7 Things I Would Go Back And Tell Closeted Me If I Could
I was 16 when my parents found out that I was gay.
In the UK that’s before you can legally drive, before you can legally vote, and before you are legally seen as an adult. The whole thing was messy. It involved a diary being found, some heated arguments, a lot of crying, and a whole load of shame.
Effectively, back then I was still figuring my shit out. Thirteen years later, I’m still figuring my shit out.
The way I see it, self-improvement is something that I’ll be consciously practicing until the day I die. Learning to love ourselves, especially, is something that I think we could all get a little better at.
But thirteen years is enough time to have learned some pretty valuable lessons.
Recently I’ve been thinking about what I would say to my younger self, the one still in the closet and struggling to deal with my sexuality. I’ve been wondering about what I could say to him, and this is what I came up with.
1. The Only Person's Acceptance You Need To Seek Is Your Own
So you’re feeling pretty overwhelmed right now. I know. I remember.
You can barely say the words “I’m gay” aloud without shuddering with shame. That won’t change for a while unless you listen to what I say.
You’re worried about what this means for you and your future. You’re scared of disappointing your family, of being ostracized by your friends or isolated from society.
You won’t be.
You feel like you’re the only one going through this. That’s because where you live, you are. You don’t understand this yourself, let alone feel understood by other people.
But you’re not alone.
You don’t need to change yourself to please other people; not your parents, not your teachers or your friends, not even another boy. You need to focus on accepting yourself, and better still, on loving yourself.
Do it for you, not for anyone else.
2. Educate Yourself
They’re not going to teach you anything in school about this.
You’re not going to learn about gay sex. No one’s going to tell you about what it involves, about how to do it safely, about its risks, or about how good it can be when you get it right.
You’re not going to learn about the scene, or about LGBTQ+ culture or history. You’re not going to learn about what your life could be, or about the choices you can make as a gay man.
You’re not going to get taught of the increased risk of mental illness for LGBTQ+ people. You’re not going to learn about the various coping mechanisms and ways in which gay men try and overcome their shame. You’re not going to learn of support that’s available to help overcome these if you want it.
You’re not going to learn about the comfort that comes from being understood.
You need to learn about this all.
You need to be educated about being gay, so that you can make the choices that are right for you.
There are books out there that talk about this all. Start with The Velvet Rage.
There are also support groups, or youth groups, or societies that you can join. They might not seem like your type of thing, but give them a go a couple of times.
Never stop trying to learn more.
3. You're Going To Need Some Therapy
Right now you don’t really understand what therapy is. But it’s going to help save your life.
You’re going to have a few different types, and you should embrace it because it’s amazing.
But find a therapist you feel comfortable talking about those things with. The things you don’t even tell your friends. The bits about your sexuality and yourself that you keep hidden and secret.
Someone will help you address those. They can help you look at things from a different perspective, and maybe even change yours. They can help you to stop fighting or suppressing or even just coping.
Instead you will start to enjoy your life. You will start to enjoy who you are. And, in time, you might even accept yourself wholly.
Find this therapist soon. Don’t wait, like I did.
4. Your Parents Are Just Doing The Best They Know How
This one took me a long time to figure out, so listen up.
Your parents love you. Don’t doubt that.
Yes, they shouldn’t have read your diary. Yes, you’re allowed to feel angry at that breaking of trust. And yes, they could have reacted better when they found out.
They didn’t need to tell you to keep this a secret from everyone. They didn’t need to tell you that this was a ‘lifestyle’ they didn’t want you to ‘choose’. They didn’t need to keep this a giant elephant in the room for years to come.
But remember this: your parents are people too. Do you think it’s a good idea to hold the whole world to unattainable expectations? You know it’s not. Your parents are included in that.
This is new for them. They want the best life possible for you because they care about you so much, and this wasn’t what they had planned.
You can still have that life.
You just need to accept that this is hard for them. They will still love you, of course. But you need to learn that parents too still learn and grow.
Educate yourself so that you can educate them. But above all, don’t ever question their love for you.
5. Be Selective With Your Friends
At a few points in your life, you’re going to feel a little bit lost. You’re going to struggle to find your place.
You don’t 100% feel yourself in the straight world, yet you feel the same about the gay world.
There are pros and cons to both, by the way.
But don’t do what I did and try and be what other people want you to be. Don’t become ‘the gay best friend’, don’t become the ‘anti-scene’ gay. If you live a fake version of yourself, you’ll only be friends with people who like that fake you.
Just be you. Truthfully. Authentically. And honestly you.
When you start being that person, that’s when you meet the really good people in your life. They’re amazing, by the way. They accept you, they encourage you to be yourself, they push you to grow, and they support you through some tough stuff.
But that’s because they know the real you.
6. Having Sex For Validation Will Only Make You Feel Rubbish
You don’t know it yet, but phones are going to have these little things on them called apps.
There are all sorts of awesome apps, they help you do things that you want to do.
But there are some not so good ones too.
Some apps make it easy to connect to other gay people. That in itself is amazing, because sometimes it can be hard to tell who is like you and who isn’t.
But they also make it easy to find sex.
Let me tell you a little thing about sex. It can be amazing. But, a lot of gay people use it as a way of validating themselves from the shame they feel for being gay. You might develop a tendency to do this.
A quick thing here and a bit of that there. It becomes so meaningless. For a split second it might make you feel validated, attracted and even wanted. But these aren’t genuine connections with people.
In fact, 99% of the time, the moment it’s done you regret it.
Instead, concentrate on all the other stuff I’ve said. Education. Therapy. Self-development. Friendships. YOU.
If all those things are good themselves, then sex won’t become this need to feel wanted. It can be what it’s supposed to be, something awesome between two people!
7. Don't Sweat The Small Stuff And Just Enjoy Yourself
You might have some tough times ahead. Some of them to do with being gay, a lot of them not.
Your family and friends are going to need support from you, and you’re going to need support from them.
Things will start weighing you down: worries about the life you want to live, about whether you’ve made the right choices, or even about which choices you should make.
You’ll be anxious about your future. About your career. About your body. About whether you will meet the love of your life. About whether love even exists.
Just don’t sweat that stuff. There are some things we just can’t control.
Be attentive, be conscientious and take accountability for your own life. But don’t take it too seriously.
You’re only going to have this life once, just try and enjoy it. Remember, there’s no point getting to your deathbed and then realising you should have lived more than you did.
Really, nothing really matters that much, so just have fun!