We'd like to introduce our Fab Friend, Ed Seiders. We met Ed through a Facebook group for men of mixed orientation marriages (MOM). We immediately connected over common interests, humor, and a similar journey. Since then, we've been able to confide in each other, help each other through tough times, and even had a fun visit in his hometown of Philadelphia.
Where did you grow up? What was that like for you?
I grew up in the northwestern suburbs of Philadelphia, in a predominately white, conservative, Christian suburban/rural area. Life was pretty good; however, there was certainly a lack of diversity at the time that I was growing up there. (It's changed over the years to be a little bit more diverse). My grade school had a few students of color and my high school had maybe one or two. I didn't really know of many gay people growing up. There was a lesbian couple that lived in our neighborhood but growing up we were always told that they were relatives, it wasn't until much later on that I realized they were a couple. We were close enough to the city for field trips, sports games, conventions and events but also far enough that the diversity of the city in all forms didn't really affect us too much. I was bullied quite a bit in grade school as well as in high school for being "different." I had other kids call me a faggot on more than a few occasions and was picked on in particular for my effeminate personality and voice as well as for my looks. School was difficult. I never truly felt like I fit in. For me, I truly was attracted to girls but always felt a bit of a pull towards boys too. I knew from my upbringing that that was not allowed or approved of. I started dating girls in middle school and while I enjoyed it, there was this nagging feeling and attraction to other boys that bugged me a lot. That usually caused me to double down on pursuing the girls that I liked.
How do you think where you grew up shaped your worldview?
My worldview was, as can be expected, pretty isolated to my hometown and surrounding areas. It wasn't until college that I began commuting to the city for classes and experiencing more diversity in terms of people but also in terms of thinking.
How old were you when you came out? What was that experience like for you?
I was 33 when I came out publicly. I had been out for a little while to my ex and to close friends and some family prior to that but publicly I was a straight man married to his high school sweetheart with the most adorable son. "We had it all" some could say. Overall, my public coming out was a lot easier and more accepting than some of my private coming out, but all-in-all both areas of my life ended up being supportive, loving, and accepting that this is me.
How was the coming out experience for your family and friends?
So, when I was in my early 20's I lived in Florida and it was my first real taste of life outside of the Northeast, and more specifically my hometown because remember I commuted to the city so while I was exposed to more people not like me, I still went home each night to the small suburban hometown. Florida gave me a chance to experiment and try things out that I never really had the chance to or that I was too afraid I'd be "caught" doing back at home. I semi came out of the closet to my siblings and to my ex and some close friends back in 2007 when I was 21 but I fully believed I was "bisexual" since I was definitely interested in both women and men. Maybe I was in denial and it was just easier to say that, I don't know, but I definitely felt that I was bi. When I came out as gay in 2019 at 33 it was mostly a very supportive response but understandably there were/are some people who felt that I had lied to them for all this time and left/hurt my ex and my son. That seemed to be more of a reason for people being upset than the gay part, from what I understood. This was extremely hard for me because my son and my ex mean the world to me and I struggled for a good year or two and talked it through a lot with my ex about the fact that I thought I'd be abandoning them. She constantly assured me that it wasn't the case and was very supportive of me living my life as my true self.
What are some things you learned about yourself during the coming out process?
I'm much stronger than I thought. I always looked at things as though I wouldn't be able to survive. Whether it was just being authentic about me or living on my own or not being with my ex and my son daily, it all scared me to be perfectly honest. I had lots of dark thoughts when I was still in the closet. I didn't think I should live. "The world would be better off without me," I thought. I've always had anxiety and depression in my life but I especially struggled with depression during this period of time and it affected all aspects of my life. I spent days in bed sometimes and hoped that I just wouldn't wake up in the morning. That all seemed easier, in my head, at least, than actually coming out and having my life completely blown up. I'm so glad I never acted on my dark thoughts and trusted that it would get better, even when it seemed as though it never would.
What advice do you have for LGBTQ youth and/or those in mixed-orientation marriages today?
I know this expression is used a lot, but it truly does "get better." I'm optimistic that for the youth of today there seems to be a growing shift in attitude of acceptance within society, of course depending where you live. I hope that hearts are being changed also within families to love and support their LGBTQ family members. For those in mixed-orientation marriages, I think coming out is a harder pill to swallow, personally, because in a sense you're changing the entire life that you built to live authentically. I often wonder if when MOM individuals knew when they were younger that they'd be more accepted and supported, if they'd come out at a younger age before getting married? I know it wasn't easy or conventional but I wouldn't change anything for the world. My ex and I are still on good terms and our son is our world, so it's hard to have regrets when there was so much good that resulted from our marriage. My only regret is the pain and hurt that I caused. I never meant to and always hoped that if I prayed enough that I could just be straight. As I came to realize, it doesn't work that way.
What’s your greatest attribute?
Hmmmm that's a tough one. I'd say my biggest attribute is empathy and being a caring individual. What's funny is that some people who knew me when I was in the closet would laugh at that statement because unfortunately when I was so busy hating myself I took it out on other people who, for the most part, did not deserve it. It was easier for me to pick apart their shortcomings and criticize them than do the work of evaluating myself and why I hated myself so much. I feel terrible for the way that I acted back then but I strive everyday to be better and now that I'm happier in my own skin, I generally think I'm a much better person to those around me.
What makes life special for you?
If there's anything I've experienced over the last few years is that nothing is ever constant or the same. Change is inevitable. I've really tried to work on embracing that so the special-ness of life now is in enjoying the adventure. There are adventures constantly in spending time with my son in both the normal everyday life but also in the special trips, activities or moments. It's not always easy to live in the moment, often times I get overwhelmed and fail, but I try and that's all I can do.
Who inspires you and why?
There are various people in my life who inspire me. First and foremost, my son is my daily inspiration. He has an innocence and a curiosity about life that first pushed me to live my authentic life. He marches to the beat of his own drum and for the most part doesn't care what others think. I absolutely love that about him. His constant ideas and creativity and imagination give me life - as well as tire me out sometimes too! My ex also inspires me everyday because she's taken an admittedly crappy situation and has shown such grace, strength and resilience. She's an amazing mother and friend and I'm so blessed to have her in my life and to have the friendship and co-parenting relationship that we have. I say this often, but she truly is a saint. My friends that I've met along the path in this journey also inspire me. They have various stories, experiences and journeys themselves ranging from coming out as teenagers to coming out in mixed-orientation marriages to some who are even still in the closet and struggling with what to do. There's a certain level of bravery and strength that is needed to come out and live authentically and I'm always in awe at which those who have had some pretty rocky experiences still keep going and handle themselves with such dignity and grace. My friends and family and coworkers also inspire me as they've all been accepting, loving and supportive of me in all of my endeavors.They also will be honest with me when they know I need to hear it.
What does your future look like?
I honestly don't know. I hope it involves meeting someone who I'm compatible with who I'm able to make happy and who makes me happy, who I can spend the rest of my life with. When I first came out I felt this rush to try and find someone so I wouldn't be alone. I actually kind of enjoy being alone and have embraced it now. I've very much grown into my own skin and enjoy the moments of silence and my various solo adventures. I also enjoy more time for friends and family and just going with the flow. I hope that that person comes along but when it's right it's right. For now, I'm just enjoying life and as Whitney sings, I'm taking it "step-by-step, day-by-day, mile-by-mile." :-)