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Kris Finlayson shares his deeply personal story of detaching himself from others to hide his sexuality until the day he bravely embraced his authentic self.

I knew I was gay at six years old when I stumbled across a straight porn magazine. Its a cliché, I know. I couldnt care less about the motorcycles or the women riding them (not that anyone could physically ride machinery in those positions), but their partners intrigued me. Even now, Im astounded at the level of understanding an ignorant, pre-internet, six-year-old had about his own sexuality and what it meant in his small world of permission. I knew it wasnt socially acceptable, that it was strange and I had to hide it, but I didnt know why.

Fast-forward 33 years, with an almost completed PhD in identity studies and a shit tonne of psychotherapy and anti-anxiety medication, I summoned the courage to tell my wife, children and parents that I was gay. They took it surprisingly well – better than me, actually. I spent the following three months mourning the life I couldve had, lamenting the assumed damage Id caused the people around me and wondering whether Id made the right decision to give myself a chance at me.

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Before coming out, I had built my world around the idea that if I didnt allow anyone close enough, thered be no suspicion that I was gay. This was naïve, of course. Since I was very young, my peers had played bingo with my sexuality. Nonetheless, I continued on with my divorced connection from people and the shell of an existence it created. This grew into a native part of my Self, which had become governed by a massive list of self-imposed rules and regulations. Later into adulthood, I was diagnosed neurodivergent, which helped clarify a few things, but I had already come to rely on that set of self-imposed laws, and they were hard to let go of.

‘Touch’ was out of the question, not just with other men but with all people, lest they get a whiff of the effeminacy that gay men are stereotypically ascribed to. I craved a hug from a close friend. I craved a close friend, period. Yet, with that constructed version of myself, I had policed away the chance to have one.

What Ive learned since coming out is that close friendship is impossible when you distance yourself from the real you. True friends will never want a part of you if they have any sense that you are not being yourself. Now that I publicly identify as a gay man, Ive gained a group of friends that Id always wanted.

Now, the prospect of hiding who I am – especially when that entails having to do it at home as well as socially and at work – terrifies me! I cant understand how I had the energy to perform like that – every minute of every day – since I was six years old. The people around me probably think I went through a belated rebellious stage after coming out on Instagram. I got a piercing and a tattoo and started wearing colours and prints, where my wardrobe once consisted only of neutral tones. The thing is, I wasnt being a rebel at all; I was just doing the things I had always wanted to. And it felt free.

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