I’m From Buckinghamshire, UK.

by luke lyesmith

I’m 18, and have been for about a month. It was hardly a big change, compared with all the other stuff that my life has involved.

Right now, I’m sat in my (foster-brother’s, but he’s at uni) room, surrounded by residual chaos. My clothes and variable possessions from before are strewn about the place, some in boxes, some in the wardrobe, some on the bed.

Seven months ago, I was effectively orphaned. My mother has been dead since I was eleven – cancer. I’ve never really grieved overly much about it. I knew it was coming, and I’d grown up with my mother’s tumour. She called it Voldemort, and the little chemotherapy thing Hedwig. I’ve not even read the last two books (I know how it all ends, of course), but I knew the first four religiously.

To the matter at hand, my father had a stroke. A massive, life-fucking stroke. It was five in the morning, and I heard a thump. Must have woken me up. Called out to him, and got odd moaning in reply. So, rushed in and did the whole “Dial 999” thing. I thought it was a heart attack at first. I got drunk as hell the next three nights, and then taken in by a friend and her family. Still with ’em, as I can barely spend more than a couple of hours with what’s left of my father without massive draining.

Anyway, the main thing. Of all the paradigm shifts I’ve gone through – “Your father is likely to die of throat cancer. Your mother has about 4 months lefts to live (Sucks to them, she lived just under four years). Your mother is dead. You like dicks. You’re effectively orphaned, and living in care.” – the second-to-last causes me the most strife.

Not directly. Or possibly directly. Guilt is pretty much a constant for me, to the point where I guilt-trip myself. The last time I was attracted to someone, I shut down for the best part of two days trying to purge myself of it. It worked (which I was shocked by, my self-discipline is atrocious), but I retain my enduring admiration for Russell Tovey – primarily for a role model to finally latch onto. There’s fuck all decent, openly gay men in the media, and that’s a fact.

The guilt of just being attracted to someone is unbearable sometimes. Sure, I’ll lech a little at the telly and in the street now and again, but that’s the limit. I only recently agreed to kissing another guy at spin the bottle, and that was for comedy. I’ve not had a desire for any single person that I know or not, ever. Still, a hand to hold and a mouth to kiss, a neck to nuzzle and a shoulder to cry on would do me just fine.

“It’ll happen at uni” is the default response. Logically, yes, I know that. I’m planning to go to Sussex, and relying on the massive amount of extenuating circumstances to make up the 5-month gap where I got almost exactly nothing done, and fighting every step of the way to not go see a councellor – an inevitable defeat, but a battle I had to fight anyway. I hope it works out. I want this to change, to stop the guilt and chain up the acid tongue, push that part of me that when confronted with homophobia flips straight to violence, and rises above.

Whoever tells you that the teenage years are the best is a liar. You’re full of angst, and there’s nobody else who can truly understand your worldview. You may even write poetry. But stick with it, they tell you. It’ll work out. It’d better, or there will be blood.


  1. You seem like a smart guy, and I’m not going to sugar-coat it for you: uni will not make everything instantly and magically better. It will be hard, but you will get gradually and steadily stronger and more self-assured. One day you will wake up and being gay will just be a normal fact of life. But that will take time. The important thing is to keep working toward being the gay man you want to be.

    Be strong, and never give up.

  2. My husband (I’m a man, legally married to another man) likes to remind me that “guilt is a gift we give ourselves.” I sometimes differ with his assessment (even though he is a psychologist) and modify the sentiment a bit. “Guilt is a gift that plenty of people, including ourselves, like to give to us, but we have the option to decline.”

    You said “The guilt of just being attracted to someone is unbearable sometimes.” Why is that, do you think? If you’re like the gay people I know (including myself) your attractions aren’t something that you work up consciously, they just … are. We are attracted to others for reasons we often don’t understand. Sometimes it’s just so basic in nature that there really is no one thing to pin the attraction on. And, given that it comes unbidden, isn’t something you’ve manufactured, it’s not really something you an be blamed for. It’s just a natural thing — one that, unfortunately, a lot of people have chosen to label as something wrong or dirty.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with leching a bit at the telly or at a guy on the street. Your eyes go where they’re attracted. Why not allow a romantic daydream to ensue? No one will be the wiser, and it can give you an opportunity to gently ask yourself how you feel about the possibility of liking another guy.

    As far as the teenage years being the best of your life, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone who is actually in his teens say something like this. My teenage years pretty much sucked. I only went on a couple of dates, and those were with girls. Meanwhile I managed to manufacture all manner of excuses to myself to wander by the gym when the wrestlers were practicing, or by the field when the football team was there. Then I wrote some pretty depressing (and really shitty) poetry about being all alone and stuff.

    While I never really convinced myself I wasn’t gay, I did very successfully manage to hide the matter, even to the point of getting married to a woman and fathering a son. It’s amazing what we can convince ourselves of when we’re not quite prepared to deal with our own truths.

    No, your teenage years aren’t necessarily the best years of your life, and let’s face it, life’s been pretty harsh to you already. There is the potential that things can be somewhat better at university because there tend to be more open-minded people there. But how that will go depends on what you’re willing to accept and if you are willing to take risks. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be so much of a risk-taking as it is a relax and let it happen thing.

    One advantage that you have on old(er) guys like me is that you’ve actually been able to say that you have found guys attractive. That’s a hell of a lot more than I was able to do when I was in my teens.

    I wish I could give you some magical formula, but I think it’s clear by now that I don’t have one. Still, things turned out OK for me, and there’s more than a good chance that they can for you too. Just consider: anger can be kind of unattractive, but confidence and self-acceptance are dead sexy.

  3. I think you are amazing and strong to have gone through what you have gone through. We all fight our own battles and have to come to our own conclusions. I heard a lot of people tell me that when I went to college I would start dating a lot. I didn’t. I don’t date a lot in general, and I can’t tell you if that is good, bad, or totally indifferent. I just want you to know that your story touched me, in a way that I can’t even really explain. I hope for better things to come, in whatever form you need them or want them most.

  4. Yeah, my teen years were okay but they definitely weren’t the best of my life. College was fantastic, and even that period wasn’t as good as the years I’m living now in my late 20s.

    There is the potential that things can be somewhat better at university because there tend to be more open-minded people there. But how that will go depends on what you’re willing to accept and if you are willing to take risks.

    I totally, totally agree with this. College can absolutely be amazing, but it’s also possible to waste that time by not fully accepting yourself.

    Great story, and great writing in general.

  5. Why would you ever feel guilt for being attracted to someone? Might as well hate yourself for liking chocolate or Marmite. It just is what it is. I hope Uni is every bit as fantastic as ‘they’ say it will be although that will be in great part up to you. Heaven knows, it’s about time you got a break.

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