(This is kind of a long one and it’s my first blog post in years, but please bear with me! There is sort of a TL;DR at the end but I would ask that you read it in it’s entirety anyway.)
So to kick off the blog again, I figured I’d start slow and take on some light subjects — depression and coming out. They’re like chocolate and peanut butter, they go so well together.
Some personal history – I like dudes. A lot. I realized this quite early on, probably at about 12 years old. I knew I was different, somehow. Early on in grade school 95% of my friends were girls, and eventually I started to have weird feelings for some of the guys I hung out with, which just didn’t jive what we were taught in health class. I thought I might be defective.
Throughout my teen years I hated myself for being gay. I tried to rationalize it as being a curious phase that I’ll grow out of. I forced myself into relationships with girls in an attempt to divert my thoughts away from what was coming naturally, but nothing worked. As the years wore on I became self-destructive, took unnecessary risks, got sloshed whenever I could, caused trouble and distanced myself from everything except a few close friends. I never dreamed of telling people about my so-called ‘perversion’. It was the mid-90s, just a couple years before zero tolerance echoed through the schools and homosexuals and suspected homosexuals were pariahs, constantly ridiculed and getting their asses kicked on a daily basis. I spent the least amount of time in high school as humanly possible by taking Co-op classes and skipping the rest, eventually leaving me with a spectacular 29% average at which point I dropped out and never looked back.
It wasn’t until after my 21st birthday when I finally started to accept that nothing was changing and I had better get used to being queer. This realization got me into my first actual (i.e. not hooking up randomly) gay relationship. Kevin, was a bright, funny man who was working toward a graphic design degree. He taught me many things about design, people and life in general. I taught him how to build his own computers, play video games and how the Internet worked. We were polar opposites in some respects but it made things interesting. This went on clandestinely from friends and family for about 5 months and was some of the best months of my life, ever. The two of us were still in the closet and we wanted to live more openly, but we couldn’t do this at home. At this point we decided to move as far away from home as we’ve both been, which was the uber-tolerant province of Alberta (OK, in retrospect, not the best choice to live an openly gay lifestyle). I moved out first, got a job (which fell through soon after I arrived), had my vehicle broken into and ransacked, and then a week later I got a call from a mutual friend that shattered everything. Kevin was killed the night before by a drunk driver who ran onto the sidewalk back in Ontario. Immediately my new world collapsed. I totally lost it, disconnected myself from everyone and became extremely self-destructive to the point where my new local friends put me in the hospital on suicide watch. What followed were months of boozing and drugs, unemployment and homelessness. Eventually with the help of those friends I got my shit together enough to come back home and start over again. The help and generosity of those guys in Alberta is the primary reason I’m still around today. They truly saved my life.
From there I experienced a decade of weirdness, good times, shitty periods and people coming in and out of my life. The entire time I stayed in the closet from my closest friends and family, terrified that coming out would destroy my friendships and relationships with my family. As I turned 30, I thought maybe I missed the boat anyway, most gay folks come out at an earlier age and I was well beyond that. I thought maybe I could go my whole life without folks finding out. Besides, I’ve been open with newer friends and acquaintances and those two groups rarely mingle. I decided to suppress my emotions (which were mainly anger and sadness anyway) and pretended to deal.
Then, something happened early this year. I was drowning under a sea of built-up, unfinished projects that have been dragging on for years, commitments to others, personal projects that were sinking quickly, and feeling totally burned out and tired of everything. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to get out of bed and go to work. I didn’t even want to eat. I started to have familiar thoughts of depression and self-destruction, some of which were scaring the shit out of me. A few weeks earlier I had split my head wide open in a camping accident, an injury of which the doctor pressed that I could have very easily not woken up from. Between the depression and my most stupid near-death experience to date, I decided I needed to get help. I decided I needed to start clearing the air about things. I decided that I was done walking on eggshells and that I didn’t want to die with all these secrets hidden away from the people who meant the most to me.
I started seeing a counselor, and with that, I started clearing old projects, delegating them to new people, transferring commitments and starting defragmenting my life. Despite all this, I knew what I really had to do to move forward — it was time to come out.
My process of coming out started likely as a lot of them do nowadays, by pouring through the countless coming out videos on YouTube. I saw people young and old, some even past retirement age coming out for the first time and how it all went with their families and friends. It was a perfect storm of inspirational videos and my own desire to un-complicate my life and move on. I was ready. Still terrified, but ready to push through.
That night I drove over to my mom’s place and waited in the driveway for a few minutes, not totally sure if I was even going to make it out of the car. I eventually got the courage to go up to the door, and as soon as I rang the doorbell, I knew I had to commit. I told her to get a drink and that we needed to sit down and talk. Initially she thought I was going to reveal I had cancer or something and was getting worried. At that point, I laid it all out — the secrets, the lies, and the truth. I was in tears the entire time. I started apologizing for being the way that I was, but she assured me that it was totally OK. She had her suspicions and apparently my parents talked about it on more than one occasion, then she shared a few things about parenting and our upbringing that I didn’t know. I settled down, stayed a while longer and chatted, and as I was driving back to my place afterward, I couldn’t stop laughing. I felt like I was floating in space, grinning from ear to ear like a fool. The world didn’t collapse in on itself. It was even looking as if I could finally be truly comfortable with myself.
A day later I came out to my closest, oldest friends, and even they were fine with it. The day after that I told my brother and his fiancé who took it exceptionally well, which added to my courage as I tackled the most difficult one a few days later, coming out to my dad. It was the only one I was really worried about, unsure what would happen. After the tumultuous teenage years we had finally managed to bond, and I didn’t want to upset that. Plus we currently work together, so if things went south I would not just lose a father, but my job as well. Surprisingly though, it went great and he was totally understanding. I felt as if somebody just picked up a bus off of my chest. Later on he told me he did a lot of thinking on it, and that it explained a lot with me growing up, which I thought was funny as I never acted like the stereotypical gay kid. I guess parents can still tell anyway.
Once I had finished coming out to my closest friends and immediate family, I felt a wave of relief I had never experienced before. They all assured me that it wasn’t going to change anything. I wasn’t forever going to be branded as the gay brother, the gay son or the gay friend. Some of them were saddened that I waited so long and put parts of my life on hold because of it. That was the hardest week of my life, but also one of the most exhilarating. I now think of the possibilities of having a real relationship again, to be able to talk to my family about hopes and dreams, to be open in a way I’ve never experienced before. Things are genuinely looking good, and I’m starting to feel as if I can have emotions again. Only time will tell.
If you’re a gay person still in the closet, I hope there’s one thing you can take away from my experience. I despise regrets, but I couldn’t get clear of this one: I should have done this as soon as I accepted myself. I can only imagine what the last 10 years could have been like had I done it then. Once you accept it, don’t hide yourself from your friends and family just to spare them the truth. You need to live life for yourself, because you’re the only person on this planet that you’ll be spending your entire life with. What I learned later in life than most, is sometimes you really need to look out for #1.
If you’re not gay, hopefully this has given you a little insight on why this stuff is so significant to us. While sexuality typically makes up such a small part of who we are, to us it’s the 800lb elephant in the room that we’re constantly living with, built up from decades of intolerance and disapproval of people who can’t change that they were born this way. It’s time to push the elephant out of the room.