I must have been around 10 or so; had always known I was attracted to men and never felt anything negative about it, other than other boys in my crowd didn't share my feelings...at least outwardly. One day as my Mother and I were doing the dishes after a family lunch, she began to have "the Talk" with me -- Mother, of course, ran our home while Father was sweet, lovely, but weak. At any rate, she did the man/woman thing as she washed and I wiped plates. Then she said that there were women who were attracted to other women and men who were attracted to other men. "They are called 'homosexuals'", she said. And I remember as clearly as this morning gazing out the window into our small back yard, "Well, if there's a name for it, then I can't be the only one." It was that simple, that clear, that undramatic.
I came out to my family when I was about 16. They, of course, hauled me off to the psychiatrist. I went in first and had a lovely 15 minute conversation with him about me, my feelings, my fears, my sexuality, etc. Then he asked that I sit in the waiting room while he spoke privately with my parents. I went out; they went in. After about 30 minutes, they came out - he strolling, she storming - and home we went. Silence in the car, so after about 10 minutes I asked what The Good Doctor had said. Pause. "He said that he wanted to see us every week for at least 6 months, but that you didn't have to go back", my Father said.
The following day I called the office and asked to speak to the Doctor. He took my call. Asking him what had transpired and telling him that we arrived home and Mother had taken to her bed and not another word had been spoken about it, he said. "Well, Stephen, I told your parents that you were the most well-adjusted teenager and homosexual I've ever me, and that it was they who needed therapy to address and resolve their own conflicts about it."
And ever since, wherever, whenever, with whom ever, I've been myself. Solid. Confident. Frightened. Unsure. Definite. Strong. Kind. Lover. Fuck Buddy. Son. Brother. Friend. Never thinking it was necessary to be 'proud' since I am myself. It is all I've ever known and, with luck, all I will continue to be for a long, long time.
There are a million tales, examples, etc., but they all funnel back to the above. Early knowledge, early assurance, early truth, and a lifetime of being honest and true to the only one to whom I can or must: myself.
At 55, I feel younger, stronger and more confident -- prouder? -- than ever. Maybe I've managed to find a drop of wisdom somewhere along this road.