Thanksgiving of 1987 sucked. I was 20 years old “in love” with a man who looked like a 24-year-old Tom Selleck. Let’s call him BN, which is short for Bad News. At the time, I was obsessed with him. We were never sober, and he had a thing for beating me and stealing from everyone. The night before Thanksgiving of ’88, as we stood out in the cold Stop-N-Go parking lot where I worked third shift, he asked if he could borrow my little silver Aries K car. After more worshipping of the ground he walked on, I handed him the keys.
I didn’t see him again for four days.
It turns out BN is a malignant narcissist who didn’t care about how his actions impacted others. He took my car from Nashville to visit his mother in Bowling Green for the Thanksgiving Weekend. I walked to a literal roach motel near the Stop-n-Go and stayed those four days. It was disgusting and crawling with bugs. I got blind drunk to go to sleep. I slept on top of carefully inspected towels in my clothes on top of the bed. It was a bad area of town. As I walked to and from the Stop-N-Go those four days, I will never forget the name-calling from rednecks passing by as I cried behind my dirty clothes smoking stolen cigarettes.
When BN came back to work, he handed me my keys and never apologized. I stormed off, but we were back together within 48 hours. My parents didn’t say anything, hadn’t called the police. They had given up beating me each time I disappeared or was out late about a year before this, and I guess had given up on me altogether until they would throw me out of the house for being gay a couple of months later.
I will never forget that horrid little hotel room with all the noises and dark spots scurrying around on every surface. The only light came from the nasty portal-to-hell bathroom. I tried distracting myself with daydreams of getting married to the man that I loved, and it not being chaotic or blurred from drugs and alcohol. We would get married, have mutual respect, be peers, have a ranch style home on a Tennessee hill, have a Pomeranian and a Siberian Huskey for furkids, we would both have degrees and matching evergreen luxury cars. My future husband would love me and bring me flowers that he didn’t steal from someone but bought himself. He would hold me and never let me go.
I cried myself to sleep. At 20, I already thought I was too damaged and didn’t deserve that dream. If the rednecks fulfilled their promise to shoot me, at that point in my life, I wouldn’t have thought it to be a significant loss.
Well, I survived all that and eventually got away from BN. It is 32 years later now. All that self-loathing and dysfunction eventually led me to hit rock bottom and run into the arms of the ex-gay ministry/conversion therapy movement. That realm can be attractive to those who are already vulnerable to manipulation and abuse. I was already a diagnosable PTSD person, and the “ex-gay” trauma was just another layer of the hell I would eventually work through. As the years wore on, I did get real professional counseling. Plus, there were plenty of secular and even some Christian resources that helped me heal from a lot of suffering and self-loathing.
It was that healing work that eventually led me back out of the closet to embrace the truth that I could be a happy, whole, and *healthy* gay man. One of the biggest fears that kept me in the conversion therapy/ex-gay ministry stained-glass closet was that I would end up going back to being the scared, abused kid crying themselves to sleep in four-day-old clothes in a roach motel over Thanksgiving.
Today, Thanksgiving 2019. I have been with the man that I love and genuinely loves me, Dan, for three years. He doesn’t steal cars or hurt anyone. He is noble, courageous, steadfast, handsome, and loyal. That is why we are going to get married in 2021 (date to be announced soon). We don’t have a ranch style home on a hill in Tennessee. We have a 2nd-floor condo in Orlando, Florida. We don’t have matching luxury cars, but the ones we do have are paid for, and that counts. We are partners in a healthy normal relationship. And as I am typing this, he just walked through the front door with orchids. Not lying either, you can ask Jesus. Yes, I am wiping away tears as I type.
We don’t have a Pomeranian and a Siberian Huskey. Still, we have the best furkid ever, Eli The Chillhuahua Zombie Killer, who is chasing off werewolves (ok they are just ducks that we told him are werewolves) as we speak. Eli is being chaperoned (walked) by the next Broadway sensation, our 12-year-old daughter, The Fairy Princess. As I type this, she is belting out a song (not kidding) from a block away that I can hear all the way here.
A documentarian who has followed us around for about three years now recently asked me what my favorite moment was since coming back out. Without hesitation, I said something to the effect, “My favorite moment was the day I looked up from my computer at home and saw the Fairy Princess struggling with our dog trying to get him to stop squirming and put his leash on. She was doing that while I worked, and Dan was in the kitchen cooking dinner. At that moment, I realized I had a family. We are in our little home and leading a pretty normal life. It’s my favorite because even though some would consider this to be a mundane moment, for me, it was the moment I realized all my dreams had come true.”
My heart floods over with thankfulness.