Frankly My Dear, I’m Gay

The Gay Arkansan
19 min readFeb 3, 2019

“Before you echo ‘Amen’ in your home or place of worship, think and remember… a child is listening.” — Mary Griffith

Hazardous Waste: Do Not Dispose of in Trash

I still remember the first time I felt disposable. I was just a boy, listening in on my parents as they bickered back and forth about a very disturbing scene that they saw on TV. The sound of disgust and anger filled the room and my step-dad quickly changed the channel. I thought to myself, “What could they have been watching that was so bad?”

I heard my step-dad boldly say, “Thank God our son isn’t a faggot.” While I didn’t know what a faggot was, I could tell that it wasn’t a good thing and whatever was on the TV had obviously interrupted their peaceful night at home on the couch. But what he said next, unknown to me at the time, would be the first nudge towards a path of emotional and psychological turmoil. His words, spoken with a fiery passion, brought about that feeling that you get in the pit of your stomach, nervousness, and a sense of unease. He said, “If he were gay, I’d beat his ass and kick him to the curb.” I saw the dark silhouette of my mom nod in agreement, and that was the first time that I realized my parent’s love wasn’t unconditional. Those words weighed heavy on my mind as I tried to fall asleep that night. I couldn’t shake the idea of my parents treating me like that because, until that point, I was oblivious to the fact that your parents didn’t have to love you. I wasn’t sure as to why I felt the way that I did. I didn’t know that I was gay or even what the word really meant. I just knew that my parents had drawn a line in the sand upon which I was never to cross. I was around 6 years old at the time.

That scene with my mom and step-dad still plays in my head from time to time as I make my way through my mid-20’s, trying to figure out who I am and where I fit in this world. Thinking back to that moment often leads to feelings of anxiety and self-loathing, so I try not to go there. But it does help to reflect on how my past experiences have culminated into the biggest coming out story this side of the Mississippi. Okay, maybe I’m getting a bit carried away with myself.

No Place in Heaven

Growing up in rural Arkansas meant that I was automatically indoctrinated into the Southern Baptist Church. I mean, everyone who’s anyone was there every Wednesday night, Sunday morning, and Sunday evening. I remember riding the bus with my friends and talking about how excited we were to spend our Awana Bucks after service.

I really couldn’t have cared less about learning scripture or understanding the core beliefs that the bible taught. It all just seemed a bit off to me. I was there mostly to hang out with friends. That all ended when one day the preacher started talking about the sins of sodomy and homosexuality.

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” — Leviticus 20:13

That sermon made me feel scared and sick to my stomach. I hadn’t admitted to myself that I was gay, but deep down I knew how I felt and during that whole sermon I felt like I was starring down the barrell of a loaded gun.

I remember thinking why God would want someone to die for loving another person, even if they were two men. After all, doesn’t God love all his children? Didn’t he sacrifice his own son for his people? So, why in the hell would he wish death upon anyone for any reason? This didn’t sit well with me and it led me to ask more questions. Anytime I brought up the conversation about two men, I would get strange looks and told it was a disgusting sin. I eventually stopped going to church which, unfortunately, made me an outcast among my friends.

Song lyrics from “No Place in Heaven” by MIKA

By the time I was in middle school, I knew I was different. I didn’t fit into the box that society had set aside for boys my age. While I didn’t wear my mama’s high heels or play with pretty dolls (my parents would have had a fit), I found that my interests didn’t align with the other boys my age. I didn’t like sports, action figures, or roughhousing with the other kids. I was more of a quiet, curious kid looking to make sense of the world.

Being bullied at home and at school was just another part of my day. I guess it was easy for other kids to pick up on my differences and it made me a target. Some of the worst bullying came from two brothers that lived in my neighborhood who were a grade or two ahead of me. For years, I was beaten and harassed by those boys. I guess they got a kick out of watching me hunch over in fear and in pain. When I was 11 or so years old, I finally stood up to them after they knocked me off my bike with a metal baseball bat. But it was two against one and I found myself yet again sandwiched between the cold concrete sidewalk and their heavy boots.

I soon realized that I didn’t really like any of the girls in my grade. My fascination with other boys, though, was a realization that hit me harder than that cold metal baseball bat. At first, I thought they were just cool, you know? The boys who played sports would take their shirts off and I would think, “wow, I wish I could be out there doing that.”

Of course, I didn’t want to be attracted to them. There was no way that could even be a possibility, because I was a good kid. I did know that I had to stop looking at them though because I would be recognized as a freak and from what I learned in church, God wouldn’t like that very much.

