Mental Health Day

With the fact that I have to conduct four job interviews today, I had to take a mental health break last night when I would have normally written this post. I had to get to bed as early as possible. I wish I’d had a glass of Prosecco to calm my nerves before bed, but I rarely drink, so it’s ok that I didn’t. We’ve done two previous interviews, and I swear, I feel more like the head of the search committee than my museum director who should be leading the process. I had to take the questions he put together after soliciting questions from all the committee members and edit them down to a reasonable number. He just combined all of them together without doing any editing of them. I’m literally having to fix everything he’s fucking up about this job search process. Ok, enough of this. I have to go to bed, and I can’t continue to think about all of this.If it means I have to step up where he’s failing in order to get the best candidate because he can’t seem to be bothered, then that’s what I’ll do. [End internal dialogue.]

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With the day like I had yesterday, I just wanted someone to rub my feet, pamper me, and let me lay my head in their lap. I would have settled for a nice hug. This week has been so stressful and there is still today and tomorrow. I’m just so tired right now, and there is so much more to do this week. I’m not sure how I’m going to get through all of it, but I know I will. I just have to take things one step at a time.

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What a Week!

This week started out with a bit of a bang. I’m not sure how things will progress with my nephew. I talked to him again last night, and I’m trying to get him to understand that while I fully support him, I also want what’s best for him. It’s all very complicated, and I’ll be on his side, but he also needs to understand that he needs to try to work through this with his family. There are options for him, whether it’s his aunt or his great aunt (my aunt), while I don’t think she will fully understand, my aunt won’t let him be put out in the cold. She has a good heart. If she knows my nephew’s parents are mistreating him, she’ll step in where she’s needed. I’m pretty sure I need to do some research on how to best handle the situation myself. I’ll be honest, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by all of it, and I want to do the right thing. He does not need to have to go through what I went through when I was his age. At least he understands what his feelings are. I didn’t until much later, or at least I didn’t acknowledge my feelings until much later.

Besides dealing and trying to help my nephew, I am also very busy at work. I have a public program today in which I’ll be moderating a panel of experts. I have to decide first thing this morning what I will wear. I always take time to be very thoughtful about what I wear to things like this. However, I’m running out of clothes. The dryer at my apartment building is broken and can’t be fixed until the twentieth, so I’m running low on clean clothes. Thank goodness I’m a clothes whore, and I have plenty of clothes to choose from, but let’s just say, they better fix it on the twentieth because it’s going to come down to the wire, and I despise going to the laundromat. Also, some of my clothes are now too big because of the weight I’ve lost.

This afternoon, we will interview the first of six candidates for our open curator position. Apparently, I’m leading off with the first question. For the rest of the week we will be conducting interviews, and I believe the last one is Monday. We’ll meet on Tuesday to decide who we’ll invite on campus for final interviews. I find this hiring process very stressful. I have a huge fear that we’ll pick the wrong person. I just have to have faith that through the interviews and the judgement of the hiring committee, we’ll find the right person.

In addition to all of that, I also have to prepare for the next public program set for November 3. I’ve been so busy that I’m a bit behind on the preparations. Monday, I had to teach a class, and yesterday I had two medical appointments. The first one was for blood work ahead of my quarterly doctor’s visit next week. The nurses stuck me four times before they could find a vein. My arms are so sore and somewhat bruised. Thank goodness I’ll be wearing a long sleeve shirt today to cover up all of that. My other appointment was with my neurologist to discuss the sensitive and embarrassing issue I spoke about last week. Thankfully, she understood the issue and came to the same conclusion as my PCP. She’s adjusted my medicines to try to take care of the problem. Poor woman, she’s seeing patients virtually but she looked a bit rough. She was definitely not as put together as usual. Whatever is wrong, she’s out for a couple of weeks, but still seeing patients virtually from home.

My neurologist is also trying to help me with some issues I’m having with my sleep medicine people. Because of that, I got some snarky (i.e. bitchy) messages from the sleep clinic, which ignored much of what we’d discussed at my last appointment or the notes from the respiratory therapist I saw last week. I’ll respond to the messages, but I need to calm down first. I am also going to ask my PCP if it’s possible to send me to the sleep clinic at the University of Vermont. While I have every confidence in the people at the Headache Clinic at Dartmouth, I barely have any confidence in those at the Sleep Clinic down there. They never followed up after I initially got the CPAP, and when I contacted them about the issues with my trigeminal neuralgia, I was told I was supposed to have seen them four times before then. Not only did that not inspire confidence, but the way they are jerking me around about trying out various sleep masks seems a colossal waste of time.

