This is, hands down, one of the most beautiful contributions to our “Coming Out” series. Unless we get any last-minute submissions sent to email@example.com within the next few hours, we might as well consider this the grand finale.
Happy National Coming Out Day, everyone! Take a moment from your busy day to read about this Manhunt member’s experience and reflect upon your own. Oh, and you might as well enjoy these shots of male model Adrian Udrea while you’re at it…
Photo credit: Mircius Aecrim
Click through to read this member’s story:
As I was growing up, I always new there was something different, but I always tried to hide it. Not only from the people around me, but worst of all, I tried to hide it from myself. Growing up on the poor side of town, there was a lot of gay stigma and hate in the 1990s, and for that, I hated the person that deep down I knew I was.
I was never the most popular kid in school, and whilst I generally kept myself to myself and others would normally leave me to my own devices, there were still the odd few people who felt the need to single out anyone who was ‘different’ in any way, shape or form. I remember being called a number of names on the playground, among which the most common were ‘gaylord’, ‘queer boy’ and ‘poof’.
At that age, kids would use these terms as general insults rather than insults relating to fact, and so whilst I didn’t know it, back then it wouldn’t have meant anything to them. But it meant something to me. It meant I needed to change, be a different man. I needed to become someone else, otherwise I’d never lead a happy life.
Fast forward to 2003, when I started college. Things had become a lot more acceptable. I’d moved from a small town to a small city, and as a family, we were finally starting to do okay financially. I met a group of friends and no longer felt the need to isolate myself the way I did at school, but I still felt the need to hide the person I was and continued to do so throughout my time there. In reality, I don’t think anyone at college really knew me at all, but I digress…
On day one, within the first half an hour, my new friendship group was formed. It would stay reasonably the same for the next two years. The four of us did everything together at college, as well as outside of college. We’d go camping, go on holidays, have poker nights and nights of pure student drunken mayhem.
But for years, I’d been living in two worlds, and by this point, those worlds were colliding. There was the side of me that hated who I was and covered it up, and then the side of me that didn’t care. The side of me that would let loose and do what I wanted. No matter what cost of guilt it’d lead me to feel.
I had one particular friend, Adam. We were close. Very close. We shared a lot of the same interests and were practically stuck to the hip. This was great for a time, but things changed when I started to notice I had feelings for him. They changed even more when he got a girlfriend. The first guy I had ever really loved, and that confirmation was the knife that would pave the way for a new chapter.
Eventually I got over it, and I was finally starting to come to terms with who I am.
It was shortly after this, I received a questionnaire email which Adam had recommended me. We were young and careless, and stuff like this was entertaining. Fill out the details, see what happens… Well it turned out in this particular instance, the form sent the results back to the person who had recommended it. Harmless fun, except the last question asked “Who do you love?”. As a gay man who was finally comfortable with admitting it, I put “Adam”… But that set me back, to see that he’d seen that.
Me and Adam don’t talk these days. However, that’s for reasons entirely unrelated.
Fast forward again, this time to 2007. I had finished college and been working for an IT firm for two years, when I had the opportunity of a life time. An opportunity I’d very nearly missed. This would see me travel 11,000 miles to a new job – a new home, in Singapore.
I always said that when I moved out of the family home I’d do it in style, and I wasn’t wrong! This was fantastic and an opportunity I couldn’t pass on. Little did I know, how much this experience would change my life.
I was starting fresh. A brand new life in a brand new location. New friends, and nothing holding me back from my previous experiences. They say that running away solves nothing. But I don’t believe in running away if you intend to return. Is it really running away if it’s a break to clear your head?
That was certainly the case here. I could be who I wanted, where I wanted, doing whatever the hell I wanted.
It wasn’t long before I made a new set of friends here, but I wouldn’t let them get too close. I’d already learnt that lesson, and at this point I wasn’t ready to come out. I still hated the fact I was gay, but I was learning to live with it, and this new experience gave me a platform to expand on that. Therapy, if you like.
I remember one day going online thinking “I want to make friends – non-work friends.”
Well, that’s how it started anyway. Within minutes, I was on websites cruising the local area when I started talking to this one guy. I was young and naive, and the gay world was all brand new to me. We agreed to meet up, and he offered to take me to a ‘sauna’.
This was a little confusing. A date in a sauna? I was expecting coffee, not a small heat-filled room, but ok. If that’s what gay people do, I’ll go along with it.
We met up, and he took me to the sauna. The shock! I couldn’t believe what sauna really referred to, but that didn’t mean I didn’t like it. This ‘date’ if you will, was the first of many things to come. Reckless living, the red light district, cheap holidays to Thailand, visiting the massage parlours, the gay corner (the concept of which was a new one to me) in the local super club. Before I knew it, I was a regular in the clubs and on the podiums.
Whilst secretly living a double life, I was a lot more relaxed at this point than any other stage in my life. Yeah, I worried that people might suss me out; I worried that if I brought someone home, one of my room mates would hear things and people would talk. But as much as I worried, that didn’t stop me. I was being who I wanted, where I wanted, doing whatever the hell I wanted. And I loved it!
Unfortunately, Singapore didn’t end too well, and six months later I was on a plane home. I went to live back at home with my mum, and for a few weeks, back to my old life.
But this time something was different. I was gay.
Okay, that was always the case, but what was different is that I no longer hated that. I no longer hated who I am. I feared telling my mum, because I didn’t know how she’d take it. You hear stories, so I had to make sure I really was gay, something of which self-denial stands well in the way of. But not anymore. Now I was ready.
Two weeks after moving back home, I finally told my mum that I was gay.
She went silent, and that petrified me.
“Mum?” I said, a couple of times. “Mum, talk to me… Say something, mum”.
By this point, I thought this was it. This was the moment I loose my mum, my family, and everything I know. This couldn’t have been further from the truth.
After about three minutes of silence, my mum did say something. She told me how much she loves me, how much she always will and how my sexuality makes absolutely no difference to anything. It was my mum that taught me that sexuality is just another defining part of a person’s character. It’s not that person’s name, their job, or their livelihood. It’s as relevant as a person’s hair colour, shoe size or height. To like members of the same sex is just another preference, such as liking taller people, small noses, or more effeminate people. It’s just one of many, many small things that form your makeup, but by no means define a person exclusively.
That weekend, my mum had a guest over. An old family friend, and so she made herself scarce. In this brave new world of being gay, out and proud, I decided to take myself to the local gay bar without worrying about who I’d run into.
That night, a kind gentleman offered to buy me a drink. I went home with that man, and eight months later we’d break up, but that’s just the circle of life. That was my first relationship. So it didn’t work out, not all relationships do, but I’d finally found the confidence to live life to it’s fullest, and that’s what I’ve been doing these past five years.
In some respects, the first twenty years may as well have never happened, because it was only as I came out of the closet that I finally found I was alive, that life was worth living. In others, those first twenty years were essential for me to understand myself more than anybody else. It was a coming of age – a growing up, and one that I’ve learnt many lessons from, such as never to fill out questionnaires!
But at the very end of the day, I’m who I want to be. I’m where I want to be. And I do whatever the hell I want to do.
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