I’m writing this at 51 and recalling my coming out experiences with my family and friends when I was a youth. The distance of time I am sure plays a role in my story and there is much that is left out. Nevertheless, I have a story which I remember very clearly though will not be told in detail here.
I was at home, 18, struggling to choose a course of college study that would set me on a “career path” (that I did not even clearly understand or have decided). I think that was what people/my mother thought was my dilemma. It was not my studies that occupied my mind. It was the furthest thing from my being. My dilemma was being able to be who I wanted to be and expressing that to the world, to be gay and to profess my love for a friend. Neither of which felt safe to do in small town Canada in 1978. Yet I did make attempts and veiled them in “friendship.”
If I only had to consider my orientation that may have been less complicated. But at the time I knew I was in love with a friend. That pushed and pulled me in directions that were not always healthy around substance use. I used substances as way to connect with my “love” and as a way to escape my pain of unrequited love for him.
My mother discovered my diary and learned of my feelings when I was 19. I rejected her frantic appeal to go into therapy for my deviance and pursued furtively my friendship with my friend. I put all my energy into building a friendship with someone I loved and knew did not love me and would very likely severely reject me should he know my real intentions. I did most of this alone and that day finally came. The rejection was immediate, complete and final. His silence at 20 years old was literally deafening.
I was fortunate enough around that same time to begin my involvements with a grassroots gay organization in my very small town. People in that group provided me with a fledgling support of gay friends. My closest friends who emerged as eventually the ones I would draw strength and support from and continue to be my friends today. Those friends and others that came along the way were the gay men in my life who witnessed my real life, along with my biological family most of whom have come to accept me. Eventually my life partner came to me and his family whom have made me a part of their family became also mine. It may sound like a fairtytale but there is more. I have many supports and affirmations of my life. Nevertheless, I do not live a life free of social and personal stigma and discrimination of being a gay man. I struggle with who I am always. I am not free of all of my personal demons. I have abused myself because of my self deprecation. But I acknowledge my weaknesses and I continue to live. Mostly to this day I continue to live, and also survive and in many cases thrive, partly of circumstance, much because of my fortune of personal support and mostly of my own determination.