Sunday, August 08, 2010

Email from a closeted gay British guy

A couple of weeks ago, a reader sent me an email with the title "Please help me :(". The text of his email was as follows:

Dear GB,

You have a great blog and some very amusing articles. I've just read your posting titled Email from a closeted Asian gay guy. It's so interesting and real. The article is very similar to my story.

Here is my situation:

I'm a fit and healthy 26 year old guy who is moving to London in September as I will be doing my masters degree there. Although I am excited, thrilled and looking forward to the educational experience, I am still quite nervous. Why? Well ...

I don't know anyone at all in London - no-one :( and if I am honest, I am quite scared at the thought of being lonely in the big smoke. I'm from the Midlands and I have just finished my undergraduate degree. It was a fun experience, but none of my friends are moving to London and they have found jobs in the Midlands. Throughout my undergrad degree I have only known straight people, and I have now decided that I really want a relationship and want to find some like-minded guys.

I really need your help, as I don't know what to do. I really would like to meet some like-minded people who are gay. I don't have any gay friends, all my friends are straight. I did contact the LGBT union at my London college, but I have not heard back from them and it has been a few months now. I am not on facebook and I think most of their members are on facebook.

I really want some gay friends who can really understand me. Sometimes there are things that I cannot talk about to my family, cousins or friends, as it is very hard for them to understand. I just want someone to talk to. I just need some advice. I don't drink, so I don't really want to go into a gay bar. I don't like the scene here in the Midlands that much. If you haven't guessed already, I'm an Asian closet guy.

Sometimes I feel really guilty being the way I am. I have been born and raised in a very strict household and I have not been able to experience some things which other people may have. This just makes me so upset and if I'm honest I do sometimes get depressed thinking about my life ahead - if I will be able to ever enjoy a healthy relationship or find some real genuine gay guys.

The 2 guys who were on my course at uni, were very camp (I don't like to label people), but I am just not into camp guys and I myself am very straight acting.

I really don't know what to do. I will be renting accommodation on the outskirts of London, not exactly the best place as it is a bit of a journey to the campus in central London.

I would really appreciate your advice. I know that you are very busy with the blog and the numerous e-mails you must receive.

Please help me.

As soon as I read this I immediately sent him an email, telling that him that I'm sure he'll be fine when he comes to London. There are bound to be other new students like him, who don't have any friends in London yet. Of course, I also offered to do a "Dear GB" posting for him. The next day I got his reply:

Thanks so much for responding so quickly. There might be other guys like me, but I don't know anyone at all in London and if I'm honest, I don't really want to go out on my own. I have always been to restaurants/cinemas/shopping with my straight friends or cousins, but it's so hard when I have to put a fake act on and pretend to like girls. I just want to be myself, let my inhibitions go and just be me. I don't like being this alter-ego kind of guy that has to follow the "norm".

I have found that the only way I can do that is if I start afresh and move out of my strict household, which is why I am going to do my masters in London. I want to broaden my horizons meet some people who are more like me, i.e. gay. Here in the Midlands it's nice but all my friends are straight. Sometimes I have to make up stories about my "interesting" life just to fit in with the straight people I know.

I don't want to be a bother, but if you want you could do a "Dear GB" post, maybe I could see what others have to say - I would really like that. You really are an inspirational guy and I have so much respect for you and the blog you have created, I am sure it has helped so many guys (and women) out there, it certainly has helped me.

Is there any other advice you can give me? I would really appreciate it. Do you know any other Asian gay guys who would be willing to guide/help me?

Sometimes what I really really want is just someone to talk to, someone who can just accept me for who I am.

My first thoughts were that this guy must have had to make friends before, when starting out at a new school or at university. But then I realised that if he comes from a big family which has always lived in the same place, perhaps with lots of aunts and uncles living nearby, then even on his first day at his first school there could have been siblings and cousins in the same school as him. So moving down to London, away from that safe but sterile environment is going to be very good for his personal development. He just needs a bit of confidence :-).

As a student, the easiest way to make friends will be through the college that's he's going to attend. That's because there'll be lots of new students, all feeling a bit lost and hoping to make new friends. As a graduate, he'll be older than most of the new undergraduate students, but there will also be new postgraduate students. The hardest new postgraduate students to make friends with will be the ones who also did their undergraduate degree at his new college, because they'll probably already have a circle of friends. New postgraduates from outside London, including new overseas postgraduates, will be the easiest ones to make friends with.

But of course, to make gay friends he'll have to go to the LGBT union at his London college. At the start of the new academic year they'll be expecting new gay students to be starting their studies, so it'll be a good time to start going along to their events. There may be a few camp guys there, because there's no doubt that some gay guys do behave like that, but I hope that won't put him off. In any case, my experience these days is that there are more so called straight-acting gay guys than camp gay guys on the London gay scene.

