Phil | 22 | Manchester, England | Writer
It was literally like a switch had gone off in my brain, “Oh hold on a minute…” Like all the unusual and intense feelings I had towards boys suddenly made sense. I was 13 when I came out to myself and there was never any of that clichéd inner turmoil or doubt that plagued my head (as seen in most gay coming of age films) - it was what it was and I was surprisingly at peace with it. Especially given my Brazilian Catholic upbringing with its not-so-subtle mixture of religious morals and 1950’s style macho culture, it’s fortunate my judgement wasn’t clouded by their influence.
I now had a label for all my obvious differences and tastes that made me stick out like I was the pink sheep amongst the crowd of sports car loving football fanatics at my school (p.s. did I mention I was in an all boys school? Yikes, I know). For gay people who are taking those first steps to coming out there’s usually a daunting paranoia that those around us will disown and desert us, which is why it comes as a shock when people react with open mindedness and understanding.
I had built up a small circle of friends who embraced my sexuality, but about a year after I told them I was backstabbed and outed to the rest of the school. All hell broke loose and for the last two years of secondary school things went very dark. I lost a few good friends along with my peaceful anonymity, some people avoided me while others made me the butt of the joke (no pun intended here, I promise). Life was horrible but even with all the drama at school I decided to keep it all from my parents. I couldn’t fathom facing what could potentially be the most devastating rejection of all. Just hearing my mum say in passing one night at the dinner table, “I don’t mind gay people, but I DON’T want one in the family”, put enough fear in me to hide my true feelings until I was older.
"The bomb was dropped a few years later when I was 17 when my mum walked in on me and my boyfriend making out on my bed, hair askew and faces red with guilt."
The obvious questions arose; ‘How do you know for sure when you haven’t been with a girl’, and ‘What did I do to make you like this?’ There were also persistent reminders that she was praying I’d stop living the ‘wrong life’. It took her a long time to get over the shock, though bearing in mind she’s the same woman who took me to see Cher’s Farewell Tour when I was 14 - the irony is completely lost on her. Thankfully my dad was great and has been 100% supportive - “I thought you liked Will & Grace a bit too much”.
It’s been five years and although my mum is now used to it the whole issue is still a sore spot, rolling her eyes any time I mention anything gay related. Despite her resistance I live fully out and proud, and it really is true when they say It Gets Better. There’s a whole life that awaits outside those school gates.
It Gets Better - A Poem
Coming out of the closet is like waiting to exhale,
as if you’re trying to dig your way out of jail.
It’s hard, with the weight of the world on your shoulders,
constantly trying to avoid getting squished by runaway boulders.
The burdens and pressures of family and society,
force you to internalize your spark and live life quietly.
But I promise you that it gets better,
no need to detail your sorrows in a farewell letter.
I was unsure if they would accept me but they did,
which made me regret all the wasted years I hid.
Stood waiting for the cavalry to chop off my head,
but hugs and compassion came my way instead.
The angry mob with torches and spears never came,
was braced for the backlash of guilt, sin and shame.
The things that make you different, you hate when you’re in school,
are in fact your best assets that become your greatest tool.
So ignore all the haters quoting scripture and lies,
but prepare for betrayals and awkward goodbyes.
The response isn’t always great, some people just need time,
accustomed to resistance, each day can be a climb.
Our hearts are not defected, we don’t need the receipt,
honour who you are, live open and love complete.
Hell fire and brimstone rained down on me but the pain has made me stronger,
things are slowly getting better, my truth held back no longer.
Follow Phil on Twitter - @PhylisMedia