8:4 THE MENTOR

8—HOW I CAME OUT
4—He was older and a policeman and there was nothing he was afraid of. He was involved in the gay community and HE taught me all I needed to learn.

Salt Lake City, Utah, August ’98—My first morning in Salt Lake I remember waking up in Logan’s bed thinking: “What a mistake this trip is!” The previous summer had been my first time abroad (and away from home) but I had not felt homesick once. This time I did after one night in Utah. But it was missed the safety of my ‘closet’ that I missed. I was dealing with too much here. Religion battled with desire, and my fear of ‘the gay life’ colluded with my need of love. I had hardly slept. I felt sick. I was close to having a full panic attack all morning long. 

I was unable to realise how lucky I was. At 22 something had to give. And over these two weeks Logan guided me, offered me support and let me process my ‘coming out’ it at my own pace. Logan was the best mentor I could have ever dreamed of. 

Personality-wise, Logan ² was the perfectly reassuring authority figure I needed. He took me on patrol in his Police car on the first day. Effeminate guys made me run a mile— they represented a side of me I could not stand—while aggressive guys—loud and in your face—put me off. Logan was a manly cop and a good communicator who sounded like a teacher. He was assertive but caring. I admired his intelligence, wisdom and education, as he spoke about philosophy and read out poetry in bed. He was well-read and introduced me to authors I still love to this day 

Logan was the best at making me talk. If he never pressured me to do anything, he pushed me to express myself (and was patient with my broken English). We talked about everything. About things I had never shared with anyone else before. He understood some of my struggles. He empathised with those he did not. He asked about my family. I told him we were not close, and that I had no relationship with my father at all. We both knew he was the clichéd ‘father figure’. And I think he used that to help me out. He wanted me to understand myself. We talked about politics. He decided I was a Conservative (“maybe even a Fascist!”) and that an absent Dad (and an emotionally-distant family) had led me to enjoy the “military aspect” of the LDS Church. It was not the whole story but I had to admit that there was some truth in his assessment. 

I was such a child. Because I was so inexperienced. I had never been in any romantic relationship. I had tried to date girls. In some ways it had been easier because I had felt quite detached. But with a man I did not quite know how to handle those wild feelings. And I did not know how to behave. For example, I could not accept that Logan wanted to relax and watch TV in peace on his day off. I spoke crudely. “Don’t be so immature!” I heard him shout with no anger as I slammed the screen door. I walked all the way Downtown, sulking, and hurting for some strange reason.

When I got back I found him taking a nap in bed and I joined him. He stirred in his sleep and took me in his arms and I had a good cry. Desire was something else I had never experienced with girls I had dated. But now I burned with desire as I wiped the tears away. Logan felt my mood. His hands ran over me and it started again. Being sexual with a man had been the stuff of my fantasies since forever, but being intimate with a man in actuality did not come to me easily. I just had been in the closet for way too long. And I was an Elder of the Church about to go on a mission. 

Logan was not religious but he was a deeply spiritual man. And at any rate it was obvious that his most important task was to help me deal with my religion. At Cahoots—where we had met a year ago, and where calendars of half-naked male models that both embarrassed and stirred me—he put a book in my hands: Peculiar People: Mormons and Same-Sex Orientation. ¹ It was a collection of essays about, and testimonials of, gay Mormons and their families. I did not buy it. I should have. But he did not insist. Then he took me to the MCC Church I suspected he wanted to give me an alternative to the LDS Church. The Metropolitan Community Church served the LGBT population and was “a safe space” where folks could be openly gay. My mentor was a mentor there. In fact, he mentored several organisations—and had founded of one of them.

The door is open, come on outside. No, I can’t come out today. And no, I don’t understand. You deserve so much more than this.

—Sarah McLachlan, Elsewhere

It was only me and him in the small church. The lights were dim. It was peaceful. “An accepting Church would be nice, wouldn’t it?” is the questions he was too tactful to ask. “Yes, it would be so nice!” was my answer—provided it was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! At the MCC Church, openly gay people had full fellowship with their gay partner and with other members. But that was not the Church I believed in. My silence said it all. On the way out, Logan showed me a large window that had been boarded up: “It’s so sad that people could do this to a church!” Some “gay haters drove by one night and threw a brick to smash the stained glass window.” And I was sympathetic because I knew what ‘gay haters’ were like.

He tried another approach. He tried to teach me how Man is somewhere between the pure (“angel”) and the corrupted (“beast”). Accepting “the beast” would help me find my core: and therein lied spiritual strength—the “angel”. It sounded like something Tori Amos would say. That was a language I understood.I was not ready to reconcile both sides—it would be years—but Logan laid foundations for me to build upon. 

Logan had no time for the LDS Church but he was gracious enough to come with me to Temple Square. Of course, he would not come to meeting, though. He guessed that I had entertained the notion of bringing him into the fold. “It’s not going to happen!” Could he see that I had imagined us together (in a somewhat chaste relationship) as members of the LDS Church? Together an inspiration for gay members? A stupid fantasy that he helped me get rid of. How ridiculous too, considering how awkward I was when it came to being seen as ‘gay’.

