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When You Get Caught Between the Moon and New Y...

Image by Tony the Misfit via Flickr

I gotta get out of here
I’m so alone
Don’t you know that
I gotta get out of here
‘Cause New York’s not my home

Yesterday I heard this old Jim Croce song  in which he relates his experience living in New York City and feeling like an outsider.  For the record, I LOVE New York City and would move there in a heartbeat, but I could relate to the feeling that “this is not where I belong.”

Humans are tribal animals.  We naturally form social groups.  We like to belong and those of us who don’t feed off those feelings of inclusion…well, we are outcasts. Sometimes there are places and groups where we just don’t fit in no matter how hard we try.

Not belonging and not feeling as part of a tribe causes us terror and distress for some reason.  This specific fear is a strong motivating factor in humans behavior.  It was a huge issue for me in not acknowledging my homosexuality as a young man.  I knew I’d be kicked out of the tribe. That fear of being an outcast kept me in the closet.

I was born into several tribes that come with expectation that they are lifelong memberships:

  • The human family
  • My nationality
  • My race
  • My gender and sexuality
  • My religious faith
  • My extended family of cousins, aunts & uncles, etc
  • My immediate family

Leaving a tribe of one’s own volition is unheard of and being exiled is a horrific thought.  Leaving a tribe is almost universally seen as a sign of weakness. I’d hypothesize that like the Hotel California, you can “check out but you can never leave” the tribes I listed above.

When we were kids, we used to lovingly tease my baby sister by telling her she was adopted.  It was cruel to do that to her but she eventually wised up and her response eventually became, “I know!  That’s why I’m so good-looking and you’re all so ugly.” Deep down she knew she was indeed part of our family tribe. I think my previous post on family was in reality my reflection on wanting my family tribe to be stronger. It’s not an easy dream to give up.

A couple of years ago a nephew of mine accused me of choosing “the easy way” when I left the Mormon church and came out.  In truth, leaving my religious tribe and my adopted heterosexual brotherhood was the hardest thing I’d ever done.

So why did I do it?

Like my sister, I also grew up being told I was not part of a particular family, a family that my inner voice told me I’d been born into. Of course it was another time and another place but I think all indications were that I was indeed a young gay boy at a very young age.  It’s funny that the boys in elementary school and junior high who called me “sissy” and “fag” seemed to be able to accurately identify my sexuality.  I was a gay boy.

But being a gay boy in the 70’s would have meant expulsion from my tribes of faith and family.  It was unthinkable.  Still, I believe it is cruel to tell someone they belong to tribe X when they truly belong to tribe Y.  The heart knows and no matter how repressed and subconscious the thought, I knew.  I knew I was a member of tribe gay.

There’s something unhealthy and messed up that happens to a person’s soul when they pretend to hold different tribal liaisons. After coming out, I had a straight friend tell me that he had always thought I seemed uncomfortable in my heterosexual skin. Indeed I was and it was exhausting pretending to own that skin.  It was the wrong tribe and I didn’t belong. My nephew was right that BEING out is easier, but the process was hard.

Of the tribes I listed, only religious faith is actually not predetermined by biology.  Therefore, I find it ironic that my Mormon tribe expected that I’d remain in the Mormon tribe eternally and yet could so easily reject and deny my gay tribe.  Yet, trying to stay in the Mormon tribe was just as exhausting for me because I also knew it wasn’t right for me.

I believed it all but on a social level level I never felt quite fully inducted in the tribe of Mormonism.  Small things were hard to swallow….things that Mormons would say are part of the church, not part of the gospel.  It’s all still part of the tribe and I left when I knew for sure I didn’t belong there.  Nothing is better than knowing you are where you belong…and no longer where you don’t.  There’s no other feeling like it.

NEW YORK’S NOT MY HOME

Well things were spinnin’ round me
And all my thoughts were cloudy
And I had begun to doubt
all the things that were me

Been in so many places
You know I’ve run so many races
And looked into the empty faces
of the people of the night
And something is just not right

‘Cause I know that
I gotta get out of here
I’m so alone
Don’t you know that
I gotta get out of here
‘Cause New York’s not my home

Though all the streets are crowded
There’s somethin’ strange about it
I lived there bout a year
and I never once felt at home

I thought I’d make the big time
I learned a lot of lessons awful quick
And now I’m tellin’ you
that they were not the nice kind
And it’s been so long since
I have felt fine

That’s the reason that
I gotta get out of here
I’m so alone
Don’t you know that
I gotta get out of here
‘Cause New York’s not my home

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