by Ron Maddox
When I was growing up, I knew I was different. I was interested in things that didn’t interest most young boys. At the same time, as I reached puberty, I found myself attracted to other boys. This was the 70’s in a small central Texas town...not a place and time where you would be likely to hear the words “gay” or “homosexual”. So, even though I felt attracted to boys, I didn’t have any frame of reference as to what that meant. But, somehow, I knew that it was something I needed to keep a secret, so I did what I thought was expected of me and dated girls like all the other boys. When I was 17, I gave my virginity up to a 15 year old girl who seemed oddly sexually experienced. I later learned that her father had been sexually abusing her since she was 10 years old. I digress...not relevant to the story.
I didn’t have my first sexual encounter with a male until I was 20. I had a girlfriend at the time that I was engaged to be married. She introduced me to a school friend of hers who I would later discover was attracted to men as I was. He ended up being my first male sexual partner. We had an ongoing thing for a couple of years. I had another male friend that I had an ongoing thing with, also, for a couple of years, yet I couldn’t identify myself as “gay”. I couldn’t explain what I was doing with men, but saying I was gay just didn’t feel right...not yet.
I did marry the fiancé and we were married for three years. All the while, I was having sex with my two friends. I can’t say I’m proud of what I did during my marriage, but I can say that I am proud of never lying to my wife. She knew about the two men and allowed me to explore those uncharted waters.
After three years of marriage, I knew that I did not belong with my wife. She was sweet, beautiful, intelligent and loved my fiercely. I knew I was in the wrong place, so we divorced. I went on to date women for a little over a year after my divorce. I still could not wrap my mind around being “gay”.
Then, one day, I met a man that I was attracted to on an emotional level...not just sexually. Wake up call! What did this mean? It was these feelings of emotion for another man that finally made me realize...Holy Shit...I’m GAY!
With that realization, I knew I was about to embark on a journey that might be quite difficult. It was 1980 by now and I still lived in the small central Texas town. I had always had a pretty open relationship with both of my parents. My Mom and I were a lot alike and we got along fabulously. On the other hand, my Dad and I were mostly opposites. We tended to butt heads fairly frequently, but I always knew beyond a shadow of a double that he loved me. For the most part, they were actually my two closest friends. So, they were the first two people I told that I was gay. With a challenging journey ahead of me, I knew I would need their support.
When I told them I was gay, they agreed that they loved and accepted me, but they did not accept me being gay. I’m not sure how they thought they could compartmentalize that. Right about that time, I opened my own business. Every time I saw or talked to them, they would graciously ask how my business was doing. They never talked about the gay thing or showed any interest in my personal life. This was foreign to me as they had always taken an interest in me and my life. So, I did my best to be patient and I went along with the way things were for about three years until I just couldn’t stand it any longer. I felt like I had lost them. They went from taking a great deal of interest in my life to only being interested in my business.
One day, I sat them down and I explained the way I felt about their lack of interest in my personal life. I told them that I had already lost them. I guess I didn’t feel like I had anything else to lose concerning them. I told them that I had been patient for three years, but I was no longer willing to be patient. BTW...I was about 24 years old by this time. I told them that they needed to get over it and accept all of me and all of my life or I was going to walk out the door and they would never see or hear from me again. I told them it was their choice! They looked at each other and in that moment, they literally got over it. After that, they began to take an interest in my life again. At one point, during a “help them understand gay” discussion, my Dad said he couldn’t imagine what two men would do in bed together. I remember it as if it were yesterday. My Mom got this somewhat disgusted look on her face, she reached over and whacked my father on the arm and said, “For God’s sake Paul....use your imagination!” Big brownie points for Mom! I could tell she was beginning to become an advocate.
Some months into our discussions, my Mom once said, “You don’t know how hard this has been on your father and me.” I’m sure my head whipped around like an angry Doberman Pinscher. I said, “Excuse me...I don’t really want to hear how hard this has been on you and my father. This didn’t happen to you. It happened to me. You and my father are innocent bystanders. I didn’t ask to be gay.” With that, my Mom apologized profusely and begged forgiveness. She hadn’t thought of it quite like that.
It wasn’t too much longer after that, that I met a handsome young man that would become my first serious gay relationship. My parents stepped up to the plate as did my whole family. They welcomed my new man into their homes and into our family with open arms and treated him like family for the entire time he was in my life. They kept up with him after our relationship ended right up to the time of his young death.
Many years later my Dad told me that he had found himself in a conversation with some of his peers about homosexuality and choosing to be gay. He openly shared with them that his son was gay and he was quite sure that no one would choose to be gay. He spoke of how hard it had been for me and some of the heartaches he had seen me endure. Before he died, I asked him one time what had made he and my Mom make such a miraculous turnaround concerning me being gay. He said that they both realized that they were about to lose me and they just couldn’t stand the thought or reality of that.
All these years later, I look back on these experiences and I am not sure what gave me the courage to take some of the firm stands that I took. It helped me learn that we give ourselves a beautiful gift when we set boundaries with those we love. I also learned that those boundaries are a gift to the loved one we set them with. I doubt anyone sets out to run over someone they love, but if we don’t make our boundaries clear, how would they ever realize they have done so?
I did finally leave the small town and I have been happy to call Dallas “home” for almost 25 years!
PS - When Paul Kubek asked me to submit my story for The Dallas Way, I said, “I don’t really have a story...I have never really been very involved in the community”. Paul stated that the story wasn’t about my community involvement, it was about ME. I have lost count on how many times I have told the story that you just read. But, until now, I have never written it down. After writing it down, I was somewhat surprised at how differently I could now see this experience. When Paul read my story and we discussed it, it actually brought a lot of emotion up for me and a few tears. I would encourage others to write their story. I definitely got something positive out of this exercise.