Incidentally, I also think that he should join facebook. The fact that he hasn't joined facebook yet suggests to me that he comes from a small close-knit group of friends and family, where everyone sees each other relatively regularly. However, people who live in a more dynamic environment find social networking websites like facebook indispensable for keeping in touch with all their friends and acquaintances. Perhaps some of his friends are already members, in which case joining facebook would be a good way of keeping in touch with them while he's in London. Just because he's gay, there's no reason to lose touch with one's straight friends. If he does join facebook, then to start with he won't have friends on the system, but he mustn't feel embarrassed about that. It's perfectly natural for all new users to start with no friends on the system, and just because he's doesn't have any facebook friends, it doesn't mean that he doesn't have any friends at all!

With all the new people that this reader meets, he must try to be himself. Although it should be the most natural thing in the world, my guess is that he'll find it hard to start with, because for so long he's been pretending to be a straight guy.

Beyond his college, London is a big place with lots of gay life. The GMFA web site is an excellent resource, giving details of different gay interest groups around the country, with a lot of London listings. The gay listings in London's Time Out magazine are also useful. More than that, lots of gay guys in London have profiles on dating web sites like gaydar, so that's another way of meeting other gay guys. I also know have friends who've met up thanks to sites like OutEverywhere.

It's a pity that he's going to be living on the outskirts of the City, because he'd get much more out of London if he lived closer to the centre. My guess is that he's planning to live on the outskirts so that he can live as cheaply as possible. It could also be that the place where he'll be living is owned by a distant family member or family friend, and that consequently he's got a good deal on the rent. In any case, once he's settled into his M.A. course, if he's got any spare time I think he should try and get some sort of part-time job so that he can earn a bit of money. If he can find a way of earning some money, perhaps he'd be able to move closer to his college, which would definitely be a good idea if his intended accommodation is somehow connected with his family. He doesn't need to sever connections with his family, but it would be better if he was more independent.

Back in his home town, I can't help wondering whether some of his friends or cousins suspect that he's gay. If he's been pretending to be interested in girls, then I'd guess that even if he had a girlfriend for a while, it probably didn't last very long. If anyone has guessed it might make it easier for him when he does eventually come out to them. However, I wouldn't suggest that anyone comes until they feel a little bit of gay pride. Since he's been living in the closet, that will take time, so for now I wouldn't suggest that he starts coming out to people from his home town.

Does anyone else have any other thoughts for this reader?


the immigayrant said...

Hi GB,

I can partially relate to this guy.

I'm a gay asian whose family is fairly conservative and mom is a Sunday-school teacher; I studied away from home (to Australia); and I didn't have any gay experience before coming here.

My advice for this guy:
1. Find out what he want in his life.
2. Make a plan to get them.
3. Pursue them wholeheartedly.

I'm happy that I knew what I want in life: I want family and raise children.

I thought I couldn't do this without marrying a woman, and my whole teenage-hood was wasted on trying to be hetero, or at least bisexual.

When I find out that gay people do make family and raise children, I found hope.

I am now on a mission to make it reality:
1. I am developing my financial independence (So happy that I just got a full time job),
2. I am educating myself in every aspect of gay life. From gay rights to clichés, stereotypes, and popular culture. And I marched for marriage equality.
3. I am developing my gay-support base. Went to a gay-youth-counselling program, made friends, made more gay friends from there on.
4. I start my gay experiences, and record it to see how much I progress (through my blog)

And my future plans are:
1. To gain respect from my family (by planning to sponsor my younger bro for his overseas education)
2. To come out to my family, and everyone.
3. To get a boyfriend to share my life with.
4. To marry the right person.
5. Adopt, or get surrogate babies.
6. Life my life, happily ever after.

So that is my life plan. He can model it after mine, or make his own.

He should broaden his exposure to different kinds of gay subcultures. He might find his own niche.

I am wishing all the best for this guy. It's a good move that he's trying to join the campus LGBT union. Even if later he doesn't feel like fitting there, he is already starting to be proactive.

Luke said...

This guy sounds really decent, and I hope that everything manages to go well. He can be my facebook friend if he wants! (Although I live in Rome at the moment).
My advice would be to use sites like Facebook and Gaydar, and not to think that Gaydar is only for sex. It is for most people, but usually you meet some good friends on there too. I would also say that he probably should try going to a gay bar. Gay bars come in different shapes and sizes, like gay people. They're not all the same. Some are just like regular bars but with a gay twist, as it were. If the problem with going to bars is due to the pressure to drink alcohol then he need not worry. I have lots of friends who are tee-total but frequent bars. If the problem is shyness then I must confess to having the same problem, but with good friends present that becomes less of a problem! Besides, there's always cafes and eating establshments in gay areas (for example costa caffe in Soho), where you can go and which might, for you, be a more congenial environment for meeting people.
But going to gay establishments will be good for finding new friends and good psychologically, in that it can be nice to feel you're not alone.
I think the most important step is to find some good friends at university, gay, or otherwise, and when ready, to come out. Go to the gay events of the student union! Try to let it be known that you are gay, when ready. This needn't be accomplished in a flamboyant manner; one can just as well slip into a conversation something about a 'hot guy', if it's relevant.

