Andries’ coming out story
I came out twice. The first time was about loving myself. The second was about gaining acceptance from the people I love.
I was 14 years old when we moved to a new city. I didn’t know anyone in my new school, and if I previously felt like an outsider, it was even worse then. Wanting to fit in, must be part of human nature. An evolutionary survival technique: Tribe, nationality, race, religion and language later led to subculture, sexual identity.
Now, I’m not the sporty type, or even much of an academic, but I did find my tribe in the music department at school. I also found the boy who would become my obsession for two years. He was my age, but more charismatic and with a stronger personality. He was better liked, better looking, richer and more talented at music than I was. And he wanted to be my friend. Smitten, I would do anything for him. At one stage telling my parents that I am leaving our church denomination and joining his in a well rehearsed and emotionally fuelled speech. As long as he would be my friend. I cherished every moment I could spend with him. Cycling home from school. Spending Friday afternoon at his house. In the back of my mind I knew it was too good to last, the relationship unequal, but I was 14.
I wanted him for myself. It was this that led to the unravelling of our friendship and my sanity. He had other friends, but if I could only make it to Friday afternoon. The afternoon would be ours. It was summer, we had a pool, the warm wind on our faces when we cycled to the corner shop for ice-cream. The unexplored mountainside behind our house.
His name was Toby, and he came to take away my friend. I was not good enough anymore. The breaking point came one Friday afternoon. My mom had to pick me up from school. My friend told me he was spending the weekend with Toby, and would my mom mind dropping the two of them of at his house. I lost it and threw him against the wall outside the music department with the words “fuck you”. Despite this, they got in my mom’s car with me. She dropped them of. I didn’t say a word to my mom, but maybe she knew it was over. My heart was broken, because… Well, because I was in love. There I said it. At least to myself. The truth! It’s out. It filled my heart and my head and my body. I’m gay. I’m free. At last, I understood my obsession and in time I forgave my friend, because all that happened was my issue. My experience of him was warped. He did not know what I felt for him.
So, I’m 16 and gay. I didn’t hate myself, for at last I understood myself. I carried a sacred secret and cherished my being different. I knew myself and I loved myself. But no-one else knew. The public coming out was still to come, though I feel the first coming out is the most important one to get right.
My first year at university introduced me to the person I would spend my life with. The university choir conductor seated us next to each other in rehearsal. I was shy and had no idea how to approach someone I potentially wanted more than a friendship from. Even more so if you don’t know that person’s sexuality. I was lucky, he secretly admired me too. He pursued me (to my simultaneous delight and nervousness). A love affair started, but the situation became complex when my parents, with whom I still lived at that time, returned from an overseas trip.
Perhaps doubting this new friendship of mine, my mom, who could never stay out of my personal stuff, came across a letter I wrote to my cousin. In it I confessed being gay, being in love, and fearing my parents’ reaction. So my mom got it all in one go. She phoned my dad who came home from work. When I arrived home I found my parents completely distraught and crying. They couldn’t believe it was true. They didn’t understand where they went wrong and most of all they didn’t know what being gay meant. (Was I going to dress as a woman?).
Though it was a very complicated time, I decided to continue living with my parents. They had to see that I didn’t change, only their expectation of me, changed. Worst for them was their fear that I will go to hell when I die, because this is still the position of the mainstream Christian faith. I won’t go into details now, but there is a plethora of research that the bible does not have a loving homosexual relationship in mind when it speaks out against sodomy and pederasty.
It took years, but I now know they love me without the prejudice that society and religion dictates. They also love and accept my partner, well, husband. It is still weird for me to say ‘husband’, even after 6 years of marriage, and a 14 year relationship. That’s my issue: I’m afraid of what people may think. It’s stupid, I know. I’m working on it. Ultimately, those who matter will accept you, no matter what. Those people who don’t, fall into two categories: either they never really cared for you and you should remove that negativity from your live, or they are blinded by their culture and society – what they would call ‘morality’. Pity them, and give them time to change their minds. True morality cannot mean anything else than wanting the best for everyone. Do unto others…