When someone asks who I am, I go through the usual boring pleasantries: Joseph Miller, married at 21, had two wonderful sons, lost one son in a car crash in 2015, divorced in 2017, moved to north Georgia.
That doesn’t scratch the surface.
I got married in 1985 because it was the “expected” thing to do, but deep down I knew something was wrong. From an early age, I had feelings about boys I could neither understand nor explain. And I fought them.
Friends set me up on a blind date, and before I had truly discovered myself, I was hitched. It happened accidentally. I wanted to be with her brother, so in order to get away one afternoon, I told her, “I have the rest of my life to spend with you — right now, I want to go fishing.”
When we got back from fishing, there was a full-fledged wedding-planning party going on — and I didn’t know how to stop it. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings; rather, I hoped it would fall apart naturally.
But, we wed. I put off all attempts at kids, yet they came. Frankly, I wouldn’t trade my younger son for the world, and I would give anything [except my younger son] to have my older son back. His passing almost killed me, literally.
I pulled myself together, with help. Some friends who “knew” me called the suicide hotline, and I had no choice but to get help. I knew that counseling would do me absolutely no good whatsoever unless I was honest with my therapist. So, I told her everything.
Over the course of a year I got better. I got braver. I got sure of myself.
My ex-wife knew that I liked men — we had already had that discussion 10 years earlier. But, she believed that it was something I could just turn on and turn off. Her upbringing in a strict Southern Baptist Church planted seeds that had taken root and grown deep and unshakeable. And according to her, all homos were going to hell. She made little remarks about gay people a lot. Sometimes, I think it was to see what I would say or how I would react. I found it easier just to ignore it.
We were getting ready for bed one night, and I was about to turn out my lamp. As I reached for the switch, she said, “Well, I guess you know yesterday was ‘COMING OUT DAY FOR ALL THE GAYS.’”
I don’t know if it was the counseling, my newfound courage, or the glass of wine that gave me footing, but I just couldn’t let this remark go. My reply was, “Yes. I wish I had.”
I shall interject the contemporary “OMG” here. “Do you mean that? If so, you need to move upstairs until we can get a divorce.” And I did.
You don’t open the cage to a captive tiger and expect him to stay in.
We divorced. I was hit with a huge alimony settlement, and I had to move to another state to make more money just to afford it. I landed north of Atlanta. I was free. I was starting over. I absolutely miss my grandkids — the children of my late son — but I try to go home every couple of months to see them.
One day, I may expound a bit more about how difficult it is for me to be 54 and just now out; how I can’t really let it be known in my town, as educators are not looked upon favorably if they are out. We may infect, influence, or harm the students. Truth is, my students would be much more understanding than the adults. They are growing up and learning the meaning of acceptance, and I let them know that I value them unconditionally.
As for me: I’m starting a new life. I’m discovering who I am. I’m acting, filming, teaching, and enjoying everything this life can offer me.
I am a proud gay man. I am complete.
I am Joseph.