“Who am I? What do you care? As I thought about writing my story, my mind filled with many concerns, worries, and frustrations. I didn’t want to be a stereotype or create conflicts of interest between my experiences and those of others. I didn’t want my story be controversial. Then all of the sudden it hit me: I am me. I. Am. Me. What a concept. I don’t need to wear a mask to share my story, so here it goes:
“Hello. My name is James. I am organized. I am a friend. I am a husband. I am a lover. I am loyal. I am deceitful. I am a son. I am gay. I am confused. I am strong. I am a gossip. I am moral. I am a student. I am a leader. I am human. I am a child of God. These are just few of the roles I play and also try to hide on a daily basis.
“‘I am gay’ was certainly harder to say at one point than it is to write today. I have always known in one sense or another that I was gay; it wasn’t like one day I woke up after a fever and became ill with homosexuality. When I was younger, I would listen to what others said and professed on the topic and tricked myself into believing I was a bad person, that I did not want to be gay because I would end up alone in the world and most likely head straight to hell.
“I used to dream about guys in my high school class that I thought were attractive. Getting a high-five or even a hug during a class retreat was an amazing feeling. Somehow I was connected to them. I didn’t want to hurt the girls that ‘liked’ me. I started to wear masks during my middle and high school years. Which mask could I wear to hide myself for as long as possible? Would I be the class president who always wanted to control the situation and didn’t want to delegate duties? Or would I hide behind my own faith, professing to others at my own retreat that I wasn’t gay? Or the kid that would sit at home watching porn from the age of 14 onward because I didn’t what else to do with my feelings towards men?
“I must confess that these were all me. I am not proud of the masks I wore, but I cannot change my past. It is through these experiences I have learned and have tried to become a better person, even if that takes a lifetime to do. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I finally felt comfortable sharing my feelings about men with my close friends. Through many tears and deep conversations, I made it through. During my study abroad experience others let me know it was okay to be me. It was okay to take time to express myself. It was okay to take a moment.
“I would like to share a poem about wearing masks:
‘Undone,’ by Christine Bruness
Slowly he unraveled
bandages of facades
and bravely peeled apart
the cracked layers
of his contrived persona,
exposing his darkness
in all its authenticity
by becoming undone.”