My weekend in Vermont changed everything. I knew heading to a mountain cabin with twenty-four guys would yield inevitable fun and lasting memories, but I didn’t anticipate the sense of immense freedom it would afford. It was two weeks into the 2012 New Year and I, along with twenty-four other boys from Boston, MA, were renting a cabin in Ludlow, VT, for a four day ski weekend. Before continuing I should note that we were a crew of twenty-four gay men and one (brave) straight man, so the amount of ski versus drinking and hot tub soaking was greatly skewed in favor of the latter.
Okemo Ski resort was only 7 minutes away but we felt isolated from civilization, which was fine as long as we had the essentials – alcohol, WiFi, hot tub and cute boys. The guys I was with were part of Boston’s FLAG Football League which is a gay football league. These guys were athletic, jovial, boisterous, but most notable, incredibly kind. Perhaps the conscious kindness was borne out of intimate understanding of the stigma and struggles we all had dealt with. We were sensitive to each other’s feelings and strove to cultivate a sense of inclusion, things that we had lacked to an extent while growing up due to our sexuality, whether we were public about it or not.
In that cabin we could be ourselves without inhibition or encumbrance. For me, this liberation carried over from Vermont. While, I had been out for almost two years and taking part socially in Boston’s gay community for just as long, this Vermont trip was a very different gay social experience. The difference was that after that weekend, I wasn’t just comfortable with being gay, but suddenly proud of it.
Since coming out, I have felt things I had long suppressed such as a yearning attraction, excited nervousness on dates and sparks from physical contact with a crush. But after Vermont, I also felt acceptance, belonging, and all the other clichés one hears about being open about one’s true identity. Granted, my facility with being gay was very gradual and to some, having it arrive two years after coming out is an exorbitantly long time. Yet after living most of my life under the guise of being straight, two years isn’t much and good things take time.
My “gay disclosure” has been an amble rollout. Very close friends at first, then people in Boston, then close family. I would cautiously choose who could know. Perhaps this was due to “cultural guilt” or my sense of family obligations. I’m Iranian-American, meaning born into an inherently conservative value-structured culture where community perception is paramount. However, I have relatively liberal parents who didn’t impose religiosity or outdated cultural standards on their children. They let us kids discover our own spiritual path, but with adherence to strict moral standards. They made sure we knew we were greatly loved and wanted our happiness above all. So given that, why hadn’t I come out sooner? It’s exactly because my parents and siblings have always been very loving and supportive that I felt a need to protect them. The Iranian-American community is known for being extremely judgmental and that bore heavily on my being open about my sexuality. The thought of anyone imposing judgment upon my parents for my being gay was infuriating. Despite having excellent parents, I knew that due to lack of awareness and generational discrepancies in perspective, some wouldn’t understand that one’s child being gay doesn’t have a single thing to do with parental competence or proper conveyance of moral values.
But in Vermont, I was able to let go of that false sense of obligation and consideration of others’ maladaptive prejudice as a determinant of how I live. Whoever would judge these guys in poor light due to an inalienable trait, was just uneducated. These were good, no, great guys with whom I had laughed and felt more alive than I had in years. It felt good to be among them. I felt happy. Really happy. If being gay meant I would be around such people, I started feeling fortunate to be gay.
Much of that weekend was broadcast to the public thanks to Facebook. My Vermont companions were “checking me in” at locations and “tagging” me in photos, and these Facebook postings had descriptions that made it conspicuous we were a big ol’ group of gays in the mountains. I used to be hyper-vigilant and quick to remove comments such as “guuurrrl” and “sexy” made by gay friends on my Facebook profile. But this time I was viewing these postings without stringent censorship and with abandon. The images reminded me of the sheer freedom and sense of camaraderie of the weekend. I didn’t want to delete any evidence that revealed I was having a gay old time. Suddenly, I wanted all my Facebook friends and the world to know this is what my life was now. I wanted people to know who I really am.
Perhaps the “It Gets Better” videos I re-watched on YouTube before my trip had inspired my sense of pride. Perhaps it was my growing frustration that a bigot like Rick Santorum could be seen as a viable Presidential candidate. Whatever the recent influences may have been, combined with my Vermont weekend, they compelled me with fortified resolve to proclaim, and even defend if need be, that I’m gay. It was a debate I was willing to take on with the confidence of knowing I was in the right; the biological, psychological, moral, humane, civil and constitutional right. (The last by virtue of definition, and unfortunately not current federal policy – yet.) After my Vermont weekend, I realized that when you’re open about being gay, about being your true self, it doesn’t just “get better,” eventually it can get great. So for all those people out there who still don’t know…yeah I’m gay. Thankfully.