I’m in Bangkok, Thailand. When I landed here yesterday afternoon, I touched mainland Asia for the first time. When I did, that meant I’d officially, unequivocally traveled to all seven continents — and all seven of them in 2013, to boot. I’m proud of that achievement, and I’m thrilled to have done it. Seeing the world is one of the best things I’ve ever done.
As some of you will know, December 1 is also my thirty-eighth birthday. It’s been a great journey, and so many memories come flooding back whenever I stop to ponder it: the early years in a three-generation household on Hillcrest — dinners with Grandma, skate parties at Silver Wheels, and Indian Guides meetings with Dad; a two-year detour to Houston, where I learned to love baseball by watching Mike Scott and the Astros win the division; back to Fort Worth, with my first job in the Museum School’s live animal room, and a sack lunch in Room Five with Mom and the rest of the teachers, or with Jessica in the old cafeteria; four years as a Paschal Panther; college at TCU, then (eventually) UT Law and an eye-opening and life-changing semester in London, starting a week after 9/11; a fulfilling career with my friends and colleagues at Figari & Davenport; and now a trip around the world and the chance to reflect on my life thus far, from my seventh continent, on my birthday.
It’s been a great ride, and today is a special occasion, so I’ve decided to give myself a present that I hope will make the next thirty-eight years even better: I am gay, and I’m now officially out. Several of you know this already. Many more, I imagine, will have made educated guesses and now are having your suspicions confirmed. Maybe some of you are completely surprised — I don’t really know. What I do know, and what I’ve known for some time, is that I am and have always been gay.
Let me be clear: I haven’t known this fact of nature forever, and I certainly haven’t always accepted it. As a young child, I didn’t know that gay and straight existed. (Now I probably would, in an age-appropriate way. That’s great.) As an adolescent, I began to have feelings, and a bit later began to understand what those feelings were and what they might mean, but I wasn’t sure they were permanent and definitely wasn’t sure whether I wanted them to be. I though not, at least for a while. It’s difficult to say when I finally acknowledged my nature and (somewhat later) when I accepted and embraced it. Suffice to say that by now, I have.
I’m not quite sure why it’s taken me so long to take the final step from self-acceptance to public acknowledgment. Fear of rejection from people I love and care about loomed large in my mind. It still does, to some extent, but over the last couple of years I’ve come to believe that everyone who truly loves or cares about me will feel the same way tomorrow as they did yesterday, even if they have legitimate questions or have an adjustment to make. What I hope everyone ultimately is able to understand and accept is that I haven’t changed a bit. I’ve been gay ever since you met me. It’s true! And I still am, just like I’m also still a Horned Frog and a football fan and a traveler and a reader and a Democrat and a Texan and a lawyer and a partner and a friend and a cousin and a brother and a son. It’s something you might not have known about me — but I’m still me.
The world has changed, too, in my lifetime. It is not my intention here to jump up on a political soapbox, but unlike even a decade ago, in most of the western world, it’s okay to be openly gay. In a growing number of countries and states, I can’t be fired for being gay, I can have the same type of civil marriage available to anyone else, I have the right to visit my sick spouse in the hospital, and it’s not a crime when I make love.
Precious little of that progress has made it to my home state of Texas, but that’s something I hope to change. I don’t want or need any special rights or privileges, but I want the same bundle of rights and responsibilities as everyone else, because at the end of the day I’m just like everyone else. I’m a human, just like the other seven billion or so of us hanging around this planet. I just happen to be a gay human. My purpose in pointing out the inequality I’ve faced from the shadows as a gay person, and that I’ll continue to face from the sunshine as an openly gay person, isn’t to play for sympathy, but rather to offer some understanding for what’s been going through my mind — and, perhaps, to help put to rest any question about whether being gay is a choice. It’s patently not. The choice is in coming out, and that one’s hard enough, thanks.
I don’t know what I’ll be doing this time next year. I may be back in Dallas with my once and future law partners. I could go in a different direction altogether, perhaps even some civil rights work to help end the discrimination I’ve just referenced. Maybe I’ll just keep traveling the world, picking up seasonal work at hostels in exchange for a bed and beer money — but probably not. Wherever I land, though, I hope you all understand that I’ll be the same person I’ve always been, except that I won’t be carrying the self-imposed burden of concealing (perhaps loosely, but officially) a part of me from many of the people closest to me. The lifting of that burden, on the occasion of my seventh continent and my thirty-eighth birthday, is my present to myself. It is one of the best presents I’ve ever received.
Thanks for reading and hopefully understanding, and for letting me get this off my chest. I know this may be unexpected. That’s fair. You all know where to reach me if you want to know more, ask questions, or talk through any issues, no matter how big or small. I really do invite and welcome the discussion.