Coming out is a lifelong process that never really ends. After a while those "I'm gay"s start to become less important and more of a chore. Still, there will always be something special about the first time you come out. That first step is the most important one, and the experience will stay with you forever. My very first coming out left me with a lot of negative feelings about myself and my sexuality, feelings I still struggle with sometimes, which is why, throughout the years, I've been trying to forget the whole experience, ignoring it till it's completely erased, a blank spot in the history of my gayness.
Recently, while cleaning out my childhood bedroom, I stumbled upon the diaries I kept during this tumultuous time in my life. I read them with a stomach-turning sense of dread, only to be surprised by how my own memory had misshaped and deformed these events.
What follows is a deconstruction of what really happened, as told by my teenage diaries. Keep in mind that I started writing in them when I was 14. At that time I was already being bullied for acting "too faggy," but judging from these pages, I tried not to let it bother me that much.
School tomorrow. Fuck! I really don't feel like it, like REALLY! I'm MEGA-famous in my second year of high school. Everybody knows me as That Fag! Just because I have feelings and get along really well with girls. It's gotten so out of control that people even want to beat me up for it. I'm kind of afraid so I hide out in the library during lunchtime. Should I just stop caring and try to enjoy my life?!
I didn't view myself as "That Fag," though. In fact, it was around that time that I struck up a friendship with a girl I believed I was in love with.
Ok, it's official. I'm in love but I don't know what to do about it. Her name is Laura.
I knew my feelings for her weren't up to the standard they should have been, though.
A little less depressed than yesterday. Laura wanted to throw herself in the river because I wasn't online. Is she REALLY that in love with me?!
So my interest in her waned.
Laura isn't that fun anymore. Finding girlfriends in this dump is so hard.
Doubts about my sexuality had already abounded at this point. In fact, I even wrote about having gay feelings. But still, I wasn't ready to admit it to myself.
I really feel like having a boyfriend. You know, when I picture myself I see myself with a boy and not with a girl. It must be the best feeling ever!
But I have to be realistic and realize that I won't be able to come out until 2 or 3 years in the future. I'm not even really sure that I'm completely gay! I kind of think I am because all my fantasies involve guys and I just can't imagine myself having sex with a girl, but I'm waiting on the deciding factor: falling in love with a boy.
With hope for some serious life affirmation, I started the next school year. My new class consisted mostly of awful guys who tried to prove their thoughness by bragging loudly about the drugs they had taken the previous weekend. The leader of this group of people was Max. He was tall and had kind of a wonky face, which he made up for in popularity.
I think that for the first time I have butterflies in my stomach! There's only one problem: my crush is on Max. Like, in chemistry today I really had butterflies when watching him. I really don't know what to do now though? Finally, the feelings on which I waited for so long. Just not Max. Help! Luckily in English my feelings were already a little bit less, but still! Max! I'm really like blah. Now I'm even less sure of my feelings for Sarah.
Sarah was a girl in my class I had sparked up a friendship with. That friendship had quickly evolved into a relationship, although we never kissed or touched each other. It was very much a platonic friendship under the wrong name.
Waaaaaah! I chatted on MSN with Max today!!! I feel so happy I want to shout it out but I'm not going to! Am I in love ?! I don't know! I added him and he immediately said "Hey Bernie!" before I even said something and then we joked about our avatars and stuff and then he told me something that really made me SO happy. "At first I REALLY hated you but now I kind of like you." And now we're having these kind of conversations!!! I'm really happy! And he doesn't have a crush on any girl in the class! Less competition!
Julie is going to be pissed off Max isn't into her though.
Julie was the new girl in class that year. She had transferred from a school nearby, and she had become a real-life confidante when it came to my sexuality. In chemistry we would giggle and gossip about our mutual crush on Max. Even though I didn't really know her, I felt like she was the only person I could trust with my secret, probably because I hadn't known her my whole life.
I really want to be together with Max but there's a big chance that he's not gay. Actually, that's a certainty but it would be so funny though! And Sarah is probably going to break up with me but I'm not sad. Is that weird ?! Maybe not. Maybe I realize I'm gay and in love with Max! I would never come out for my feelings though.
