Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Coming Out

Where I left off yesterday, my friend Bob was in the bathroom waiting for my Mother to leave my apartment.  She had made an unannounced visit to my ground floor, garden apartment in Coatesville, PA  on this early summer  Saturday morning.

My Mother had been suspicious of why I insisted on having an apartment after I moved back from a three month stay in Pittsburgh after I got out of the Army.  She couldn't understand why I didn't live at home.  The reason I didn't live at home was because I was a closeted gay.  I wanted to live my life without the restrictions of living at home.  However, I did not tell my Mother that this was the reason I wanted an apartment.

So on this Saturday morning my married boyfriend and I were in bed doing what comes naturally.  My Mother knocks at the front door.  I don't hear her.  She goes around to the back of the building and says through the screened window "Ronnie, are you in there?"  Her voice startles us.  Thank goodness I had the shade pulled.  I say "Yes, I'm in here.  I'm still in bed."  She said "I'll go around the front door."  

I do a quick mental calculation and decide that there is not enough time for Bob to put his clothes on and escape through the front door before she is at the front door.  I tell him "Hide in the bathroom until she leaves."  

Bob grabs his pants, shirt and shoes and dashes out of the bedroom, through the kitchen and through the area where the heating unit of the apartment building is located and into the bathroom.  He closes the bathroom door.

I quickly put on my clothes and go to the front door to let my Mother in.  She is suspicious.  As she enters my kitchen through the front door she has a concerned look on her face.  It's like she wants to ask me a question but doesn't know what to ask.  She knows something isn't right.

She stays for about two hours visiting.  As she is about to leave she says "I have to use the bathroom." m Oh no.  My mind is in a panic.  What to do?  I think of several explanations why I have a 29 year old married man, father of three in my bathroom.  None passes the smell test.  Finally I arrived at the obvious solution.  I will tell her exactly who is in my bathroom.  No more lies.  No more hiding.  No.  Right at the moment it was if the clouds had parted from the sky and the clear sun shone through.  I will tell her the truth.

I told her "You can't go in the bathroom.  There is a man in there."  Upon hearing this her jaw drops open and she screams "What? Why is there a man in your bathroom!"  I shouted back at her.  "He is my boyfriend and he was visiting me this morning.  You caught us in bed!  As traumatic as this statement was, I felt a huge weight go off of my shoulders.  I also knew at that time that my life from here on out would be changed forever.  I was at a crossroads in my life and I decided to take the path of Truth and Freedom.

Poor Bob.  I don't know how much he heard up until the shouting began but I knew I had to get him out of there.  I go the bathroom and open the door.  Bob has a look of sheer terror on his pale skinned face.  His pale blue veins were very visible on the side of his forehead.  He looked to me for direction as to what to do.  I told him he had to leave.  I told him I would call him later.

Bob rushes past my stunned Mother in the kitchen and out the front door.  Bob closes the door gently behind him as he leaves my apartment.   I remember to this day how gently he closed that door on that summer, Saturday morning.  This wasn't like it  is in the movies where doors are slammed for dramatic effect.  It was almost like if he showed this courtesy everything would be alright.  Bob was like that, a very gentle and caring person.  That was just one of the many things I liked about this sweet man.

Now I was alone with my Mother.  She had started to cry.  In between her gasping sobs she  demanded to know "What did I do wrong?  I tried to raise you and your brothers the best I could.  Why are you this way?  I told her I was always "this way" and that she did nothing wrong.

She continued to cry said  "You are sick!  You have to go to the hospital.  They will cure you!" I couldn't believe what I was hearing.  I knew I wasn't "sick."  If anything, those around me were "sick" by not recognizing what comes naturally to me.  Even then, as an inexperienced 21 year old I knew that I wasn't "sick."  I wasn't buying into that lie.  I knew the only people who had a problem were those who feared being embarrassed by having a queer in the family.  Yes, that's what they called gays back in the Fifties and Sixties......QUEER.  Mom had a QUEER son and she was going to get him fixed.  Uh huh.  That wasn't happening.

This story will continue on my next blog posting.  It is very emotional for me to live through this time.  Even though it occurred 47 years ago, I can remember it like it was just last week.  After 21 years of hiding who I was, I was now exposed for all the word to see.  I was the queer son of Ike and Betty Tipton.  To them (at that time) it was a fate worse than death.

My new life was about to begin. A life of freedom from the oppression of others to hide who I was.  It was my life and I was going to be honest with myself and honest with those I care about.  To me this was my only choice.  I chose not to live a life of lies and deception. Ironically, the man I have to thank for that freedom was a man who chose to live his life in the closet.  Life abounds in ironies.  This was a fact that would become all too familiar to me during the next 47 years of my life.

To be continued.

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