Feb 9, 2012

Of Beginnings and Acceptance

I came out in September 2010. I had recently turned 25. I come from a very culturally homophobic country. It is a post-comunism democracy, so religion is completely marginalized, but the attitude toward gay people is one of disdain and disgust. We are treated as psychologically or biologically messed up by the ignorant, but even intelligent and educated people are rarely ok with it. I knew I liked boys since I was 5, but I never once allowed myself to think of myself as gay. I guess the mind is a great weapon of self-deception. I kept trying to persuade myself that I also liked girls.

I have to sidetrack for a second. Back home I lived in a very open-minded and accepting environment. My parents are both classical musicians (so am I), I studied in a music school, and all of my friends I have met through mutual interests such as literature, movies etc. So, in a way, I knew I could come out, but I never had the balls to accept myself as something that the rest of society considered some degenerate mistake of nature. I thought that liking guys would not be a problem if I were bisexual, if I could live a heteronormative life.

But then I came to study in the States. I didn't know at the time how surprisingly GAY that particular college town was (I chose this school for a particular violin teacher I wanted to work with), but at that point I had developed strong feelings of sympathy for the people that I subconsciously knew I belonged to. Still, it was new, and strange, to live in a place where homosexuality was not only accepted, but sometimes almost celebrated, and it changed my perspective on the possibilities my life held. I guess at that time I started building up towards finally facing the music, but I was still in denial, and the burden was getting heavier.

It took me a year to get to the point where it was unbearable, and finally, when I got back home before summer session, I asked a very close (and occasionally frighteningly open-minded) female friend of mine to have sex with me. I had spent 25 years of my life without ever once feeling attracted to a girl, and I simply had to know. I didn't tell her what the deal was, but I think she knew. So we tried to do the deed, and it ended in an awkward failure (which, thankfully, didn't damage my relationship with her in any way, even after coming out).

It still took me the rest of the summer to muster the courage I needed to tell someone - as I needed to tell somebody else in order to finally admit it to myself - and it ended up being on Skype, with my best friend from back home. I felt like I was literally choking up, gasping for air. We were talking about something else, but I was barely registering what it was about, as I knew what I was going to do. Everything about my life - dreams of family, children, "normal" life - felt like it was crashing down. Then I closed my eyes and jumped off the cliff - typed the words "I'm gay" and pressed Enter quickly enough so that it would be out of my hands by the time my fears registered what I was doing.

The world didn't end.

My friend said "well that's just one more thing about you, isn't it?" and that was that. I started telling people here and there - mostly from my circle of friends from back home, but also here in the States. At first it was this big deal, the secret that shouldn't spread, but I gradually felt more confident. Still, I expected someone to freak out, to get all religious zeal on my ass, to shun me, to stop talking to me forever... yet it never happened. Everyone was accepting. Hell, some people - especially girls - started liking me more when I came out. Even when I finally told my parents, it went fine. My mom took it in stride, and even though my dad had more difficulty accepting it, there has been no drama...

...which sometimes almost makes me feel a little guilty. I had seen the movies, read the real life stories. I remembered all those tragic suicides - the tip of a much bigger iceberg, I'm sure. I knew about those conservative and strongly "Christian" (as if there is anything Christian about hating people) places where it is almost dangerous to come out as a homosexual. I knew who Matthew Shepard was. But it never happened to me. My life changed so quickly, became so much better so fast, that it was almost scary. I love myself, I love the world around me, and I feel the world loving me back. But I know I am a minority, that most people don't have it nearly as easy. And I am not complaining - it seems like it would be in such a bad taste to do that - but I do have this slight irrational feeling of guilt. As if I don't deserve to not struggle.

So what I do is, I talk about it. Try to know about current events and involve myself as much as I can, help others who have harder time of accepting themselves and finding the courage to be out. Because this feeling is wrong. None of us deserve to struggle with coming out, none of us should be IN to begin with. And as far as we've gotten, there is so much more work to be done before gay kids could grow up without even knowing what "being in the closet" means.

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