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When I had my Coming Out

The biggest misconception about coming out as a queer person is that it is a step you take once and then it’s done. Coming out is a process and happens over and over again.

I never came out in school

At least not to the public. There are many reasons for this, but I remember one situation in particular. We were in art class drawing shoes and I did a pretty good job. A boy who I thought was my best friend looked at me and my drawing. Then, he laughed and commented that I was gonna turn out a gay artist. He meant that as an insult. But guess what? That’s pretty much exactly what I grew up to be. And I love it.

However, I am not dumb. I knew that he didn’t mean it in a good way. Is he homophobic because of that? I don’t think so. To be a homophobe, you have to have your own set opinion on the LGBT+ community. But he probably never even thought about if he had a problem with gay people or not. It was just the standard that being gay – especially for men – is disgusting and something to be ashamed of. And I emphasize ‘men’ on purpose because the gender double standard exists here too. Gay women have always been more accepted than gay men. Talk about the male gaze!

On vacation, a friend asked me when I was gonna tell my parents

Without really thinking about it, I responded that I was gonna do it this year. And for whatever reason, that stuck with me. Still, I waited for the very last moment to do so and chose a visit at my parents’ house right around Christmas. I was sitting in the kitchen with my mom, drinking Whiskey, trying to build up some courage. I was so anxious that I could not get one bit tipsy. My mom noticed that I was uneasy. So, I said that I had something to say.

I dove right back into my childhood self and felt like I had to confess to her that I had skipped school or something. Thinking back now it is so weird that our society gave me the feeling I was leading a life I had to apologize for. My mum took it well, kinda, I don’t remember what she said after I told her, she wasn’t particularly happy but told me she still loved me, etc. She did ask me if I was dating someone and why I was telling her now. I replied: ‘No’, wondering why it would make a difference if I was seeing someone or not. You know when you know.

My mum then woke up my father

And I told him while he was half-asleep. He took it really well and didn’t care at all (to the point where I was wondering if that was a good or bad thing). He said that he had already figured I wasn’t straight because he thought that I had started studying psychology to figure myself out. I could have been offended but he wasn’t all that wrong, I just wasn’t trying to decipher my sexuality but my OCD.

I didn’t tell my sister, she later found out, probably via my parents. I was mad a second when I found out they told her before I had the chance to but in the end, it was one less thing to deal with. I just wish she wouldn’t have thought that I didn’t trust her with that information but could have seen how incredibly nervewracking this time of my life was.

 

 

At this point, most people knew

Whoever wasn’t in the loop, I called after I got together with my boyfriend at the time. I wanted to start living openly, post on Facebook about it, and didn’t want anyone to be too surprised. Of course, I didn’t call everyone in my phone book and left out some people on purpose. Oh boy, do I wish I could have seen their faces when they found out. I know that my sexuality was part of some hometown gossip and I remember feeling uncomfortable about it. However, I also enjoyed the anonymity of everything happening.

My mindset changed relatively quickly over the next few months and a trip I took with my former best friend was crucial in that. We were doing Interrail for a month and this was the first time in my life when I told new people I met that I was gay. Nobody reacted weirdly, not even the straight guys. I realized that people like you for who you are and not because of your sexuality. During this trip, we went to Stockholm and I remember seeing a gay couple with a stroller and a child in the middle of the city and it was totally normalized. I was so impressed with the city and how open everyone was. I knew I wanted to grow to be the same.

I forced myself not to care

Ten years ago, however, holding hands with my same-sex partner, I got to hear homophobic comments regularly. Honestly, it still happens today and it sucks. Even worse, the comments still have the potential to hurt me. Not every time, but sometimes. I taught myself to be tough and snap back when someone discriminates against me because I want to be myself at any cost. Most of my partners could deal with that but up to this day, there aren’t really any other gay people displaying affection publicly where I live. I still feel like that weird shiny unicorn that sometimes gets made fun of.  Sometimes though someone stops to tell you that you’re beautiful and brave – simply for holding hands. And those moments – when you feel you can inspire another person to live their life more truthfully – make all the bad comments inane.

Even though a lot has changed, I still experience quite a bit of active and passive homophobia. I don’t see a future where assholes don’t grow up and realize that we all have more things in common than things that separate us from each other. To achieve that, however, the queer community needs more visibility. Living in a town where rainbow colors are basically forbidden by law during Pride month, there is only one thing that can create visibility: us.

So, if you ever felt you wanted to support the queer community I suggest you walk a mile in our shoes – holding hands with your same-sex friend, coworker, girlfriend, partner – and think about how you feel and why you feel that way.

End of my TED talk. 

 

BenLeander

 

 

Suggested further reading:

Top 10 Best LGBT+ Music Videos

Compulsive nonconformist who left the 9-to-5 world after studying psychology and has since then devoted himself to design and writing on a freelance basis. Has at least four different kinds of chips at home at any given time.

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