Coming Out, or the Path to Becoming Who I Am
Updated: Sep 29, 2019
As far back as I can remember, I have always felt different without being able to understand what it meant. I grew up in an environment where sexuality, never mind homosexuality, was barely talked about. From recollection, the only time I heard about “gays” – or “homo” in French - was in reference to a distant cousin who died from AIDS in the 80s. Not exactly the reference point a young kid needs to find himself.
I entered university without a sense of what it meant to be gay. I was attracted to men and yet it felt somehow abnormal; wasn’t I expected to get married to a lovely lady and have a family? Without realising it, my parents had raised me in a very strong heteronormative reference model that increasingly took its toll on me. I fell in love with my best uni boyfriend without having any real understanding of what it meant or how to deal with the situation (and he wasn’t gay; nobody’s perfect ...) By the age of 22, I ended up being completely emotionally stuck and fell into a very deep depression.
I recovered by completely focusing my mind and energy into work, and suppressing any personal “interference”. I had just entered the workforce and I was committed to succeeding... and to forgetting about who I was. I was a stranger in my own skin and this made me vulnerable to predatory behaviours. A year in, I was bullied and morally harassed on the ground of my sexuality. Though I came through it, the experience made me bury who I was even deeper. I would not let anyone approach me - the real “me” - not even myself. At that point it meant too much suffering.
So I carried on. By the age of 29, I had had barely any sexual experience and I had never been in any relationship - straight or gay -. To not be myself, being at work or with my friends / family or with myself, I had to constantly repress my own feelings and control my personal “narrative” (e.g. don’t speak about myself, don’t let myself be approached by anyone) This situation required a significant level of focus and took a significant emotional toll. At the time, I was leading a major transformation programme at the firm I was working for, which was particularly demanding. So much so that I was forced to make a choice: either be myself and succeed at work, or continue pretending to be someone I am not and most likely crash and burn, again. So I chose; at the age of 30, I was completely out to myself, my friends and my family... and I even had my first boyfriend. At 31, I left the firm that had been the source of so much suffering and a toxic environment for me. I have been out at work ever since.
Coming out changed my life. I realised that for the most part, the concerns and the fears I had were all in my head; they found their roots in the lack of role models I experienced growing up. To become myself, I had to accept that the heteronormative values and references my parents had inculcated in me were not fit for me; I was different and it was ok. I had also to overcome the suffering others had pushed on me by turning my sexuality and who I was against me. I no longer felt the need to justify myself for what I was and as a result, to seek permission or acceptance from others.
Coming out made me “me”; it made me a better person, a better son, a better friend and allowed me to be a boyfriend and now husband. It also made me realise how few people, straight or gay, are capable of being themselves. Too many people effectively live a life that has been chosen by others for them.
For all of these reasons, I decided to speak up and to become the role model I never had. I want people around me, young or old and gay or straight, to experience the same feeling of liberation and freedom I experienced coming out and becoming who I was meant to be.