For as long as I can remember I’ve always known, but for the longest time it wasn’t a feeling of pride. It was a combination of fear, guilt, shame, unrequited desire, silence, isolation, and otherness.
I was five or six years old when I went to a girl’s house to play. I don’t remember if she was from school or one of the kids in the neighbourhood. From my little boy’s eyes her house seemed like a mansion. The basement was so large I felt overwhelmed by the number of closed doors I could see. We went into a playroom filled with toys. I remember wanting to play with the dollhouse more than anything. Something about that moment made me self-conscious.
My grade 2 teacher’s name was Miss Hickey.
I remember her name because she cared about me and I could see her compassion when she looked me in the eyes. I was learning dyslexic and had severe ADHD. She spent time with me after class to help me practice my alphabet and to learn how to write the letters.
What I liked most about grade 2 was Ted. He sat one or two rows in front of me and often, when I passed behind his desk, I would poke him. He was a little bit chubby but I had a crush on him. His reaction to me, and that of the other boys and girls, also made me self-conscious.
For many years I didn’t have a word for what I was feeling.
But by grade 7 a couple of the bullies did. Sitting in the back of the class, in a portable, one of the “bad boys” pulled out his penis to show the girl beside him. Since I was to his left, I couldn’t help but notice all the pubic hair, and the fact he was so comfortable whipping it out. He knew I’d look, didn’t care, and used that against me.
When I entered high school I had high hopes for a new kind of freedom and the possibility of starting fresh. I wasn’t an excellent student. I had a terrible time focussing and paying attention, still ADHD, but not as bad as childhood. I was so insecure I didn’t make very many friends. I was the classic loner sitting at the very edge of a cafeteria table, eating his lunch, head down and alone.
In grade 10 gym class I saw Ted again. There was a small room in the gym filled with Universal exercise equipment. Ted worked out in the gym over the summer and in my eyes he was a muscled Adonis. My knees felt weak looking at him and I would jerk off many a night thinking about him.
When I was 16 years old I began to question my religious beliefs.
What was being taught in the church at the time didn’t support me as a human being. I had finally learned the language. I privately called myself bisexual — a protective mechanism to avoid accepting the truth of my faggotry.
Around the same time I endured a negative experience in confession with a priest. He criticized my cousin, who had to leave the Dominican priesthood due to a nervous breakdown. This felt like the highest form of hypocrisy for a Christian in my eyes. A priest, someone I went to seeking solace and guidance, spoke ill of my cousin. His harsh words made me question the validity of the church’s teaching and I could no longer believe in god. I left the Catholic church and became agnostic. I suppose I was sitting on the fence about everything — neither straight or gay, neither a believer or a non-believer.
In grade 12 I tried dating two different girls.
One was at my high school and she was part of the New Wave crowd, to which I belonged. Tara was sweet on me and I couldn’t help but enjoy her affections. We slow danced at one of the school dances and with our bodies pressed close I knew I couldn’t date her anymore.
The other girl I met at a friend’s house party. I was drunk as she laid on top of me on the couch in the basement, with others coupling up and playing the same game. I had a raging hard-on that she groped and rubbed against. I don’t know how I didn’t shoot a load in my pants. My hormones were driving my body, but my mind was thinking about doing what she was doing to me with one of the boys in the same room.
That night of grinding didn’t go any farther. A week later I had dinner with her family, but soon after I knew I had to end the sham before I did something I’d regret. I told her something nice to make her feel good about herself and not implicate me as a homosexual. My best friend, Kevin, told me what he’d heard her say sometime after I broke it off with her. Apparently I was one of the nicest guys she had ever gone out with who didn’t try and take advantage of her.
Isn’t that exactly how a thoughtful homosexual treats a woman? 🙂
I finally came out to my closest friends in the summer after high school.
Everyone was accepting and supportive. That was a bittersweet summer. Nothing would’ve been better if I could have been out and accepted during high school.
Coming out is a lifelong process and I don’t know how times I’ve had to come out in different ways since high school. There will always be a tiny part of me that lives in the closet. But thankfully, the strong, proud queer in me stands up and says,
“Fuck the closet! Be who you are without compromising your identity or authenticity. And fuck anyone else who dares tell you otherwise!”