Updated: Dec 13, 2020
I grew up in a small town in Southern Germany. Being gay was not an option there, or it was risky. Gay people did not exist. There were no gay role models, not in real life and not on TV, either. What existed, though, were jokes about gays, circulating amongst family members and classmates.
When I realized that I was gay, I had nobody to turn to. I had nobody to speak with, nobody to relate to, as my own family was telling jokes and showed me that they were not open to having a gay son. I felt hopeless. I couldn’t go to family members or friends or neighbours for fear they would judge me. I decided to “stick it out” and hoped that once I was old enough, I’d have the strength and courage to battle them all. Perhaps once I was a full-grown man, I would be able to live the life that I wanted, a life of self-determination and independence of family and friends
I turned 18. Yet the strength and courage did not come. It was still the same world: one of homophobia and hatred and intolerance.
I ventured into the gay world in the hope of finding like-minded people. What I encountered was a world of sex, drugs, and circuit parties that I felt would ruin me when I participated. So I decided not to participate, not to join. I began to shun the gay world and focused on my university studies.
I learned that sexuality was a construct, that the word homosexuality did not exist before the nineteenth century, which meant that things were different then. I found this hopeful: if things were different in the past, then maybe they could be different again? I found this message encouraging. However, it was theory. It did not change how I felt about myself as somebody who was gay: unworthy and rejected. Somebody, who does not belong.
I decided to go to San Francisco. A classmate had given me the book series called Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin to read. Here, a group of people of different backgrounds and sexualities lived together in one house run by their landlady, Mrs. Madrigal. Everybody was welcomed just the way they were, accepted for who they are, loved for who they are. This was inspiring. Maybe San Francisco would be different?
I soon realized that the gay world in San Francisco was the same as the gay world in Germany. The difference I had hoped for was not there: sex, drugs, and circuit parties.
One day, I went to a bar with a friend. It was early afternoon, and the bar was deserted except for the bartender who was busy cleaning the counter and a man who was sitting on a stool by the bar, having his back turned to us. We decided to have a drink and approached the bar tender. After we had ordered, the man at bar who was now sitting next to us began to chat with us. We introduced ourselves and the man introduced himself with his first name, “Armistead.” Surprised, I said, “What a nice name, just like the author!” He looked at me grinningly and said, “I am the author!” I didn't believe him (it was the day before the Internet). He showed me his ID and there it was written: Armistead Maupin. So here I was, siting at a bar with the author of Tales of the City, one of my favourite book series.
Armistead invited us to dinner. We had a long and lively conversation, and I asked him why he would write Tales of the City. He said that he wanted to bring something to the LGBTQ+ community that was missing: love. For him, Mrs. Madrigal was the character who would embody love and compassion, and who would hold it all together.
I was ecstatic. Finally, I had met somebody who accepted his being gay and turned his feeling different into world-famous stories to inspire others. For the first time, somebody gave me the feeling that it was ok to be gay, that I was ok the way I was, and that it is a good thing to be different. I realized that I could accept myself the way I was. If Armistead had done it, so could I!
That evening, I decided to accept my being different as a strength and to celebrate my uniqueness. Ever since, I have met life’s challenges. I accepted myself who I was. I let of patterns, family and friends who were no longer serving me. I found new friends who thought and felt like me. I have ever since changed my perspective and attitudes, and I have given my life a new purpose. I have trained in mindfulness and Fogo Sagrado and started to feel at home wherever I am: with and within myself.
Today, I can venture into the gay world, enjoy a great night out, dancing and partying, chatting with people, without the need to belong to a gay cult, without the need to prove myself. I can simply enjoy being myself, being gay, being open and curious as to who I will run into, who I will meet, without an agenda, without the desperate need to fill an inner void—simply enjoying being alive and being different. I celebrate my uniqueness.
At the same time, I also like to stay home and to reflect, to get to know myself more and more.
Today, I am helping other gay men to recognize that they are worthy. I help them love and accept themselves for who they are, and thus to live their greatest potential.
Like the Phoenix, rising from the ashes, with an open and courageous heart, creating the world he lives in.
Thanks, Armistead. Thanks, Tales of the City.