Justin's Life

Why is this site here?

In short, this site is here to show you that you're not alone. ("In long" follows the letter), but for now...

In high school, I wrote an estranged best friend this letter:

Sometimes in life you get something you didn't exactly want. Maybe you're just a little different from what seems like everyone else. Maybe you're left handed, maybe you're flat footed, or maybe you're gay. Granted, being left handed isn't a big deal now, but it used to be. Even in our parents' generation, people were made to write with their right hand because the left hand was considered evil. But now being left handed will maybe set you back a little in life, maybe you'll have a few difficulties, a few obstacles, but you can get around them. But being gay is the same thing, you'll have a few difficulties and obstacles, but you can get around them.

You can be happy, really happy. You can have friends that know you're gay and don't harass you. You can have lots of friends that will accept you for who you are. Believe it or not, one day your parents will accept it. But all you see is the negative side of being gay. Queer jokes, negative comments, from everyone, including your parents.

So you think you can fool everyone by going out with some girls. But each time you're afraid something's going to happen on your date that's going to make you feel uncomfortable. Deep down, you know who you are but you just can't admit it to anyone. So you go out with girls, but you make it not work. You then set the unattainable goal so everyone will think you're straight and stop harassing you about going out. No one's good enough. With me, it was no one had enough morals. No one was quite pure enough. But it was still that I was setting the unattainable goal. It doesn't work, though. The only person you're fooling is yourself. I've been there.

But lying to everyone makes you feel trapped. It's like you're smothering and you can't get out. It's like society is forcing you into a mold that you just don't fit. But you don't have to change to fit the mold. There are other people out there that don't fit the mold either. You're just so scared that the whole world will turn on you. But they won't, I won't, and others won't. In fact, of all the people I've told, that know for a fact, not one has ever rejected me.

I am gay. It took me so long to be able to say that. But I can say it. I can joke about it. But, now I'm secure in who I am.

But I've been where you are. Everyone, the movies, t.v., show gays as being sissies or child molesters or sexual deviants. But you aren't like that, you're a normal guy who happens to be gay. But from what you've seen and heard, those kinds of people don't exist. But they do, and you don't notice them as being different and neither does anyone else, unless you're looking. -- I knew you were gay when I told you that I'm gay, back in tenth grade. You've probably got this sixth sense. You can probably tell who's gay and who isn't. If not now, you'll have it later.

And you just want to go away to the big city, to New York, to Los Angeles, to Europe. Anywhere that gay people are accepted, anywhere that you won't be an outcast. For me, it was New York, I told my parents that I wanted to go to college there, but I just really wanted to go there where I could be who I am. Why do you think I got accepted to college a year early? It wasn't because I wanted to further my education quickly. It was because I wanted to get out. Be free from the closed mindedness of Richmond. But then Chris and I became friends and I focused all my energy on him. I didn't worry about sexuality. I did "best friend things" with him and it was enough. I was scared about going off to college in New York, I worried about the college being Catholic, and I wanted to stay for Chris, so I didn't go.

But, now in two and a half weeks, I'm going to Boston University and it's like heaven on earth. Just from two days at Orientation I know I will be absolutely happy there. For example, after only knowing these people for four hours, I just sat there and said "I'm gay". They said okay, and for the next day and a half, we just hung out. They could have cared less that I was gay. They still touched me, they still talked with me, it was exactly the same. And before I went to Orientation, I'd been writing with a gay student advisor for the program, so when I got there several of the other student advisors (juniors & seniors volunteers) knew who I was and said stuff like "Andy's really looking forward to seeing you." and "I've heard so much about you." I had no idea who these people were, but they knew me, they knew Andy's gay, and they knew I was his friend. I was sure that if Andy hadn't told them directly, they could put 2 and 2 together to realize that I'm gay. And once again, I couldn't have cared less. -- And I know you're staying here, but you still don't have to hide. Granted, everything won't be as great as in Boston, but you can still be happy.

And before, you've thought about killing yourself, but you really don't want to kill yourself. You just want to make it look like you want to kill yourself. You want to make it look real, just real enough to get a lot of attention, but you don't want to kill yourself. You've still got some glimmer of hope of living a happy life. Believe me, I was there too. I thought about wrecking my car, but then that would cost a lot of insurance, and if I wore my seatbelt, like I always do, I wouldn't get hurt enough to get the attention I wanted, enough for people to ask what my problem was. If I didn't wear my seatbelt, it would look like something was up.

You've thought about running away, but you don't know where to go. You don't know where to go so that you won't be found. You've thought about leaving you're parents a note and not coming home until they can signal that they're O.K. with you're being gay. I know you have. I have, but for one reason or another something wouldn't work exactly right.

But I can't say all that you've thought or all you've done, I'm not you. I know you're beyond some of these thoughts now, but I know you thought them before. I'm writing to let you know that you are not alone, that everything will be okay.

I'm not asking for a reply. I just want to help you.

Asking me why my site is here is like asking you why you give to the Salvation Army bell ringers who stand in front of stores during Christmas. It's a complicated answer.

On one hand, you give because you want to help those less fortunate than you during the holiday season. But, on the other hand, you give out of some sense of guilt. If no bell ringer was there to see you walk past the pot and not put money in, I'm 98% certain you wouldn't do it.

My continued life online is to show people that being gay isn't the horrible thing that it's often made out to be, but is instead, in some ways, better than being straight. But moreso, my online journal shows that we all have our strengths and our weaknesses and our commonalties as human far outweigh any differences we may have because of the gender of our partners. We all long for love, we all feel lonely, we all have to deal with friends and school and work. And we'd nearly all walk past that red bucket without giving any money if it weren't for the bell ringer.

We all worry about whether our clothes are right when we meet someone new. We all eat at McDonald's on occasion. We have the same goals and dreams, just slightly different ways of getting them.

My life is online so that no matter where you are, you can see without a doubt that someone else is having the same thoughts and worries and joys as you are having or have had. And my life is online so that if you're gay and feel like no one else in the entire world knows what you're going through, you can read and see just how similar our lives really are. As I've said before, we're all basically on the same tracks, just at different places.

It's more complicated than that (and I'm sure there's some Narcissism and desire for immorality thrown in there as well), but it's like why I prefer Pepsi over Coke. Hard to explain, but a certainty nevertheless.

Why the old photos?

As I wrote June 11th, 1999:

This photo was in my closet. I bought it a month or so ago, thinking that perhaps I'd create a page with a vintage gay theme to it. Sure, there's nothing inherently gay about these six young men, but that's why it works. That's my life. My life is like their lives, only mine's taking place several decades later. In the newness of our "now" society, we hardly ever realize that our lives have commonalities with those who lived long ago. Believe it or not, we are not the first guys to ever be gay. Not the first to ever deal with taxes or love or friendships. From their attire, they were upwardly mobile, something I like to think I am, and they're at that age where they're getting ready to "take on the world", something I feel akin as I'm in the midst of starting my first real company. They represent me, and I represent them, even though our lives never crossed and our time here on earth probably didn't overlap...

©1999 - Justin Clouse