Funny world we live in: it is expected that those of us who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender--and anyone else on this spectrum--"come out" and tell the world we are who we are. While the same is not expected of anyone who is straight (go figure), we, who are LGBT, dutifully "come out" of our self-imposed "closets," though there is no stated or planned ritual for such an affair.
As a son of the Church and a lover of rituals, I solved all this with my own "coming out" party!
On the evening of Saturday, November 3rd, I was joined by nine amazing, handsome men--all who say they are gay--for my first and last official coming out (aren't you already out?) gay party. While the descriptive title may seem over the top, so does the idea of "coming out." As many of you, dear readers, know, I've been gay "practically" all of my life. While I was "out" and gay everywhere in my life, busting out of closet doors during my tenure at Duke University, in reality, the last place where I was not totally "out" was in the Church per se, especially in my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA). While I had the joy of serving a fantastic congregation in Raleigh, I was never "out" to the entire congregation, though there were some members who knew, or thought they knew. Having now left that congregation, the party on Sat. night was the long anticipated "last plank, last board, last screw, last bolt, last lock" of the proverbial closet door coming off, and my coming out, with nowhere to hide anymore. In the Protestant and Catholic (and Orthodox) Churches unscripted yet hovering, shadowy, guilt-laden, shaming policy of "don't ask, don't tell," I am breathing freely, no longer constrained by this self-imposed last restraining order.
The party was marvelous: Wayne, our host, raised a glass and toasted the evening, acknowledging that I am finally out of the closet! In return, I thanked all the men for their gift of being a role model of sorts as they lived their lives free of the restraints of the "don't ask don't tell" world. We also celebrated the publication of my new book ON BEING A GAY PARENT (NYC: Seabury Press, 2007, www.churchpublishing.org), which I just received last week on All Saints/Souls day! Wayne and his friend Ken made a scrumptious dinner of chicken, rice, salad, and slices from several baguettes, with plenty of wine for one and all. Dessert was an apple pie (alamode) that fed all ten of us well. Vince and John brought beverages for the gathering (thanks, guys!).
Afterwards, we all had great fun as I opened gifts that were delicious and hysterical: a bottle of white wine and beautiful cork-screw from Michael, who is tempting me to be a white wine connoisseur instead of always drinking reds; new black high heels from Wayne; a travel book to gay places in the country from Ken; and a bra (purple), tiara, lipstick, Crisco (!), and hand sanitizer from Randy. Randy wanted me to "glam up." They all match perfectly with the heels. Mitchell and Joseph gave me a great pamphlet that helped me understand (tongue in cheek) what it means to be a gay man, and this pamphlet was tucked in a toy-closet that Dean, my partner, made, along with another tiara from Dean (who worked with Wayne on the party).
This was the first party at Wayne's new, beautiful house. I was honored to have this "coming out" party as his first inaugural party. I'll write down the ritual for this rite of passage soon in an article, so no one else needs to flop around in knowing what to do, or feel guilty, shamed, or sad about coming out. That is the gift of rituals: doing things decently and in order (as we Presbyterians say). We all celebrated, laughed, reflected, shared our "coming out" and "first gay kissing" stories, growing closer together in this time of hope, wonder, and love.
Thanks to the men and women who taught me the joys of being out. As they would tell me (often): come on out! The water is fine!
Swimming with joy in the delightful waters of being out,
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