Sunday, September 27, 2009

“We Need to Talk”, Part 4

Coming out to Emily made life seem whole for a while. There was one group of people I could go to at any time who I could talk to this part of my life about. I didn't need to worry what they thought or who they would tell. We had a special bond. One that still holds strong to this day even if we don't see each other as regularly as we used to.

That sense of trust and freedom was challenged as we awaited the return of Jacqueline. She was part of the original gang from high school. The last of us to go on a mission and the last to come back. This was on everyone's mind—Matilde, Cole, Emily and I were constantly thinking about Jacqueline's reaction to the news that both I and Cole had to share with her if she was going to be as integral a part of our lives as before. "How are we going to bring it up?" "How long should we wait?" Etc.

Inevitably, each of these conversations ended with "She's not going to take this well." If Jacqueline were to hold to a stereotype in LDS culture, it would be the faithful, spiritually sensitive girl. Of course, Jacqueline has always been capable of making jokes, having fun, and forgiving faults; however, our concern was amplified by the fact that all of these spiritual sensitivities would be heightened by serving a mission. There was also one other huge concern hanging over our heads.

Unfortunately for Cole, he had a lot more at stake in this episode of "As the Closet Door Opens" thanks to history. It all started in high school. As a result of mutual interests and common senses of humor along with a great deal of time spent together, Jacqueline had developed a crush on Cole. Let's face it—this is not uncommon. If a boy dresses well, has good taste in music and theatre, etc., the girls are going to appreciate that. It's only natural—even if he is gay. In high school, Cole didn't try to make things work. Following his mission (and before Jacqueline's), however, the cultural pressure to make things finally trumped. They went on a few dates and things ended awkwardly. They still considered each other friends, but a sense of letdown pervaded because a relationship that never could have worked in fact did not.

Once Jacqueline returned, a certain distance remained between them. I ended up spending a lot of time with her and realized that she had come back way more normal than any of us had anticipated. I'd returned from my mission in the aftermath of things not working out with Cole and ended up spending a lot of time with her—going bowling with Brenda, watching movies, playing board games with her parents. It was pretty much the same thing when she got back. I realized that I need to key her in a little more on the goings on in my life before she developed feelings for me beyond friendship.

I told her everything about Mark—that I had fallen in love, that I felt special for once in my life and that we'd broken up before he went on his mission and left me not wanting to pursue a relationship for some time. I did leave out one detail, though. I left out the fact that he was a he by referring to him only as "the missionary" and avoiding all gender-based pronouns. It was all I was prepared for at the time. It did keep her from thinking we were anything more than friends.

Everything was clarified a few months after coming home from her mission. One night, I got a text "Jacqueline knows about me now. I thought you should know we had a talk. ~Cole"

Not surprisingly, the very next morning, I got a call at work. Knowing that she was probably in a mild form of shock, I answered. "Hey. What do you have planned for lunch today? You want to get something at the food court? We need to talk."

A couple of hours later, I met her on campus at the food court between my classes. She looked flustered to say the least. Her eyes were a little red either from crying or a lack of sleep and the conversation started out unusually awkward. She was searching out the right words to talk about something I obviously knew about, but was spiritually and emotionally sensitive for her.

"I think I know what you want to talk about. Cole texted me last night."

The shock became more apparent. Even though I'd broken the ice for her, she still had no idea what to say. Her expression just seemed to scream "Why?!"

As the scary conversation started, she voiced her concerns. "I just don't think that he's happy. He went through that bad engagement and I'm not sure he ever healed from that."

Everything seemed to have a little deeper meaning that went unstated. "I'm not sure he ever will heal now that he thinks he's gay" seemed to be what she meant in the moment.

"I worried so much about him while I was gone," she said as her empathy turned to self-incrimination. There is no way to know for sure, but she seemed like she wished in that moment that there was something she could have done to make things work when they had gone out. The truth of the matter is neither of them could have. No one was to blame for things not turning out the way any of us had hoped or wanted or been taught they would in Sunday school.

I reassured that Cole was doing much better than before. "He's been through a lot in life and he's healing for the first time in a long while. I've seen him at his worse and he is doing so much better."

This reassurance comforted her to a small degree. "I'm so glad we talked," Jacqueline said with teary eyes. "It's hard to think of Cole as gay." Then, immediately, a question popped out of her mouth that I wasn't expecting. You aren't gay too, are you?!"

It was so loud that the world seemed to stop for a moment while everyone on the food court started to listen to our conversation it seemed. Considering the shock she'd been through last night, the only thing I could come up with at the time was a whispered, reactionary "That's not important." And, after an initial shocked pause, I delivered an assertive yet reserved "Yes. Yes I am, Jacqueline."

The look on her face wasn't nearly as shocked as I had expected. There was clearly a sense of "What man in my life isn't gay?!" pseudo-resentment on her face, but she remained the same friend.

"I'm so happy you told me."

"Jacqueline, you must have noticed a difference from when you left. Right?"


I told her about Grey and figuring things out months ago and said directly and clearly, "I'm happier than I've ever been. Everything is going right. I understand myself and I found the confidence I'd always lacked in life. I can look people in the eye because I am happy about who I am, what I do, and what I've accomplished in my life."

"It's true and I'm happy for you," she said as genuinely as ever. We hugged and said goodbye, but clearly our little talk didn't leave her with much comfort.

Like our instincts had told us, not every coming out experience could go well. Jacqueline had a mini-breakdown. A bad week at work, tests, and some family drama that all hit at once along with our little coming out talks. It took a little help from our other girl friends, but she worked through things in her own time.

It's hard to see someone so affected by a little life detail that we really have no control over. If we're attracted to the same sex and tell someone, their life really shouldn't come crashing down. It's a matter of honesty, trust, and love. In the end, I do feel being honest brought us all a bit closer despite the initial and subsequent drama of coming out.

End, Part 4.


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