Batrock.net is not normally a “personal” blog (and I secretly hate that word), although one would hope that you get the “flavour of Alex” from the consumption of its words. The following subject perhaps doesn’t make good reading, but I feel it is important.
The thing is, my story is like a hugely anti-climactic epic. It’s as if Harry Potter had ended with Harry confronting Voldemort, who threw up his hands and went quietly, renouncing his evil ways and helping to rebuild society. Despite this, it’s kind of a huge event in my life.
I’ll start the story in October of last year, when I had occasion to see the movie C.R.A.Z.Y. This was a movie about a person in intense denial about his own sexuality and consequently the strain that his relation with his family faced. Obviously, this wasn’t my own situation but I recognised something in it.
Cue two months of thinking of nothing else and speaking to no one else! Oh, October to December 2006 were excellent times, dear readers. Years of suppressed and ignored feelings suddenly being analysed kind bunch up on you, and mental wellbeing is not at its peak. For reasons I can’t quite recall, I decided on December 16, 2006, that I was, in fact, gay.
That sort of realisation and acceptance, rather than being a crushing weight, is a feeling of high flying elation. It was to me, anyway, because ultimately I don’t have society tying me down in this respect. The elation was short lived, however; I was brought down by one of my moody friends later in the week and reverted into blackness. Still, I felt that some action needed to be taken, and so I wrote an epic 1,700 word letter to my best friend Liz. When she received it, she was worried. She read it later that night and … was totally fine with it. I have no idea why I expected her rejection. It has been a constant battle in that regard.
Here’s where the story of my closeting gets silly. I have more gay friends than most people will probably ever see in their life (hyperbole alert). Several of my closest friends from high school came out in the year after leaving. Yet I didn’t want to tell them, despite the fact that they would probably understand, and that they would be able to offer support, because I feared that they say “no you’re not”. This is the part where I tell you that a lot of the closet makes absolutely no sense at all.
From his safe bunker in China, my friend Jiao learned of me via MSN. “WHAT?” he said. It hit him hard. He had no idea, as apparently so many to come would not. He offered his support. The distance of MSN and China made it seem totally unthreatening to disclose. We spoke of things, and our dynamic has definitely changed since.
In mid January, I told my friend Curtis, whom I met on the first day of High School and had a rough time with his own coming out – although it ended perfectly for him. I told him in the form of an SMS, because I didn’t know how to say it out loud, and he responded with “Wow” and assured me that he knew the difficulties involved. We didn’t talk about it for a few days, and then the floodgates opened. We spoke of many things to do with this.
Eventually I told my friend Annie, whose response was ridiculously unexpected. I won’t go into that out of respect for her, except to say that it wasn’t negative; it was just something I had no idea of hitting me square in the eyes.
Then, in February, Jiao returned from China. It is exaggerating the matter to say that his first act was to out me to all of the gays in Sydney that we both knew, but … it’s pretty much what happened. I went out to dinner with my friend Flip and some others, and rather than me telling him, he said “I know; Jiao told me. I had thought so anyway.”
Dan, also at the table, said that he had suspected, and I told him that it was natural as we had last met on Oxford Street. While I felt it was my own place to tell people, I didn’t really mind what Jiao had done here. If you can’t be out to other gay people, then you’ve got a problem that cannot be solved by any easy means. Jiao saved me a lot of work and put on an accelerator that did not matter; only good things came of it.
Nothing much happened for several months; I grew progressively more miserable, both in myself and what I had left unsaid, and in my academic pursuits. I went to several parties, where I felt happiest because I was singularly failing to conceal anything from anyone, but outside of that context I was generally a cloud of unhappiness. The thought was weighing on me that I couldn’t continue on the path I was walking.
We cut to July, having in the intervening months been to see Hedwig & The Angry Inch (everyone’s favourite Eastern Bloch Rock Musical about a person who has suffered a failed sex-change operation) and Holding the Man (the initially hilarious and ultimately tremulous true account of two men who fall in love in their teens and eventually succumb to AIDS) and brought home the programs with little comment, I’ve come out to my co-worker and confidante Laura in the previous month, and I feel that action has to be taken.
I thought that perhaps I was just talk, but here I suddenly become a whirlwind of activity.
July 8: I am heard to remark to Flip “I’m tired of this closet business.”
July 12: I tell Annie “I want to come out soon” at our friend William’s 21st (an event punctuated by guys telling each other to “stop acting gay”). She takes my hand as if I’ve just announced that I’m about to go off to fight the Dark Lord by myself, fully resigned to the likelihood of loss.
July 15: I came out to my parents.
Obviously, the whole story has built up to this moment: parents are the end-game. Once you’ve decided to tell them, it’s the Final Countdown. So, on that fateful night … I had prepared two pieces of bad news, and put the outing at the very end of it. There’s not much of an idea of the event that I can give you, because it literally occurred thusly:
I said to my parents “… and I’m gay”.
“So?” said my father.
“Oh,” said my mother. “That’s a surprise.”
I was, naturally, quite emotional at this point. I could not look them in the eyes.
“Do you want us to kick you out or something?” my father asked of me.
There were very few questions, and they left me to my own devices. There have been vague talks in the intervening two weeks, but very little drama (although my mother did put out the possibility that it’s a “phase” and I just shook my head).
Ever since then, I’ve been less of a ball of negative emotion and more of a person. I have energy and enthusiasm. It’s a good feeling. Having taken down the end boss, I don’t have the sort of burden of not wanting people to know. Several people, my brother and cousin among them, have told me that they’re proud of me. I would have wondered about that, before someone pointed out that pride is the opposite of shame. Thus far, there have been no rejections or negative reactions; the benefit of this age is that people are, generally speaking, more mature and accepting. I thank my other friends for paving the way for me and supporting me all the way.
While, on balance, coming out has been one of the best things I’ve done in my life to date, I can’t exactly urge anyone reading this who may be closeted to do so. I know that I resented that sort of advice (thank you, Lynn Johnston), and I know that your circumstances are undoubtedly different, that they may be unworkable, and that perhaps your parents must never know. Still, there’s also the possibility that you’ll find yourself as surprised as I was – indifference to the fact, and the idea of support, whatever that means. I learned from this experience that everytime I forced myself out of my comfort zone, to do something that I definitely didn’t want to do, but that I knew needed to happen, it has always worked in my favour.
Most of all, I am now free and happier than I remember being for a long, long time. A life without fear and self-loathing is a life worth living indeed.