The Borders Bookstore in Chapel Hill was crowded with customers on this cloudy day. Many Carolina fans were watching the football against North Carolina State University (Carolina lost), while others were out shopping. In the middle of the cavernous store, near the Information/Customer Service center were several chairs set before a long table, with 25 copies of ON BEING A GAY PARENT prominently displayed. It was exciting to see so many copies of the book!
With a few friends in the audience (thank you all for coming), I began reading from the book, starting with the declaration, "This is not the book I thought I would ever write," and discussed the major topics of the book on being a gay parent, setting up the audience's expectation of what they would hear. Here was the curious thing: As I read from the book, I noticed that those in the audience were not the only ones listening to the stories I read: some people kept circling around the arranged chairs, listening carefully to what I read, while others "looked at books" at nearby shelves for over 30 minutes as I read aloud, leaning in when my voice dropped as I emphasized a point in the reading. A few people "winced" as I said "gay and lesbian," uncomfortable with the words. And after the readings and the time for questions, I watched as some people surreptitiously picked up a copy or two of the book after I finished autographing them.
When I was in the closet--or should I say closets--I was one of those who would "drop in" and listen quietly for my story to be read by someone else, hopeful yet knowing I was not the only "freak" the only "gay man" in the world. I wanted someone to tell me my story was all right, and that life was going to be O.K. as a gay man with children, even though I was hiding in a marriage. I wanted to absorb, but not get too close to, the truth of my life and who I was, and who God created me to be. And it was those other men and women, who I was once-hiding with in our circle of fear, that I watched hovering around the edges of the reading chairs yesterday. To look, glance, or engage their attention would make them run away. To invite to them to sit in a chair and rest their weary, exhausted bones, would have been too much, too soon. And so they quietly, easily, nonchalantly, hovered nearby, listening in, dropping by, desperate to hear their stories read, be validated, and thus giving them pause about what it would mean to live authentically and genuinely. "What happened if I did come out?" was never far from their mind.
The book tour is off and running! My story, and the stories of others gay and lesbian parents are now being read, in public, for free (unless you want to buy a book, but the price is good and the author will sign almost anything), for all to see, hear, and absorb.
As they say in the South, "Y'all come!"
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