And that’s a scary thing.
Scary because no one has told you that it doesn’t get better. Not really, anyway. You’re holding out for epiphany.
But your life will have its share of ups and downs, because being gay doesn’t excuse you from the realities of being a human. People who you thought were your friends may stop talking to you, your parents may kick you out, and you might shake at the prospect of giving up your virginity. You might have to feel something. I know, because I did and have.
And you will feel a lot. As I’ve mentioned before, there is no one way to be gay, and I don’t think your sexuality is something that defines you wholly. But because there is no manual or infographic, not everything will go right. And that’s okay. But you will suffer.
And really, that’s okay. I’m of course talking about life.
But where it should get better is within the realm of gay bashing, hate crimes and bullying. And by “get better,” I mean these things shouldn’t happen at all. And yet they do. Which is why I think the “Its Get Better” campaign has good intentions with a warped message. It gives the impression that there’s a moment, or a dot on a timeline, where things change and politics evolve. But you would never expect someone to wait for The Great Pumpkin or to win the lottery, so if gay men and women are going to truly feel better, there needs to be a way outside of merely telling them that a golden moment exists as an abstraction. They themselves have to fight for their right to be human.
And because I never had a campaign, and I have been exactly—literally—where you are, I thought I’d offer you this guide on how to accept being gay, even when you’re being kicked in the balls, being called a faggot ad nauseum by your parents and school peers, being laughed at by your Catholic high school teachers, and on the verge of killing yourself.
Being gay, as much as I wanted it to be easy in the beginning, wasn’t. I know that. Here’s how I grew up to be so beyond gay and happy about it that I couldn’t possibly be any gayer:
Darren Greer’s meta-fiction Still Life With June changed my perception of gay characterization. The masterful way he portrays a gay man as pathetic and destructive and completely vulnerable helped me dismantle the media’s portrayal of what it is like to be gay. It helped assure me that I wasn’t the only one without an answer. He is, to this day, one of my favourite authors, and I look up to him as a writer, and as a gay man. Finding gay or gay-supporters who share similar values is important, because when you’re feeling alone, loneliness only makes being gay feel like the most bitter pill to swallow. You do not want to feel that way. One word of advice: read. Read blogs, read books, read newspapers, read magazines. You are not the only one who thinks or feels the way you do.
There’s a good chance you’re feeling like no one will ever be your friend if they knew. And there are going to be people who won’t be your friend when they know. My best friend in high school stopped talking to me when he found out, for example. I never heard from him again. Honestly? Fuck ’em. Know that these friendships are worth sacrificing. But don’t be willing to sacrifice part of who you are for the sake of a friend who doesn’t want to get to know who you are, through and through. Find people who will accept you for your faults, whatever they may be. Find people who will encourage you, disagree with you, cry, laugh and survive with you. Even make fun of you. And it isn’t easy to do. You will doubt people, and that’s because peoples’ views about who you are have given you reason to doubt them. But be open to meeting the good ones, and don’t just keep to yourself. The beauty of growing up is making mistakes, and learning that there will be people in your life who won’t change their feelings about you because you have become honest. Those are the ones to hold on to. Those are the people who you will want to wake up for. It doesn’t matter if you are living in a rural environment, or a metropolitan city—your friends will make you stronger.
LACK PRIDE (NOT THAT KIND)
Talking to someone is not some kind of defeat. You didn’t fail yourself. Making things better isn’t easy. Coming up with ideas or finding the communities that speak to you is a journey, and you don’t make friends for life overnight. It is work, because life is work. Being gay is something you yourself need to be proud of, and finding someone to talk about it with when you realize that you don’t have all of the answers isn’t a sign of weakness. If you don’t feel proud about being gay, it is vital that you talk to someone. Internalized homophobia is going to make you feel worse. Don’t let pride get in the way of seeking help.
I understand how reading this makes it sound super-easy to be free, but I can assure you it is not. Your life will get better, and sometimes it will get worse. But creating your own strategy on how to become comfortable with this one part about you is important. Doubting yourself, or not letting yourself embrace being gay, is how things get worse, not better.