Remembering The Moment It Felt Right

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Tonight’s amazing Glee episode (“Never Been Kissed”) put me in a sentimental place in my head. I’m just going to speak from personal experience, but I’m sure there will be plenty of you out there who relate.

There is a moment in the coming out process… it’s not part of all the psycho-social identity development theories or anything, but it is the most profound moment in a young gay man’s life.

It is the very first time that you feel the touch of another man. I’m not talking at all about sex, but the very first time you allow yourself to test those waters of intimacy. The first time your legs touch… a little bit too much and a little bit too long for it to mean nothing. And the shivers run up and down your spine as every hair stands on end… and you both know. You both know it’s right but you both know it’s wrong, and so maybe that’s all there ever is.

But eventually, the moment comes when another man first holds you in his arms or kisses you for the first time. And… I don’t know. A lot of you out there reading this will just be like, “WHAT IS ZACK ON?” or you’ll just think I’m being really cheesy.

But I’m not. There is truly something powerful about it. The word “relief” doesn’t do it justice… it’s a wave of peace that just washes over you. And I refuse to believe it’s the same as any old heterosexual first kiss.

There’s so much guilt, so much shame, so much fear… and it can persist and haunt you your whole life… but in that moment, all of it goes away. All of the questions and confusion and frustration just vanishes. And it’s like you exist. And you’re safe. Your love exists. You have a place in the world. It’s a single moment that fills you with hope and happiness like nothing ever can.

And sometimes it’s hard to find that moment again. New loves you find along the way can relieve your burdens in beautiful ways, but none packs the punch as that first one… the first time you knew that another person could truly love you.

Glee reminded me of that moment tonight.

And tomorrow morning, I’ll be going to Brandon Bitner‘s funeral. He was only 14… I don’t know if he ever got the chance to have a moment like that. He might not have even been gay, but I think that’s besides the point.

We all deserve to feel that love, to explore that true expression of ourselves and our bodies with another.

Tomorrow will be a reminder of the way we still deprive so many young people of those moments. We convince them not to love themselves and not to ever consider that another person could ever hold them… or comfort them… or just make them feel safe.

And I just think it’s one of the cruelest things in the world.

(There was a similar moment the first time I ever heard a love song that I knew was written by a man, for a man. It was by Levi Kreis, the first openly gay musician I discovered. Listening to his first album, “One of the Ones,” still reminds me of those moments when I first realized how real the love between two men could be. Here’s a compilation of intimate photos of men someone made to Levi’s song, “Just This Good.”)

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There are 7 Comments to "Remembering The Moment It Felt Right"

  • I refuse to believe it’s the same as any old heterosexual first kiss.

    There’s so much guilt, so much shame, so much fear… and it can persist and haunt you your whole life… but in that moment, all of it goes away.

    Homosexuals of course have different issues than heterosexuals; nothing is exactly the same. My personal first hetero kiss is going to be different than some other straight guy’s first kiss. But yes, that’s very much what it’s like for us straights. The guilt, the shame, the fear, it’s all there. You think heterosexuality is easy because it’s “normal”? It’s not.

    Our culture is anti-gay in no small part because it’s anti-sex. Even we straights are taught to fear and loathe sex, to feel ashamed of our sexual feelings, to pretend that “sex is so dirty, shameful and sinful that it should only be done with the person you love the most.” Our experience is not routine, and our society really does not grease the skids for hetero relationships. For every element of support, there’s also an element of undermining and control.

    Indeed straights have a profound social pressure to do it right; “abnormal” heterosexuality and straight relationships are almost as deeply condemned as homosexuality.

    I know more than a few gay people. Of course, being straight, and having a tendency to mind my own business, the only people I know who are gay are those who make a point of telling me, for whatever reason: I know I’m dealing with a biased sample. Still and all, I’ve found the gay people I know to overall be much more sex-positive and not-hung-up than most of the straight people I know. And rah! good for y’all.

    We all have our differences — and good for that — but we’re all much more alike that you think, Zack. We all have our problems, and no one gets off easy.

  • Just so you know, I mostly agree with what you’re saying here. I just want you to know that we straights don’t have it all that much easier in matters of love and sex. We surely don’t face the same kind of discrimination and oppression outside of love and relationships — and that’s a shameful commentary on our society — but our culture’s attitude towards straight sexuality is also very deeply fucked up.

    • ZackFord says:

      I’m not going to pretend that heterosexuality is all roses and peaches, but I think you speak from an incredible place of privilege and that your comments are actually fairly condescending.

      I was pressured into and cheered on in my first heterosexual encounters. I was apathetic (for reasons I’d eventually figure out), but at no point did I feel that anyone had any concerns about me kissing a girl, that I should feel ashamed, that I was disordered, that there was something inherently evil inside of me.

      Yeah, gay people probably turn out more sex-positive, but you know why? Because to get to the point where we accept ourselves, we have to overcome an incredible stigma in society regarding our sexuality. Once you realize you’re better off ignoring society’s standards for what is appropriate sexually, it’s only natural to be more positive about it in general.

      Please, please, please do not try to make a case that it’s just as hard to be heterosexual as it is homosexual. It’s not, not even close, and honestly, for you to come on here and make that kind of comment on a post that was incredibly sentimental and emotional to me is just down right insensitive.

      I’m glad you have gay friends… now learn a thing or two about heterosexual privilege. Here’s a podcast that will help.

  • Audrey GetEQUAL Smith says:

    I was lucky that my first natural soul-affirming kiss happened AFTER I had gone through all the psychological and intellectual gymnastics of rejection of mainstream authority and self-acceptance. So when it happened, it was all celebration of finally being whole, and no guilt/shame or fear!

    Last night my heart was breaking for Kurt because no one in authority is taking his being bullied seriously; but also for the self-loathing “Neanderthal”…He is a major suicide risk.

  • James Croft says:

    I remember the moment you describe so clearly, Zack – I was in New Orleans for a service trip (with the Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy no less!). During the week, in the company of my supportive Humanist friends, I was finally accepting that I am gay, after 10 years of identity confusion and struggle.

    On our last day in town, I decide to take a pilgrimage. Clad in my fleur-de-lis shirt, with my iPhone as my guide, I trek to Café Lafitte in Exile, America’s oldest gay bar, towards the end of the famous Bourbon Street. I’m tingling as I walk through the door – I don’t drink, so I’m not much of a one for bars in any case, and this is my first gay bar. I wander up the stairs and out onto the balcony, lean on the railing, and look down the street in the cool night air. A man, wanting to get past me on the narrow balcony, places his hands on my hips, shifts me gently to the side, leans into my ear, and says “Excuse me, darlin’.”

    It’s like a luxurious, fizzing energy, all over my body. Ten years of repression melts in an instant, gone in the soft heat of a southern drawl. It’s as if I’ve been trying to fit the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle into place, turning it this way and that, twisting and bending it, trying to force it, and now, suddenly, it finds its place where it was meant to be all along. I’m home. Home, at last.

  • Guest says:

    I just wanted to say that in this blog post you say his name is “Brian Bitner” and in your next post his name is “Brandon Bitner.” I think in an effort to honor him and his memory, his name should at least be listed correctly!

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