Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar


It’s been nearly five years since I ‘came out’. Reflecting back on some of my personal writings from those years, it’s really quite eye-opening to see how differently I view my coming out story today in relation to the past. Revisiting my experiences from the wide-eyed recounting of a scared, vulnerable man who was newly out to the ramblings of a wild year-old gayby and beyond to the tear-stained pages of a truly broken heart, I realize how much I grew in those five short years…how much I was driven to grow to shake off the shackles of thirty-nine years in the closet. …and I couldn’t be happier.

My coming out story started when my wife of sixteen years confronted me and told me that I needed to make a decision about my life and our future. Over the years, the frustration of feeling like my life was completely out of my control had slowly grown to epic proportions and she’d had enough…I needed to seek some sort of therapy or move on with my life without her. In those preceding years I had tried to regain control.  Really, I did.

I had initially reached my breaking point when I was 32. Having always been a boy of slightly husky-pants proportions, I ballooned up to 300 pounds and snapped…and lost 135 of those pounds over the next seven months. As you might be surprised to learn, that didn’t seem to fill the void. I started singing again by joining several choirs in the Philadelphia area and as much as I enjoyed it, the void still wasn’t filled. I finally got back into theater by chasing after favorite shows performed by different community organizations…same result. So what was it that was making me nuts? Oh, that’s right…I’m a gay man trapped in a straight man’s life… and I started thinking about my life and the decisions I had made.

Starting with my sexual awakening at 12 I knew I was attracted to men. Every sexual dream I have ever had since then had revolved around that one central theme. I even distinctly remember one eighth grade guy who was shirtless at our school’s Field Day (boy did that fuel a few dreams). The only problem was that I was raised in an evangelical conservative Christian house. My parents were very loving, but the church we attended made it pretty clear that homosexuality was a sin. So almost as an unconscious reflex I made the decision to compartmentalize my nature and live the way I was ‘supposed to live’. It really became second nature. I knew how to live a ‘proper’ life and had many examples from which to draw…I had only to worry about averting my eyes when catching a glimpse of a hot guy. My heart would palpitate, but that was about all I could manage without blowing my cover and losing it all.

Is it any wonder that I didn’t date? Is it any wonder that I only went out with one person…the one woman who had been my best friend for my first two years at the college associated with my conservative denomination? She had to ask me out herself! Is it any wonder that I married her as the savior of my ‘proper’ life? Of course most of these decisions were made without a second thought, as the assumed path down which straight people strode…and my nature be damned because God would heal me. At that time, it was the only way it could be.

Of course this had terrible repercussions. Due to the lack of intimacy, my wife’s self-esteem bottomed out over the years as she felt unloved and rejected. I also lost self-esteem as I continued to struggle with who I was, believing I was unworthy. I needed to control everything else to compensate for the one thing over which I had no control. Who needs a therapist when you finally realize what the deep desire is…when you know that the one thing you can’t control is just out of reach?

So despite the absolute fear that I’d be living out a life of loneliness and with the encouragement of a few friends I’d shared my secret, I made the decision to come out and take control. I knew it would be damaging, but it had to be done for the sake of both of us. We needed to be able to find the intimacy we didn’t have in order to live more fulfilled lives. I made my decision…and waited two months to do it! I still loved my best friend and didn’t want to ruin her holidays for what I naively believed would be the rest of her life. Once the New Year passed, I finally got the courage to write her a letter and express how I felt as a way to start off the conversation.

It was an angry, tear-filled weekend. At one point, in her initial disbelief of what was happening, she demanded I tell my parents that very same night…and surprisingly I did (two birds, one stone, you know?). The three people I was worried most about rejecting me all found out that same night. We talked…a LOT…and were eventually able to get to the point of understanding.  I have to give them all a lot of credit as I was never kicked out of their lives like so many people who come out are…as a matter of fact, they came to my first Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus concert that following December!

That doesn’t mean everything was suddenly coming up roses! I found myself kicking down the door wanting to experience everything I missed, but I also found myself being a victim of my poor self-esteem, forged through those years of helplessness, which wasn’t about to vanish because of the panacea of one night. I still had that nagging feeling that I’m not good enough and that I’m not happy with things. It took friends, loves, and a good dose of therapy to finally get to a point where I am happy…and know that I’ll never truly be in control of anything. Is everything perfect? No…I recently suggested bringing my boyfriend to a family gathering for the first time since coming out and apparently that nearly caused a family riot…but I also don’t regret coming out as I know I’m finally learning to live exactly as I’m meant to be. I’m happy to be out and hope that this new generation, who seems to be much more accepting of the LGBT community, will find many young gay people free to be who they are and live normal lives.  I’ll certainly be a supporter of anyone I find struggling to be free as I would never want anyone to go through what I went through. It’s a tough life not being able to be who you are.

Pete Haas is a Philadelphia area native having lived in Delaware County for most of his life. Highlights of said life include a ten year stint in the Boston area, fifteen years in a veal pen…uh, software company cubicle, plans to finally move into the city, and lots and lots of singing and theater.

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