As anyone who drops by this site knows, I have written a few posts about coming out of the closet and the impact this has on the lives of gay men. A few days ago I decided to ask author and columnist Tim Owen whose Amazon profile intrigued me, to write a post about his coming out. I thought that Tim’s story would appeal to the many gay young men who are on the threshold of admitting their sexual orientation and perhaps coming out, or older men who are not quite sure about being gay, have been married, and maybe still are, and can’t figure out what their next move should be. While the post is hysterically funny in many ways, I’m sure the real life story behind it is anything but funny because life has a way of throwing some very serious curve balls at us when we’re not looking.
Tim writes general fiction and even dabbles in a bit of poetry. His bio is at the end of the post and his latest book is The Killing Cycle.
Here’s Tim’s story:
I have three children from a misguided heterosexual union that terminated with all the finesse of Hiroshima, in 2002.
In gay circles, I’m generally considered a slow learner. It took me 2 girls, 10 years and three kids to finally do the math and come to the conclusion that I am, in fact, not heterosexual. I’m not even one step over at bisexual (I was, for a few months there). I am completely and utterly over to the far left of the spectrum at ‘card carrying, flag waving, Gucci wearing, raging homosexual’.
It’s getting a bit tedious now, but whenever I make new friends I find myself having to explain how it is that a 32 year old male can really, truly, honestly not know that he is gay. Personally, I don’t understand the confusion; it’s really quite a simple.
Boy meets girl. Boy shags girl (Okay, with eyes closed but I thought that was normal). Boy marries girl (well, she proposed, and I was free that day). Boy fathers three kids. Boy meets boy. Boy shags boy. Boy divorces girl. Boy shags a lot more boys (well, you gotta kiss a lot of frogs, you know?)
Okay, sure, there were enough billboards along the journey through my teens and twenties, but what use are signs if they are written in a language you don’t speak? And I didn’t speak homo yet.
In retrospect, of course, now that I do speak the language, all those signs make perfect sense. Like my irrational (at the time) crush on the head boy, Shaun. Like the fact that no matter how many girls I dated in high school, none of them ever got to first base with me. Like the fact that my best friends were Laura and Gail, not Steve and John. Signs like the fact that I didn’t watch MacGyver for the nail biting excitement; I watched it to see Richard Dean Anderson. Or that I was content with only ever having had sex with two women, one of them under extreme duress.
When I found myself staring at a guy, instead of his girlfriend, my explanation to myself was that I wanted pecs like his, or calf muscles or whatever – I told myself that I envied him, not that I wanted to shag him silly – hey, a staunch Catholic upbringing can do wonders for your powers of denial.
In my defense, though, there were numerous homosexual stereotypical moulds that didn’t apply to me at all. I list my sins here in no particular order: I detested musicals. I fell asleep during Yentl (several times). I thought Barbra Streisand was just an ugly chick with a big nose. I never used words like “fabulous”, “gorgeous” or “darling”. I bought no-name brand sun glasses and jeans from a flea market.
Before you throw stones at me for these blasphemies, let me assure you that I have repented for most of them. Except for the Yentl thing (yawn).
So what was it that finally pried open the closet door? Ironically it started with something my wife did when I was about 28. She went to a hen party or some other female rite of passage, and ended up coming home with a Playgirl magazine. Suddenly, I found myself with the opportunity to ogle naked men at my leisure (and privacy, of course), taking time to savour every angle and curve and protrusion. Needless to say, I loved that magazine.
By now, I should probably have started to contemplate the possibility that I would like to shag men, but did I? Of course not! I had an explanation for the effect the magazine had on me. I only got horny over the pictures of men because they reminded me of myself – they were male, I was male – so it wasn’t a gay thing, it was just a kind of extension of a normal masturbatory experience, if somewhat narcissistic. Rather a healthy dose of narcissism than homosexuality. That magazine and I had a very healthy relationship for several years.
The next big milestone happened in June 2000, just after my 32nd birthday. The Playgirl magazine and I had been dating for almost four years now, and it was starting to show signs of, well, for want of a better word, disintegration. The internet was starting to take off in a big way and there were loads of tools for people to communicate with each other – even total strangers. I discovered a chat application called Mirc32. The way it worked is you simply logged on, and then selected a room that you wanted to chat in. I had thought to use it to keep in touch with a few colleagues, but each time I logged on I couldn’t help notice a room called gaySA.
Finally (okay, it was probably on about day 3) I decided to pop in and see exactly what it is that homos chat about when left to their own devices. I had expected some exciting, exotic conversation – it had always seemed to me that homosexuals were somehow just so much more fabulous than everybody else, I didn’t for a second believe they would be guilty of the mediocre sort of idle chit chat that I had been subjected to in the other chat rooms.
Recipes? People were exchanging recipes? Somebody had apparently thrown a dinner party the night before, and someone else had enquired about the food and now here we were all learning how to make Tzimmes from some dude called HungTopDbn009.
