“If I wouldn't have found Courtney, I probably would have carried on with a bisexual lifestyle.”
- Kurt Cobain
The first family members I came out to was my father, we won’t talk anymore about him in this series by the way, and my maternal aunt. The night I tried to kill myself when I was sixteen I went to my aunt’s house and spilled everything that’d been plaguing me. In the end I stayed the night there and the next day, with the help of my father, checked myself into a mental health hospital.
It was the scariest and best decision I’ve ever made for myself. In the hospital I had time to reflect and relax. I dealt with a lot of my issues, I’m not saying I fixed anything in that summer of therapy and bad hospital food but I made the first steps in that direction. As I’ve said before I left the hospital feeling mended but not whole.
Side note before I continue to the positive side of this story.
Like I said the first person I trusted with the truth of my sexuality was my maternal aunt, let’s call her M. Aunt M and I were pretty damn close when I was growing up and coming out to her was kind of a no brainer in the early 90’s. I told her and she seemed to one hundred percent supportive.
Fast forward a few years, not sure exactly how many, and things began trickle back to me. I kept my sexuality a close the chest secret only telling a few people before and after my stay in the hospital. Yet somehow a lot of people in my family seemed to know that Josh was “A Queer Boy” as one member who I will not name once told me. It didn’t take me long to learn that aunt M spent the summer I was in the hospital telling everyone who’d listen that I was gay.
I guess my love of boobies didn’t hold water with her.
I was angry about that but the nail in the end of our once extremely close relationship happened around the same time my marriage was on the precipice. I was suffering from untreated bipolar disorder and it was pushing my wife away daily. I guess it was clear to everyone but myself that I was one miserable mother fucker. The way my son and daughter in law tell it Aunt M decided to tell them that I was really gay and the reason I was so unhappy was because I didn’t love his mom and wanted cock.
I shit you not. The woman said that to my son. Our relationship ended that day and I still don’t think she knows it. In my biological family gossip is an art form but you never gossip outside the family. Thus she gets a pass and I’m an asshole for writing things like this.
Their loss, not mine…
Okay enough depressing tales. How about some positivity!?
The very first person I came out to was my junior year German teacher. Donna Wright was, and probably still is, a hell of a teacher. I did not want to take a foreign language and put it off until almost the end of my education to fulfill the requirement. I think it’s safe to say I had a bit of a crush on her, there was no word to fit the modern term of MILF back then but I definitely would use that term now.
One day I was really depressed in class. I was single, my girlfriend and I had split, and I was head over heels for a boy. It was all driving me crazy and in retrospect that might have been the beginning of the round of depression that lead to my first suicide attempt. Mrs. Wright took me into the hallway and asked me what was wrong.
I spilled it all before I knew I was speaking.
It could have gone in an infinite number of directions. If she’d done anything but what she actually did my life might be very different today, if I was still alive at all. Without saying a word she wrapped her arms around me, hugged me tight, and told me everything was going to be okay. Over the next few months she was a shoulder to cry on and a sympathetic ear when times were dark.
I still love her to this very day.
The next person I told might be the most important.
The day I came home from the hospital one of best friends, Sanford, was waiting for me. We spent my first day of freedom going to the movies, shopping for music, and eating delicious diner food. Part way through our day I told Sanford the truth about my stay in the hospital. His was response was the equivalent of, “And?” there was no judgment and complete acceptance. Sometimes friends are more important than family… or they are your family.
Eventually I made the decision to come out, first to my wife and then to the world at large. Not everyone reacted well and in the end there was fallout. But that is a story for later in this series. The important thing to take away from this installment, at least for me, is that the people I chose to trust with one exception did me right. They kept my secret, when I was still ashamed and thought it should be a secret, and did right by me.
I owe a debt to the people I trusted with my truth. On the whole they helped keep me sane as I finished out high school and then left Michigan forever. Mrs. Wright remained a friend and confidant until I graduated and one of my regrets from those years is that I didn’t maintain contact, I would really like to thank her for standing at my side. Sanford is still one of my best friends and I consider him more family than friend.
If I’d have learned about Aunt M betraying me in those first few years after my stay in the hospital it might have knocked me back a few pegs. But once her duplicity was revealed I’d moved past that early fragility and was able to handle it even though it hurt badly.
Nobody should have to go through this alone. Confronting your sexuality in our society is a difficult process for most of us and sometimes great damage is done. I was lucky and I know it, yes I had some issues and I still have problems related to it, but the people I chose to keep in my life have always had my back and for that I will be eternally grateful.
Next time we talk about my one serious relationship with a boy. No, I will not name names, and no it will not be a salacious tale of boy/boy sex. Neither of those things have anything to do with what these essays are about. What I will talk about is the difficulty of young same sex love in 1990’s Michigan.