Only eight months into adulthood I gained the right to marry. I am from the Netherlands, which in 2001 became the first nation to establish marriage equality.
Although I haven't yet found the man of my dreams, it is certain that when I wed, my family won't be there to celebrate my love and life. My father, validated by his personal version of Hinduism, used to try to "beat the queer out" of me long before I knew myself that I am gay.
Once I did figure out my queerness, I came out almost instantly. I was always a rebel, and things couldn't get worse anyway. At the end of a school day, a girl called me "fag," allowing me to turn derision into bedazzlement when I unexpectedly openly agreed: "Yes, I'm gay." Within seconds the entire school knew, and I rushed home to tell my mother before she'd hear it from the neighbors. (It was a small town.) The good thing was that my full coming out happened at once, within an hour. The bad thing was that it would not take long for my mother to meet a social worker in a parking lot to hand over not only a suitcase but her child.
Even in a country as progressive as the Netherlands, some kids still get thrown out for being gay. I was 13 years old.
I would be dragged around from place to place, both good and bad, until I reached 18, an age that I had looked forward to only to find out that I was not prepared for adulthood at all. Not one person had taught me a thing about adult life, and suddenly I had no home, no income and no support. Good luck! Suffice it to say that the joys of life did not come smoothly.
I had always known that I wanted to leave the Netherlands. As liberal a country as it is, I struggled to call it my home, in no small part because of my childhood. Having already tested life abroad in Norway for a year when I was 20, I eventually decided that it was finally time to move on, permanently. I packed my suitcase and set out for Berlin, Germany. When the openly gay mayor calls his city "poor but sexy," it does sound like the right spot for a queer emerging creative professional. Without much thought I hopped on a train, and half a day later I was "der König der Welt."
This was 2010. Now it is 2013, and I live in Manchester, UK. Berlin is an amazing city and has offered me many things. However, in Germany same-sex couples are not entitled to marry, and civil partnerships do not offer full rights. And not only is there a financial penalty for being queer, but joint adoption is not possible under German law either. Even as a Dutch citizen, this would affect me, and in the search for a husband, chances were that I'd find a German (you know, being in Germany) for whom this would have serious consequences. Our only chance for having a family would be moving back to the Netherlands, something I would rather keep off my to-do list.
People have asked me why I moved to Berlin. Sure, it is a thrilling city, but giving away your rights? I had honestly never thought about it. As someone who lives a nomadic life and does most things on his own, my career has always been my focus. In my teen years I dreamed of a family one day, but as an adult it barely crossed my mind, being too busy keeping my head above water. Never seeing me, a gay guy, as a potential dad, people encouraged me to focus on work and perhaps a partner somewhere along the line. Kids were never part of the equation. It was my mistake that this had started to ring true for me, but even in the Netherlands joint adoption was not legally available until 2009.
Only when I did not have those rights anymore and lived in a country where a high-profile politician calls marriage equality "alongside the Euro the biggest threat for prosperity" did I start to realize the reality that I had brought upon myself.
I was about to wave goodbye to my 20s; if I was serious about becoming a dad in my 30s, something had to happen soon. For the first time in my adult life, I thought not only about how to get a home but whom I wished to find there. It was a rough wakeup call.
Looking at my options I eventually chose the UK, and more specifically Manchester, known for its bustling creative scene, considerable gay village and laid-back character. No, there is no marriage equality here yet (though hopefully that won't take much longer), but nor is there a potential husband. When the latter comes, first we can opt for a civil partnership, which grants the same rights as marriage. It is not full equality, but looking at it from a strictly legal perspective, it'll allow us to protect each other and our children. However, it does not suffice, and I join the fight here for marriage equality. Yet for me the magic word is "equality" rather than "marriage."
Now, at an age that I prefer to call "29 plus 1," I have recently changed countries once again. Life in the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution has just begun and, in many ways, still has to get truly started. It is not always easy, and sometimes I wish nothing more than to call my parents and hear some encouraging words. Alas. My family today is made of wonderful friends scattered all over the globe who join me in hoping that one day, one beautiful day, I will tie the knot. Another future day I will pack my suitcase once again, but that time with toys and games. It will no longer be used to find my place in the world; rather, it will proudly tag along on our family holidays.
"A Day in a Queer Life" is an ongoing blog series that documents the unique struggles, joys, triumphs, setbacks, hopes and desires of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people living in one of the six countries currently featuring a HuffPost site (Canada, France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States). Each week a different blogger from one of these countries shares his or her personal story and perspective on what life is like wherever he or she resides. Want to share your own story? Write us at email@example.com to find out how you can take part in "A Day in a Queer Life."
Read previous entries in "A Day in a Queer Life":
- Mitch Kellaway (U.S.): "A Trans Man on Love and Marriage"
- Octavio Caraballo (Spain): "To All Those Experiencing the Nightmare I Lived Through"
- Jason Guberman (U.S.): "Why Being a Dad Matters to Me"
- Giuseppina La Delfa (Italy): "Being a Lesbian Mom When Families Like Mine Still Aren't Recognized"
- justin adkins (U.S.): "Just One of the Guys"
- Antonio Vila-Coro (Spain): "'Dad, Kids at School Are Saying You're Gay'"
- Olivier Steiner (France): "An Ordinary Day"
- Peter Tatchell (UK): "Being Peter Tatchell"