Okay, so the conversation wasn’t quite what I had expected, but a scan down the list of names had me intrigued. I noticed a couple of words that appeared in more than one name and figured they must have some special meaning – like HungTopDbn009, for example. Okay, I got the hung part. I got the Dbn part, Durban being a city on the east coast. But I noticed several other names that also had Top in them. Then I noticed several others that had the word Bottom – but what did that mean? Did these guys all share bunk beds? That didn’t seem right. I gave up on that one and moved to one I thought I knew – Cut. As in BiTopCutjhb72. I noticed several Cuts and a few Uncuts – which, of course I understood to mean censored or uncensored. You know, as in 9 ½ weeks, uncut, PG 18. I figured it meant that if you asked them for a picture (there was no such thing as profile pages in those days), you would get either a clean censored image, or an uncensored one.
A few people tried to initiate conversations with me but they didn’t seem to speak English. “A/S/L” - what the hell does that mean? When I politely requested that they converse with me in the Queen’s English, they promptly moved on to the next guy on their list. Then one asked me if I was a top or bottom – I replied it didn’t matter to me as I didn’t usually sleep in bunk beds. He replied with lol – I’m versatile. I thought that was a strange change of topic, from bunk beds to the fact that he was limber. It wasn’t too long into the conversation that he said “you’re not gay, are you?” which filled me with relief; I had felt like an imposter, lurking in the channel, spying on the homos. I was mystified by the fact that he could tell though.
His name was Michael. He was a regular bottomless (not to be confused with top) font of knowledge and we chatted for several months. He found my naiveté in homosexual matters charming and was always keen to help me out when I was faced with a new term – like rimming, for example (this one scared me away from the chat room for several weeks). I had never given any thought to the actual dynamics of homosexual sex, and as such was bowled over to learn that there were actual terms for the different roles and activities.
One day, towards the middle of August, Michael asked if I would like to meet him for coffee. Giving it as much consideration as a straight man choosing a T-shirt, I agreed. I wanted to meet that same day because I was sure I would change my mind if I had time to think about it. I met him near his house and we had coffee – I was tingling with nerves and excitement, unsure whether to play footsie with him or throw up – I had never been on a date with a guy before. As it turns out, it was the most important date of my life – it changed everything that I had thought I had known about myself.
For several months afterwards, I still didn’t admit I was gay – I thought I was bisexual, or more accurately, heterosexual with boys on the side. It took a year of intense research into the male form for me to acquiesce that I was a gay man married to a woman, but finally the time came when I realised something had to give. So I formulated a plan.
Now, let’s see. You’ve been with your wife for ten years, and you have finally received the memo informing you that you are gay. What do you do?
- Nothing. Stay married but “go away on business” a lot.
- Rush home excitedly and say Honey, guess what? I’m gay! - with all the finesse of a gay man, of course.
- Go to therapy for six months to find the courage to rush home excitedly and say Honey, guess what? I’m gay!
- Come up with a complicated plan that involves having your situation splashed out in some magazine for the whole world to see in the vain hope that your wife would read it, realise it was you, and save you the need for the confrontation in which you rush home and go Honey, guess what? I’m gay!.
Anybody want to hazard a guess at the option I chose? Quite right! Option d. if nothing else, my penchant for drama should have outed me years before. After a few days, with no reaction from her after she had read the magazine, I casually mentioned the article and asked how she felt about it – she said the writer was a big whiner that should grow himself a pair of balls. Ouch.
Finally, after months of drama, deceit and agony, I grew a pair and reverted back to option b. Well, more or less.
This is all ancient history, and our lives have moved on now. What seemed like an earth shattering disaster at the time has evolved into a life of love and happiness and freedom. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t be a coward. Tell her, in the most sensitive way you can. Or go to therapy and have someone help you through it. I mean it; you owe it to yourself, and her, to be true to who you are. Go, do it now.
Remember, everything always works out okay in the end; if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.
Timothy Owen’s biography
Timothy Owen was born in a small suburb in Johannesburg, South Africa right in the middle of the apartheid era, a scary time of unrest and riots. Since the abolition of apartheid in 1991, South Africa has produced a constitution that is an example to the rest of the world, where all people, regardless of race, creed, gender or sexuality are truly equal in the eyes of the law. In 2006, South Africa became the first country in Africa to recognise same-sex marriage, only the fifth in the world.
An avid reader, poet and traveller, Tim is a columnist for various gay publications. He and his long-term partner are the proud fathers of Tim’s three biological children. Inspired by cultures around the world and by Dean Koontz, whose novels are a constant reminder that good can triumph over bad, Tim has always been creative when it comes to fictitious writing.
The first time he submitted his work for publication, it was with a very specific goal in mind, which had nothing to do with writing.
He wrote in anonymously to Fairlady Magazine, detailing his predicament of being a married, closet homosexual. His wife at the time and the mother of his children used to read Fairlady religiously, and upon seeing the article commented to him that the gentleman in the piece should ‘grow some balls and tell his wife!’ Two weeks later he did exactly that.
Now, Tim looks back at that incident and realises it was the most difficult decision he had to make, to be honest about who he was, but also the most rewarding one as it changed the course of his life, or rather, set it on course.
‘You owe it to yourself and the people you love to embrace who you are and live your life accordingly’, he says.
‘Love resides in the heart, not the genitals, and the essence of love is unbiased with no regard for the trivial attributes of the people involved. The ability to love is what makes us human, but unfortunately, so is the tendency to judge.’
Tim’s Contact Information
email: timowen1968 at gmail dot com