21-year-old student Will rejects the claim that ‘it’s easy to be gay these days.’
It has been terrifying, numbing and frustrating, and I’ve told myself it’s all been my doing. The success I had set up for myself, the things I had worked hard to achieve and the future I had indevoured to create had been snatched away by the one I was closest to. Me. That’s how I felt coming to terms with being gay.
I can appreciate that as a young gay person the struggles I face are minimal compared to older generations who fought tooth and nail so that I may enjoy the luxuries they didn’t. However, I often feel as though I have missed the boat to the gay Garden of Eden that others seem to be enjoying elsewhere.
If I could have avoided the last four years of grappling with my identity, the sleepless nights and dwindling grades, and been able to exchange them for dance parties, healthy relationships, and success; I would have. Just because the law has legalized our marriages and criminalized efforts to abuse us, does not mean our struggles stop.
I had been content with blaming ‘the world’ for the difficulties it had in loving me. Growing up religious I dreaded being asked about girlfriends and finding a frustrating reply. In more recent years, I have been equally frustrated by the mantras telling me to love myself authentically for who I am. I can’t help but feel like they missed the mark on addressing what causes the self-loathing and the pain they wish to seemingly wash away. Is this not evident when reform requires 150,000 signatures to ensure we aren’t subjected to harmful practices that try to ‘pray the gay away’?
I have found it easy to wonder what my life could have been if I weren’t gay. Where I would be, what I may have achieved. I have gotten into the uncomfortable habit of comparing my life to my straight friends. I highly doubt they ever sat with their parents on the couch holding back tears as you fearfully tell them something you are worried that they don’t want to hear. There is something horribly unique about destroying the expectations of your family and the life they imagined for you, simply by being true to who you are.
I remember prior to coming out, I had this vision of the new ‘gay life’ I would lead. Safe to say the reality has been far from it. The romantic dates I’d hoped for never materialized, instead replaced by hookup apps, trips to local public parks at 1am and climbing into stranger’s Mazdas.
I thought I would be suddenly embraced by this united friendly ‘Rainbow community’ when I came out. Instead, what I found, felt fractured. I couldn’t relate to our youth groups and because I was just a gay white guy, it didn’t feel like they really cared.
In many ways, I felt lonelier than I did before, compounded by a sense of disappointment. The transparency I thought my life would take on was timid and censored at best. I still find myself relegating parts of my personality back to make things easier. Whether it be at work, with straight friends or family. It is difficult to feel 100% comfortable when you have overheard casually homophobic conversations and no one else seems bothered by them.
Ultimately, I have found the journey of accepting your sexuality can bring you just as close to losing yourself as it can to finding it.
It hasn’t resulted in an epiphany; I can’t now claim to love myself unconditionally, but I am learning to judge myself less. I have learnt how strong and resilient I can be, and most importantly to keep pushing forward even when there’s no sign of that bright light at the end of the tunnel.
To me, that’s what true authenticity is.