This is a follow-up piece. You can find…
Michael: Hay. The beginning stages of horse shit.
Michael: Think about it. Horses eat hay and…
Me: Okay I think I’ve got it. No more segways. And I swear, if you bring up Paul Blart Mall
Cop. Cause I know that’s where you’re going and I don’t want to talk about King of Queens again. You need to move on.
Michael: I wasn’t going to do that…
Me: We were together too long. I could just interview you in my mind and get the same answers.
Let’s talk about the whole coming out relatively late thing, age 30. You’re a counselor. How do you think that impacted you?
Michael: I think I was afraid longer. My family is very conservative and they don’t agree with it. Fear is why I waited 2 or 3 years after I came out to you to tell them and I didn’t even tell them on purpose. My mom asked me and I said yes. And my dad found out somehow (I think my mom was worried about me and told him).
Me: What do you think made your mom ask you?
Michael: We’re close and she was wondering for a while and she wanted to know if it was true.
Me: But you know I did subtly prep her when I was worried about your well-being and called to tell her I think she needed to drive the hour to check on you.
She asked me why you were so anxious and since I couldn’t say, Oh, he is bisexual and since your family follows pundits like Rush Limbaugh, he’s afraid he won’t be accepted, I told her that you didn’t feel like you had social support for some things in your life because, as the youngest child and only one to graduate college, you felt pressure to act like you had everything together. I tried to keep it ambiguous but to impress on her the seriousness of the situation.
Michael: Yeah. I know. I don’t care about that. I am glad you did it the way you did it, knowing what I would want, because it was easier to tell her when she knew how anxious I was and how afraid I was to show them who I really am. It was like a weight off my shoulders because since our family doesn’t talk about things, I don’t know if we would have ever gotten there.
Me: Okay so tell me how your family is doing now. Who knows?
Michael: Just my mom and dad.
Me: Why not your brother, sister, and nephews?
Michael: I feel like they’re more closed-minded than my parents. I honestly do. If it’s outside of their comfort zone, they don’t get it and don’t really want to explore the idea. My parents try to get it I think.
Me: When do you think you’ll tell them and how?
Michael: I don’t know. I haven’t thought about that. But I just feel like I would do it when it’s inevitable, like bringing a guy to Christmas and they’d figure it out. I still worry about that one though. I don’t know why. I am afraid that maybe my sister wouldn’t want me around my nephews, maybe, but I don’t know if she would though. I don’t think so but I’m afraid it could happen.
Me: What do you know of their opinions on this topic?
Michael: Nothing. They just don’t talk about it. Like at all. It’s just not a topic of conversation.
Me: How does it impact you that they don’t know?
Michael: It’s still hanging over my head. And I try to act like it isn’t because I don’t want to tell them but it’s hard to ignore. I feel like I’m still living that double life, like that secret life. And yeah with my parents, it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders–
Me: Are you talking to me through your Apple watch while showering?!
Me: Technology is weird. I’m just going to leave that one alone.
Michael: But I just don’t feel like I will be relieved after telling them.
Me: But you didn’t think you’d be relieved after telling your mom and dad before they knew.
Michael: True. I think it kind of helped that they had an idea. Kind of like you hinting at it to my mom so it wasn’t such a shock. I don’t think my brother and sister have any clue.
Me: Yeah, I don’t know if that is a good way to do it or not. I just made a judgment call and was trying to put your well-being first without taking away your right to privacy and make that big decision on your own. I took a lot of tums when your mom and I were texting because I was just fraught with guilt and anxiety about what I should and shouldn’t say. I just kind of tried to not deny anything or go out of my way to convince her you aren’t because I didn’t want to make it worse when you did tell her.
So I know this is really different for your family. How is your dad responding to it now versus how he did initially?
Michael: When he came down to see me that day you were worried about me and I was going through that stuff, my mom told me he knew while he was standing right there. And I thought she meant about my anxiety and she said he knows everything. And I just thought, oh shit, this is awkward. We were in my apartment and we just had a discussion. She told me before that huge talk, in my room while he was in the living room, that when he found out he told her he’d suspected it for a while.
He didn’t talk about my sexuality directly but he said he knows what’s going on and it doesn’t change anything. He still loves me and supports me. I think my parents try really hard to be supportive now and sensitive, like not accidentally saying something that could offend me. I really appreciate that. I think it says a lot that he is being really mindful.
Me: Yeah, I’m really proud of your parents. I know they have had less exposure to LGBT+ topics or experiences but they handled it how I expected they would handle it. I know not all people are this fortunate but I had a good feeling your parents would love you more than it might scare them initially. They love you pretty unconditionally. When your mom told me she knew, I just tried to kind of be supportive and acknowledge that line that probably isn’t as politically correct because in our ideal world, people are immediately accepting and it is no different than heterosexuality. And as much as I hope we get there one day, I think we have to be realistic where we’re at now.
I’m comfortable with LGBT+ topics and it was still an adjustment for me because it was so personal. So I tried to make sure she knew that I had had to process it and it was okay to feel conflicted as she got used to the idea. For me it wasn’t so much about who you were going to be sleeping with. It was about the sudden sense of change and just reforming my relationship with you around this new and really important information…
…did she say why he suspected it or if they talked to each other about it before they knew?
Michael: No, she didn’t. I don’t know if they would have talked about it.
Me: I don’t know how you didn’t ask. I mean to each his own but I’d want every detail so I could analyze.
Michael: Ok, I will so you can analyze for me [laughing].
Me: You don’t have to but… I will do it.
Maybe you should just show up to a family function with a shirt that says, I’m gonna make American gay again. MAGA, bitches. Did I tell you I bought you a magnet that says Make American Gay Again? I’ll give it to you when I see you next.
[As he is getting ready and singing] Why don’t we talk later?
Michael: Okay, I’ll ask my mom those questions and get back to you.
Me: K. Send me a picture of your co-worker’s planner. So I can go have planner envy. Just take pictures of all of it. The outside. Everything. Just go up to her and be like, I know this is random but Imma need a picture for my ex-girlfriend who–
Michael: Who turned me?
Me: I hate you. Byyyyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeee.
Michael: Love you. Kiss my puppies. Byeeeee.
Michael’s piece–if he stops procrastinating, Michael–should be up tomorrow morning. If you’re curious to hear what he has to say about what it’s like to come out at 30 in Trump’s corner of the world, with friends and family who love him and support Trump, check it out.