Leaving The Closet by force, one should never build another one. This is the story of my journey against The Next Closet, another leg of which will be my graduation from the MAGI program at CSU Spring, 2017. I write this for anyone who’s interested, including future employers, or future voters for that matter! Put the kettle on.
So I met a boy.
Once I was granted early release from probation in December, 2002, I fled to London in January, 2003 to leave it all behind and start a new life. Soon a hot summer romance with an American Labour Party student intern bloomed; totally my type. I was finally exploring my bisexuality openly for the first time, in a city I love. One day he was stepping out the front door of Labour HQ, saw me turn down Old Queen Street (¯\_(ツ)_/¯), ran to kiss me; and I broke his heart. Couldn’t kiss him in front of a place we both worked; fear seized me, and I became my conviction that instant. My New Closet’s walls appeared everywhere. Probably irrational, I know! But that’s how a criminal conviction governs you sometimes.
Came back home after my life got exploded, the first of the pattern I would not yet recognize for years. I spent a month in a nonprofit job before some jerk blew me up in March 2004, days after I signed a year long Tremont apartment lease, and a three year car lease. Thus began the Tremont Era, a years long drunken stoned blur tailspin during which I turned to writing and video online, college radio at WRUW (that glot blowed up too), clinging to the hope of something working out abroad. The blind side hits just kept coming.
I learned another lesson in that blur. Jobs, gigs, proposals, partnerships, business plans, every single hustle I stooped to for survival blowing up in my face was never really about my conviction. It was about money. People imagined losing a nickel if associated with me, a phantom paranoia that turned even friends (very close ones, too) into vicious animals toward me in the blink of an eye, whenever it suited the ghosts they conjured circling their pocketbook.
Project Whole Tim
West Bank election observation mission, December, 2004, still in Closet #2
Over time, this pressure of another secret (my conviction) forcing me to live two lives became too much. My crime being so minor I didn’t have to register as a sex offender just didn’t matter. No difference in the real world. I still sometimes safely navigated my old world with none the wiser, to Latvia in 2003, even into the West Bank, my last well paid international politics gig from late 2004 to early 2005. It would take Congressman Tim Ryan’s own wife calling me during the 2005 Labour Party campaign and asking me (me!) for a job to be the last straw. As I imagined myself on the cover of The Sun for a week (Labour Perv!), it became clear. This wouldn’t work. At 37 years old, I would have to start over as if I’d just been born.
So I decided, as the Kennedys might say, to hang a lantern on my problem, as painful as I knew that would be. If I kept the conviction to myself, it would blow up in my face predictably. People would hurt me, and I would hurt people I loved, just like my First Closet did. Every time I wonder if this road is the right one, I think of my London fling, who I’ve never heard from again. Maybe he finally Googled me, or maybe he just couldn’t be bothered with a hot mess who couldn’t kiss in broad daylight in the middle of London. We should have made out right there in front of Labour HQ like star crossed London lovers. Instead, I hurt him, and shouldn’t have. No More Closets.
It’s kinda working
Basically, I had a political problem, and using my skills and experience, I would proceed to solve it. Like I always did. I threw myself into that decision as I would any political campaign. PR rollout, online investigative journalism, two runs for public office, I started planting stories I knew would be hit pieces just to get that Kennedy lantern ever higher on my problem. Over the last year, I even went through the motions of attempting an expungement I knew would never happen (Judge Ambrose rejected the motion without so much as a hearing this spring). Project Whole Tim is now about 10 years old. It should be an HBO series, so many twists and turns, trials & tears, with tiny triumphs here and there.
My 2010 campaign yard sign in Tremont
After winning my very public battle to get into CSU, using the votes I earned countywide to fight my way in, it was like I crossed the finish line of a marathon with a sprint then collapsed in a heap. Boy did I need the rest. Still do. Slowly, I felt myself become older, and suddenly very tired. The MAGI program can be done in 2 years, but I took it slow. I’ll brush up on international law in the fall, my last class being international economics this spring. I’ve had some battles on campus, all minor skirmishes associated with Project Whole Tim. But I’ve kept a 4.0 GPA throughout, am interning with a highly respected international attorney in town, and have contributed to my community in the MAGI program with my experience abroad like an extra professor in the room. The MAGI program as a whole is excellent, helped me put theoretical meat on a lot of old bones, even producing some of my best writing. And I’ve made some new friends from all over the world, who met the Whole Tim the first time, and accept me.
I kinda feel like I’m back at NDI. I’m consulting on politics, training, helping build power for the powerless, at home, because I want to, and have to. Not for a handsome salary in a far off land (which would still be nice). My long battle with the internet has given me a unique understanding of its political power, which I’ve put to use successfully. I’ve written at length about the duality of this power, how it can create dystopia or utopia in equal measure, in what I think is a pretty solid theory about how the internet works globally. My hope is to find work where the skills I learned on this long journey can be useful. I know for a fact they are quite useful, indeed.
Bottom line, I’m starting to feel whole now, like I’ve never done before. Project Whole Tim is working, slowly. Took a lot longer than I wanted it to, but that was (is) the road ahead of me. Please feel free to forward this along to folks who might be interested. And thanks to everyone who helped along the way.