Who am I?
I am a big fan of French literature. My favorite novel of all time is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I am also like Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. I read the abridged translated version in high school. The musical adaptation of Jean Valjean's story occurred several decades ago. Mid-way through the plot, Jean faces a crisis of choice. Another man goes to prison identified falsely as Jean, and Jean keeps his new life under an assumed identity. Or Jean can step up and admit who he is can keep the promises he made that restored his life and soul.
In the musical, this crisis is expressed and resolved in the song "Who am I." Jean weighs the choices and consequences of both until finally, his integrity wins out, and he confesses his true self. My life has certainly not been the epic saga of M. Jean Valjean; however, it has been interesting to me. I, like Jean, assumed an identity that, on the outside, seemed perfectly acceptable. It might have been a little sketchy at times and frayed around the corners. It worked most of the time. Enough to be ordained and credentialed in the United Methodist Church and marry two different women. It was close enough to the person I was that I could carry it off without too much internal angst. But angst there was, and several crises points and many times where the truth was never explicitly denied, but conveniently avoided. At the time, I never lied to the church, not a self-avowed practicing "homosexual" (actual language in the United Methodist Book of Discipline.) I was a self-denying non-practicing Queer person of ambiguous sexual orientation, romantic attraction, gender identity. But they never asked me that specifically. So, I never indeed lied.
I was able to pass for the way that I looked on the outside, a "white" masculine, cis-gendered, straight male. And as I said, it worked for the most part. Some people who paid attention might have had suspicions, but never enough to confront me about it. This charade went on for most of my life until I couldn't do it anymore. I repressed my feelings of resentment about the hatred and emotional violence I experienced on a personal level. I could not live with myself and not speak out against others' power and hate like me. I finally admitted to myself and then the world my true self, my identity.
There were baby steps at first, as I navigated the transition from the acceptable straight world into the LGBTQIA community's marginalized world. It is not as if I didn't have many similar experiences of men my age, who felt the societal pressure to gender norms of masculinity and heterosexuals. I still wrestle with my sense of personal guilt and shame for not doing this earlier in my life. Many kind and gracious people had said to me that I came out when I was ready. I was also able to have the opportunity to go to seminary and be credential in the United Methodist Church that would have denied me if I was out. I could have contracted HIV/AIDS in the 80s and died. Or lived had to live under the pressure of what living with that illness means.
I guess that my journey was the journey I needed to get to the point where I am. Yes, well, obviously, David. In the last four years, I allowed myself to come to terms with my authentic self and live my truth with integrity. This self-awareness deepened into a broader, more expansive understanding of the complexity of knowing who I am—not only regretting a past of missed opportunities and relationships with more appropriate partners. Imagining the sex would have been so much hotter and frequent in my 20s than in my late 50s and early 60s. I also know that the only reality is the present moment. I no longer live in prison designed by the white, masculine, heterosexual, elite patriarchy that I built with my own hands, my mind. The liberation I feel in breaking out of that outweighs any other feeling that comes from the past. This freedom allows me to open myself up to the fullness and complexity of my full identity and understand what I felt all my life is my truth and is good. It is how the universe created me, and the only way that I can live out my life as the person, not only as I am, but as intended to be.
I believe this is where the new sense of vitality and passion occurring now in my comes. There is a renewed sense of purpose and meaning in my life. As I connect with the universe as my authentic self, I open myself up to that life force. It empowers me and fills my heart with joy, my mind with understanding, and my feet with direction. I may not walk as quickly or jump as high when excited, and I am more enthused about the possibilities than I have in a very long time.
This not exactly what I intended to write when I started. I will have to create a Part II to get to the point I wanted to make. This habit of wandering off-topic is how my brain works, and while I like to process linearly many times when the muse leads, I must follow her. Stay tuned for more.