Manny Crespo shares his story:
My coming out experience was surprisingly joyful; my coming out story is fairly non-linear. I was 42, slightly over a year after my divorce from my wife. I had two boys from that marriage, ages 14 and 10 at the time. I’d been suppressing feelings and emotions concerning my sexuality for so many years that I did not know how to “be” myself. I had flirted with the idea of coming in in law school in the late ‘80’s, but a broken heart after a whirlwind summer romance made me swear off “boys” for good. “Why torture yourself?” asked the voice in my 19 year-old head. The world around me at the time was a scary place for gay men: The AIDS epidemic was still raging and homophobia was back with a vengeance. I didn’t have to debate internally for long. Fall came, I reconnected with my high school sweetheart and we were married less than two years later. The game of life ensued and life was good – until it wasn’t.
Once I separated from my wife, I thought long and hard about how I’d live my life going forward. The world had changed some and I was much older and wiser; I knew I could not let fear run my life and certainly wasn’t willing to squander the second half of it ignoring or denying my personal truth. However, I am never one to make waves. It’s just not my personality. A dear friend of mine in a very similar situation came out loudly and proudly. I loved him for it, but that wasn’t “me.” I decided I would just live my life “quietly open.” I went on dates. I went to gay venues. I started bumping into gay friends at these places. A shoulder shrug and a “before you ask, yes I am” usually sufficed.
Eventually I met the incredible human who would become my husband. Joe and I hung out. We had my family over for barbeque. He’d visit me at the office for lunch. We were together a lot. I kept waiting for someone to ask. No one did. Thanksgiving was around the corner and there was no way I wasn’t having Joe over at my mom’s as someone other than my friend. My heart would not have it. So I decided to write my mom a long letter explaining not only that I was gay but also explaining all the reasons why it had taken me so long to tell her. See, I know my parents would have been absolutely ok with it – beyond ok. My dad would have probably started calling all his gay friends to see if they knew anyone I could be introduced to. It hadn’t been them. It had been me. Mom cried. She was sad that she wasn’t there for me to comfort me when my heart had been broken or to talk me through my fear when I was younger. She told me that when I got engaged to my ex, my dad was very concerned. He had told her, “I don’t think Manny is marrying the person he is meant to be with.” She’s convinced he knew. She’s “had the feeling.” But by the time I wrote her the letter, she had gone from “having a feeling” to knowing for certain. “How?” I asked. “What did Joe do to tip you off?” She replied, “Honey, it wasn’t him. He did nothing to tip me off. I saw how you looked at him, how you spoke to each other and I knew that instant that you were in love.” Well, a poker player I am not.
How to handle coming out to my kids was another matter with its own set of concerns. Would my boys be ridiculed by their school friends? Teased? Bullied? Joe and I were struggling with the issue. My coming out was now a team effort. We’d been going to professional and social events together where again the unspoken but obvious fact was that I was now dating a man. Countless “Oh wow I had no idea”, “Glad to see you so happy”, “Hey, nothing has changed, we love you” and similar comments rained upon us. People were generally great. After years of knowing me in the context of being married to my ex-wife, most people accepted “Manny and Joe” without blinking an eye. I felt blessed. I also kept asking myself what I had been so afraid of. But. The big “BUT.” We were talking about the kids. They were and are my life. I did not want anything to hurt them – ever. I was also afraid of their reaction. Fear was back.
One random evening Joe was at my place to join me for dinner with the kids. While I was getting dressed in another room, Joe was gently prodding my oldest if he felt ok about Joe (and his three dogs) being around so much. He turned to Joe and said, “Dude, look: I know dad’s gay and that you’re his boyfriend or whatever. We’re good. You make dad happy and that makes me happy, so relax.” Joe, a bit gobsmacked, asked, “So how are you going to tell your friends? Will they be ok with it? Their parents? We don’t want you to have friends that can’t come over and such.” Julian didn’t bat an eyelash as he responded, “all my friends know, and so do their parents. No one has an issue with it, and if they were to, they can go <bleep> themselves.” I came out of the room and Joe nonchalantly tells me, “Hey Babe, he knows.” It was my turn to have a good cry. Not a week later my oldest, equally nonchalantly, tells me his little brother knows. I was officially – and finally – out.
I’ve learned coming out is quite different for everyone. I often say my coming out was a cakewalk. It was a joyful process for me because I was met with love and acceptance. The very few who had an issue with me either fell off altogether or have since reconciled who I “was” with who I “am” and how they feel about me. Many are not surrounded with as much generosity of spirit. Even more don’t realize they are. It’s for all of them that I volunteer my story. All of us who have taken the journey, whether easy or difficult, will have someone living in fear or doubt who will identify and recognize that they are not alone. I believe this is one thing that we can all do for each other that may some day make “coming out” a sociological curiosity studied in history classes.
Myrna Maysonet shares her story:
I was 33 years old when I came out. I fell in love with the girl next door and life has never been the same. This November we will celebrate 10 years of marriage and 20 years together. And we have two beautiful twin girls to complete our unique family. For me, the hardest part was realizing that my “prince charming” was really my “princess charming” and letting go of the expectations that others placed on me. Once you accept that part, it becomes much easier. Coming out later in life was a blessing in disguise for me since I already had a sense of self and I was not dependent economically or emotionally to a specific person. It was not without tears and a bit of frustration. My Hispanic mom will still take out anyone who dares to mess with me or my family. My work family was equally supportive. I am glad that I took the leap because I saw first-hand the love and kindness of many- including strangers. Like everything that is worth in life, it is a journey that forces you to have an open dialogue with those that you love.