I have been writing this blog for just a little bit over 3 years and, in that time, I have published nearly 85 posts – in fact, this will mark number 85. I would have expected with more than 1000 days under my belt, I would have written much more but I know that, contained in those entries, there are lots and lots of words and lots and lots of thoughts. One of the fun parts of blogging, for me, is studying all the metrics to see how many people are looking at each of my posts so I can, hopefully, get an understanding of what topics resonate with my readers. Of course, as with all measurements, there are many factors to consider when looking at the numbers but I usually see a direct correlation between the content and the results. I typically know when a post is going to gain some traction. That is, most of the time. In doing some research today, I found that my all time, most popular blog post is My Gay Best Friend. It is certainly one of my favorites and I loved it when I wrote it back in October of last year while in the midst of dissecting a lifetime of powerful relationships with gay men. (And it certainly got a great reaction from said best friend!) As I discussed in the original post, I seem to collect gay men – they naturally flock to me – and I find this rather interesting. Well, apparently a lot of people find this interesting, I guess. Every week, there are more and more hits to this particular blog entry. I was called by the Huffington Post to participate in a webcast to talk about the topic. People regularly mention this one to me when they talk about my blog. And, frankly, I am fascinated by all this.
I have poured my soul into this blog. I share intimate details of my life – things that I have not shared with most people and certainly have not publicized in a public forum. And, while I have received amazing support and incredible validation on some of the most painful topics, my relationship with my gays is quite compelling. But, I guess it should not be that surprising because I sure am fascinated by it all. What I recognized in my first post about the topic was that I seem to be kindred spirits with a lot of my gay and lesbian friends. There is a connective tissue between their struggles with acceptance and my own. Recently, I have been spending some time working with a female gay friend on some writing she is doing and I had the unique opportunity to slip inside her life and explore some of her most intimate thoughts. It was a very personal and very illuminating experience for me because I was able to explore the mindset of someone who has lived a life outside the lines. She is someone who, while comfortable in her own skin and confident about her lifestyle, acknowledges that she often perplexes people because they do not know what to make of her. Her masculinity is apparent yet she has a softness that only a woman can exhibit. She has a gentleness that, in a man, would be recognized as effeminate but, in her, is appropriate because she is, after all, a woman. As someone who has always felt like an outsider – peering through the glass to watch as everyone else lives their lives – I found myself connecting to some of her experiences of not belonging. (While not nearly as popular as my most popular blog post, I have written about this several times, including in Difference just a few weeks ago).
With my gay friends who are closest to me, I pay close attention. I always wonder what it is like to be out in public with their partners nowadays as compared to 5, 10 or 15 years ago. I happen to live in a very diverse community where there is an abundance of same-sex couples with and without children. It is so common for our children’s friends to have two mommies or two daddies. My kids don’t question it, we definitely don’t and nobody around us ever questions it. It simply is the way it is – and we love that about our town. However, we may very well live in a little nirvana here and it’s likely true that even this evolved environment was not always as accepting. Quite frankly, early on, I had to take a minute to get used to it because it was unfamiliar to me. Despite my great affection for my gay friends and my unyielding commitment to supporting their equal rights, I did not grow up around a lot of openly gay people so I had never seen two men or two women display intimacy with one another. It was strange. It was unfamiliar. I was definitely uncomfortable at first. So, I often wonder how my gay friends feel when they are out in public with their partners and openly show affection to one another. I wonder how long it took for them to be comfortable doing this. I wonder how they assimilated when, for so long, they were viewed as unusual. With my closest gay friends, I observe closely. I watch how they interact with their partners and I feel so proud and happy when, outside of gay-centric environments, they feel comfortable being their authentic selves.
Several months ago I was having a long and involved discussion with my gay best friend and he shared a lot of details with me about his journey towards coming out which moved me tremendously. I marvel at the courage it takes to stand up and declare that you are different, often in environments where that difference is not so readily accepted. For my peer group, coming out happened in the 70’s and 80’s and, in some cases, the very early 90’s – a world apart from today’s society where there are gay characters on television, in the movies and on the public scene. And while there is still an unacceptably large portion of the population that believe that my friends should be rejected, exiled or even harmed for being who they authentically are, there a plenty of visible role models that help parents, friends and family members who might not be familiar or might still actually be uncomfortable with the notion that their loved one is gay. Today, we have gay icons who demonstrate that there is no difference between being heterosexual or homosexual, except for the partner you choose to love (which, of course, is nobody’s damn business, gay or straight). Today, we have some level of acceptance making it just a little bit easier for young people to live their truth.
For my friend, his journey was difficult and I have such respect for him. I felt the pain in his struggle and, while I could not relate to having to “come out” to anyone, I connected my journey here with my blog as a coming out of sorts because I am revealing my truth to the world. I am allowing others to see me for who I really am rather than hide behind some fictionalized reality of my life. I would never compare my trek or my struggles to those of my friends who face persecution again and again but I do relate to the freedom and liberation that comes from being honest and living a truthful life.
Today I was on a hike with my kids and my younger son, after watching me cut up my legs in a brush of thorns, asked me about the tattoo I have on my right ankle. It is a Japanese symbol that means truth. He wanted to know if I knew what it meant and, upon learning that it was truth, he asked me why I chose that. Never missing the opportunity for a teachable moment with my kids, I told him it was because I believe that we have to accept ourselves and be honest with the world about who we are. He nodded his head in agreement when I said it but I know he didn’t understand the depth and gravity of my words. He loves my gay best friend like an uncle, he cherishes all the wonderful friends we have who are same-sex couples and he never considers for one second that there might have been a time when they were in hiding, not able to live their truth. He assumes we live in a world where it is always ok to be whomever you are. Sure, he’s 9 and blissfully naive. However, my hope – my eternal wish – is that if I had to write that blog post again, I would just simply write – My Best Friend.