I first told someone about my sexuality while sitting in a dorm room at a Christian college in Middle America. The couch on which we sat had seen better days—frayed along the edges of its arms and missing its feet so we had to sink quite low, almost to the ground, to finally meet the seat cushions.
I can’t remember why I chose that night to tell someone after 19 years of silence. Perhaps I felt particularly lonely or maybe my spirit was as low as that couch. I also can’t recall the words I used to share this secret part of me. I imagine they were halting and slightly evasive—just enough to set the scene, but not give away too much of the back story.
My body has a capillary condition which results in my having constantly cold hands. In the winter, I have a particularly difficult time keeping them warm—especially if I’m outside for any period of time. In talking with my doctor about the condition, he suggested wearing mittens instead of gloves so that the collective warmth of my fingers would help them fight off the cold. But I challenge you to find an attractive pair of mittens for a man. Or, perhaps I mean to say, I feel unman-like while wearing mittens.
Whatever the case, I don’t wear them. So here’s what happens when I’m outside during winter: my hands get numb. It starts in my pinky fingers and then slowly moves across them from the outside in. If you’ve ever had numb hands, you know it’s a strange sensation. There is a certain level of pain to it, but you get used to it because you stop feeling your fingers after a time.
The real pain begins when you come indoors. As your fingers start to warm up, it’s like a thousand little needles being jammed in every nerve ending. The more numb your fingers, the more excruciating the pain when they begin to thaw.
In my last post, I described my experience of trying to let feelings enter my life again. I hinted at the challenge of this process, but didn’t dwell on the pain involved in it. I’d like to try to describe that further here.
I have a regular walking route around the city where I live. I particularly like taking a stroll in autumn when the trees are at their peak.
A few years ago, the trees lining the street were especially beautiful—that stunning gold, yellow that steals the breath. During one walk, however, I turned a corner to witness a scene even more arresting than the trees around me: a young man stepped up on the curb to embrace a young woman in the most tender of ways. He reached out slowly, gently and she leaned into him in trust. It was a snapshot of love and beauty that has remained with me. I remember thinking at the time that I shouldn’t have seen it. That the moment wasn’t meant for me. Yet, that is where my eyes fell—at the precise instance of their embrace.
And then a strange thing happened: I felt feelings. As a gay kid growing up on the church, I have worked hard to not feel anything—to keep everything at the level of my intellect. This, of course, was a coping mechanism to deal with too many feelings most of which seemed to run counter to my growing faith. I just couldn’t figure out how to sync my desire for other guys with what I was learning about Jesus.