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.”)