Please read the words of this post carefully, because there's a tricky question at the end.
I'm coming out of the closet again. In 2004, I told my coming out story in a newspaper column called "Soulfully Gay," the discovery of Integral spirituality by a 34-year-old gay man. But my coming out story is probably not what you think it is, even if you've read the book inspired by the newspaper column, Soulfully Gay (Integral Books/Shambhala, 2007).
Here's something you don't know about Soulfully Gay
So far as I know, not a single person has ever noticed and remarked on one of my book's odd facts: in the course of a 314-page spiritual autobiography, you will not find a single sentence in which I say exactly that I am gay or homosexual. (I think once I let the words "my homosexuality" skate by, which I didn't think was a big deal.)
Nobody noticed. Readers just kind of make up their own story by bringing in tons of assumptions, but the plain words just aren't on the page. The words "I'm gay" or "I'm homosexual" or their most common variations are simply not there. They weren't true to my inner voice, and I could not speak them into the words of the page, preferring to always find expressions that did ring true, such as talking about "same-sex desires."
I don't even say that I'm gay in the book's coming out story. I talk about "labels" instead, as in an essay that starts like this:
When I was 20 years old, I first put a label on my sexuality. Actually, I was spared the chore of coming out to my mom, because a university librarian outed me.
I had secretly known that I was different from most other boys since I was in junior high school. To explore my sexuality, I had checked out books on the topic at the university. Unfortunately, I returned a few books a day late.
The university's library system was very efficient. They immediately printed out an overdue notice and sent it to my permanent address on file. My mother opened the letter from the library, saw the titles of the books, and mailed the notice to me. My process of "coming out" had begun!
At different times of my life, I have worn various labels for my sexuality. Since coming out, I have used labels including bisexual, gay, and queer. I am a man more attracted to men than to women, so the gay label works just fine for me most of the time.
What I didn't mention is that the books that I checked out from the library were on male bisexuality (which, incidentally, has recently been proven to exist by pioneering scientists!) I didn't think of my omission as hiding anything. It just felt like an unnecessary distraction in the context. You see, I wrote elsewhere in the book:
By my senior year of college, I grew comfortable expressing my sexuality. I came out of the closet and had my first sexual experiences. I struggled with picking a single label and deemed myself too inexperienced to know for sure what to call myself. I chose the bisexual label, deciding that it was best to keep my options open...
You can't expect a memoir written by a 34 year-old man to be fully transparent. I didn't want to call the book "Soulfully Gay-Identified Person with a Not Insignificant Degree of Fluid Bisexual Expression."
In my 30s, I was highly invested in remaining identified as gay and was nowhere ready to start contemplating what alternatives might be out there. And yet, my sexuality was always more complex than anything that I wanted to reduce to one label. I just wasn't always ready or able to act on the full spectrum of Eros within my potential.
Continue reading "I'm coming out of the closet (again)" at Awake, Alive & Aware.
Spiritual mentor, author, poet, and scholar. Joe is best known for his 2007 book Soulfully Gay. one of the first memoirs in the tradition of World Spirituality based on Integral principles. Scholar-in-Residence at the Center for World Spirituality, where he works with Director Marc Gafni in providing leadership to the think tank. He also blogs at Gay Spirituality. Arctophile and ailurophile. A little bit country and a little bit "part and whole." Follow Joe Perez Facebook and Joe Perez Twitter.