In seventh-grade English, Mrs. Rowe gave us an assignment: write about what your family will be like twenty-five years in the future. Piece of cake, because I already knew my future wife’s name: Joanne.
Joanne and I drove flying cars in 2004. We had three children and a dog. Our house was the spitting image of the Brady Bunch house. I was a successful surgeon. Joanne didn’t have to work though she loved her volunteering with the Junior League. She had short, Dorothy Hamill hair. My parents loved her as did my siblings, who were all happily married as well, with kids of their own.
My aspirational life with Joanne was key to my evolving straight persona, out of junior high and on to high school, college and beyond. She embodied the perfection of my future life. Wanting to marry my Joanne felt normal. I wasn’t suppressing anything since I wasn’t gay anyway. Sure, it took work, practice, and commitment. A hyper focus on that space-age future with Joanne, remaining vigilant, guarded, aware. Stay two steps ahead of what people think about me. Change the subject. Throw them off the scent.
By the time I hit my mid-20s, I couldn’t bear one more derogatory comment from my co-workers about “the gays.” This parallel-life energy, compressed to infinity, finally reached a Big Bang point. Ha! A homosexual singularity. The pretending, using vague pronouns, and lying to my family and friends didn’t feel normal anymore. These intricate, fragile components of my being exploded in infinite directions on a spring day in 1993.
I lost my normal, my Joanne. And gained a brand-new universe to start rewriting my career and my character. My me.
Most LGBTQ individuals have chosen to remain invisible during our lives, unlike other minorities. It’s harder to identify someone’s sexuality compared to their race.
This morning, I saw 749 others besides Simon being sworn in. 749 other stories. Who was tempest tost? Who was wretched refuse from their home country’s teeming shores? How brightly does that lamp burn in their eyes and hearts?
There are still lots of those kids out there, carrying old adolescent fears of discovery in middle-aged bodies. Fears that don’t end like a Teams call when we fire up the laptop to start a new day.