This post is a response to anonymous questions and comments I receive via SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH). I love responding to these, so if there is something on your mind, good or bad, please send me a message. No subject is off limits and here is a link to previous questions or comments I’ve received and responded to, and I plan on responding to every single one I receive (unless I somehow become a super famous advice columnest on accident).
Hi Peter, we met years ago in DC in KAP (Koch Associate Program) and I regret we did not become better friends because you never fail to be interesting and thought provoking, and I enjoy interesting and thought provoking. What I wonder is this — why are you so open about your life? I hate for this to sound like a judgmental question, it is just so far from my own personality that I admit to being baffled and curious. Thanks!
Thanks for reaching out. First off, I am torn on whether I wish we would have become better friends in KAP. During that time I was kind of douchie and very sex-obsessed and really fighting with my PTSD. Much of my interactions were based on trying to get laid, but I would like to think I’ve matured a bit since then (though some might disagree) and my views have evolved a bit as well. Hopefully, though, you and I can become better friends now.
So, on to your question. Why am I so open about my life?
Hmm, in some ways I’ve always been this way. Growing up I was pretty outspoken about controversial things. Unfortunately, the things that were controversial were my shitty views about homosexuality. I was the type of person who would gather for prayer around a flagpole (which isn’t bad in and of itself) and tell gay people that they were sinners or take cigarettes out of people’s mouths because they were unhealthy. I was a self-righteous dickhole who thought my theological beliefs were the final word on what was good, and that anything I did because of those beliefs was justified. I kind of sucked.
Things changed a bit when I got out of the military. I found myself uncomfortable with American Christianity and conservatism, and I also came to be comfortable with my own sexuality. I believe that much of my angry self-righteousness and internal conflict (that manifested itself in many unhealthy ways) came from essentially living a lie. I had to pretend to believe and be a certain person around family and friends because that is what they wanted or expected. I basically felt like I had to sacrifice my own mental health because if I let the truth be known it would break my families heart or they would worry about me going to hell.
That internal struggle, living in the dark, had to end at some point and (very luckily) it ended with me being open and honest instead of ending my own life. I realize not everyone has this type of public/private conflict, but facing that conflict is part of why I am so open today. I know that there is a difference between living a life true to who you are and standing on a hill with a flag advertising to strangers on the internet who you are, and I definitely fall into the latter category. Well, as I became more open to myself and family and friends (which was far from a smooth process and I lost friends and family during it)
Well, as I became more open to myself and family and friends (which was far from a smooth process and I lost friends and family during it) I started having people who I didn’t know that well contact me. Even when I was more subdued online I still shared controversial articles about polyamory, spirituality, anarchy, drug use, etc. fairly safely by claiming I found the subject “interesting”, and sharing those articles became a stepping stone to expressing my views about them. Sharing those articles became a way for like-minded people to feel safe asking me questions and it was a way for me to help people around the globe (that sounds cocky… I don’t mean it that way).
I guess that is really the reason why I am open with my life at this point because there are some people who can’t be open but need to feel like they are not alone. Like Dan Savage says, the best thing you can do to help other people is to step out of the closet. I have received countless messages from people I knew in high school, the military, college, DC, LA, and basically strangers thanking me because they felt same-sex attraction too and didn’t know what to make of it, or they use drugs or battle PTSD or want to be childless or are no longer religious. I believe that when I live out loud, when I let my freak flag fly, it is the healthiest way for me to live and it is a way to provide support for other people. I don’t know if I would call it a “duty” to others, but I know it is a duty to myself.
I hope that answered the question, but if not, please shoot me another message and I’ll try to do better. 🙂