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Hide and Seek

Finding Me

By J. Delaney-HowePublished 15 days ago 7 min read
Top Story - February 2024
30
Hide and Seek
Photo by Dima Pechurin on Unsplash

Author's note: This piece is very personal, and it is my journey. This is the first time I am fully sharing about coming to terms with my sexuality.

When I was growing up, we had the perfect backyard to play "hide and seek". Some of it was wooded towards the back of the yard. We had brush and clumps of trees throughout the yard. At one point, there was a shed that wasn't used, and there were always cars and a boat in the yard. Of course, when we got older, hide and seek became "manhunt" throughout our neighborhood. Some of my fondest memories of my childhood and teen years.

My life has somewhat been a game of "hide and seek". I hid who I was for a number of years, and then I sought who I was and who I wanted to be. It took a significant life circumstance to make me come to some important realizations about myself. Realizations that had been suppressed for years.

What Was I Hiding From?

I knew for sure by puberty that I was attracted to men. I had girlfriends throughout high school, but I would still have secret feelings and attractions. In my senior year, I began dating my ex-wife. We were married with a child right out of high school. In my early twenties, I became involved in a church, so that was our life. House in the suburbs, four kids filling the house with laughter and joy, and church on Sunday. That became our life. It would fall apart seventeen years later. All while hiding the fact that I was gay.

Why Was I Hiding?

My reasons for denying who I was are complex.

I have known about myself since I was young that I wanted a big family. When I was coming up, gay rights weren't what they are now, and gay people couldn't adopt children. I fell in love with my ex-wife, and we built a life together.

Another reason I was hiding was that I wanted to be successful in ministry, and the church I was a part of denounced homosexuality. In my twenties, I went on a retreat with a few other guys from church. The one I shared a room with liked to talk and was all about brothers building each other up. I confessed to him that I had same-sex attractions. He told me I was talented, and if I wanted to go anywhere in ministry, I would keep that to myself and never tell anyone else. I was to remain in constant prayer about it.

Probably the biggest reason I hid was because, to be completely honest, I didn't want to be gay. I prayed daily for almost two decades that God would remove this "sin" in me. To be gay was not equal in society's eyes. Gay people were viewed as less than. Between the teachings of the church and society's norms, I internalized a lot of homophobia.

I was living a tortured life. It became too much. The thing is, I would have had support from my family if I had come out when I was younger, before the big wedding and house in the suburbs. We have other gay people in our family- two aunts and an uncle. I resented what my life had become.

What Changed?

In short, my wife had an affair. Our marriage had been dead long before, but it still hurt deeply. We tried to work it out for a week, but it was very evident that it wouldn't work, and our marriage was over. I also started feeling like she took the easy way out, yet here I was, denying my true self to keep things together. That said, I was unable to love her the way she needed to be loved for five years before our marriage died.

I had a breakdown and attempted suicide twice. (It feels so strange to say that sentence. I don't identify with that person anymore.)

I had lost everything. My marriage, my kids, my sanity, my truck, my house, my friends…all of it. After my hospitalizations, I lived with my mother and aunt and slept on their couch for months. When I finally did get visitation with my kids, they would spend every other weekend with me at my mom's. The only thing in my life that seemed worth living for was my relationship with my kids. I had to rebuild my life from the ground up.

With a good counselor's help, I learned to forgive myself and give myself patience. I learned how to deal with internalized homophobia and accept myself for who I was—a gay man. Forgiveness for my ex-wife would come later. The counselor helped me to look at the horrible events that transpired as an opportunity. An opportunity to build my life without hiding. A chance to do the work to become the best version of myself.

And that is what I set about doing.

Seeking me.

Coming Out

I was sitting in the parking lot at Dollar General, having a meltdown because it was the third store I went to looking for a specific item. The whole time I had been staying with my mother, I was having flings with men to satisfy my physical urges. Nothing serious, and no relationship on the horizon. (Or so I thought). I did the whole dating app thing as a still closeted person. Dove first into the hook-up culture. That is what I had assumed the rest of my life would be. I would get my place, rebuild my relationship with my kids, and focus on that. I had resigned myself to hook-ups with no real meaning. I was going to focus on my kids and still stay closeted.

But my meltdown in the Dollar General parking lot opened the floodgates, and I couldn't hide anymore. I calmed myself down and drove back to my mom's house. I called her at work to ask if we could talk when she got home, and she said yes. She asked if everything was okay, and I said yes; I just had something to tell her. I was crying at this point, and she came out and asked me if I was gay. I said yes. My mom was the first person I came out to. We cried for a minute and then hung up. When she got home, she hugged me and reminded me she loved me no matter what. Over the next couple of days, I came out to the rest of my family. My Auntie and my sister said they always knew. My brother asked me if my opposition to gay marriage and homosexuality in the past was genuine. I told him no, I just couldn't come out and support those things because of my role in the church. I came out to my best friend, who was like a brother to me. He was shocked and stopped all contact with me. I came out to my ex-wife, and she hugged me and said now you don't have to hide anymore. My coming out experience wasn't traumatic. I was supported and loved by my family. I did lose quite a few Christian friends over it. I came out to my kids, and they handled it pretty well. I was now an out-of-the-closet gay man.

My Life Now

Shortly after coming out, I started dating a man who would later become my husband. Nine years later, we are still going strong. We have been married for five years now. He helped me rebuild my life. He became a fantastic stepfather to my children and has a unique bond with all of them. Together, we built a home for ourselves and our kids.

