I came out because of a boy.
At 22, for the first time in my life, I was clear about what I wanted, who I wanted to be, and how I wanted to love. My feelings for him brought me so much joy and such a feeling of honesty that I couldn’t ignore them, even though we were both Jehovah’s Witnesses and devoted to living according to strict biblical principles.
In his delight and comfort, I found a new meaning for life that appealed to me on so many more levels than my God-given assignment of saving souls, door-to-door.
We would see each other at least four times a week. Still, this wasn’t enough. In my private thoughts, I dared to fantasize about our life together if only we were able to freely and publicly express the affection we shared in private.
But the obstacles were too great.
Filled with tremendous shame and guilt, I went to his father, the congregation overseer, for guidance. After being reproved by a committee of three elders, his father banned me from being alone with his son.
He later threatened to rip my head off if I didn’t heed his command.
Having been cast out of my love’s life and still yearning to fulfill and express my capacity for joy and love as a gay man, I came out. As a result, I lost all the familial relationships I’d gained since I started to study the Bible at 16.
I knew that in coming out, I also risked losing the boy completely. I had hoped that my voice, and my frankness about identifying as gay would encourage him to understand the feelings that I had hoped we shared and that he too would embrace the freedom and joy of our love.
This did not happen.
I left him and all of my Christian brothers and sisters to explore my new identity as a gay man. He eventually left too, but not to be gay. Rather, he got entangled in a world of violence and crime.
Alone and teetering between pride and regret, I held onto the feelings of peace and authenticity that motivated my decision to leave and turn my back on so many loved ones. I tried to look forward to connecting with a new family, one that shared the same struggles and dreams. I could only believe that I’d meet people who would heal the wound of separation that was so fresh and sudden.
I soon learned that the gay community is very different from the Christian congregation.
I had hoped for something familiar; perhaps, instead of a community united by Godly devotion, I would find people who would support each other based on another common bond. But the ideals of the secular world were much more varied and selfish.
Groups of friends were connected because of what one could get from the other: affirmation, good times, sex appeal, free drinks, etc. Time and again I observed that when these would run out, so too would the friendships.
I also began to realize that simply being gay wasn’t enough to assure your place in the gay world. My body, my grooming, my clothes and my race were constantly scrutinized and rejected. I found myself worrying more and more about what other people thought of me and if they found me desirable.
Thankfully, I became friends with a wonderful “gay big brother” of sorts who took me under his wing.
Despite being three years my junior, Spencer imparted so much wisdom and caring towards me that I really considered him to be my guardian angel and mentor. He helped me balance the expectations and insecurities of others with real self-love and humour. Unlike so many of the people I had tried to engage with in my early ventures into the gay world, Spencer adopted me and taught me without ever asking for anything in return. He gave me his time and energy freely and I always wondered how I could be so lucky and why I was given so wonderful a gift.
He was the first of many gay mentors who would guide me and spend time with me as I tested my personal boundaries and continued to explore who I am, what I want, and how I would get it. Some of these relationships have lasted years, while others perhaps only a fraction of a day. I am thankful for every single one.
Ten years later, at 32, I’m proud to say that I’ve been able to continue the tradition of mentoring with my queer brothers and sisters. Through the sharing of our struggles and fears, and our defiant celebrations of being, I have found communion and have defeated the ache of isolation both for them and for me.
Amongst this new family, I am inspired to believe that my experience and care is something real that I can contribute. In the company of one another, in the sharing of thoughts and experiences in person, print, or otherwise, we express that we belong.
Now, looking back on 10 years of negotiating my way through the ever-evolving world of the queer community, searching for identity, sex, love, and relationships, I wonder what truths I’ve uncovered or if I’ve learned anything at all.