Well, Christmas is over once again. My favorite time of year has come and gone.
This year felt like a long slow burn of a build-up with high hopes that didn’t necessarily sparkle, but they sure have left a mark for me.
In fact, this Christmas may have been the dullest, a twinkle of the yearly spectacle I have ever witnessed while also being the most memorable.
When this season comes to an end for me it’s always like the main course that I want to savor but I’m also looking forward to… excuse me, longing for, the dessert and the New Year.
It’s a brutal conflict.
Order another savory steak and lobster tail or delve into the tiramisu? This year, although the main course was just a pile of pandemic non-seasoned quinoa, I really just can’t stop thinking about it because this year was my first Gay Christmas.
I grew up in a Southern Baptist family and the word “gay” was never used in any context. I had been gay my whole life, but this year would be my first openly gay Christmas with my southern family. On top of that stressor, I had just published my first book, a memoir about recovery and coming out.
From prostituting myself out and shooting heroin in a glory hole to revealing that I had crushes on my peewee baseball team, there were lots of truths being exposed this year.
As Christmas approached, I longed to keep my dark secrets safe and buried, to continue the entrée of life, but at the same time I craved so madly to have those secrets finally out so I could step into the delightful treasure of gay dessert. I know most readers understand this feeling and I know now that you have all conquered this only through exercising tremendous strength. This makes me extremely proud to be a part of this community.
Usually, however, after Christmas is over, I take a deep breath and say, “Wow, we did it once again.” We put up with all the family, all the dinners, all the presents. We survived all the stress. We have consumed the entire steak and lobster. But this year is a little different. I have more nostalgia than years prior, because this year a true miracle of Christmas occurred… Come to think of it, the only Christmas “miracle” I’ve seen.
I hand-delivered my book to my father and mother and they read it cover to cover in one sitting while I tossed nervously in bed. I had already come out to them, but I hadn’t told the whole story. Surprisingly, however, I didn’t get a lump of coal in my stocking when I awoke for Christmas Day festivities. Instead, with tears in their eyes, I got hugs and the greatest gift a son could receive. With my father in silent agreement, my mother said, “Mark, you have no idea how proud we are of you and we now have a new respect for all the gay community. Thank you.”
I am excited for the new year, but I will always remember each moment of this incredibly sweet entrée of a Christmas. But, I share this message because each of us has a story to share. Each of us has the ability to help build a new perspective for the onlookers outside the gay community. Each of us has that ability, and I believe the responsibility to share it.
For I believe it's only through our greatest gift, which is our heart's story of how we found our best gay self, that we are going to continue making this world a better place.
My Best Gay Self is a column by author, speaker, fitness coach and LGBTQ addiction and wellness advocate, Mark Turnipseed. He is also the Owner and CEO of Integrity Endurance, a network of personal trainers with the goal of fighting the opioid crisis through fitness. Visit www.markaturnipseed.com to learn more/contact or to find his book "My Suicide Race: Surviving the trauma of addiction, recovery and coming out."