Good luck, Luke

Sir Wobin said...

I'd like to recommend he try Twitter. It can be much less personal than Facebook with some users using pseudonyms or online nicknames to provide some degree of anonymity. It provides a search facility that works geographically as well as by topic so "gay London" is likely to present quite a lot of people and the things they're talking about with their friends.

Try follow a few people, perhaps starting with the twitter accounts of some of the gay press such as IAmSOHO, Gay Times and So, So Gay. The last occationally hosts a Tweetup where people arrange to meet as a group at a coffee shop. You can take a look at what some of the people have said on Twitter (if their profile is public) to get to know a bit about them before the Tweetup, which helps to break the ice.

Lots of people have been in the reader's situation. Don't worry too much mate. We all find a way of working things out. :-)

Anonymous said...

I was in the same situation about 2 years ago when I moved to HK from Australia straight after uni.

Totally agree with the above comments on sites such as Gaydar are useful for meeting people, not just for sex. I met some of my best friends here through this and similar sites.

I'm sure you'll do fine. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I started out very similarly - I grew up in a very small city, and my university town (~40,000 people somewhere in Germany) was still not at all gay-friendly. (And the LGBT group was horrible! It took me 6 months to recover...) Finally I followed my urges and went to a gay sauna. After all, sex is part of being gay, and I found out that sex is actually a good ice breaker. During sex you find out quite a bit about the other guy, and if you like the other guy, you can talk afterwards, and it's much easier by then because you got to know the other guy already... :-) I found my first boyfriend in a sauna (and #2 in a darkroom!). Another good option in London could be a gay gym. Sweatbox could be perfect because it has both - gym and sauna. A third option could be an email pen pal - just look in gaydar etc. for an interesting profile (more than 3 words... ;-)) ) and start writing more substantial messages than "what's up?" - that way I found boyfriend #3 (an Italian guy). And finally - do try a gay dance bar!! I never will forget the first time I went to a gay bar - seeing that many cute young guys in one place felt so surreal... You suddenly feel totally in the right place. The feeling of being normal and not out of place is so unbeatable... good luck!!!! and don't worry... you'll make it, you already made it half way towards being yourself!

Anonymous said...

I am also the same thing as this guy. I lived in the far east but one small chance of having to work in London - I grabbed it. Best decision I made I would say. I wasn't out then, i didn't know anyone in London but I took the chance. Borrowed money everywhere and settled here. I would say this is the best place to be gay - out or closet. I am out now with the family as I see how things work here in London. I realized it shouldn't be a problem. I am not out at work but I came out to my previous housemates recently.

I would suggest sharing a house. That's how I met people while in London. A gay flat share if you consider. There are also gay websites which are not sex-oriented like outeverywhere. You can also volunteer to meet people. I am thinking of volunteering myself in one of the charities to meet people too. Don't be too worried, as the other commentators said most of us have been to your situation. You moving to London to deal with the situation by yourself and being independent is a good step. Hope you find your way.

Hey GB - another great post. thanks. I'm sure he'll be another one of us you helped with your insights.

Anonymous said...

Your reader doesn't mention which school he's attending, so I can't suggest a specific contact, but there is a fledgling inter-uni LGBT network in London. They have links with contacts here:

They organize a big event every 4 months or so, which are well attended. So thats worth checking out. If no one at the school soc responded to your reader's email he should try again. The student societies are mostly volunteer run, so there is quite a lot of turn over. Also people are lazy and may not be checking in the summer.

The student organizations are a great way to meet people in similar situation - lots of guys come to London for grad school - and it probably a better way of making friends than the web.

roobs said...

Learn to feel comfortable as a gay man. Everything else will come naturally.

Email said...

I'm female and would be willing to live in an arranged relationship with a gay man (37-48) who is in the closet and not ready to come out.

If its a really nice person who could be a good friend and share some common interests, lives in Central London, working professional with his life on order - I wouldn't mind being up for it. I wouldn't tell a soul.

I understand that in some professions or situations its not so easy to 'come out' and could have an adverse affect.

Tiago said...

Is common have some doubts and feares when we are moving to big unfamiliar cities, but most people succeed doing this. After highschool the company where I was working decided to sent me to a rent apartment in buenos aires, I was terrified since in that time I didn´t speack a word of spanish. But everything turned out great, I had the best time there, what is more I have met my wife there! So, this guy should not worry, once he makes a friend in London all his fears are going to disappear and he will enjoy the experience.