I’m a huge fan of science fiction, with a somewhat unhealthy love for all the various incarnations of Star Trek. And it’s in science fiction that I see “forks in the road” explored most often, usually through the sci-fi tropes of either time travel or parallel universes — what if Hitler had won? What if Captain Picard had never gotten in that devastating fight? What if Edith Keeler didn’t die? (Sorry, getting a bit too far into Star Trek now — backing up...)
But we don’t have to explore sci-fi to understand the impact of forks in the road.
As a gay man, I’ve encountered that fork that all LGBT persons face at one point in their lives or another. To come out or not to come out?
Back when I was in my late twenties (and I make that sound like it was ages ago, when in fact it was about four years ago), I knew I wasn’t 100% straight, but I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t identify as gay — not out of some form of internalized homophobia, but simply because I had not yet met a man that I felt any strong emotional attachment to. I had some minimal sexual experience with men, but it had always left me feeling unsatisfied. So... I knew I wasn’t straight, but didn’t think I was gay either. If anything, I had wondered if I was asexual, given that not only did I never feel a romantic/sexual attraction for a man, but neither did I feel that for a woman.
About four and a half years ago, I was deep in the midst of writing a sci-fi novel, which I’m still dabbling with when I have some time. I had heard that the annual sci-fi/fantasy convention in my city was hosting a few writing and publishing workshops and, reluctantly, at the urging of a friend, I registered for a few things. The only workshops I was interested in were on Sunday afternoon, but I had to drop off a writing sample on Friday evening, at which point I got my registration package with a complete timetable of workshops and lectures.
Saturday morning I was bored beyond belief and happened to see the timetable on my desk. I already had a weekend pass, so I headed on down to the hotel to check out a few of the writing workshops that had barely interested me.
I went into the first one — I don’t even remember what it was about — and there, across the table from me, was the most gorgeous man I had ever met.
Afterward, we exchanged numbers to talk about writing and maybe exchange some chapters to edit. I saw him every single day for three weeks after that. I still didn’t know what I was feeling or what was going on in my head. Since I’d never felt a real attraction to anyone before, of either gender, I wasn’t able to completely identify what I was feeling inside.
Eventually, I did come to understand it was an attraction — emotional and sexual — and that I was falling in love with this man. Then I was faced with that fork in the road that all LGBT persons face — come out or not? For me, knowing my situation, there was no difficulty in that choice. I was, and am, in a liberal-thinking family and part of a forward-thinking church. Heck, my mom had even asked me years before if I was gay, so I knew there wasn’t going to be an issue.
But what if I had been too fearful? What if I had chosen the path that leads to a closeted sexuality? Would I have continued my relationship with that man? Or would I have shunned him and tried to deny my feelings until it was too unbearable to continue doing so? Would I be as happy and content with myself as I am right now?
I know one thing for sure: I wouldn’t be writing gay erotica.
What makes this chance meeting at a convention all the more remarkable is the number of forks in the path that had led both me and this man there. I mentioned that I had had a few sexual encounters with men that were largely unsatisfying — well it was one of those men who told me about the writing aspect of the convention and convinced me to go to at least part of it. And remember I was only interested in the Sunday workshops? If I hadn’t been so bored to tears on Saturday, I wouldn’t have gone on that day and I wouldn’t have met this man.
This man I met also nearly didn’t go. It was a chilly and rainy Saturday morning — an absolutely miserable day — and he didn’t have a car. His means of transportation was walking to the convention. It was only about a twenty minute walk, but in the frigid rain, it might as well have been an hour. One of his friends gave him a kick in the ass and he got off his butt and went to the convention... and then we met.
And while I wasn’t sure of my sexuality, he was. But he wasn’t sure if I was straight or something else, so he almost didn’t talk to me, almost didn’t exchange numbers.
Yet, all of that happened. All of those paths were taken.
Life is filled with little forks in the road. Often we think of the big ones — coming out, car accidents, cancer scares, career paths — but it can be the smaller ones that also have a lasting impact on our lives. If I had picked up a book to read on Saturday, I wouldn’t have gone to the convention. If the weather had been just a few degrees cooler, this man I met wouldn’t have gone, either. Those were minute forks, minuscule, yet they’ve had the biggest impact possible on my life.