Sunday, July 19, 2009

Reflections on Coming Out and Rebuilding One's Circle of Friends

I receive e-mails somewhat regularly from readers who are either still in the closet or in the process of coming out and going through often nasty divorces. Obviously, I am no expert on the topic and have had my own extremely bumpy ride on the divorce front. Nonetheless I have managed to survive so far. I believe that in addition to the trauma of divorce and the impact it has on one's family, perhaps the biggest hurdle for those coming out in mid or later life is the prospect of what comes afterwards. In my case, I lost most of my supposed friends, was forced out of a law firm for being gay, went through the divorce from Hell and I had nothing certain to replace the world that I had lost. The result, not surprisingly, was sometimes deep depression and over a period of time two suicide attempts, one of which was almost successful. Looking back, what I feared the most was being alone and not finding a loving relationship with a man that met my requirements/expectations. All I could see was a dark and uncertain future while my old world no longer existed.
Starting from the ground floor and rebuilding is not easy - especially for those of us over 50. But it CAN be done if one has patience and a positive attitude - two things that are not always my strongest traits. . The wonderful evening I had tonight made me think about this issue as we drove back from a dinner party at a friend's home in Kingsmill on the James in Williamsburg (pictured above). In my darkest days, I never truly believed in my heart that I'd find the kind of relationship that I have with the boyfriend: someone who truly loves me and who seeks nothing from me but to be loved in return. As an added bonus, I now have a wide circle of friends both within the LGBT community and in other social circles. Yes, they are totally different from the ones I knew during my married years, but most importantly, the people are genuine and do not define people based on their sexual orientation.
Our hostess tonight was a wonderful widow friend of ours and with us for dinner were an older gay couple and an older doctor and his wife. Other than the hostess, I had never met any of the other dinner guests. Nonetheless, by the time we departed, I felt I had four new friends who are smart, witty, great fun, and authentic. In my married life, I had ever so many "friends" who were in fact merely acquaintances, most of whom postured to be whatever they thought the larger social setting wanted them to be. Were they necessarily bad people? Certainly not. But all were actors playing a role that they thought was assigned to them. I truly never got to know who they really were. Living authentically and having friends - even if few in number at first - who are truly authentic takes life to a whole new level.
Again, I will not deny that the rebuilding process can be slow, arduous and even scary. But it can and will happen. One just needs patience and the strength to believe that a new life will evolve after the loss of one's old closeted life. And as I have said before, there is no price to be put on truly being who God made you to be without the restrictions and torments of the closet.

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