In hindsight, I always knew that I was gay. There wasn’t any single event that made me aware of it, but by age 13 or so it became increasingly obvious to me that I had no interest in girls and that boys were my thing. It is unfortunate that I found myself alone in a world of bigotry and homophobia at such a young age because it had such a profound impact on my life. The environment in which I grew up had conditioned me into the very back of my walk-in closet, right next to my step-dad’s musky old pair of work boots.

Say You Love Me

I met one of my best friends in Jr. High, right around the 7th grade. We spent countless nights staying up to watch YouTube videos or to tinker with our computers (we were both really into technology). He was one of those friends who would just show up at your house and help themselves to whatever’s in the kitchen and your parents wouldn’t even mind.

I started to develop feelings for my friend, and I really didn’t know how to handle it. We were pretty close and loved spending all of our time together, but for me it was never enough. At the same time, I felt horrible that I felt the way that I did. Amidst the whirlwind of feelings that I was having, I knew two very important things:

  1. I didn’t want to lose him as my best friend.
  2. I needed to get over whatever feelings that I had for him, fast.

I tried my damnedest to push my feelings aside and find other things to focus on when I got a little too, ahem, excited.

Due to an unfortunate breakup with his girlfriend, I had the chance to ask him about what he thought about the LGBT community. See, his girlfriend at the time had come out to him as bisexual, so they broke up. It was as if the universe had arranged for this one opportunity to ask him about his stance on homosexuality without raising any questions.

His response wasn’t what I had hoped for, but it was exactly what I had expected.

“I don’t mind what they do, that’s their business, but I wouldn’t want them in my circle of friends.”

So, what does an emotionally traumatized, lonely, closeted kid in the middle of Arkansas do when his best friend that he now has feelings for tells him he wouldn’t be his friend if he knew he was gay *breathe*?

Let’s just say there’s a reason as to why I’m just now writing this, some 13 years after that conversation took place.

I compartmentalized all the thoughts and feelings that I had about other men, locked them up, and threw away the key. There was absolutely no way I could ever be a homosexual. I remember telling myself over and over that I would never look at another guy again. It was disgusting and wrong. By God (yep, him again), I was determined to be straight.

One of the best things that you can do to get over someone is to put some distance between the two of you. I, being the stubborn homosexual that I am, had to learn this the hard way. We ended up moving in together after graduating from high school, which made the process a lot harder than it had to be.

We’re still friends to this day, but I haven’t confessed to him my attraction towards him or that I’m gay. He has a girlfriend and kids now and perhaps he’s changed his views on the LGBT community. After all, when I asked him, he had just broken up with his girlfriend because she was bisexual.

I still fear what will happen when he finds out the truth, and that is something I am going to have to work through. It appears unraveling all the lies that I told to protect myself from being hurt will undoubtedly bring about the very pain that I so desperately tried to avoid. But this is my truth, and I cannot hide from it anymore.

Not the End of Me

Tears for Fears had it right, it’s a mad world. There’s nothing worse than watching life pass you by while you stand idle in the distance, too ashamed and afraid to live authentically.

I found comfort in a bottle of Jack Daniels and a pair of headphones. Drinking became a daily ritual to numb the pain and keep any bad thoughts at bay.

Then, out of the blue, something happened that went against everything I had thought to be true about myself and my sexuality. I befriended, fell in love with, and married a woman.

Melanie Brown (Mel B)

I was a borderline alcoholic when I agreed to go out with her. After all, I had hit my lowest point in life (so I thought). I wanted to be straight and here was a girl who I connected with and happened to like. So, I went for it.

The feelings that I was having for her were heightened by the fact that I had gone so long without the emotional comfort of another person. After all, I was emotionally dead, with no room for love or happiness, but keen enough to let out a casual smile every now and then to make people think that I was okay. I hadn’t genuinely smiled for a long time until I met her. She made me feel like I could find peace as a straight man, which was something I was desperate to do at the time. I wholeheartedly believed that I had overcome the disease of homosexuality and that I could be a happy guy in a normal relationship.

She introduced me to her son not long after we started dating. He was 6 years old at the time and he lived with his dad in another state.

It killed me to see her away from him, but she couldn’t travel or care for him as a single parent. So, I made the 2-hour drive every weekend to pick him up and take him home.

We dated for 6 months or so before we moved in together (we picked out a house and I surprised her with it, fully furnished, keys in a card, on Valentine’s day) and we got married after a year. I loved my family and finally found a bit of happiness in life. I quit drinking cold turkey and settled in as a husband and step-dad.

It was my goal to be the best role model for them and do my best at parenting. We shared unofficial custody of her son with his dad, but I loved him just as if he were my own flesh and blood. We bonded quickly and loved to play video games together. His favorite was Mortal Kombat X, which we played for hours on the weekends when I was off work. We also took frequent trips to a beautiful park along the Mississippi River in Memphis to throw ball, fly kites, and watch the boats float downstream. And every time I picked him up for the weekend, he’d run towards me and give me a big hug and tell me how much he missed me and what happened in school that week.