This was the point where my so-called relationship with Sarah crashed and burned, because we couldn't consummate our union. Not that I cared. All that was on my mind was the little ways Max, who had become my friend, gave me attention.
Today I was walking through the hallway when Max jumped on my back and during class he was super-social with me AND he was staring at me all the time. But the chance of him being gay is like 1 against 5 and even if he is, the chances of him being into me are non-existant.
I mean....imagine if I would kiss him.....what if I grabbed him close......what would happen? He'd probably be repulsed and hate me. I'm sure he'd hate me if he knew that I was in love with him. I think I really am and I just can't help myself! I've never felt like this before.
A few months later, while out for a drink with friends, one of them told the group that they'd heard this ca-ra-zy rumor that I was in big, gay love with Max.
Julie, that filthy bitch, has gone 'round telling everybody I'm in love with Max! But I'm just going to deny it, even though my friendship with him is probably ruined now. I'm really happy though, because when I was alone with Hannah, she asked me if I was gay and I told her that it was all true and she REALLY understood me ! She even said we could check out guys together and I felt SO happy!
Even though my friendship with Max was probably ruined at this point, I didn't care, for I had been able to express my true self to one of my closest friends. I had been able to admit to myself and others that I was gay! For the first time ever, I felt accepted, and I was no longer as scared to express the real me. This state of mind didn't immediately translate all over the board, though.
I've finally reached that point where I can think and say: I'm gay and I'm proud! But yeah, I have to keep this to myself for now because I can't just come out and say it all of a sudden. I don't even think I can tell it to my parents yet.
Six months passed, and I told more people I was gay, helped by Hannah, who really encouraged me to just be honest, assuring me that people would still love me for who I was. Contrary to my belief, Max hadn't picked up on the story that I was in love with him, and neither had his friends. So in the end, I had to tell him myself.
I told Max yesterday! He was really supportive but today in school he ignored me, but then afterwards on MSN he didn't. He pulled his hand away when I briefly touched him in class though (it was only in the context of joke) so it's not like THAT's going to work out but that's really okay. At least he knows (that I'm gay) and we can still be friends! I thought only bad things would happen but so far it's been really really great! I'm happy!!!!
This is where my diary ends. I had made peace with myself and my sexuality. I had used the diary as a crutch when I couldn't see through the clouds, but now that everything was crystal-clear, I was ready to let the diary go and just live my life, excited to start a new chapter in my life.
That excitement only lasted for a few months. Seasons came and went, my friendship with Max fizzled out, and I moved on to other crushes. Yes, Max became nothing more than a person in my class I used to be friends with, which was the perfect time for the truth about my crush on him to come out on a global scale.
Out on a sports day with school, Julie told Max how in love I was with him -- "was," not "had been." On that day, terror started, and my "That Fag" reputation reared its ugly head again. From then on, I was bullied hard, in class by Max and his friends, and even on the playground by people from other years. One time, I was walking through the city at night when foreign voices started shouting at me through the dark: "Faggot. Faggot. Faggot." I ran away in fear of getting beaten up. This day-to-day taunting forced me to start writing in my diary again, but instead of schmaltzy, romantic love declarations, I just wrote terribly bad poetry and angry pages filled with "fuck"s and "hate"s.
After a full year of bullying, I switched to another school that primarily consisted of female students who accepted me for who I was. I wasn't "That Fag" anymore. I was Bernard, who happened to be gay. And that's still the person I am today.
I ran into Max a few months ago. He gave me that all-destroying, aggressive look he used to throw me in the aftermath of our nonexistent love. I immediately shrunk to a scared ball of nerves. Old habits die hard.
Rereading my diaries made me realize how much pain and conflict I still carry from that time in my life. My coming out has partly shaped the way I experience my sexuality, and even though that means that there are still some negative feelings wandering around from that time, there are also a lot of positive ones that I need to hold on to and not forget.
As you get older, things might get better, but they only will do so if you change them for yourself.
Follow Bernard Lansbergen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LanceBergen