Being gay is hard. It is hard because as soon as you know what gay is and that you’re gay, your whole self image is altered. Your interactions with society are often first checked for their relative ‘gayness’ and the potential societal reaction to that action. Is my outfit too gay? Is my voice too gay sounding? Is it gay to talk about HGTV?
It is even harder when you don’t know that being gay is no more than a sexual orientation. What you and society think gay is, like varnish on a table, changes what it looks like and how we see it.
I had no concept of gay while growing up in small town Ontario. There were no gay role models. The same forces that coerced you to experiment in private and hide your sexual orientation, worked with equal efficacy on your peers. Those men, who I did have sex with (Hey Mom and Dad), were oppressed just like me. They often had wives, children, and friends who all assumed they were straight. Those people shared my secret and I looked to them as an example of what my life would likely resemble. I had few outlets for dialogue so I went unchecked while engaging in a wide array of unsafe and emotionally destructive sexual practices. This was okay because public policy solutions told me I had no right to the HPV vaccine because boys weren’t at risk because girls were vaccinated and no use in learning about the sex I was having in Sex-Ed.
Since moving to Toronto, the city made me gay. My sexual orientation is the same, but I am now really gay. I am ‘out’ and unabashedly proud to identify. This is because I have surrounded myself with a community who loves. Regardless of how thick the walls are around the true identity of many, the power of love and acceptance has the capacity to unleash many others from the isolation of the closet.