I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am.
Those words above were from a quote by Ricky Martin on his website.
When I first saw the headline I will admit I sort of laughed about it. But then I read the statement on his website. It really made me think about the struggle I had years ago coming out to my best friend. It was not an easy decision at all. Sometimes you might think a person already knows -but you can never be sure!
To take that first step, to tell someone you trust, respect and love is giant step and not something that is done easily. The first person I ever came out to was my best friend Chris. Chris was a friend that I really enjoyed spending time with, that I had grown close to -I had also grown close to his family and had come to love them like my own family. I had so much respect for his father. To me, they were the "perfect family" that I never really had growing up. His parents, he and his brother were all so close. They talked, laughed and even sat and had dinner together. His family was also very, very good to me. At a time when I was out on my own- a Jr. in High school, working 2 full time jobs, in my own apartment -just trying to make it- they reached out to me and took me in as one of their own. I would end up spending a lot of time at their house- eating dinner, playing basketball, or watching the news with Chris and his dad. They even asked me to move in with them - and I really wanted to. But for a few reasons (mostly other family not wanting me to) I didn't. Over the next few years I will still spend a lot of time with Chris and his family. I would go on vacation to MO with them, go to the sand pit, spend holidays with them or the thing I loved most - Just spending time at their house -watching the news (and talking news/politics with his dad)
Then as I started to come to the realization that I was gay - I started to spend time away from the city I was living in. I would drive 4 hours away to go to a "gay" bar or to meet other "gay guys". At that point Chris and his family had become so much a part of my daily life that it became hard for me to explain to them where I was, what I was doing etc. So for me the best thing was to just spend less time with him/them so that I did not have to lie to them.
Eventually, I decided that I could not keep lying to Chris any longer. One night we were doing what we so often did - ride around town all night long in my truck. I remember wanting to finally tell him -but again not so sure it was the right thing to do. I was worried about his reaction, his fathers reaction. I had never spoken those words to anyone (not even myself). But finally after hours of riding around I told Chris I had a problem I needed to tell him about and I was not sure how he was going to take the news. He said "Brad you can tell me anything" I then told him, "well this is kind of a big problem, I have never told anyone about this" He then asked if I was having family problems, or problems with money. I assured him that this was a "different kind of problem" Finally, I just told him. And I WILL NEVER FORGET HIS REACTION. The first thing he said was "well, first you need to stop calling it a problem - because it is not" He then gave me a hug. I can tell you, without hesitation, that night, that conversation changed my life. Chis and his family meant so much to me -more than my own family- that I could have cared less if anyone else had 'rejected me' Chris was the only person in my life that I really wanted to remain in my life forever. The fact that he was 'ok' with it meant the world to me.
I really don't know how things would have turned out had Chis not been the great guy (and raised by such great parents) that he was that night. I can tell you that when I later came out to my parents I told them that I didn't really care what their reaction was - that I had told the person that meant the most to me already -and so there reaction didn't mean as much.
The night I came out to Chris he told me that his brother and his parents loved me like family and that they too would be "ok' with it. However, I was just not ready to take that next step. I asked him not to tell anyone. It was several years later when one night at home my phone rang -I answered it and it was Chris's dad on the other end. I had not spoken to him in awhile (or just had brief conversations with him). Lee was a very upfront person so he came right out and said it...."Brad, I don't want you to be mad at Chris -but tonight I asked him why you stopped coming around so much. And he told me what you had told him and I want you to know that I love you like you were my own son, and I don't give a damn if your gay" I had both a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. He then said "I only feel bad that you felt like you could not tell me" It really is hard for me to explain the love and respect I had for Lee. He was this great loving family guy - but also this tough viet nam vet - whose politics I was not sure agreed with mine. The fact that I can still recall what I was doing when I got that phone call from him -all those years ago -and exactly what he said should tell you how much it meant to me.
Chris and his family treated me the same after I came out to them as they did before -with the love and respect.
There is so much more I could say about Chris and his family (and some day when I write my book I will) but for now I just want to tell Chris -thanks and I love you. From the time I met him at that crazy summer camp there has been no better friend in the world.