Category Archives: The College Years

The Long Road to Where I Am–Part 2

It’s been over a week since my last post. I have been working way too much. I am finding that these posts in my “The Long Road to Where I Am” series are both difficult and important for me to create. Meaning, they take a lot out of me, but I need to say these things. These “things” have been brewing for a long time and need to be expressed. I appreciate the response that I have received following my first post…keep those comments coming.

I want to clarify a few things, however. The last post dealt a lot with my journey through college. I would like to clarify where I am…now. First, I am no longer trying to de-gayify myself. It’s not possible. And, more importantly–even if it were possible–I have no desire to do that. I would even take it as far as saying that I was wrong for even trying to do that to myself in college. However, I do still believe the whole process of going through that made me stronger and more sure of myself. So, maybe I did need to go through it. Who knows…

Although I still consider my college days a struggle, I no longer consider being gay a sin. In fact, I no longer even think of my actions in those terms–sin vs. not a sin. My morality is not based on the Bible or any particular religious group. It is based on proven human experience. For example, murder is wrong because it has consistently been proven harmful to society (not to mention the individual being murdered). This is just one example. To avoid getting too philosophical, which may be too late at this point, I am going to move on. Which is where I am right now. The whole purpose of writing about my experiences is about moving on. I am mostly choosing to view that time of my life through humor. Because in life you have several choices: you can laugh, you can cry, or you can kick someone. And, right now, I am choosing to laugh.

My mantra has become “be honest, be honest, be honest.” And so, when I reflect on certain things in college, I have to say that I was a flaming queen. Very effeminate. At least that is what I was told my freshman year. And, when I watch the videos, I think I have to agree. You see, I was part of a touring music group called Impact Brass & Singers. We performed multi-media programs that consisted of a mixture of songs, skits, and slides (set to the music). Kind of like “Up With People.” It was during a rehearsal my first year, that one of the directors pulled me aside and said, “Brother, you are doing a good job, but can you tone it down a little. You are being a little too effeminate.” Whaaaaaat? (for the appropriate effect read that with a rising screech, a hand to your chest, a hand on your hip…get the picture??)

I worked really hard from that moment until the moment I began to come out at being masculine. (i.e.-lowering my voice, watching my hand gestures, trying not to purse my lips…) I am happy to say that I no longer edit myself like that. It does make for a much happier me. But, anyway, while we’re on the topic, I would like to discuss this a little further. It is interesting to me that although I hate the f-word, (no…not “fuck”… you dirty birdies. ;-)) there is a reason I was called the f-word a lot in high school. To those misguided homophobes, I was a fag. The interesting part is the denial of this on both sides of the fence. First, there was the my self-denial. Me trying not to be gay, “I can’t be gay,” etc. etc. And, then, there was the denial from my friends and family. Oh, Tyler….he’s just a special, sensitive, creative type…he couldn’t be a homosexual. Oh, but he could…and he is

This all supports my theory that people will believe what they want to believe. Despite all evidence to the contrary. And, you can’t really change that. They have to change it. Just like I had to change my beliefs about being gay. The perfect example of this is my family. When I came out to them, I told myself that it took me 24 years to come to terms with being gay; so, I would have to give them some time as well. And after almost ten years, they are in a much better place with it. I think most importantly, they actually believe it is true, finally.

Although, I am sensitive and creative, that’s not the only reason that I enjoy to watch Lifetime, television for women (and gay men), and I have a special affinity for musical theater…

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The Long Road to Where I Am–Part 1

I have purposefully avoided blogging too much about my days at bible college. Or, about the process of my coming out. I know that a lot of people I went to school with read my blog. So, I’ve tried to avoid those subjects in order to make most everyone happy. But, I have to be honest, my college days not only were rife with personal strife; but also, they were rife with some seriously funny shit. Well, at least, it’s funny nowto me…anyway. And, I will get to that funny shit in future posts. I’m sorry to offend anyone. But, I’m writing these blogs more for myself than anyone else. 😉 I’m happy if you enjoy them, but this is therapeutic for me. And, I’ve got to tell ya that I love therapy. Sometimes…anyway.

