friendship, and it was in the wee hours of the morning on a deserted New Orleans street where he stopped me and shared with a shaky voice that he was gay. At this point, I wasn't surprised by it. I found myself relieved and unburdened, for him AND for me. I felt as though I had been carrying his secret for him because I knew him better than anyone. I was sad because I knew how painful it was for him to voice what he had tried so hard to push down, but I was thrilled that he was finally going to start living freely. He only told a few people at once, but eventually the rest of the medical school class caught on. He was horrified that the group of male friends he sometimes hung out with - a group of jocks with a tough-love attitude - would make life horrible for him. But they didn't. They continued to accept him, and it made my friend stronger than ever.

It wasn't until this week that I looked back at all of these relationships and found the common thread that ties them together. Perhaps I had so much in common with these guys who were living a double life because I was living a double life, too. They hid their emotions and suppressed their feelings because they feared social retribution for being gay. Not to say that my warped handle on diabetes is anywhere near having to deal with being gay in our society, but we dealt with our differences in much of the same way. Maybe I was drawn to these closeted gay men because I could trust them to understand me, even if I didn't divulge my secret. Maybe they sensed the same in me.

Currently, all three are openly gay and truly happy in their own skin. They are successful in life and in love. They no longer carry the stress that comes along with hiding and lying. I believe I am on my way to shedding those stressors, too.

2 comments:

  1. Wow. What an incredibly trio of stories, weaved together in a brilliant way. It's interesting to see how far we've come as a society in being able to talk openly and wear whatever-it-may-be on our sleeves like we do. It was discouraged when I was a kid, after being diagnosed at 5. Sharing it just wasn't normal; D was my own thing to deal with. Of course, that was NOTHING compared to what my mom (dx'd at age five in 58) went through. You look at stories like Elizabeth Hughes Gossett actively hid her diabetes and would even deny it, just to be "normal." The changes we've seen are interesting, scary, and inspiring all at the same time. And it does wonders to know that we can be accepted for who we are, and not have to hide any part of ourselves. Thanks for sharing this, Shara.

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  2. You and Leah Dunham!

    Shara I am catching up on your blog after attending your JDRF Expo session and hope it is not too weird to comment on such an old post.

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