Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A 'Coming out' article, written by a young gay woman

In connection with today's 'Dear GB' posting, below is the 'Coming out' article that the reader wrote, which her school don't want to publish.

I'm usually a very logical and rational person, but before I properly came out I used to believe two contradictory statements about myself, namely "I'm not gay" and "I like guys". These are exactly the sentiments expressed in the article below, in the paragraph which starts "ME?! One of those FREAKS?! ... ", so even though she's a young gay woman and I'm a gay guy I strongly identify with a lot of what she says.

Coming out

How many gay people do you know? Two or three perhaps, if you live in a relatively cosmopolitan area, maybe less if you live in a small town or village. Now imagine what it must be like being that gay person. The one people think of when they want to remind themselves that they are "in-touch" with modern issues, that they posses that hint of new labour which puts them a fraction to the left on the political compass, wrapping them up in their PC blanket.

You almost certainly will have encountered gay people in your life but, as with the blank faces of commuters we see daily on public transport, many do not appreciate the journey that they have had to endure. Contrary to popular thought, you don't just "come out" and have that be the end of it. Coming out is a huge process and the end result, the actual words "I'm gay" that you hear and gradually come to accept, are just the tip of the iceberg. Inside there has been a huge and incredibly painful inner battle of realisation and acceptance so hard many choose to repress their feelings and desires totally.

I'm gay. I've been there, done the coming out business, had the verbal (but thankfully never physical) abuse because of it and I'd hope it has made me a stronger person. This piece is to trigger a thought next time you see a gay person, to think of the path they've walked to get a point in their lives where they are comfortable letting others know who they wish to spend the rest of their lives with. However, this can be true of all who are a little different, who don't fit the mould precisely, so perhaps the lesson is applicable to more than just us queers.

If I think hard, with an objective head on my shoulders, I can recall having a fascination with women at about 10 or 11. The most prominent example, and the only one I actually remember, is a teacher who taught at my primary school. She was pretty (or my 10 year old self thought so) with silky straight blonde hair. That's about all I remember of her, no name, nothing of her being in the playground supervising at playtime, just that she was a pretty blonde. Prophetic? In hindsight I now know that it might have been called a crush although here were most certainly no sexual feelings, just an inexplicably strong desire to be around her.

Feelings like this carried on; crushes on teachers, best friends (the cause of much emotional turmoil) and youth leaders were not uncommon. Secretly I hoped that everybody else felt this way but deep down I knew they didn't, that I was a little strange in that respect. I tried to write it off as normal and ignored all feelings, throwing myself into a very unsuccessful relationship with a boy when I was about 13.

It was ghastly from the first kiss; my first kiss, which I had to get ridiculously drunk to go through with, to when we eventually broke up, via text message, after no contact for almost a week. After the break-up all I felt was a deep disgust in myself, I felt as though by doing what it seemed everyone else was doing I had somehow done it wrong. In my quest to prove to myself that I was normal I had proved to myself indefinitely that I wasn't. You could say my plan backfired. I'd shot myself in the foot instead of the gay gland.

After that time I knew. The actual word "G-A-Y" or, in my case "L-E-S-B-I-A-N" (a word which I still loath) had been rooted in my head and would not leave. I had finally connected the feelings I had for other women with the word. The actual word. Lesbian. It may seem completely ridiculous but I did not put me liking women together with the word, it was just an impossibility that would never happen. A ridiculous suggestion; I, a lesbian, or elesbian as I had thought it was until I saw it spelt correctly in the dictionary.

My thought process was as follows;

ME?! One of those FREAKS?! Err, no, sorry mate, you've got the wrong girl here. Sure, I have these strange feelings of attraction to people of the same sex as me but doesn't everyone feel that? I'm normal. I'm straight. I like men. And I will get married, have children, those children will be red blooded, horny, heterosexuals and they will have me some grand kiddies. Those grand kiddies will be hetero's and have me some great-grand kiddies and I will live the big fat heterosexual lifestyle with the nice Volvo estate car, a 5 bed house in the suburbs and a chocolate brown Labrador for my heterosexual children to play with. There is no way, I repeat, no way, that I am one of those. No. Thank. You.

Summarised, it was complete denial. And I perpetuated this falsity both internally and externally. I stuck posters of my favourite rock stars up on my bedroom walls and said/wanted-to-believe/pretended-in-complete-denial that I had crushes on them. I told all my friends that they were stupid for fancying X from boy band "xxxxx"; it was all about Mr Y. He had the cutest smile. I day dreamed non-stop about my dream hetero lifestyle, the wedding, how he would propose, where we would be, what I would say, I even went as far as imagining my expression when he popped the question. But I couldn't kiss the man of my dreams in my fantasy, not even at the alter where we would inevitably end up. We'd hug instead.