Therapy for me is all about growth and self-improvement. And, I’ve always been a bit obsessed about self-improvement. I love the “idea” of becoming a “better me.” Despite all of my best intentions, though, I haven’t always been that good at actually seeing certain things through. For example, my bookshelves are full of self-help books. I especially love the “…for Dummies” series. I have “Nutrition for Dummies;” “Bartending for Dummies;” “MySpace for Dummies,” etc. etc. Most of them, as you might suspect, have been only partially read. I have ordered “life-changing” products from numerous infomercials. All of which, either have been thrown away, or are still in a corner waiting for that special day, when I will finally discover with great confidence that they do not solve my issues with working out. I haven’t truly succeeded in most of these attempts at improving myself–except for one. And, I feel like it’s the one that matters the most to me. I, with great effort, have come to terms with myself. Meaning…I love me for who I am.

It was several trips to a therapist during my fourth year of college that changed everything for me. I decided to go to a local pastor who was also a licensed therapist. You see, this was when I still believed that a person could change their sexual orientation. Let me clarify–I never have believed that being gay is a choice. Even while I was trying to change it, I didn’t believe that I chose it. Put the “nature vs. nurture” argument aside. Either way, I did not choose my sexual orientation. But, I used to believe that with enough prayer and counseling, it could be changed. Which is why I went to this particular therapist. I can’t say that I regret going; because, my few sessions with him really were a turning point for me. Obviously, this is not what he intended to do.

I don’t need to rehash my short stint in homosexual recovery. It should suffice to say that I have never felt worse about myself or about those around me than while I was with that therapist. Although, it did take me a little longer to officially come out, that was the last straw. It was after my second session with this pastor that I realized I wanted and needed to love myself. And, in order to do that, I had to be true to all of myself–which included being gay.

It’s also taken me a long time to admit it, but, I don’t regret going to bible college. I did for a long time, though. I’ve always thought that I would have been so much better off at a regular school–not having to “go through” all of that personal turmoil. I now believe that the experience of being a closeted gay man in that environment, although being tumultuous and painful, eventually made me stronger and more sure of myself. And, I should thank Ozark Christian College for that.

I’m done with it.

I like how my friend “Juan” puts it. There’s a reason you get sick. Some negative energy or stress in your life is rearing its ugly head. This makes you sick. Or, better, when you are stressed, your body is busy dealing with that. Your defenses are down. And, you get sick. And believe me I am sick. I’ll spare you the gory details of my sinus and ear infection…it’s not pretty. But, it got me thinking about how I have always done this. I always get sick when I get stressed.

Normally, I have this natural tension valve that automatically shuts off at the first sign of too much stress. I just quit. Stop working. My college roommate Chris knows exactly what I am talking about. He loves to tell stories about how we would both be working on “important” papers; and, at about 11:00 pm the night before it was due I would be in bed with the paper done…or not. Actually, as he puts it, I would start to yawn and stretch and whine and end up asleep in bed while he stayed up until 5:00 am finishing his paper. I cannot tell you how many papers never were finished because of this tension shut-off valve. It’s a miracle I ever graduated from college. And, I’m not sure who’s more amazed…me or Chris.

I’ve already told the story of how, when I was in 1st grade, I just froze and “shut off” when the stress of writing my letter to Santa got to be too much. (read “I’m Special”) But, another time comes to mind. When I was a kid, I was dragged to every sporting event in Pleasantville, Iowa. And, believe it or not there was a time when I actually “played” in sports. In third grade, I was signed up for little league baseball. It lasted… until the stress of playing got to be too much. I think somewhere in the Clark family photo archives there is probably a picture of me sitting in the outfield picking dandelions right below a sign that read “Winners Never Quit and Quitters Never Win!!!” Obviously, the sign had no affect on me whatsoever. Clearly, baseball was just too stressful.

Two years later I walked off the court in the middle of a little league basketball game because the coaches wanted to play “shirts vs. skins.” This meant I would have to take off my shirt. And, this definitely qualified as a too much stress moment. That was it, no more little league basketball for Tyler. (An interesting side note: one of my few other encounters with basketball occurred in junior high. I was asked to video tape the high school girls varsity team’s games. This lasted only because it meant I could travel–my first step into the travel industry–to other sprawling cites like Prairie City, Eddyville…you get the idea. Also, it was an opportunity to be artistic, which I know was appreciated by the basketball girls.)

When I am done…I am done. Finished. I couldn’t go any further if I tried. Unfortunately, in my adulthood I have learned to bypass my stress threshold. And, when I do that, I get sick. This whole decision process pushed me beyond what my body could handle. (read “It’s hot as hell up in here“) The biggest reason I didn’t decide to take the job was that it was going to be too stressful. I really believe I made the right decision. And, now I am done.