In My Mirror

[Guest Author: Tink]

“Coming out” – I started by wondering about that word. Something about the phrase was very empowering – outdoorsy, brave, though this was hardly how I felt when I first contemplated that idea in my own life. I was anything but brave that night. I was faraway from home, crying like a baby and writing a very confused, more political than personal email to the only person I could think of telling – the first person who’d told me in so many words: “I’m gay”.

So that’s my cue to backtrack a little bit. Did I always know I was gay? Hard to tell. Like a friend of mine says, it’s tempting to paint our lives with a broad gay brush when we come out to ourselves. It just all suddenly makes sense – all the weird, oddly shaped, wedges that didn’t seem to fit in. I knew for a long time that I liked girls. Because of being in an all-girls’ school, I told myself. Only just that. And an all-girls’ college. Of course I liked to look at girls. That’s explained then. Right? Well, no. The other girls seemed to like other things – visits from the boys’ school, boys waiting outside the school gates. Well, I then said, I don’t have the time for this. I’m the geek. Geeks have no love life. Not proper geeks.

In retrospect I’m glad. I’m happy I withdrew into the library. I may never have gotten where I am but for the overdose of nerding. And it worked. So I found myself staring at an email that offered me a graduate place at The University (ha! Keep guessing which) one January evening. “I feel like I’m running” I told my sister that day, “and I have no idea where I’m going. I’m just running.” Academic fatigue, she told me. Yes, I agreed. Wait until I started my programme. I’d find me the perfect man. Mate, my head corrected me. The perfect mate. Same difference, I told my head. The mate is male. My head gave up.

And that was when I met S – he was perfect. And the best thing about him was that a friend of mine had suggested to me that he was gay. Ah! I said. And decided not to pay attention to that tiny little baby insignificant detail. And out of the many nice, good-looking, intelligent men I met chose to chase him. It was an interesting chase, if you like to scare yourself and other people with just how odd and frozen you can be. And then, one morning, over a cup of decaf tea, S said in so many words, “Oh, actually I’m gay.” I wanted to be devastated. To be broken down. To cry. Or heck, at least feel a little disappointed. But instead I was scared. I was scared because what I didn’t say back to him, but what popped into my throat spontaneously was “Oh! Me too!”

That was when the dam broke. But I chose to shut my eyes to it – deny the flood that had been released. I decided what I wanted to do was study homosexuality. I read every book I could find on it – spent hours poring the literature. The meltdown came at Christmas. I was reading Virginia Woolf, still refusing to admit I was gay, when the words “And Chloe liked Olivia” jumped out at me. What! I read again. And again. And put the book down and cried. That was when I wrote to S – a long, painful email. I could feel myself breathe – suddenly feel the gush of emotion I’d locked away many years ago at puberty. I too wanted to fall in love. Pretending wasn’t enough, suddenly.

It was very scary to me. Homosexuality just wasn’t part of the world I grew up in. Girls who liked each other in school were the weirdos – the ones that did stupid, immature things. Well, I thought to myself, girls who liked boys were equally silly about romance in high school. My head was swimming. Oh come on, I told myself, I can’t be gay. So I decided I wasn’t straight. But I wasn’t gay. I told that to a friend. She shrugged and then said the magic words, “It’s no big deal if you’re gay you know”. Flood part two began.

I was lucky. Very lucky. My friends – both gay and straight – were there to catch me as I went into freefall – happy and partying in a gay club one night, weeping my eyes out the next. And then came the family – yes, it was hard. I probably rushed into telling my parents. But I can’t keep a secret. Not something as big as this. But the bottomline is: tears and stressed sleepless nights and panic attacks later, we still love each other. Yes, we’re still a family. And I’m proud – very proud – of them.

I’m only still emerging in my mirror – not yet fully there. I don’t think I’ll ever fully see myself (social scientists don’t believe in absolutes) but I love what I see. I no longer want to change it, pinch, tuck, pull. I know it’s not going to be a perfect life. But hell, who wants perfection? I much prefer reality and for me, that’s being gay.

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