Often I decide not to post things I have written on Forever Distracted by Life because they are too personal.
As I’ve worked on blogging lately I have begun to read more blogs. The more I read, the more I realise that successful content is generally the content which is raw, and real.
With that in mind I wrote ‘When I’m Beside You’. I truly wanted to reflect on a time which to me was most real, most difficult. I reflected on a memory that I still recall vividly, of a time just prior to me coming out to my family.
While I’ve never hid the fact that I’m gay. It’s not something I talk about unless other people bring it up. Until recently it was because I didn’t really feel that being gay was a label that I wanted to define myself by. However when working with my counselor recently I realised that it wasn’t just this fear of being labeled, it was a sense of shame which I’ve carried with me since coming out.
When I came out at first I was very supported, but it was also a very difficult process for me. Until I started counseling this year, I didn’t realise how much coming out when I did, and in the way that I did had affected me. However, with time to reflect and someone to guide me through this process, I see now the lasting impact this has had.
While I’ve never discussed this publicly, it actually feels good to be able to write about so freely. As sexuality was something I tried hard to repress while growing up, it’s incredibly liberating to so openly acknowledge something that is so innately a part of myself.
I am Darren, and I am an out and proud gay man.
I came out to my family all at once on the 22nd of June 2007. I didn’t intend to. But after attending the wedding of a close family friend together I was left feeling a little morose as I’d just recently went separate ways from the first person I’d ever been with.
While we were never officially together in any sense of the word, I was always closer to him than he was to me.
Being at the wedding made it all the more real that what I’d had with him, would never be anything more than that. Ultimately until I could accept what wanting him meant, I would never be happy.
Once he was out of my life, I had to deal with the fact that I was gay. The way I was raised, the society and culture which surrounded me growing up had left me ashamed whenever I tried to acknowledge this part of myself. I tried so hard to repress it, hoping it would go away, and hating myself whenever I failed and gave into my desires.
Being a young gay teenager, with no real role models I only had the negative stereotypes and hang-ups about homosexuality that had been instilled in me from a young age. The damage it does to a young mind, constantly hating themselves for something they have not control over is devastating and lasting. I’m not sure I will ever fully recover from the impact it has had on me.
Yet despite this, I had to come to terms with it. A few trusted friends were told prior to my family learning, but these people were few and far between.
After the wedding, I remember sitting in my bedroom. My mother on her way to bed always popped her head in the door to say goodnight. That night she saw the look on my face and wouldn’t leave me alone. She knew there was something important I was dealing with, but couldn’t figure it out.
I didn’t want to tell her; I wasn’t ready for it. But I did it anyway.
I’d always expected my mother to be fine with my sexuality. She’d proven herself open and accepting of so many other things in her life that I never really expected anything other than acceptance, then moving on as normal. The response I got was closer to shock and disbelief.
My mother listened for a while as I spoke. She took a long time to reply. Her eyes spilled over with tears, long before she was able to speak. She was dismissive and refused to believe what I was telling her. She cried openly, and stated boldly,
“It’s just a phase. You can’t tell anyone, don’t let anyone know. It could go away.”
She said a lot of other things, but really those are the only words that stuck with me. I was so ashamed of myself, and of the pain that I had caused her. Again, I blamed myself for the response that I got.
My mother sat with me for a long time before eventually going to bed. She made me promise not to tell my father before leaving me for the evening.
I didn’t sleep that night, instead, I lay awake wondering what would happen next. Feeling as though I had failed my parents and myself for being something terrible and unforgivable.
My older brother was the first to come to me the next day. My mother confided in him early, and he spent hours the next morning talking her through what she was dealing with. He came to me after in the way that he always does. With mirth in his eyes, and a playful smile on his face.
We joked a little, making light of how upset my mother was. She had cried for three days when PJ left home for the first time. Overreaction was just her way of processing we reasoned.
Yet I couldn’t face her that day at all. I couldn’t look her in the eye. Couldn’t see her crying still, hours into the next day without feeling guilt and shame.
My father was next to come to my room. I had stayed in there all day. Refusing to leave on the offchance that I be forced to talk to anyone. My dad brought me a coffee and carried a newspaper under his arm. He sat across from me and handed me the coffee.
“So eh, your mum eh…she told me.”
I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I just nodded.
Opening the newspaper to page three, he inclined his head at the picture of the topless model on the page and said,
“So she doesn’t do anything for you then?”
Again I couldn’t bring myself to speak out loud, but he took the quick shake of my head from left to right as a sign to continue as he closed the paper over, and stood up.
“Well, whatever makes you happy.”
He gave me a rare smile, then left.
For the first time that day, I was truly happy.
My father was very much a traditional man. A former soldier, his desire for routine is almost obsessive. I had half expected all of the worst reactions to coming out to come from my father. The simple and unquestioned acceptance I got from him gave me strength in my decision to boldly be who I wanted to be.
It took my mum a long time to come to terms with my sexuality. For a while, it made being open with her about my life difficult. I didn’t feel like I could talk to her about anything real. About the things, my brother had been able to go to her for.
With time though, came understanding and our relationship recovered. My family continues to support me, and I them.
While it is never spoken about, and it is difficult to acknowledge coming out was both the making and breaking of me. It made me stronger because I was able to embrace a part of myself that I had repressed for such a long time. Only by embracing that part was I ever able to start developing as a person.
But it left me with a lingering shame, guilt for a pain that I had caused. Coming out is something everyone should have the right to do safely and without fear of rebuke. But it should also be done at the right time, and in the right way. I can’t change the way it happened for me, but I’m glad it did.
Coming to terms with the effect that coming out had on me was different. Trying to pretend it hadn’t hurt me meant that I could never move past that negativity I felt. But owning it, acknowledging it has made it much easier for me to just be me. It’s also freed me because I recognise that the shame and guilt I felt were only there because I allowed them to be.
Being comfortable with yourself is the first step towards being happy. The road is a long one, but once again I find myself aware of where I am, rather than where I have been or where I am going. Where I am now is a place of contentment, and hopefully a path to a happier future.