Last week Canadian-based blogger Northstar joined the Experimental Dating superheroes. The blog’s resident gay male voice, he kicks off his contributions to the 30 Dates blog by discussing a completely different side to a first date.
And seeing as he’s letting us know about what was once a closely guarded secret of his … I’ll also tell you one of mine … Northstar was one of the first boys I ever fancied at secondary school! I hope my gaydar has improved a bit since then! 😉
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx
On first dates I’m sure that most of us have experienced that vague moment of awkwardness, where a thread of conversation runs its course and a brief moment or two passes while you both search for the next question to ask, or the next story to tell.
On each first date that I’ve had with other men the same question invariably comes up – “so, how did you come out?”.
It’s not all that surprising really, people tend to bond over common experiences and that’s the one experience you can guarantee that you both share; when there’s a momentary lull in the conversation, it’s a topic that reliably comes up to fill the gap.
And so I’ll fill this gap by telling you my own story!
At 28, I came out comparatively late in life. When people wonder why I waited so long, the answer is actually quite simple: fear.
I spent my life petrified about what the consequences of coming out would be, and how damaging the repercussions of opening that Pandora’s box would prove to be.
A common question people ask when they find out that you’re gay is, “did you always know?“.
My answer to that is yes, and during each of the life stages that I’ve transitioned through I always fully intended to come out at the next stage. At secondary school I intended to come out once I was at university. When I was at university I intended to come when I moved to London for work. When I was working in London I intended to come out after emigrating to Canada.
My problem was that whenever I reached the next life stage I would quickly arrive at a comfortable equilibrium – I loved my time at university, made good career progression in London, and quickly adapted to (and loved) life in Canada. So at each point I allowed my fear to resurface, and to force myself to deny my sexuality in order to prevent any risk of irreperably damaging that happy equilibrium.
At this point it’s important to note that while sexuality is a key part of a person’s identity, it’s also by no means the only part. As such, my approach was to compartmentalize that part of myself, and to try my best to ignore it while focusing on the other aspects of my life. At times it was relatively painless, during busy periods with work or study it was easier to ignore, and at those times I’d try to force upon myself the deceitful and desperate belief that I should be straight. At other times it would threaten to overwhelm me. And at those times all I’d want to do is to scream – to shout it out at the top of my lungs in the middle of the street (/workplace/lecture hall/etc.)
So what changed? What finally broke me out of the repeating cycle of intent being consumed by fear?
Quite frankly, luck. In the shared house I live in we had a new roommate move in, someone that none of us knew prior. He’d found the place randomly through Craigslist. When he moved in my other housemates were mainly away travelling, so it was principally just the two of us living in the house while we got to know each other. He’d recently come out in his mid-20s, and in telling me about his own struggles I then confided in him about myself. Through a series of long, heartfelt conversations, he helped me to talk through my fears, the perceived issues and anxieties that I’d been carrying for so long, and helped me to come to terms with myself.
Just being able to talk to someone else who’d gone through the same stresses and the same emotional journey, helped me immensely and gave me the strength that I needed to finally start coming out to my friends and family.
I’ve been incredibly lucky.
My friends in Canada were extremely supportive, and my family have been loving and accepting.
Since coming out I’ve never been happier, and it’s finally put me at peace with myself.
Do I wish I’d come out earlier in my life? In many ways yes, but it’s easy to forget quite how far attitudes have evolved even in the past decade, and I still believe that had I come out younger it would have had a damaging impact on my life, both emotionally and professionally.
Whether I’m right or wrong about that, there’s no way to change the past, and regardless of what might have been I’m currently living very happily as an openly, proudly, gay man.
In reference to one of Miss Twenty-Nine’s earlier posts I found the ideal me, and no matter how long it took me to get there that’s something I’ll always be thankful for.
Anyway, enough about me!
What I was saying, was that coming out always gives you something to talk about on a first date. While my story might provide a few talking points, everyone else has their own story as well.
I’ve been on dates with guys who came out in their teens, and dates with others who came out in their mid-to-late 20s. Some of them had the full support of their loved ones, others were thrown out of home and haven’t spoken to their families in over a decade.
Everyone has a unique story, and discussing them takes the conversation to a deeper and more emotional level than typical first date chatter. I suppose it could be seen to be a somewhat intense subject for a first date, however it always comes up as a topic of discussion, and I think that in getting to know one another it does allow for a level of emotional intimancy and understanding that isn’t necessarily present in a non-gay scenario.
As a final note, one other reason that it’s fairly important to address the issue of coming out is in case the other person hasn’t.
Every man that I’ve been on dates with has been openly gay, however in the eventuality that they had not been out, that would present certain issues of practicality.
Are you happy being someone else’s guilty secret, unable to ever be introduced to his family, or perhaps even his friends?
I’ve never been in the situation where I’ve had to make that calculation, and it’s very difficult to judge as everyone’s circumstances are different. A friend of mine lived with his closeted boyfriend for a year, however the boyfriend was from a very conservative religious family, where coming out would potentially have isolated him permanently from his family and the larger community.
As I mentioned it’s very difficult to pass judgement, particularly given how long it took me to address my own sexuality, and to fully accept myself. That said, I personally don’t think I could date someone who was in the closet, and wilfully living a secret life.
I was complicit in my own self-deception for far too long to willingly become involved with someone else’s deceits, and the thought of being a guilty secret repulses me.
There’s nothing for us to feel guilty about, and I couldn’t condone an approach that accepts that mindset, even given how reluctant that approach may be. Through coming out I found the ideal me, and I strongly believe that other people have to come out to find the ideal them too.
- EXPECTATIONS – Parental Expectations (The New Realist) (30blinddates.wordpress.com)
- SEXUALITY – Are You Gay? (The New Realist) (30blinddates.wordpress.com)
- SINGLE – Finding the Ideal You (30blinddates.wordpress.com)