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Being Gay
Being Gay

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written November 27, 2000

I have decided to take what some people might consider a bold step on this site. As perhaps the final step in my acceptance of the person I am, I have decided to let it be known that I am gay. I want to talk a little bit about how it’s made my life different than most other people’s lives, and through my own personal experiences, I want to dispel many of the myths and stereotypes that our homophobic society perpetuates.

I think the first life experience that might have meant anything in this regard occurred during my year in sixth grade. (I turned 12 halfway through that year.) At the Catholic middle school I attended, sixth grade was the last year for co-ed gym class. The gym teacher would split the gym floor, one half for the boys, and the other for the girls. The boys usually used their end of the floor for basketball, and the girls almost always used their half for volleyball. Let’s just say that I found myself playing a lot of volleyball that year.

I still was sure I was attracted to girls at that time, but as the big rush of hormones hit in seventh grade, my feelings started to change. By eighth grade, most of my fantasies (what 14-year-old doesn’t have sexual fantasies?) involved other guys. I of course denied that I was gay, and just chalked my feelings up to teenage horniness; that is, I just felt like I’d do anything on two legs.

It was during high school that my feelings started to get a little clearer and more defined. Much like my middle school, my high school was of the private Catholic variety — one of the most homophobic environments you can imagine. That’s not to say that I didn’t love the school — I still do today — but it was the kind of environment where I had to lie through my teeth to fit in. I would invent phantom girlfriends whenever I was asked questions about my sexual life; when this proved ineffective, I’d come back with some weak insult like “She gives better head than your mom.” Although I’m sure there were at least a few people there who could tell I was gay, I think that for the most part I was seen as a straight guy who was a total zero with women.

I started college in September 1998, and set out to convince even myself that I was straight. I went to parties, hung out with girls, and even tried to start relationships with a few of them. None of these relationships went anywhere, as I continued lying left and right about what I really was. I even had myself convinced that I was straight, but that for some reason I felt attracted to the best-looking guys out there.

My last relationship with a girl ended in November 1999. At this point, I was starting to realize that I’d been lying all along, even to myself. Of course I was still petrified about the truth, and I didn’t feel like I could turn to anybody. Over the next eight months, I held most of my feelings inside. It was in July 2000 that I met a young man named Eric through his web site. I was originally drawn to his site by the stunning visual imagery he used, but I became a regular visitor after I read that he was gay. Through the HumanClick software on his site, and eventually ICQ, we discussed my feelings. Over the next three weeks, I came to terms with my long-repressed sexuality, and finally accepted it.

I was about to take a trip to visit my best friend (coincidentally, also named Eric). I knew that he should be the first person I told about myself. Through a serendipitous set of circumstances which I won’t mention here (they’d make the story way too long), I finally worked up the nerves to come out to Eric. He was very supportive the whole time; that really helped me through everything. Since then, I’ve come out to all of my good friends, my entire immediate family, and my aunt (who, interestingly enough, is a lesbian). For the most part, everybody has been supportive and kind toward me. I greatly appreciate what these people have done for me, and will remember their support for the rest of my life.

I want to talk a little bit about the stereotypes that many people hold about homosexuals and homosexuality. Not all gay people are flamboyant, cross-dressing, feminine-acting freaks. Not all gay people engage in risky unprotected sexual activity in nightclubs and bars. Not all gay people are out to convert you or your loved ones to “the homosexual way.” Not all gay people go out every night cruising for illicit, quick sex.

As a matter of fact, it’s a tiny minority of gay people who do any of the above. I can’t deny that these things do happen, but the media sensationalizes things to the point where you’d believe they were ubiquitous. I personally do none of the above, and about 99% of gay people are the same as I am. Just because somebody is gay doesn’t mean that they’re not just as hard-working, faithful to their partner, patriotic, or respectable as any straight person. Once hard-core homophobes realize this, their rhetoric becomes baseless. All I’d really like to see happen is for all straight people to see that gays do not represent any threat to them, their lifestyle, or their traditions, and accept them as equal (although different) people.