I often think back on my life and wonder how different it would have been if I dared to face who I was earlier. I don't stay there too long. If I had done anything differently, my kids wouldn't be here, and I might not have met Mark. I still carry around some guilt for hiding for so long. I am so moved by young queer people coming out as soon as they know, having the courage to live their truth.

Oh, and I won the game of "hide and seek".

I found me.

Thank you for reading my work! I appreciate every heart, comment and tip. If you would like to read more of my work, you can click the link below.

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IdentityCONTENT WARNING
30

About the Creator

J. Delaney-Howe

Bipolar poet. Father. Grandfather. Husband. Gay man. I write poetry, prose, some fiction and a good bit about family. Thank you for stopping by.

Queer Vocal Voices on Facebook.

Find me on Facebook.

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Comments (28)

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  • olymoollaabout 20 hours ago

    Nice

  • Anna 3 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳

  • I'm... working a typing up a proper comment for this article of Yours, J.

  • Austin Cox9 days ago

    Absolutely beautiful story and the ending was so powerful and impactful. I resonate with this alot, specifically the line about not wanting to be gay. Today is far different world than even a decade ago when I first came out, and I commend and respect all the queer-folk out there who found and loved themselves long before society deemed them worthy to do so. You are such a brave and wonderful soul and inspire so many people simply for owning and living your truth. Thank you so much for sharing your story and I sincerely hope you continue to live and write the stories the world needs!

  • Naveed 10 days ago

    Hats off to your work! Keep it going—congrats!

  • Leslie Writes11 days ago

    Thank you for sharing your journey 💖 I wish you continued happiness

  • Rachel Deeming11 days ago

    I am deeply moved by your honesty here. Thank you for sharing your story. Your life could have been so different but my thoughts are that that was the route you had to take to get to where you are today. You are now where you belong. Life is never easy. Your story has a lot of pain. I was especially sad about your best friend. That must have hit hard. Lots to look forward to now. A great piece.

  • Alyssa Nicole11 days ago

    I absolutely love how you are so vulnerable and so strong in writing about such a personal topic. And I love how you ended the piece stating you won the game of hide and seek by finding yourself. So powerful! Congrats on the Top Story!

  • Caroline Craven11 days ago

    Good on you for being so strong and brave. I totally understand when you say you didn’t want to be gay. I get that totally. I’m so glad you’re happy now. That’s the best news ever. 🌈

  • sleepy drafts11 days ago

    Congratulations on Top Story!!! 💗 This is such a worthwhile piece. 💓

  • Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Salomé Saffiri11 days ago

    I got goosebumps when I read that you have re-married. Happy goosebumps for a happy ending. We have the power to change many things in the world, that is evolving daily - one of the things I choose to teach people is that we do not have to fall into only "one" or the "other" bracket of perception just to fall somewhere. Not all of us understand it, but all of us are more than a man or a woman. Soul has no gender and our past lives can affect our current affections just as much as the society itself. I can relate to how scary it is coming out, and how exhilarating it is at the same time. For twenty years I thought I was "one", then the "other", then "neither". Now I know that I am "both". It is beautiful, and, suddenly, so simple and clear. Best of life to you.

  • EXCELLENT STORY!

  • Thank you for being vulnerable with us. Reading something so personal and getting an insight into someone else's journey is really special.

  • I don't tolerate cheaters so I don't like your ex wife at all but I love the way she handled it when you came out to her. As for your best friend, it's their loss to wnd the friendship with you just because you're gay! I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for you to come out. I'm so grateful that your mom and kids handled it well. Sending you lots of love and hugs ❤️

  • There is no shame or guilt in being true to who you are. There is pure beauty in your vulnerability. Thank you for sharing your journey! You embolden others with your strength!

  • River Joy14 days ago

    Thank you Jim for such a vulnerable piece of yourself. I too have tried to take my life twice, and I too feel no connection with that person anymore. Beyond that our coming out stories are so very different, but also as all coming out stories are so very similar. I remember the shame and the confusion with religion, I was Catholic when I first started questioning. Beautifully and really raw. Well done

  • I am absolutely in tears over here. A true journey. I sincerely wish that no one ever had to or felt that they had to hide but I am so glad that you have found you 🤍

  • Judey Kalchik 15 days ago

    Your compassion for your younger self the appreciation for the life you and Mark have built, and the generosity of sharing your story. ^all of this. Wonderful

  • Heather Zieffle 15 days ago

    It takes a lot of courage to find yourself and truly love who you are. Glad you were able to do that!

  • I really appreciate your honesty and self awareness to be confident and comfortable with who you are

  • kp15 days ago

    thanks for sharing your important journey ❤️ it's good to hear a coming out story that isn't traumatic. internalizing homophobia is so relatable though. so sorry you have been through that 🫶🏻and glad to see you on the other side

  • Cathy holmes15 days ago

    Thank you for sharing your story. I'm glad you found your true self and no longer feel the need to hide. Good for you.

  • sleepy drafts15 days ago

    Wow - this made me so emotional to read. This is beautifully written and your candidness is appreciated and necessary during times like these. Thank you for bravely sharing this piece. I understand how it must have been difficult to write about, but I am so glad that you did. Thank you for writing this piece and sharing a bit of your journey with us. 💗💓

  • Mother Combs15 days ago

    <3 You're courageous, and I admire you. Hugs

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