So this week, I seem to be destined to be worried, aggravated, and busy all week long. I hope and pray the week improves, but I don’t see my prayers being answered on this.

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An NCOD Update

There is no poem post today. I have something very important to tell you about. I will likely post a poem tomorrow.

National Coming Out Day (NCOD) turned out to be more emotional than I could have expected. My niece, now my nephew, came out as trans (FTM) on Facebook. I don’t have the habit of checking Facebook often, but for some reason, I did check it first thing yesterday morning. At the top of my timeline was a post from my niece. While I was reading it, her name changed to his new name. I was immediately concerned for two reasons: 1) if this were true, this would not go well with his parents, and 2) if it wasn’t true, my niece was an insensitive jerk making a bad joke. I kept an eye on his Facebook page, and in a few hours, the post was gone. The name had reverted to the old name. No one commented on the post, so I am not sure how many people saw it. He’d posted it after midnight when presumably his parents had gone to bed, and I’m sure as soon as they saw it (my sister is always on Facebook), they made him take it down. I had a feeling it might be true since the terminology used was correct and the timing of the post as soon as it was officially NCOD. But I had to know for sure. I didn’t want him to be alone and scared if this was true.

I called my mom to find out what was going on, but she was in the dark about the whole thing. My mother’s response was, “I hope it’s not true.” I then told her the statistics of trans suicides and reminded her I had tried to commit suicide when I was a teenager. I told her she had to lend her support and that my sister needed to know what the consequences could be if she denied this child the necessary support. My mother told me to call my niece and ask her what was going on. My mother did say, “Don’t encourage her in this.” I said, “Mama, I will give her all the love and support she needs. I am not going to discourage her. She needs to know she is loved, accepted, and supported 100 percent.” My mother didn’t say anything more after that.

I hung up with my mother and called my niece. The phone was answered and immediately hung up. I then received a text asking if I was ok. I replied, “I was calling to see if you were OK.” He said, “Uh, physically yes.” I told him, “I saw your Facebook post. Please know you can always talk to me about anything.” He said his mom and dad freaked out, and I said, “Is it true? If it is, I love you and support you 100 percent.” He confirmed it was true and thanked me for supporting him. Then, I did something I had not planned to do until this kid went to college and was away from my sister and her husband. I told him I’d come out as gay twenty years ago and lived as an out gay man here in Vermont. He was shocked but thought that was “amazing.” How anyone doesn’t realize I am gay always boggles my mind, but he is 14 and sees me about once a year. We texted back and forth for a while, and I told him how much I supported him. I said he could always talk to me and count on me. I would do anything I could.

The good thing is that his aunt, my brother-in-law’s sister, was the first person he came out to in the family. She is, and has been, very supportive. He has always been closer to his aunt than with me probably because she lives near him. I rarely lived close by except for the six years when I moved back to Alabama after graduate school. However, my sister has never let her kids be around me unsupervised which has always made me think she suspects me of being gay and doesn’t want her children around me. My nephews both love their Uncle Joe, and you can see the excitement, joy, and love on their faces when they see me. I am glad he has his aunt as a strong ally. She is a force to be reckoned with and has always lived her life as she wanted to whether her parents liked it or not. I am glad my nephew has her support.

My nephew said it’s been getting more difficult the past two years with his parents, and he is hoping to find someone to take custody of him if he can convince his parents to sign custody over to someone. Hopefully, his aunt can be that person. She was in the legal field and has many lawyers as contacts which I am sure can help. I hope she can get custody of my nephew and give him the help he needs. I wish I had the financial ability to take him in up here. If he’d been kicked out, I would have gone and gotten him, but thankfully, they did not kick him out. I just hope he has the support network he needs. I told him if he needed anything from me to just let me know. I told him I loved him, and I thought he was a very brave boy.

Yesterday turned into an actual Coming Out Day for my family. Not only did my nephew come out to me, but I came out to him. When I wrote yesterday’s post, I had no idea that NCOD 2021 would be such an emotional day. I am so proud of my nephew. At fourteen, not only did I not understand I was gay, but I would have never been brave enough to come out to anyone.

