Last week I launched a few stories on social media asking you for topics to write about. I received a lot of responses and decided to cover them all: from my (lgbt) role models, to ‘how to forget someone’ or ‘how to get in touch with someone without using dating apps’. One of the topics you were all curious about is the story of my own coming out. And that’s what my blog today is about.
As I already wrote in my first column, I haven’t had to deal with many real cases of homophobia or hate speech since coming out. Also, my coming out was a lot easier than a lot of young men, women and others within our community. Often it’s not a pretty story, not a fairy tale. So the purpose of this blog is not to showcase that I had it all a lot easier. No, I just want to share with you my story, from the beginning.
By the way, I knew very early on that I was into men. As early as elementary school I noticed that I liked being around boys and was curious about them. The fact that I was homosexual and really wanted to kiss boys and later have sexual intercourse, was not yet on my mind. But I did know that there was something else.
In the beginning I often tried to hide it. Whenever someone made a remark about my orientation, I tried not to respond to it, or made a remark that would shift the attention to someone or something else.
A real switch came to me in high school. And although that is perhaps the toughest period for a lot of young people, because the chances of being bullied are quite high, that was not the case for me. I had a good group of friends and always did fun activities with them. I think they figured out pretty quickly that I was into guys, because I never really had to say it. But one day, I just did. Some friends seemed a bit shocked, but that was really the minority, most of my class already suspected so.
Since the coming out in my school, I noticed that sometimes a remark was thrown in my direction, but nothing more. I’ve always been a pretty strong person (fortunately) and I’m certainly not one to be intimidated easily. I also had a lot of friends who, if necessary, would have opened their mouths and stood up for me.
Coming out at home
But that was at school. At home was something else entirely. It really took a few years before I came out of the closet at home. I kept it quiet for a very long time and then secretly looked things up and then deleted the search history. I don’t know if I didn’t have the courage to say it, or I just didn’t feel like it. My private life has always been something that I handle very sparingly. I share very little of what happens in private, because I just don’t want to talk about it with everyone.
My coming out at home didn’t really go as planned and it wasn’t planned at all. At the moment that I actually came out of the closet for the whole world, except for home, I had an argument with my sister. And she knew that I was into boys. And she found it necessary to start telling everyone about it. That’s how it came to the ears of my parents. They asked me one evening if I was homosexual. It was a strange moment, at first I tried to pass it off, but later I just admitted: yes, I like men.
And that was it, it never got any worse after that. My dad accepted it pretty quickly and my stepmom had always been on my side, so that was easy. My grandpa who understood, but never really put it in the mouth in the beginning. Even when I visited with my boyfriend the first few times, he always referred to it as “my good friend. So he knew, but didn’t say anything about it.
Bullying out of fear and insecurities
I might add this anecdote to this whole coming out story, because I remember one particular period and one particular person by whom I was (briefly) bullied. That boy was a few years higher than me at the same school. And only a year or two later, after a school party, it became clear that he himself was into boys and so that whole time he couldn’t accept his own orientation and wanted to divert attention, by bullying me.
And you know, it’s often like that. Very often there is pent up frustration or fear hidden behind someone who bullies. Often it’s a reaction to insecurity or perhaps the result of trauma. And that’s how I’ve always looked at it: that’s maybe ten thousand times worse for that person, because they’re struggling so much with their own feelings.
So that’s it, my coming out story. To end with, I’d like to add this: although it can be very scary to take the leap, to open up, often the people around you already know what is happening, even before you realise it yourself. And it’s really okay if you don’t feel like sharing how you feel yet, or ever. It is your life, your story to tell. And remember that even if someone does not approve, a hundred others do. And even if within the comfort of your own home, you feel unwelcome or unloved, the beauty of the queer community is that you get to decide who your ‘family’ is. We are all here for you, every step of the journey.
Do you have questions about coming out? Or would you like to talk to someone and exchange thoughts, then you can come to me on Instagram or starting next week I am launching the ‘Buddy Program’ in conjunction with the Belgian representation of the European Commission, EU4BE. More info will follow this Friday, be sure to keep an eye on it.