Just a bit more about the stereotypes, and society’s tendency toward “heterosexism” (assuming everybody is straight). Speaking only from my own experiences, I can tell you that not one person I’ve come out to had any ideas that I was gay before then. I mean, you only need to know a few of my interests, hobbies, and preferences to conclude that I’m just an average 20-year-old guy. For example, I watch Monday Night Football and Hockey Night In Canada religiously, and I only ever see Oprah if I’m around at 4:00 pm when my mother tunes her in. I read The Hockey News and Sports Illustrated, not Martha Stewart Living. I can only be picked out of a crowd by my 6’3” height, not by any “gay” mannerisms. In all honesty, you can’t really use the stereotypes to predict who is or isn’t gay. Hell, in this day and age, about the only way to find out for sure if somebody is gay is to ask them (depending on whether they would consider it rude).

I also wanted to write this as a way of helping questioning teenagers and young adults come to terms with themselves and their feelings. I want you to know that you’re not alone — you can find support groups, friendship, and even love on the Internet. I think that the emergence of the Internet as a mass communication medium is the greatest thing that has happened to the gay community since Stonewall. Nowadays, you can meet and connect with other people who feel the same way you do, in complete anonymity. Unfortunately for me, the Web hadn’t quite taken off when I got my first computer in 1995; I think that’s half the reason that it took me so long to understand and come to terms with my sexuality. I felt completely alone; I had no idea that other people all throughout the world, much less in my area, felt the same way I did. Had the Web taken off around 1992, rather than 1996, I’m sure I would have been able to understand myself well enough to come out at 16 or 17. Such is life, though — you take the hand you’re dealt, and play your cards as best you can.

There are plenty of resources available online. You may want to look for gay/lesbian youth groups, or meet other young people questioning their sexuality, or just read and learn as much as you can. Whatever you do, you should become well-informed about what it means to be gay — and then if you feel comfortable enough to accept what you are, you’ve completed the first and most important step in coming out.

I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to convince anybody that they are gay, but if you at least have some ideas that you are, I hope that reading this will help you to explain and clarify your often-confusing feelings and emotions. Quite honestly, I think that nobody can really be “converted” to being gay; I’m convinced that homosexuality is genetic, much like being left-handed. In the same way that about 10% of the population is left-handed, about 10% of the population is gay. (I’m both — that puts me in a pretty elite 1%! hehe.) I know I certainly didn’t choose to be gay; believe me, if I’d had the choice, I would definitely have chosen to be straight. I never had the opportunity to choose, though. In short, if you’re gay, you were (in almost all cases — barring severe and long-lasting emotional abuse) born that way, and there’s nothing you can do to change that; your attractions come as naturally to you as opposite-sex attractions come to straight people.

If you are reading this and you feel like you’re “almost there” in accepting yourself and beginning to come out to others, I’d like to be there as sort of a mentor for you, to let you know what to expect. I went through the entire process painfully alone, more alone than I really should have; that’s not to say that you should let somebody else decide what you are, though — only you know that. You can send me an ICQ message with some way of contacting you — e-mail, ICQ, AOL Instant Messenger, or whatever — and I will keep anything you tell me in the strictest confidence. Additionally, if I’ve piqued your interest with this story of my experiences, regardless of your sexual orientation, you can use the ICQ link above for more of the nitty-gritty details, or just to talk about it.

No matter what you are, gay or straight, black, white, or any color in between, be proud of what you are. The more you accept it and are happy with it, the more other people will accept it too. If you refuse to accept it, it will just drive you nuts in time. Here’s a way to think about it: By the percentages, you’re part of an exclusive group — only 10% of the world’s population qualifies for entry. Take a couple other traits you have and multiply those percentages in, and you’ll see that you become truly special. For example, take three of my traits — sexuality, handedness, and blood type; barring any statistical irregularity, there are only 2.4 million other people worldwide who share all three with me. Whatever you do, be safe and smart, and live your life wisely.

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