When I was ten-years-old, a boy in my class told me that “gay” was the word you called a boy who liked other boys. That was when I realised I was gay. I had known before then that there was such a thing as being gay, but only when someone said the word to me did it become real.
Looking back now, I don’t understand how it took that long. I had to be Princess Peach everytime I played Mario Kart and I knew, and unashamedly still know, the words and choreography to the majority of Britney Spears’ greatest hits. Lady Gaga clearly was singing about my personal experience when she said, “I was born this way.”
Despite the ease at which I accepted my own homosexuality at ten years of age, it wasn’t until I was thirteen that I even discussed with other people my attraction to the same sex.
Ten year old me knew that the word gay made some people uncomfortable. In my desperate need to be liked by those around me, I knew it would be better if I didn’t use this word to describe myself. It didn’t change who I was if I added this new word to the adjectives of my personality, so why should it have to change the way people look at me?
The majority of problems people have with coming out stem from this issue. You have lived your whole life the same way, but when you add the word gay, lesbian or bisexual, suddenly everything has changed. The heteronormative expectation that has been put on the world means that others can easily become upset when a person comes out to them.
We are conditioned to believe that everyone is born in the body they are supposed to be in and are attracted to the opposite sex. When you reveal to someone that this is not the case for you, it can almost feel like you have lied and betrayed them your whole life. Everything they have ever perceived about you is wrong because of the trivial detail that you like kissing boys instead of girls.
During my adolescence, my coming out only added to my embarrassingly debilitating social awkwardness. While I never actively went about telling people I was gay, when you have a voice with a pitch like mine, it’s something that follows you around. The thing was, rather than being liked by people in spite of being gay, or simply being disliked for being gay; people seemed to like me more because I was gay.
The fear of being rejected for being gay was off my back and the confidence I now had (as well as a knowledge of pop culture that would make Perez Hilton quake in his boots) was all I needed to make friends.
Eventually, by word of mouth, it just became common knowledge that Jack with the gay voice was in fact Jack who is gay. Even Mom and Dad figured this one out. They had to accept that no girl could have given a boy a hickey that big and, in a rare instance proving that I am related to them, they approached the situation like ten year old me with a silent acceptance.
Gay or straight, they know I would never discuss my romantic life with them; so they accept that my being gay doesn’t have to be a whole family affair. Dad asks me every year if I’m going to the Dublin Pride Parade and Mom doesn’t leave the house without getting the all clear from me on her outfit. So, just because their acceptance is not as vocal and prominent as other parents, that does not make it any less real.
Today, at twenty years of age, I can safely say that everyone in my life knows that I am a vibrant and confident young man, who also happens to be gay. I know that there will be people in my future who will not know that. Coming out is rather like eating Pringles; once you pop, you just can’t stop.
The coming out process is something I am going to have to go through for the rest of my life. Heteronormativity is not going anywhere for a while, so I know that when I meet new people in the future and talk about my partner, James, they will still be surprised I didn’t say Jane.
Yes, it’s a complete drag, but I hope that if I keep coming out to people I meet with such ease maybe one day in the future a ten year old boy won’t have to tell people he’s gay because people won’t assume he was born straight.
So, for the reader who is questioning themselves right now or simply afraid to come out, what advice do I have to give? Don’t let people bring you down.
So what if you aren’t straight? Who cares? If your friends don’t feel the same way, then they were never really proper friends to begin with. Do give people time. While your sexuality isn’t a big deal, some people don’t quite get that and need to take a moment to themselves to come to terms with it. They will come back don’t worry.
Please Talk. Bottling things up doesn’t make them go away. There is a worrying trend, particularly among young men, of not talking about problems they have dealing with coming out. This can be damaging to your mental health.
UCD LGBT and UCD Students’ Union all have confidential welfare officials who are always on hand to talk about any problems you may have. Don’t feel that coming out has to change you. Just because people know who you are attracted to doesn’t mean you are any different. You never have to be written off as something you’re not just because of your sexuality.
Everyone’s coming out is a unique process, and while mine was quite early in life, this is not the always the case. Sometimes people need more time to come to terms with their sexuality than others.
Last year I was seeing someone four years older than me who had not come out to anyone. Some people need a lot more self-reflection before coming out than others, so don’t ever feel pressured by others to come out if you are not ready. The way I see it, when you feel ready to come out, the best thing to do is embrace it.