In my grade nine year, one of my best friends in the theatre company I performed with came out of the closet. Being in theatre meant I knew, and was friends with, a lot of gay men- yet he was the first of my close friends to come out.
Hanging out with him and his older friends on the weekends, however, gave me a look into the “gay world” of Toronto. I reflected on my own sexuality at that point and realized I was gay. I told this to my mom (who cried) and my sister (who was nonchalant about it all). I then proceeded to sneak into gay clubs underage across the GTA (my Mom hated this), see his friends hooking up with new guys every night (I hated this), and was offered drugs I didn’t even know existed (I never took any). The community I was exposed to made me second-guess everything. These were not the people I wanted to surround myself with. I didn’t see any role models or any relationships I wanted to emulate. Something didn’t feel right to me.
So I, the kid who believed in the power of choice, chose to go back to dating girls. At the time, I thought my sexuality was something I could choose too. (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.) So I fell in love with a girl, got my heart broken, became really cold and robotic when it came to the idea of love, and closed myself off from any romantic relationships.
Fast forward to first year of University in Vancouver, where I gave dating another go.
My friend from the theatre company came out to visit me while both my roommate and my girlfriend of the time were away. (We can tell where this is going, right?) In one night I became the person I never wanted to be: a cheater. I felt horrible. At rowing practice the next morning, my coach made some comment about going back to our boyfriends in bed after practice as we weren’t pulling like ‘men.’ I felt like he was speaking right to me. I felt so exposed. I broke it off with my girlfriend when she got back with no good reason – I was too embarrassed to tell the truth. I quickly found myself in a toxic relationship with another guy in the residence and my self-worth began to crumble. I felt used. I felt worthless. I felt like this gay thing was all wrong. …. so I retreated again.
The next year I dated this amazing girl and our break-up almost tore apart our circle of friends. FYI: dating someone when feeling the way I felt is not recommended. In my not being honest with myself I put some of my most valuable friendships at risk. We recovered (thankfully!!) even though it was not without its struggles. I was still in the closet though.
A year later, after the dust had settled and my friendships were all in tact, I met this guy who liked to paint. I was so intrigued by him and we started dating. He was the first guy I loved and who loved me back. About 2 months in to our relationship, I was getting ready in a hurry in order to not be late in meeting my sister for brunch. I grabbed the nearest shoes, which turned out to be his, not mine.
Over brunch my sister and I caught up like we always do. She noticed my shoes as I went to the bathroom and when I came back asked me where I got them from. I told her “they are my boyfriend’s.” A smile washed across her face as she asked “And are you happy?” I replied yes.
I realized that I could live a life as a happy gay man. That romantic love could exist in my world. That, while being gay wasn’t a choice, lying, cheating, and surrounding myself with people that don’t build me up was.
This moment was a milestone in my coming out process. There was no more retreating after that. I was out. This wasn’t the moment where everyone knew I was gay the very next day. This also wasn’t the moment where I made sense of how my future was going to unfold while remaining true to my beliefs and values. It was simply a true moment of happiness. The start of authentic expression; a commitment to being and doing what I say; of being able to express and receive big, juicy, heart-exploding love.
Coming out of the closet transformed my life.
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