Sunday, August 17, 2014

Being Myself in a Foreign Land

Kaysville, Utah is hardly Beijing. But, to paraphrase L. P. Hartley, a lot of places along the Wasatch Front are foreign countries; they do things differently there.

It started when I stopped at Smiths Marketplace in Bountiful on Friday to get myself and the kids some drinks as we headed up to Cherry Hill, a water park in Kaysville. As I checked out, I noticed the cashier was repeatedly looking at my wrists. I have gotten to the point where I am not the least self-conscious about my bracelets; I basically forget that they are there. They are part of me.

So as I checked out, I reminded myself that there are undoubtedly very few men in Davis County who wear bracelets. I didn't feel self-conscious, but I was aware.

Then we got to Cherry Hill. It was packed with moms with young children, a few dads and a number of grandparents. I noticed the same thing here: as I walked past people, I stopped counting the number of times that I noticed people's gaze shift downward to my wrists. I didn't feel judgment, however, although I'm sure there was some of that. Mostly, I just sensed curiosity or a vague level of discomfort with something that was different than the norm.

There was a time when I felt, after coming out and separating from my former wife, extremely self-conscious driving in Bountiful - my former home - or neighboring Centerville or other communities in southern Davis County. I had lived in these heavily-Mormon communities for 15 years after moving to Utah from Canada. I didn't feel comfortable there. I felt very self-conscious. Sort of like an expression I heard used in Southern Illinois where I am from. To paraphrase, I "felt as nervous as a whore in church with red heels on." In other words, I stuck out. Or I felt like I did.

On Friday, however, I felt totally confident in my own skin in the heart of a heavily Mormon area. I did not wear board shorts. I sat out in the sun, accepting of my body, unconcerned about what others may or may not have thought or suspected of me. In other words, I was myself - perhaps the only openly gay man there, and certainly the only gay man with children. It was a wonderful feeling. I have come a long way.

BTW, the lead photo is of my son Levi sitting at the end of my chaise lounge. I was happy to see a few other boys there with hair as long as his. Two of them were wearing necklaces. It was amusing when, later, as I mentioned to my daughter Rachel (who had accompanied us) that I thought Levi and Aaron would look good with necklaces, I noticed out of the corner of my eye the head of the woman sitting near us whip around and look at us. Smile.

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