In fact I was so shy about it that I begged him to ask for the price of that Boys for Pele poster at Inkling, an alternative store I had discovered last summer. We had gone with the hope that they still had it from back then, and they did. He told me off. “Why are you so embarrassed to ask!?” Because I did not want the girls at the check-out to understand the nature of our friendship as he had picked a gay magazine. Besides, I loved watching him interact with others, seeing how confidant and extrovert he was. Observing this self-assured gay man was starting to give me a little gay pride. He was a great example, and I had had no example at all in my life!

Logan felt it was important to give me a complete crash course on the gay movement and to tell me about the community that I had started to discover last summer. He was a quiet and intelligent kind of activist who claimed his mission was to “fight for Justice”. He taught me about the Stonewall riots in 1969 and about the Rainbow flag—whose colours represent different aspects of man (I remember Green is for Nature) united. He met the guy who designed the flag and he had told him that Judy Garland had been the inspiration for it. “Somewhere over the rainbow there is a better world for gay people.” I had never seen The Wizard of Oz but I loved Tori’s rendition of the song on her MTV Unplugged that I watched everyday last summer, here in Salt Lake.

And I learned and I felt like an alien who grew up on Earth but discovers that there is planet were those like him are. Logan’s Attitude and Out magazines were my study guides. We watched To Wong Foo one night—my introduction to drag queens. He loved that movie! I did too—and still do. We went to stores that sold Rainbow flags, gay literature, sexy  fridge magnets and the Tori Amos’s biography too. I learned she was a gay icon. Apparently all the female singers that I loved growing up were! We did not know that in France. And we had none of those things back home. I loved being back to America now!

One night we went to the Sun—the first gay bar I had ever been to. We drove through this city that I found more beautiful than last time and where I really felt at home now. They say people make a place and I felt better inside too. I was excited to go back to the Sun, as the bars had been a sanctuary for me. Within their walls I felt safe and I could let my guard down. I had met really nice people the previous summer. This summer I liked being there with him (and that all the people he knew thought we were together). Last year my drink was one measure of Confusion, two measures of Excitement and one measure of Guilt. This summer it was just Seven Up with a measure of Excitement and a splash of Guilt.

We had iced water when we got back to the house that night. It was still so warm and we sat outside. He stood up and went to kneel by the foliage the moonlight was shining on. “What is it?” His late partner had planted them before he suddenly died. Logan never expected them to make it through the winter but the flowers had grown and blossomed. He bowed his head. I felt for him. He ran his shirt sleeve over his face. That is when I really understood that being a homosexual was not only a sexual deviance, a proclivity or an abomination. His sorrow inspired me: he had known love. Homosexual love could be beautiful. Because love was. I learnt that there and then. Right before I went to kneel by the flowers to hug him tight under the moonlight. 

Tired, we went to bed and cuddled before falling asleep. In the rumble of the fans I realised that I felt completely different than I did the first night. Sexually, I had done so little last summer. I did little with Logan too but I started to explore sexuality. I was jealous when his new man from San Francisco called. But it helped me accept that we were not together. We were just two friends—with wandering hands who kissed passionately. He gave me my first hickey. All we did was light stuff that I made myself believe did not have any impact on my virtue and worthiness to go serve a mission.

At any rate, I now realised that we could talk in bed after we were done playing, instead of me being quiet and in my head. I was growing more comfortable with my own body. I was not feeling too guilty about being in bed with him. I realised that I did not mind getting undressed in front of him anymore. He once insisted we got out of all our clothing. I had never been naked with another person before. It was not sexual. We were only chatting. It eventually felt liberating. 

The next evening we sat outside by the flowers and we had dinner and another long chat about me, my mission, my Church, and my fears. And I loved watching the sunset. He said he had a song he needed to play for me. He repeated all the words of Calling All Angels by Jane Siberry and K. D. Lang, so I could understand them. “And every day you gaze upon the sunset with such love and intensity. Why it’s almost as if you could only crack the code then you’d finally understand what this all means. Ah, but if you could… Do you think you would trade in all the pain and suffering? Ah, but then you’d miss the beauty of the light upon this earth and the sweetness of the leaving.” And then he played the song again. “Then it’s one foot then the other; as you step out onto the road of hope; step out on that road… Calling all angels… Walk me through this one… We’re tryin’ and we’re hopin’ but we’re not sure how…” The music was now so loud that it filled every corner of the house plunged in the soft summer twilight. 

And there was that night when I was standing at the ironing board. I always believed there was something wrong with me. And he heard the words I did not say: That I was damaged and that I will never be good enough. He said: “There is nothing wrong with you!” And I put the iron down as he came closer until he stood right in front of me. I feel something in my eyes and I look away. “Look at me!” He cups my face in both his strong hands as I look into his eyes. “There is nothing wrong with you.” I feel something shift inside. “I hate what they did to us!” Something invisible has broken inside. I will never ever forget that moment. I believed him…There was still so much for me to work out. It would take a very long time. And I knew I was not out of the woods yet. But I believed him. 

I never would have opened up. But you seemed so real to me. And after all the bullshit I’ve heard. It’s refreshing that I don’t have to pretend

—Sarah McLachlan, Elsewhere

Today—I took his advice, I took his old soldier shirt with his name on it. I stole kisses from him—he remains one of the best kissers I have ever. I had written a bad poem about him. He was touched. He said no one had ever written anything for him. He asked me type it for him but I never did (and I lost the poem). But I loved writing this post and I dedicate it to him, with all my love and gratitude.

² Some names have been changed to preserve the privacy of the subjects

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