C is for Coming Out
TLDR: “another millennial isn’t straight and
had has a moderately hard time dealing with it”
It’s taken me quite a few attempts (and well over a month) to get this post right. I would write it one way and it come across a bit heavy and angry, another way would be too soft and whiney, but I think I’ve finally found a decent balance helped by the fact that I just want to move on from it. I tend not to label myself (congratulations, you’ve discovered No.1 on Jack’s snowflakey-ness list), but for the ease of this post let’s just come out and say that I’m gay.
Growing up, I always knew there was something that wasn’t quite right with me, but fortunately it didn’t take me an overly long time to figure it out. The earliest I remember figuring out that I was attracted to other guys was when I was 8 or 9 years old, civil partnerships had just been introduced and the media ran wild with it. News coverage at tea-time about all these same-sex couples signing up and having their unholy union peered on by the world, all four of the evening soaps my family watched threw token gay characters all over the place and ITV in particular ran some really shitty “dramas” which did nothing but enforce the typical stereotypes. I don’t think I really understood everything I was taking in at the time, but it somehow made sense with me and I realised that I was the same as these people that I was seeing on TV. Now, Tumblr would have you believe otherwise but I think this age was waaaay too young for someone to deal with their sexuality. Confused and scared, I buried what I knew and tried to move on.
I don’t think you can ever really understand how the human mind can scare itself into forgetting something until you have the misfortune of doing it. It’s not like all of a sudden you remember that you know something and that’s it (ie, the Hollywood method), it’s more a steady sense of deja vu while you’re retreading ground that shouldn’t feel familiar, but does. This is what happened to me about 3/4 years later once I had moved on to secondary school. The shift between schools was like a loss of innocence for me, I’d gone from a nice rosy primary school where I was encouraged to be creative and had (sometimes) an over abundance of confidence to a duller, more adult place where I was slowly crammed into a shell I never knew I had for daring to be smart, or daring to learn. Obviously, puberty also hit around this time and for some reason that secret I’d buried so many years before cracked right open and hit me head on. I was able to deal with it a bit better this time, understanding what it meant to be gay and how it works in the world. Unfortunately, my environment was just awful and the notion of being different or standing out in any way scared the shit out of me so I tried to contain it and move on the for second time… yeah that didn’t really work.
I was older and couldn’t easily move on from something like that, so it stayed with me, lingering in the back of my mind for years as I withdrew further and further from a world I knew which would punish me for being different. I kept it under wraps until I was 16 when I just so happened to slip into a new group of friends who started to make me feel a bit more at ease. I finally got comfortable enough that I could tell one of the guys in the group I was gay. He was the camp, quirky and eternally sarcastic type, and he helped me out so much. Just having someone to talk to truthfully for the first time in my life was a weight off my shoulders, but then came the real killer, I had to go and develop a crush on him.
Usually people get crushes when they’re kids and they deal with them in their own way, but this was the first time that my brain had allowed me to even fathom a crush and it hit me pretty hard and I had no idea what to do and how to behave. By this time he’d already given me the confidence to start gradually telling people I was gay, so I started with a couple of people in that new group of friends (who were all very supportive in their own ways) and in the confused mess that was my head at the time, I thought it would be a good idea to go around telling them about my crush. For some reason I was sort of encouraged to pursue it, with even a couple of comments like (“Oh I heard he was bi”, “He’s gay too right?”). So I do the unthinkable and I tell him that I like him (I know…) and weirdly enough he doesn’t really dismiss it, in-fact every response he had for me almost hinted at the possibility that it could be real, in hindsight I’m assuming I misread these signals but if I’d have been told “No, that’s not really going to happen between us” I’d have been able to back off, but alas I didn’t.
To cut a long story short, someone screenshot something to someone else who posted it in a group chat which essentially both outed me and told everyone else in the group I fancied this guy. While definitely not the end of the world it really fucked with my head. I sat in my room shaking at the thought of having to go to sixth form the next day to face the inevitability of stares and whispers behind my back (or worse, confrontation from a couple of obnoxious people in my life with half a brain cell between them) and it was too much for me. It broke me. I tried to do my usual trick, bottle everything up and move on but it just wasn’t going to work this time, I fell apart at home, burst into tears and ran away from my family, only to return later and have to face what was coming, having to come out to them. I’m often confused at how to look back on that, it either being one of the strongest moments (in that I finally was able to say those words to the people that raised me) or my weakest moments (that pointless drama had brought me low enough that I didn’t care any more), but either way, it happened and it went ‘alright’. We’ve never really discussed it (apart from occasional passing mentions years apart) since that day, but I’m fine with that. They gave me the boost I needed to rapidly come out to everyone I knew on my own terms and it went pretty well bar a few people who tried to make it difficult for me.
The big misconception about coming out is that it’s a one off occurrence, you stand on the rooftop and announce it to the world and that’s that, but (for me at least) it’s a lifelong process. I can’t really say I’m yet comfortable with my sexuality as it’s still a rare occurrence I actually speak up and explain to anyone new that I’m gay. I’m sure the vast majority of people I’ve known post School/Uni either have no idea or just assume I’m still closeted. Probably most frustratingly of all, I still find it hard to talk about my boyfriend of of four years, it’s like a mental block that hits me every time which usually means I just don’t say anything at all. I like to be as optimistic as the wrinkly organ in my head allows me to be, so I’m sure that I’ll get to that sweet spot of confidence some day. Hopefully by putting this post out there it’ll go some way to help me deal with this.
Well this post is pretty long/shit isn’t it? I’m definitely going to make the next one more upbeat, fuck this whiney personal stuff.