|Journey of Self Discovery||emil Joe|
of Self Discovery
by Joe Bush III
I'm young enough to not remember being propped up in front of the TV to see the first moonwalk although my mom assures me that I did see it. I was born in New Jersey and raised in New Orleans as a Catholic. I attended Catholic schools from Kindergarten through High School Graduation (1985) and attended my first public school when I went to Texas A&M that fall. I've been employed since I was 11 or so when I started mowing lawns and took a position at my church as an organist.
I've known that I was attracted to other boys since puberty although I never thought to act on them, confident that eventually I would like girls. HA! My family was always politically conservative and we used to refer (still do, actually) to our nightly dinners as "The Bigot Hour." It would be more accurate to call it the "Inflated Opinions Hour" but I learned quickly not to underestimate the power of stereotypes to produce a laugh and I also learned not to be shy or shamed into silence when it came to expressing my opinion regardless of its popularity. I made Eagle Scout, attended Jesuit High, participated in the school band for four years (Catholic High Schools in New Orleans run 8th-12th grade), swam my senior year, worked at a part-time job junior and senior year, and was generally a pretty active teenager. I was always the instigator (shit stirrer) among my group of friends and am shocked that I never got in more trouble in high school. I had a reputation that it was better not to mess with me physically since I never backed down from a fight (only took two fights, but they earned me a lot of good PR) and I had no trouble passing for straight (still don't) even though I didn't date in high school at all (except for a truly miserable night at my Junior Prom). High school was where I learned to love swimming and critical thinking and I was lucky enough that despite my faults I was able to develop a couple of life-long friendships.
I struggled in college mainly because of the distraction my sexuality provided and my inability to effectively deal with it alone. College is also when I realized that my continued Catholicism was impractical and harmful, despite the nice community of Catholics that I found. Perhaps I would have felt differently had I been strong enough to be open about my sexuality but I doubt it would have mattered to my philosophical development in the long-term. Unlike high school, I developed relationships with girls that were less than dating but gave others that impression. Passing as straight remained no problem, except that I could no longer pass to myself.
The dichotomy of the closet spilled over into other areas of my life. I was always the person who fit into whatever group I was a part of (still am). I was always the person with three groups of friends who never interacted with each other and many members of different groups openly disliked members of others when they did meet. I was one type of person at school and one type of person at home in New Orleans. When I left A&M because I could no longer justify staying there without a set of goals I was committed to, I moved home and worked for a year while I considered what it was that I wanted to do. I decided to not worry about the growing problem staying closeted was causing and to finish school despite it. Little did I know that I would find a way to exorcise both demons at once three weeks into my first summer session at one of the local Universities.
I met a great guy and a great girl at the same time and promptly started dating both of them <grin>. Although I quickly realized that the relationship with the guy was the one I wanted to last, I wanted to give the straight relationship an honest attempt. I stuck with the girl through her debutante season and kept the relationship purposefully light (sexually, anyway). She's a great girl and I still see her occasionally (and have no idea whether she knows I'm gay or not). My relationship with the guy lasted four and half years and was probably one of the happiest times of my life. I made a lot of mental progress with the notion of being gay but never gathered up the courage to step out of the closet. After two years, the reason I stayed in the closet was mostly out of consideration for him. As easily as it was to mask our relationship as one of friendship, it would have been impossible to continue doing so if I was out. I would have dragged him out, too--and he definitely wasn't ready.
When he got a job in Dallas after graduation I proposed to him. I told him that I thought our relationship had grown more serious over the last two years, I told him that I loved him, and I told him that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. He turned me down, and our relationship changed instantly from one of romance and intimacy to one of only friendship. That transition was the worst year of my life. How I managed to function at all the first month is totally beyond me. I had no one to talk to and I remember little of that time between our breakup and my decision to begin living openly. I told one friend and one little brother about 13 months after we stopped dating. Both were accepting although both were quite surprised. I gradually told more people, most of whom shared that same mixed reaction. Only one person in my circle of close friends (with whom my ex and I had spent a lot of time socially) was able to figure out who I had been dating when I mentioned that I had been in a long-term gay relationship.
I realized after A&M that I could no longer be a practicing Catholic because I could not toe the party line and did not wish to be hypocritical. This led to a brief and non-violent altercation with my mother who tried to make me go to communion but who couldn't argue with me when I explained why doing so would be wrong (I never brought up the fact that I was gay--I merely told her that to go to communion in a state of indifference wouldn't make me a Catholic, only a hypocrite). I had always had doubts about spirituality and hadn't really ever worried about it. When I discovered "Atlas Shrugged" and began to read Ayn Rand more extensively I found a source of positive reinforcement for many traits I had developed but which existed without any logical structure. Over the last few years I've made a concentrated effort to run down all the rabbit trails I can find in my head and work out a consistent philosophy for my own use. My ambivalence towards spirituality led to my current agnosticism.
Rational self-interest is a difficult philosophy to live by, but it gets a little bit easier every day. Changing habits instantaneously isn't something I have a particular talent for and this perhaps more than anything else is what will continue to distinguish me from official Objectivists, whom I find to be overly judgemental (non-pragmatic) and too clique-ish for my taste.
As I recently told my ex, "If it wasn't for you I would probably still be someone I hated instead of someone who gets to be exactly who he is 98% of the time." My Journey is about self-discovery, self-validation, and self-activation in every area of my life, not just the homosexual parts. Hopefully I'll eventually get to spend that last 2% of my life being who I am instead of being something less.
Joe Bush III
"The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely." -- Carl Jung