I often wonder whether I’ve trapped myself in a big gay ghetto closed off from the “real world.”
I’ve got a gay job; my doctor’s gay; I socialize in gay spaces; I go to gay events; most of my friends are gay, and on and on it goes.
The attainability of such a “gay life” was outside the scope of my imagination when I was a teenager searching for an end to my deep sense of loneliness. Loneliness rooted in the feeling that I was the only one like me in the world.
I experienced a lot of loneliness when I was growing up. I worried tremendously that there was something about me that would cause unimaginable amounts of trouble if it were discovered.
It took me a long, long time to figure out what it was and until I did, I lived with the fear that someone else would beat me to it. So as to not tip anyone off I tried to act like the best, most normal kid there ever was. While simultaneously, I found ways to avoid letting people get too close to me-including my family.
I rarely felt at ease or able to be myself. In fact, I didn’t really have a strong sense of who I was. But somehow I had hope. Hope that when I was old enough I would find others like me. And I had a kind of self-righteous belief that whatever I was wasn’t wrong.
Eventually I figured out what was going on. It was grade six and some of the kids were joking about a number that you could call to speak to a homosexual. I wasn’t immediately certain but it felt like I’d been given an important clue to my mystery.
When I called, the helpline didn’t know what to do with me. I was too young for any of the groups and the attendant didn’t seem too comfortable talking to me. But I knew. Finally I knew there were others like me.
Now, more than 20 years later, I look around me and I see gay everywhere. I often feel critical of various aspects of the gay community. I sometimes feel like I have no place here anymore. Like it has served its purpose but I’ve outgrown it.
Then I think about how this community has provided me the opportunity to get beyond my loneliness, and to find myself and my place in a tribe.
And I realize that it’s not about having outgrown it; it’s about having grown up in it. It’s my home and I can always go out into the world with the knowledge that I have a place to come back to.