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National Coming Out Day

Every year on October 11, we celebrate National Coming Out Day (NCOD) to celebrate our coming out as LGBTQ+. NCOD was first celebrated in the United States in 1988. The initial idea was grounded in the feminist and gay liberation belief that our personal experiences are rooted in our political situation and gender inequality. NCOD emphasizes the most basic form of activism as coming out to family, friends, and colleagues to live life as an openly LGBTQ+ person. The foundational belief is that homophobia thrives in an atmosphere of silence and ignorance. Once people know that they have loved ones who are lesbian or gay, they are far less likely to maintain homophobic or oppressive views. In reality, this is not always the case, but the hope is still there that one day it will be. Whether you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, we should be proud of who we are and our support for LGBTQ+ equality. 

Twenty years ago last spring, I came out to someone for the first time. It had taken me a long time to just come out to myself, and honestly, I had never verbalized my own coming out until I did it that night. It was not planned, and when I did it, I was scared to death. I have probably told this story before, but I think it is important to tell it again. I was in my first year of graduate school, and I saw an accepting world around me for the first time. You wouldn’t think that would be the case because I was living in Mississippi at the time, but the History Department and my new friends were different than anything I’d ever been accustomed to being around. I felt for the first time like it might be okay to tell someone my “deep dark secret.”

It was the Friday before our first spring break in grad school, and many of the grad students had gone out for drinks that night. We often got together on Friday nights, usually with a group of our professors. We had gone to a bar downtown instead of our usual bar near campus, if I remember correctly. After being there for a while, everyone decided to go to one of the professors’ houses to continue socializing, i.e., drinking. I will admit, I was probably pretty drunk that night, and a lot of my courage had been liquid courage. A good friend, her boyfriend, and I were sitting on the professor’s couch, and it was really late. I’m not sure why we were alone sitting on the couch, but we were. I think the subject of one of the professors being gay came up. I am a little fuzzy on what was said up until that point, but I know we were talking about gay people and how someone we thought was gay was actually straight, or something like that. Anyway, however the conversation had gone, I remember saying, “Well, you know, I’m not.” My friend replied, “Joe, we know you’re not gay.” To which I clarified, “No, I’m not straight.”

She and her boyfriend said they were proud and felt honored that I had confided in them, and they would not tell anyone. They said it was my truth to tell when I was ready. I just remember that they hugged me and were so loving and kind. I hid my gayness for so long, and it was like a weight off my shoulders to finally say it out loud and to someone else. Soon afterward, everybody started going home, and we went home too. She was my neighbor, and I believe her boyfriend had driven us that night. With her living in the apartment building directly behind me, there was never any reason to take more than one car, so we went to a lot of things together. She and her boyfriend never once made me feel like a third wheel.

After we got home, we went our separate ways, and I left for the beach the next day for spring break. I met some of my family in Pensacola. Coming out to my friend was on my mind the whole time. We had been drinking, so I was terrified that she would not remember the conversation, and I’d have to do it all over again. It had taken an inordinate amount of courage to come out the first time, and I didn’t know if I could do it again, even if they had been completely accepting. I knew many people forget things when they have been drinking, even though I remember everything when I’ve been drinking, granted details get fuzzy after 20 years. I was a nervous wreck that she wouldn’t remember. When we got back, our schedules were hectic because the end of the semester was drawing near, so I could not get her alone to see what she remembered. 

Finally, either the Friday after spring break or the following Friday, we all went out to the same downtown bar again. I was able to get her alone in the bar’s courtyard. I don’t know how I broached the subject, but I remember I finally came out and asked her, “Do you remember what I told you at [that professor’s] house?” Thankfully, she did. It was another weight off my shoulders. I remember we sat out in the courtyard for a while discussing cute guys at the bar that night. Never in my life had I had the chance to talk to someone about what guys I thought were cute. It was one of the most blissful moments of my life. For the first time in my life, I was able to be me. I didn’t have to pretend I was checking out some hot girl when I was actually checking out the guy she was with. I have always enjoyed people watching, but I had never gotten to openly watch and comment on guys with anyone else before. It had always been an inner dialogue in my brain. To this day, I still love to point out hot guys to my friends when it’s appropriate.

It was probably another eight months until I finally came out to the rest of the people in my graduate school, but that’s a story for another time. While I am still closeted to much of my family, my parents do know although we never discuss it. Happily, I can live openly and proudly as a gay man in Vermont. Isn’t that what National Coming Out day is all about? The ability to live authentically as ourselves and show others that we are human beings just like them. As Shylock says in Act 3, Scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice, “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.” Shylock was talking about being a Jew versus a Christian, but does that not apply to all groups that are discriminated against?

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