Two Ernies

I know two straight guys named Ernie. One is my dad and one is a friend of mine from High School. Both of whom I owe a debt of emotional gratitude.

I knew I was not like other boys at an early age.  Being raised in a small Midwestern town in the 70‘s & 80‘s was not the most liberating of times or places. We make cultural leaps one protest riot, epidemic and hate crime at a time though I suppose.

It was during my High School years where I fell into the school paper crowd where I was introduced to Ernie. It was an emotionally volatile time period for me. Which is true for most teens across all eras I suppose. There’s something a little bit like crossing the Atlantic in search of the New World in those coming of age years.

Ernie was one person who would spend time with me one on one away from school. He showed me I had a voice and that I could stand up and go in any direction I wanted to pursue. It was on some journalism trip in High School where he was the first person I came out to… if I recall correctly it was really hard for me to do. I think I was actively discovering this even as the words formed in my throat. He was more than respectful and supportive. That was a hell of a friendship to have.

Actually it was an article in the New York Times “The Rise of the ‘Bromosexual’ Friendship,” by Jim Farber which inspired me to sit down and write this up tonight. While I enjoy the fact that the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Queer community evolved in this wonderful thunderclap of creative chaos generating so many beautiful subcultures I’m also grateful that we have such great personal friendships . Connecting with us on the personal emotional level. I never thought I’d say I would get married let alone be fortunate enough to marry my best friend and most constant guide. But here we are as a Nation. I have to believe this is a direct result of people like both of the Ernie’s and our own courage to be exactly as we are. Letting go of someone else’s idea of who we should be.

The other Ernie was my dad. I will never forget what a deep boost of confidence and love he gave me when I came out to my family. He was the one who, very simply, gave me a rare hug, we weren’t a huggy family, and told me that he was proud of me. Remembering that chokes me up to this day given the right mood. I think it’s one of the things that makes me a constant cheerleader for others around me. Part of my inherent optimism. My outlook that people are not just capable of good… but inherently good.

There’s this outrageous gay guy named Michael, whom I have the pleasure to work with, and some of his straight friendships at the office which remind me of the points delivered by the article by Jim Farber. It makes me happy to live in a time where so much is changing for the better. People coming together, building friendships and accepting each other for exactly who they are. That’s definitely a good formula for a better future for everyone right there.

friends

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3 comments on “Two Ernies
  1. R Mangia says:

    I enjoyed this.

  2. Kenaniah Flowers says:

    Thanks for sharing Jeff, I wish my own story was as happy and confident as yours. I wish I had the courage to come out in high school, I’m certain growing up in the south played a large part of the decisions that led to my staying hidden in a deep dark closet until I was finally kicked out of the closet screaming to let me back in. But alas I’m here, finally comfortable in my own skin. Thanks to guys like you and Eddie who without knowing it modeled how two guys happy and confident in who they are both individually and as a couple are supposed to be. Thanks….

  3. Ernie says:

    In 1985 it was “gay” to wear both straps of your backpack, no matter how heavy the books. That label had nothing to do with sexuality in that case; it was simply meant to be derogatory.

    I never had the courage to wear both straps in school, even when my shoulder ached.

    How much harder must it have been to shoulder the label of gay when it was tied to who you are rather than your sense of style? I can only imagine, but It would have been too much for me.

    I have been blessed with so many strong friends in my life, Jeff. Thank you.

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