My youngest brother was relatively inexperienced, but his youth brought on a welcome change of perspective.
At 12 years old, he was just beginning to dip his toes into the world of romantic connection.
Later, people would tell me how brave I was, but I’ve never really felt brave.
Some nights when I went to sleep, I didn’t seem to care if I woke up the next day.
And when morning came and I did wake up, I walked in a daze to the bathroom and turned on the shower full blast and gasped for air.
This past summer, I sat at family dinner on Fourth of July weekend in Manhattan, and the conversation on the younger end of the table was turning to discussion of relationships.
The subject was ripe with possibilities: My sister had a new boyfriend, one of my brothers had recently broken up with his girlfriend and another had been dating the same girl for some time.
I never planned to come out as “John Haley, gay man.” For some time, I had cultivated a belief that my sexuality constituted something shameful and unnatural, so I pushed down feelings which started as early as seventh grade to live as “John Haley, straight man.” In some ways, it was a strangely peaceful existence. I never struggled much with my sexuality until I came out to one of my closest friends after my freshman year of college.Then I broke down, and living with it — the truth — grew much more complicated. I became depressed, lost my appetite, fell behind in school.While my friends around me developed relationships lasting months or even years, I hopped around from possible girl to possible girl, never advancing the relationship beyond its early stages.Years passed, and slowly I came to realize why I acted this way.When I was his age, I learned about relationships by example — dissecting snippets of gossip whispered in middle school hallways, constructing a manual in my head to navigate through the dating process.
By the time I had finished high school, I had developed my own personal approach for maneuvering through the dating scene.