Over time, my relationship with my wife got complacent and we started to argue excessively. While I don’t remember why we argued, I always remember feeling like I was never enough for her. I also felt like I was never fully satisfied in the relationship. Yes, we had good times and I was overall happy, but I never felt complete. This led to some insecurities and without warning, those thoughts about men started to creep back into my mind. I didn’t know what to do or how to process what was happening at the time. There wasn’t another guy or anything like that. I just found myself looking at attractive guys and feeling like I was missing something important in my life. But before I had the chance to even think about what it all meant, my wife decided she needed some space.

I came home from work one day after an argument we had the night before and she decided to leave for her mom’s. I understood why she needed some space. It wasn’t physical, but we both said some hurtful things to one another. So I helped her pack her things and carry them to the car. I loaded the kiddo’s toys and let him take my Xbox so he could still play his games. I drove her to her mom’s house, and we hugged and kissed each other goodbye. She said it was only for a few days and that we would find a way to work things out. I wanted things to work out too, so I believed her. I hugged my step-son and told him to be good, but he wouldn’t let go of me. He was crying and I was crying, and he said he wanted to go with me instead, but I knew that was never going to happen. I told him he had to be strong and that in a few days we would see each other again. And so I left, and they both stood on the porch and waived at me goodbye. Little did I know, this would be the last time that I’d ever see my step-son again.

Her family really liked me, and often times they said they liked me more than they liked her. I always thought they were joking, but they were there for me after my wife left me. A day after I dropped her off at her mom’s, her sister called me to tell me that she left me for her ex. She explained that it had been planned, and that he picked her and her son up not 5 minutes after I dropped them off. He was waiting in his car down the road the whole time we were saying our goodbyes and promising to work things out.

I was heartbroken, depressed, and ready to give up after our marriage ended. It took weeks of begging to see my step-son before I finally realized that she had removed the both of them from my life. I felt as if I had lost my own child.

Amid a shattered world, I found solace in knowing that her son was reunited with his mom and dad, together, as a family. Also, once I got over the initial shock of things and had a chance to analyze everything, I felt a bit relieved that I no longer had to try so hard to be with her. But where did that leave me? I felt so broken and unwilling to go on. Every time I saw an attractive man, I felt like I was doing something wrong by even thinking about him in any sort of way. As time went on, and I had less and less contact with other people, those feelings started to consume me. I had become so deprived of what I wanted most, I eventually gave in and started to explore my forbidden side. I had to finally say, “Enough is enough.”

In the months following my divorce, her family began to rely on me to give them rides. None of them had a car or a license, and I felt like I owed them. They began taking advantage of me pretty early on, and their rides ended up taking more than 90% of my free time. It started with rides to the doctor, which I would have to wait 2–3 hours for them to finish, and then rides to job interviews, grocery shopping, the movies, and the like. I was doing this for her mom, two sisters, and brother-in-law. And every time I was with them, I felt all of the emotions of my divorce and losing my step-son rush back to the surface. It was during one of these rides that they told me my ex-wife had convinced her son that I was a bad guy so he would stop asking to see me. Eventually, I had to stop doing it. It was too much for me to handle. And once I did, they all cut me off like I was nothing.

It took me a year to get over my marriage, and in that time, I ate my feelings, and I had a lot of feelings. I was financially broke after my divorce, in horrible health, and mentally, I was a mess. But somehow, I managed to pick up the pieces of my shattered life and start over.

Looking back now, I am grateful for the pain and suffering that came after it all ended. I also know that I was not emotionally stable enough to be in a committed relationship. While she treated me so badly during the last few weeks of our marriage, I feel like I got what I deserved for trying to be someone that I wasn’t… for dragging two people down into my whirlwind of a life in hopes of making myself happy.

I found out that rock bottom indeed had a basement, and I had made my bed in the darkest corner of the room. But when you are at your lowest point in life, there is not much that you can do other than give up or fight like hell to pick yourself up, brush off your shoulders, and stumble up the cold, concrete stairs that led to an even more frigid, scarier world. And that’s what I did. That’s what I’m doing right now as I write my story.

Frankly My Dear, I’m Gay

After my divorce, I found myself sitting in my house that I let my parents live in, staring at the blank walls of my old bedroom wondering what I was going to do with my life. I gotten my heart torn to shreds, filed for bankruptcy, dropped out of college, and moved in with my mom to help her care for my two adopted sisters.

One thing was for sure… I couldn’t pretend to be someone that I wasn’t anymore. Life was miserable for me because of it and I was terrified of what I might do to myself should I continue to imprison myself in my figurative closet. I had to find a way to get some resemblance of my life back, even though I had no idea what that might look like.

