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May 2005

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Transformation - May 4

I love you and miss you, my brother. May the music where you are be exactly as you would have it be.

Had he lived, today would have been my chosen brother D.'s fifty-fifth birthday. He was on my mind a lot of the day, as was one conversation he, our friend J., and I had one time. D. said that when he was a little boy, he often confused the words, "musician," and "magician." That led us down a path of childhood memories, and of how music and magic were often the same thing, in terms of transformations.

And getting to know D. was a transforming thing for me. I was finishing college, and had gotten involved with things at the local Lutheran Church when I met him. D. was the music director there, and was a grad student at Carolina. He lived very close to the church building.

As time passed, and we chatted a few times at church coffee hours, D. dropped his guard a little around me. And one night, after a church event, he invited me to come by for a drink and conversation. That particular conversation was the one in which he came out to me. He was the first person to ever do so.

And I didn't quite know what to do with this announcement of his. I had suspected he was gay, but since my agenda was to get to know this fascinating musician, I really didn't care. But I was from a small town, where such things as sexual preference were just not discussed with people you didn't know quite well. So I was afraid my pleasure that this shy genius of a musician wanted to be friends with me was being miscommunicated, and that he was telling me to back away from the romance.

In other words, I was embarrassed all to hell for a few minutes there. Making matters worse, D. had smoked the last cigarette in my stash, and I desperately wanted to smoke. Finally he got a clue that it was past time to serve the Scotch, so he got up to mix drinks and I took the time to compose myself a little.

When he came back, we talked further on the subject. He told me that the reason he had come out was that he wanted to make sure that his being gay was all right with me, because he didn't want to get into a friendship with someone who would ultimately reject him because of that. He still wasn't quite convinced that I was okay with it, which I absolutely was. I said that if it were bothering me I would have made some polite excuse and left already. He said no, if I were bothered about it, I would stay the rest of the evening then never speak to him again.

Next on the evening's agenda was a television interview with an author who had just written an autobiography in which he, predominantly gay, had commented on the times he had had sex with women. I was a little afraid that the quite-nosy interviewer would ask the author for details on that, but I was prepared. We were on the ground floor and I knew which window I could gracefully open and use as an emergency exit. Mercifully, the interviewer had limits to her nosiness, and I left after the show, by the more conventional front door.

D.'s comment about never speaking to him again became a sort of albatross. I found myself watching for him out of the corner of my eye for several weeks after that, making absolutely sure I didn't miss speaking to him by accident. Finally, that got old. I asked if we could talk again, and said that I was tired of worrying about inadvertently "rejecting" him because I didn't see him to speak, and that I really didn't care if he was gay, straight, or crooked, I liked him and wanted to be friends. He laughed, I laughed, and it was good.

D.'s courage in telling me -- and that's exactly what it was; I later found out that I was only the fourth person he had come out to, and that what I had thought was a great deal of poise on his part was actually bravado born of fear that I would not only reject him, but raise so much of a stink about it that he'd not only lose a friend but also be embarrassed all over the church -- was transforming for both of us. It was my introduction to openness about something that I have always considered quite normal, and subsequently my introduction to quite a few people who are my friends.

A bit of advice, though, to my readers who happen to be gay and in need of coming out: make sure there's a spare pack so you don't smoke the last cigarette, and if you're planning to serve it, offer the booze first. It will make the whole process ever so much easier.

Note: Last year on this day I revisited a much-earlier favorite entry about D.

Text copyright 2000-2005 Becky