It's easy to make light of the situation I was in but I genuinely wanted to believe I was straight when the simple fact was, I wasn't, I was gay and there was nothing I could do about it. This caused me much pain. The only parallel I can draw is that of a black person wanting to be white. It's obvious they are black, they just don't want to accept it for various reasons but, whether or not they do, they are still black and will never be white no matter how hard they try. Just as you can't change your skin colour you can't change your sexuality.

The only thoughts I had of lesbians were that they were fat, ugly and looked like/wanted to be men. Sometimes they had facial hair, sometimes they were Russian and lifted weights. Occasionally they looked like Ellen Degeneres but even she wasn't the most feminine of women. I could not reconcile the fact that because I had these feelings I was a lesbian. It made me hate myself. I couldn't look in the mirror and when I did I was disgusted with my reflection. I loathed the part of me that liked women and wanted to cut it out, make it disappear and leave me alone to have my heterosexual children.

I used to pray to God to make me straight. I'd become so anxious I'd cry, begging him to change me. I prayed every night and it never happened, I stayed gay and it felt like god had made me this way as a punishment. He'd created me gay and deliberately written church teaching, through divine inspiration, to prohibit it, to ensure that everyone in the church knew that it was wrong. Yet, I was this way and it was not changing no matter how much I grovelled. How could a god create someone only to have them excommunicated from his family for being the way he wanted? I lost my faith completely.

Imagine a plug hole at the bottom of a bath with a stream of water flowing down it into the drain. Constantly, I felt like that. My stomach was a bath which had just been emptied and all contents were being continually poured down the plughole with no end in sight, it felt as though every positive thought I had about myself was being sucked down that hole, into the drain, along with my hopes of being straight.

After just over a year of mental torment I managed to convince myself that I was bisexual as, in my mind, it was not as bad as being gay. It was a halfway house, not a diesel dyke but not the straight person I desperately wanted, but knew I could never, be. I would look in the mirror and think to myself that it was ok to be bi, it wasn't as bad as lesbian, there was still some femininity left in it. I wasn't a complete man and I still had a shot at my dream life with horny hetero kids, a dog and a husband.

Six months after I'd admitted to myself that I was bisexual I "came out". I now know and knew then that if I didn't tell someone at that time I would have gone mad. The pressure of living a lie combined with the disgust I felt towards myself was immense, ever present and unrelenting.

We were standing under a bridge waiting for the bus to go to school and there was a lull in conversation. I looked down at my school kilt (a green, knee length, tartan number - very fetching) and then over to my friend who was standing a little to my left, level with my shoulder as she was very small and I have always been rather tall. A train rumbled past on the bridge above making the pigeons nested in its awnings flap and fly needlessly.

"I've got something to tell you. (Pause) I'm gay"

"Is that it? I knew that already, I always knew you was a lesbian," she said, disappointed, as if she'd been cheated of a juicy piece of gossip.

"What?!" I screeched, exasperated.

"I knew that ages ago but you always got upset about it when I asked you," she replied matter-of-factly.

We continued our conversation as though nothing had been said.

I came out (as bisexual) to other close friends several weeks later and got a similar reaction from one; "Oh, I always knew that though". I don't look like a typical gay person so perhaps they were such close friends that they could tell by instinct. Whatever the reason, just the fact that they knew was relieving, as though I'd taken a small but hugely significant step on the way to fully accepting who I was.

Since then I've come out as gay and all but my mother knows. I'll tell her in my own time or perhaps, like my friends, she already knows as she's asked the odd question or two which have been ambiguously answered. All friends know I'm gay, the rumour mill has meant that most people in the college I attend know (despite me not having told them) and I've recently found out that several of my teachers also know which was a little unnerving but not unexpected.

Coming out was one of the hardest experiences of my life. It's saddening to think of the anguish many experience until they finally realise that being gay is not taboo; perhaps an obvious observation from an outsiders perspective but, when immersed in the situation, this is not so.

Accepting who you are and the implications of this can be hard but it will not change so it could be looked at as a case of "like it or lump it". Life is so much better if you choose to like it, as hard as it may seem.


polly said...

well written and rings very true for someone who has experienced pretty much everything mentioned. thanks for sharing GB

Digisnapr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Wow i just started reading thus blog a couple of days ago I found it while looking for some good stories about coming out because I am at that stage of accepting it and needing to tell people about it. I just wanted to say that even as a gay male this story rings true 90% with me. Thank you the strength displayed is truly inspiring.