Friday, May 09, 2008

Hiding Behind An Alias

I decided to take another step out of hiding. It took nearly a week but it was finally approved. It had been years since I first started using the alias. I was discovering the Internet and began to present myself with the name. Funny thing about the Web . . . . it's easy to be anonymous and even easier to wear a mask. It's a two-dimensional thing, this computer screen and peripherals - and as connected as people can be online, each individual can choose just how connected they want to be. Or rather, you can choose just how much you want people to connect with you.

So after years of keeping the alias "Johnson" for a last name, I decided last week to update my name on Facebook. I am now . . . . Eric Leocadio. Yes, that's me. No, the alias isn't referencing a body part. Why I chose to adopt that last name is another story for another time . . . perhaps over a drink if someone really wants to know. =P

However, keeping the alias began more for anonymity. I could be a different person . . . .

It's not that I had shady intentions, just that it kept me at a safe distance. It was safe not being known. Being in the closet, that's what I wanted. However, prolonged time in the closet takes its toll. Eventually, that safe place of anonymity became a hiding place. The closet was a place where no one could find me. I didn't want to be found. When I lived dualistically, I could craft exactly how I wanted people to see me - the straight over-achieving more mature for his age charming sensitive smart faithful godly guy. Since my world was immersed in church culture, it wasn't safe for me to sort out what it meant to be gay. Ironically and sadly, the church wasn't a refuge for me. In fact, in many ways it was an emotionally painful environment. In my opinion, we ought to be able to be safe to understand our sexuality with our spiritual community, trusted friends and mentors. Not having that safe place, both the closet and the Internet were my escape. Porn was an outlet.

As God continued to guide my journey, He proved to be the safest place for me (despite the church culture). With my Lord, I could be myself because I knew He already knew everything about me. And the more we grew in this interactive relationship with each other, the more I learn what it means to be a gay man. I'm not learning this from the gay community and I am most definitely not learning this from the church community nor am I learning it from the Internet and many of its unhealthy outlets.

I have been learning what it means to be a gay man from the Lord. *dodges the stones being hurled because of such blasphemy*

What I mean is that the Lord is teaching me what unconditional love looks like. I know He already knows me completely. And yet His love is offered, accepted, and experienced despite the things about me that both He and I know. And so, being given the freedom to not only approach the Lord authentically but also to remain in His presence authentically, I am allowed to begin a process of loving myself the way that my Lord does. Yeah, I know I don't always do that. But this interactive relationship with the Lord keeps reminding me of that ongoing lesson.

So what does it mean for me to be gay, Lord?

Here's the thing . . . . as a gay man, it's not about sex and it's not about men and it's not about sexuality and it's not about gender. For me, the Lord has granted me a lens for which to see the world that He loves. As a gay man, I understand prejudice. I understand insecurity. I understand vanity. I understand suffering. I understand being misunderstood. I understand the desire to give up and attempt death prematurely. I understand the need for intimacy in a broader culture that defines it by gender or holiness or unholiness. I understand the gray areas. I understand the hot zone.

It is because I am a gay man that I can empathize. But the catalyst for my empathy for others is my own authenticity. Because as long as I remain in the closet, in one way or another, whether online with an alias or at work or in church or among family and friends, I remain detached, disconnected, separated and unknown - unable to fully love others in the context of their journey, struggle and experiences because, being in the closet, I was unable to fully love myself in the context of my journey - being gay, being non-white, being un-super-modelish. Who could love the real me? Not me. And so I hid. My loved ones were denied the opportunity to really empathize because I wasn't even presenting the real me. So what was there to empathize with?

As I often say, coming out isn't about expressing myself as gay but rather expressing myself as Eric. Eric Leocadio. Because as I learn to love me the way He loves me, with all of my imperfections and HUGE mistakes of the past (present and future too) and forgiving myself the way He has already forgiven me, He shows me how to love past what we see or judge from the surface. He shows me how to experience empathy for others through my own authenticity. He shows me how to love.

The blessing of being gay, authentically, is the lens in which I have to see the world.

This doesn't mean I have 20/20 vision. Since I tread the path of my journey for the rest of my life, I am learning still how not to hide. I hid for so many years - it's a familiar habit, one that can be a default mode when my "issues" resurface.

But when I am hiding from Him, the mirror, the world, that's when the Lord approaches me, when He comes and finds me. And as I allow Him to love me as I am, He prompts me to come out, step into the light, so that I may be exposed and loved.


Queers United said...

kudos on being more comfortable and open

JohnAGJ said...

Well hello there Mr. Leocadio! Great blog! ;-)

Anonymous said...

eric - being seen and being known, authentically, are such intrinsic aspects of our humanity .... grace to you and may you become increasingly fearless

"perfect love drives out fear"

(we met briefly in Jan. 2007 and i remember well the spark of life in your eyes)