I re-enrolled and finished college to start my own web design business. Back in October of 2018, I officially came out to myself as gay. It took a lot of soul-searching and reasoning through all the experiences that I had been through to get to the point where I could even say those words to myself out loud. I had to really think about my marriage and figure out the feelings that I had for my ex-wife because they were in fact real. But above all else, the only other option that I had at the time would have led me to an early grave, so I didn’t have much of a choice. It was either live authentically, as a gay man or die because I couldn’t bear to live again as I had for so many years before. I couldn’t lie to myself anymore.

On October 11, 2018, I came out to my older sister who grew up and lives in California. It was the scariest moment of my life and I cried for a good hour before and after sending her the text message. This was a pivotal moment in my life because I finally let someone in on the big secret. I had never been as vulnerable as I was then, telling her something that I at one time was so ashamed of. It was such a liberating moment for me, and for once in my life, I could finally see light at the end of the tunnel.

I wish that I could have mustered up the courage to tell her sooner. She might have been able to help me navigate my life and see things from a different perspective.

Looking back, I wish I would have called her instead of sending a text message and playing down the importance of that moment. But it got the message across and it was easier for me to do it that way.

During our conversation and in conversations afterward, we made a commitment to get me to California within the next 5 years.

I know that I’ll be happier there and I can be open with my sexuality without the fear of repercussions, but I now must decide on how to tell my mom and my dad (biological dad, if you’re confused).

Even though my mom loves me, she still carries with her those same beliefs about homosexuality that I heard as a child, eavesdropping on their conversation in the living room. Having to live a double life was bringing back those same feelings that I had when I was totally in the closet, so I decided to go ahead and tell her and just hope for the best. If all else failed, I could leave for California and ask to crash on my sister’s sofa.

Before I could get the chance to tell my mom that I’m gay, my little sister (one of the two adopted sisters that I have) told us that she was bisexual. Let me just say that sh*t hit the fan. Our mom did not handle the news well, as I had foreseen during my own times of contemplating telling her my truth. This kind of forced me to come out to my little sister because I didn’t want her to feel alone like I did. I was conflicted about whether I should come out to my mom and tell her that she has two gay kids, but I stood the risk of being forced to leave. I didn’t want to stay for my sake. I didn’t want my little sister to be left alone without someone in her corner to back her up and put our mom in place when she starts spewing her homophobic slander.

Our family shunned my little sister and started putting my mom down for “raising her that way.” This is the same family that also disowned my cousin for dating a person of color on Christmas Eve. She couldn’t even come to our Christmas dinner.

Part of me wants to believe that my mom just needs to be educated on LGBT issues. I will always love my mom and I’ll probably always seek her approval, but if she doesn’t come around sooner or later, I will have to leave if I am to ever obtain the life that I so desperately want. I don’t want to have to hide who I am in my own house. I can’t continue to lie about who I’m dating or where I am going or why I haven’t met a girl yet. As hard as it is to say, I must prepare myself for the possibility of giving my family up to pursue the fulfilling life that I know I deserve.

It has taken me a long time to get to where I am today, and I am not anywhere close to living the life that I have only dreamed of having since I was a kid. But I have made amazing progress in my physical and mental health along the way. I’ve lost over 100lbs, cured my hypertension, and got off all medications. I have since met a few people who have shown me that not only is my situation too common among LGBT people but that it does get better in time. I still come across a lot of hatred towards the LGBT community. Arkansas still isn’t the safest place for LGBT people, but I have started to voice my opinion in hopes that someone will hear me and have a change of heart. Coming out to myself was the catalyst to all of the transformations that I’ve made so far in my life, and I will continue making progress until the day comes that I can proudly tell the whole world that Frankly My Dear, I’m Gay.

The Trevor Project
Frankly My Dear, I’m Gay by Rick Clemons

“Part memoir, part self-help book, Frankly My Dear, I’m Gay takes readers on a light-hearted, poignant, humorous, and multi-faceted journey out of the closet, with a nationally known author, blogger, podcaster, speaker, and Coming Out Coach, Rick Clemons. Embracing the trips, falls, and triumphs of learning to walk in a new set of heels, Clemons brings a fresh perspective on how to be uniquely you as a flag-waving, or quietly standing on the sidelines, member of the LGBT Community. Calling upon his own, and client’s experiences, Clemons doles out amusing yet sincere insights and advice for navigating a mutually respectful divorce, raising children as a gay parent, and tips for learning how to date, mate, and be in a healthy same-sex relationship.”

This book really helped me come to terms with my sexuality and explore my options for coming out to both myself and others. I recommend anyone who is struggling to come out at a later age in life give this a read.