I was 12 when I first realized I fancied boys. I had stumbled upon a gay porn channel on the satellite television my father had somehow managed to steal. The scene featured three cowboys, in the bed of a pick-up truck, stopped on the side of a country road doing some strange things to each other. I was excited and aroused.
Fast forward a few years – I become infatuated with a boy, let’s call him X, for the very first time. I was in the 11th grade, attending high school in a middle-class, hockey-loving, small town. It happened one morning, as I closed my locker and turned to head off to class. X and I locked eyes. My palms began to sweat, my heart raced, time had ceased. I’ll never know what it was about this day that started my infatuation with X; he had been a friend for many years. Maybe he was having a good hair day. I felt my naked-cowboy-induced feelings all over again – excitement, arousal, this time mixed with fear and shame.
These feelings continued into university and I continued storing the thoughts in a box nestled somewhere in the back of my brain. I was really good at doing this for a while. Thought after thought – to the box they went. However, at the end of my third year, the box began to inevitably overflow, and I had to face these thoughts. I was living with 5 straight bros at the time and I felt like I couldn’t talk to them about any of this. I convinced myself they were homo-hating villains who would throw me off the bridge at the entrance to campus if they found out. Obviously this wasn’t true; it was a mere reflection of how badly I did not want to confront my homosexuality.
Regrettably, I lived in a state of constant sadness my final year of university, sleeping little, drinking heavily, and continuously asking myself the question “Why me, what did I do to deserve this?”
After graduation, I ran away from my problems and traveled Asia for a while. It was there that I first opened up to the idea of telling people. These were complete strangers, what did I have to lose? My inaugural coming out was to a girl I made out with on the dance floor in a club my first night in Bangkok. The next night on the beach I broke it her – “So, um, yeah about last night. I’m actually gay.” She hugged me, and we remained great friends for the rest of my travels. The relief I felt after saying those words out loud for the first time was incredible.
When I returned from my travels I moved to the big, liberal city of Toronto to officially kick off my life out of the closet. I quickly made many new gay friends, frequented gay bars and immersed myself in gay subculture – great literature, music, and film. I came out to my mom during my first Christmas home, over nachos and cheap beer at a clichéd chain restaurant. I broke down sobbing. People were staring. “I’m seeing someone. It’s a guy,” was all I managed to get out. (In reality, I was painfully single, but I was still uncomfortable saying the words “I’m gay.”)
This brings me to the title – Coming Out is the Easy Part. I have never once experienced any negativity in my coming out. My entire family and group of friends from my hometown were extremely accepting and happy for me. The reactions were always similar – “We love you no matter what,” or “That’s awesome, whatever makes you happy, man.” Part of me wishes that, just one time, I would meet an old acquaintance that would treat me with disrespect so I could throw a fit and declare them a worthless human. Alas, that has never happened – people tend to be good. Coming out really was the easy part. The hard part is what came after coming out – awkward first dates, regrettable one-night stands, falling in love, having my heart broken, and breaking the hearts of others. There were difficult questions that were never answered for me in sex-ed class: How do I protect myself from HIV? How often should I get tested for STIs? What even is gay sex? What’s a top? What’s a bottom? Which one am I? How do I know? I periodically find myself missing those days in the closet where I thought I had real problems.
What I have learned over the past few years is that life can be hard, but living authentically makes it totally worth it.