I have known that I am gay for as long as I can remember. To me, it has always been as recognizable as my eye color or my right-handedness. However, during my childhood, my comprehension of my place in this world was not always as matter-of-fact.

For instance, as a kid I loved to rough and tumble with other boys out on the soccer field. But then, I also enjoyed attending the faux tea parties with the girls on my street. And because one was usually in general opposition to the other, it took great finesse on my part to attempt to balance the two.

Even back then, I knew that if I wanted to participate in both, I had to be savvy with the playground because often times clear lines delineated what was acceptable behavior for me as a boy, and what was appropriate exclusively for a girl. When I would play house, I never understood why it was always a boy and a girl, and not a boy and a boy.

Instead of accepting this, though, I learned to be creative. I knew that it would be impossible for me to have two daddies during our playing house so, I did what I thought was the next best thing. I'd concede to be the sole daddy, but I would construct what that meant by my own design. I'd incorporate aspects of my gay self into that role and to my playmates' chagrin, it worked.

I use this example not in an attempt to bore you with the development of a gay child, but rather to discuss the heterosexual paradigms that seem to box everyone in. It is these paradigms that obligate gay folks, like myself, to have to "come out" in the first place, and not just simply be and act as I am.

How terribly frustrating this was for me, because unlike my straight cohorts, I was not given a clear roadmap or developmental script to follow. Society did not offer me any special rites-of-passage as a gay man to validate the life I have eventually started to build with my partner.

Don't get me wrong. Life as a gay man and gay student has not been all agony and bewilderment. My partner, Matthew, and I have found our lives to be mysterious and difficult, but exhilarating all at the same time. It has enabled us to carve out whatever design we might want our lives to look like and frees us from the ready-made heterosexual script.

Nonetheless, this epiphany was not an easy one for me to come to. For example, a few years ago when Matthew and I started dating, we went shopping at a local department store. And like many other couples that were also there shopping, we wanted to shop for one another. A purely innocuous act, right?

Sure it is, but at the time, I thought that it was a privilege reserved only for heterosexual couples to enjoy. Each time Matthew would take a step towards me to hold a sweater up to my chest to see how it might look on me, I would take two steps back. This sweater dance played out for a few minutes: he would chase me around the store with a new article of clothing and I would try to keep him and that sweater at a safe distance. It was only out of pure exhaustion and desperation on his part that he realized that it wasn't his taste in clothing that I was cowering from. It was nothing but my own homophobia.

Yes, even gay people can be homophobic. I feared that other shoppers might perceive Matthew and me as a couple. Or worse, as gay men. In retrospect this fear is humorous, yet sad. Why be worried about such a thing?

It was only after some reflection and protests from Matthew, who had to engage in those shopping calisthenics just to try to stand next to me each time we entered into a public space, that made me realize that my internalized homophobia was destructive. I came to the awareness that if I was going to be out and about with the man I love, why should I be acting in a way that was contradictory to the way that I felt? I made a change and strove to be comfortable with who I am.

This all culminated about the same time that I decided to do my graduate work. I went to the campus in particular for a few reasons. I respected the college’s reputation for providing its students with not only a rigorous education, but also a tolerance towards differences in others. And after seven months into the program, I am happy that I am here. I made the right decision.

I realized this when Matthew and I were out shopping again, but this time at the campus bookstore. Once more, Matthew was having me model clothing, but unlike our previous excursions, I enjoyed the possibility of being identified as being his beau. In fact, while we were both in line, we met two of my classmates. We exchanged our greetings and when I turned to introduce Matthew, instead of bleating out some explanation about who this other man might be, I stated without hesitation, "This is my partner, Matthew." To my delight, my classmates responded as they would to any other person's significant other, with warmth and friendliness.

Though it was such a brief moment, it was a personal triumph to experience. I was finally able to "play house" and to do it on my own terms.

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