It’s been almost 14 years since I came out of the closet. I’ve now been with my partner, almost as long as I was married. And, I’ve almost spent a third of my life on the other side of the closet door, being authentically who I am – a gay man. So what does that all add up to? A lot of joy, heartache, peace, and regrets. Today I want to focus on the regrets, and don’t worry, this is not meant to be a downer, so please keep on readin’ on.
Ironically, one of the things that keep most people in the closet is the possibility that they’ll regret coming out of the closet. It could be the regret of losing friends and family. Possibly it’s regretting that they didn’t do it sooner. Or what if, being gay isn’t what they thought it be?
Of course the flip side is the regret of not coming out of the closet. Not living your truth. Being perpetually miserable on the inside while wearing a mask of false happiness. Growing old, never breaking the pattern of living to make others feel more comfortable about who you are as person.
Either way, it seems to be a stacked deck until you accept, a regret can only be a regret if you create it and let it stay alive in your life as a regret. This was one of the toughest lessons I learned coming out of the closet, I don’t regret it one bit. In fact once I started looking closer at what I regretted as I came through the closet doors, I realized, my regrets were beautiful life lessons in the rough just waiting to be chipped away and exposed as gems of wisdom.
Regret #1 – Forcing my sexuality into people’s faces. You would have thought I’d won the season finale of Project Runway the way I strutted my sexual orientation. I wasn’t flamboyant, I was vocal, and cavalier. Basically, like it or not you were going to hear I was gay and to bad if you didn’t like it. If I could have a “do over,” I would have subtly found ways to share my sexuality with others when the inquiries were made, not when I decided they needed to hear it. In other words, to command respect, give respect.
Regret #2 – Change your stance and change it now. I believe in myself. I know I’m gay. And, for awhile there I needed to fight, defend, and use every tactic in the book to get others to change their point of view about homosexuality. I’m not going to say that didn’t work; at times it did, but probably because at 6’4 and 270 pounds, I’m a force to be reckoned with, and that’s before I put on my pumps! Then I began to realize, I was a direct reflection of the people who were so adamantly trying to coerce me to change. How can you ask someone else to change, then turn around and defy them when they ask you to change? It’s like oil and water, the two just don’t mix. In other words, demanding change from those demanding you change leads to a whole lot of demanding, and no understanding.
Regret #3 – Moving too quick and not thinking slower. For whatever reason, a majority of us married heterosexuals who come out later in life, lose our heads, and move quickly into “Ta Da, I’m Gay!” Not saying we misjudged our gay genes. No, no, no. We simply move really quickly, jumping into gay life, because we’ve got to make up for lost time. Truth is, the time you’ve been given to be your authentic self, more than makes up for the time you pretended to not be your authentic self, if you use your time wisely. I moved way to quickly to find a man, keep a man, and be in a relationship. Loads more wasted time and energy. Or, was it? Nope it wasn’t. In other words, moving to quickly and not thinking slower taught me to move slower, think slower so that I could dig deeper and make better decisions in all aspects of my life.
Regret #4 – Process, Process, Process. Ok are you done? Funny how, no matter how long it took for me to finally come to terms with my sexuality, 38 years to be exact, I expected many of those in my inner circle to jump and hop to accepting it in hours, days, weeks, or just a few months. I mean come on! What’s the big deal? I know I’m gay and I know why, so why can’t you just hustle along and catch up with me and my discoveries of self. Needless to say, the more I pushed and expected people to process quickly, the quicker they built block walls to protect themselves from my assaults. Until, the assaults ceased. In other words, once I allowed others the luxury to process my sexuality, and how that fit in their world, the cleaner the conversations became, and the more we each heard and listened to one another.
Regret #5 – Drawing lines in the sand. Coming out is a big enough internal battle to contend with without adding the external battles of others and their belief systems. Yet, there’s really no getting around those battlefields without a strategy to not make them a battlefield. I chose to do battle. I shored up my defenses, drawing lines in the sand, an in the process, making an ass out of myself and hurting people. Admittedly, the reverse was true also. What I now regret was drawing some of those lines in the sand. A few of those lines were worth getting annoying sand between my toes, as there were some relationships that just needed to be washed way into the ocean of my past life, never to be again. Of course the danger of drawing lines in the sand is you draw them and then others counter back, and before you know it, it’s a line in the sand standoff, leaving both parties to just stand, not budging, flexing, or seeing another point of view. In other words, standing your ground instead of saying, “Let’s compromise or at least agree to disagree on this one thing and continue our relationship.”
As empowering, and fulfilling as stepping into your truth, no matter what that truth is, the experience can be much richer and beneficial when you embrace a regret as it shows up and ask yourself, “Do I want to live with this regret, or turn it into a benefit?” I know now how what choice I’d make!
Struggling with regrets of coming out? Ready to live a more authentic life? Tired of living to please others? Schedule a complimentary session with me and let’s see how working together we can release the ties that bind you in hiding behind a mask that just doesn’t fit you any longer.
Rick Clemons is the author of the soon to be released book, "Frankly My Dear I'm Gay!"