I think it’s an appropriate time to talk about the next phase of my life right after Depression, which was exploring my sexuality or as some people like to call it, ‘coming out of the closet’. Everyone in the LGBTI community has their own ‘coming out story’ that reflects who they are or becoming. I’ve heard some truly inspirational and motivational experiences from people, but as time went on I realised I wasn’t connecting with them as much as I thought and had to reflect why that was. It wasn’t until recently, I realised ‘coming out’ didn’t impact me in a life changing way like I thought, compared to others around me. My journey of self-discovery stems from what came afterwards, and that was living my life publically as a gay guy, in a straight society.
It’s great to see the number of organisations raising awareness for people struggling with their sexuality growing and being promoted in the Media, such as Headspace and Beyond Blue, who were the official supporters of the 2016 Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney. This is a big step in the right direction considering the unfortunate rise in Mental Health issues for young people, particularly men because they are unable to accept who they are or they fear discrimination from society and abandonment from loved ones. When I considered coming out, these were my biggest fears but by holding on to a vision and trusting the process, I reached a stage where I proudly accepted my sexuality and gaining full support from the closest family and friends. Maybe I was close minded or naïve to think that was the hardest part accomplished, but I would soon realise just how different my life was going to change.
At 21, I felt a great deal of accomplishment and strength after battling depression but something was burdening me and quickly realised it was due to my sexuality and the big question mark next to it. I think my troubles during childhood and then depression had such an impact on my life, that any signs that I may be gay were easily forgotten. Eventually, their was nothing my sexuality could hide behind anymore so exploring that side of me was all I could think about.
My first call of action was a funny one. I don’t know if my brain was left behind in the closet or I was just a naïve virgin but I thought the most beneficial way would be experimenting with another guy. Sounds logical right?…. Sure, but I have no idea why I thought a gay Brothel would be the smartest choice…. In my defence though, I had never heard of Grindr and didn’t realise clubs were such a hot spot haha. So, with help from Google, I paid a visit to one during my uni lunch break and was greeted by a lovely (but surprising) older lady named Madam. I placed my order for a European Hunk and she escorted me into the ‘waiting room’ to get comfortable. WOW!.. that’s a room I wasn’t expecting. It had a fluffy rug, dim lighting but an amazing chandelier and a pretty comfortable velvet couch. However, it was probably the hardcore porn playing on a 42 inch Full HD TV that grabbed (or scarred) me immediately and realised ‘WTF AM I DOING HERE??” haha. Before I could leave, Madam returned thinking she was delivering my dream guy but unfortunately (or luckily) she informed me they were “on their lunch break” Safe to say I don’t think I’ve run out of there that fast since Grade 4 athletics .
Besides that minor setback, I went through the common process of telling the people closest to me and my friends were the first to know. As time went on, I opened up to each of them one at a time and felt blessed they all accepted me for who I was and even accompanied me to a gay club from time to time.
Coming out to family was a little harder. At this stage, I reached my 23rd birthday and had fully accepted and was proud of my sexuality but they are Catholic so I was well aware of the repercussions. Although I ideally wanted to be the one to tell everyone in my own time, this wasn’t the case and felt slightly betrayed by some.
Regardless, the only reaction I cared about was my mum’s. My whole life we have stuck together and overcome so much. I’m her only child, her ‘Pride and Joy’ as she often tells others and as predicted, she struggled to accept my sexuality and suffered a long period of denial. Mum can be very ‘black and white’ with certain things so being an only child who’s gay meant no chance of grandchildren in her eyes and it’s evident this is still an issue today. Recently, my cousin got married and is awaiting the birth of his first child. This is fantastic news and can’t wait to bond with my future 2nd cousin, but this has created an uncomfortable atmosphere at times. Mum will never admit it but the vibe says it all. She had a vision of my future from an early age and it’s I’ve pretty much turned out completely opposite. I have every intention of marrying the man of my dreams and can’t wait to have kids, but as mum once reminded me “This isn’t Modern Family, it doesn’t work like that” So while I’m single, it’s wiser to keep my personal life goals to myself. I still haven’t lost my pride in who I am, but there’s a part of me recently that does feel like I’ve failed somewhat as a son.
This feeling was heightened one day a few months ago when I noticed mum was a little distant and she revealed it was the anniversary of her miscarriage. It turns out she suffered a miscarriage a year before I was born, which made it alot clearer to me why she’s always been so protective of me for all these years. After the initial shock, I took some time to reflect and really analysed who I was as a person but most importantly as a son and immediately felt a whole bunch of emotions. I felt sad and regretted not appreciating her enough. I also felt the need to say ‘sorry’ to her. Sorry for not turning out like she had imagined. Although I know she’s proud of me, I couldn’t help but wonder whether maybe heaven chose the wrong child and unfortunately that’s a thought that still crosses my mind.
Bless her heart though, she did attempt to show more of an interest in getting to know her ‘gay son’ and i’ll never forget the day she randomly asked me “So, do you prefer to get it up your ass or give it to someone” and most recently wondered and asked in her words “What does LBGT stand for.. Let’s Be Gay?….” I looked at her in pure shock as she was legitimately serious but after correcting her, it was nice to have a laugh about it later on haha.
People have often asked me how it feels to live your life with a such a big secret, unable to show your complete self. I would best describe this as living life with a mask on. In fact, I feel like I’ve owned many masks throughout my life. Throughout my childhood I displayed different personas depending on if I was with my mum or dad because both sides never interacted unless it was a necessity. Throughout depression, I chose to wear a mask in public to hide my sadness from others and then I’d find myself with another mask on to hide my sexuality, a mask I still presently wear when it comes to my career. Eventually those masks do fall off but when, how or who to can only be predicted but never guaranteed. I’ve come to realise when we wear masks for a substantial amount of time, we will begin to question ourselves a lot more and I remember reaching a stage I’d ask myself “Is this a mask I’m wearing, or is this really me?” People will choose to wear masks for a number of reasons and I understand this completely. People are quick to judge someone as being fake because they aren’t always being ‘real’ but remember this quote,
“Don’t judge my choices without understanding my reasons”
Everyone has a story, whether good or bad and everyone is the way they are for a reason, so take the time to find out a little more about someone if you feel a need to voice an opinion. Wearing one is a temporary solution and in my circumstance, I feel it was a necessity at the time. It can also be a way of hiding behind something for protection, like a shield and that’s okay, as long as we know they have no long term benefit in reaching our full potential in life.
So, that’s pretty much my ‘coming out’ story and regardless of the highs and lows, being able to stand proud in front of everyone with total honesty is not only one of the biggest accomplishments, but the positive change you feel within yourself makes it all worthwhile. However, I believe their should be a greater focus on what comes afterwards. Like I said, living my everyday life as a gay man presented far greater challenges than I could ever predict, such as career, relationships, equal rights and the not-so-loveable side of the gay community. With these challenges, I spent too many nights losing pride in myself while wondering how much more am I willing to take before I choose to put that mask back on.
TO BE CONTINUED…..
Until next time,
LOVE all, TRUST a few, DO wrong to none